Mountain Passes in South Africa

With so much space in South Africa, there are many roads that we just never visit. We have tar roads that turn off into dirt roads, that lead to passes that need to be driven and experienced by the adventurous few.

With passes to explore with names like Zuurberg, Grootrivier, Helskloof, Leeuberg, Camdeboo and Gamkaberg, how can you not want to take the backroad to wherever you are going. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.” Martin Buber.

The dustiest Pass: Zuurberg Pass

Ventures off track in the Eastern Cape, between the towns of Addo and Somerset East on the R335 for 17.5km. The Zuurberg mountains are made up of four high tiers running parallel, separated by deep and rugged kloofs.
A great video to watch to give some background:

With amazing vistas as you enter the pass, a good place to stop is The Zuurberg mountain lodge. Make this trip part of an adventure to Addo elephant National park

The greenest Pass: Grootrivier Pass

The pass winds its way down the R102 towards Nature’s Valley, where you can stop to fish or simply picnic and swim. With towering Yellowwood trees and dense indigenous forest lining the side of the road. Originally built by Thomas Bain between 1822 and 1823, as part of the Bloukrans Pass: Watch the video:

There are viewpoints past Nature’s valley looking back over the estuary, with hikes (Salt river hike, Mini-Otter trail) you can walk from Natures valley.

The remotest Pass: Helskloof Pass

Situated in the Richtersveld in the northern cape, Helskloof/Nababiep nature reserve is mostly sandy tracks with Quiver trees on the horizon. This spectacular route between the small town of Eksteenfontein and Vioolsdrift is remote and rugged pass with unequalled view point vistas. Watch the video:
The pass is about 16km long, with a 65km 4×4 drive from Gannakouriep to Sendelingsdrif and should take three to four hours.

The steepest Pass: Leeuberg Pass

With the base being Varschfontein Cottage in the Tankwa National Park, the access is just around the corner to the Leeuberg Pass. Watch out for the rock and sand by lowering the tyre pressure or you sure to get a puncture from the sharp rocks of this steep duel-track route. Just 4km’s in and you find a 360-degree panorama of the Pramberg and Roggeveld range, with the lurching ascents and scary vertical drops, but don’t forget to watch out for the Gembok and Eland. This 31km route will take three hours’ plus. Watch the video:

The shortest Pass: Camdeboo Pass

In the Eastern Cape, it might be the shortest! But don’t miss it. Camdeboo pass ascends and descends the Ribbokberg with some very steep gradients. If you visiting Graaff Reinet, take the opportunity to drive this 7.3km long tarred pass in the Camdeboo National Park. With 2 view sites, you get to see the Nqweba Dam and parts of Graaff Reinet while sitting at the picnic tables. Further along the 2nd view point has a Topscope to identify the surrounds of the 360 view, one being the amazing landscape over the Valley of Desolation. With such a short pass, it will take 15-30 minutes depending how long to decide to stop to take your photographs. Watch the video:

The roughest Pass: Gamkaberg Pass

A proper test for the 4×4 owners, with concrete strips, rocky duel track for the technical experts on steep gradients. This pass is known as Lawson’s pass that lies in the Gamkaberg National park 35 km from Calitzdorp in the Little Karoo. The pass winds 16.2km’s with the highpoint at 7.7km, where you can relax and enjoy the forever view across the Little Karoo. It will take about two hours to complete unless you ride it on MTB which is very popular. Watch the video:

Get your 4×4 from Cabs Car hire.

South Africa passes