Mountain Passes South Africa
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa. Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
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Phantom Pass (Seven Passes)
Knysna River (c. 7 km)
Gravel & Tar : 7.4 km
The mysteriously named Phantom Pass is the final pass on the Garden Route's string of "Seven Passes" between George and Knysna. 7.4km of narrow, gravel road descends to the famously picturesque Knysna River Lagoon, and finds its end-point at the N2.
Homtini Pass (Seven Passes)
Gravel : 5.0 km
Lying 6th in the string of 'Seven Passes' between George and Knysna, the narrow, gravel Homtini Pass covers 5km of wonderfully scenic driving, descending to the river from which it takes its name, and ends at the Rheenendal Timber Mill. The name is apparently of Khoi origin and means either "mountain honey" or "difficult passage". This pass is also known as the Goukamma River Pass.
Karatara Pass (Seven Passes)
Gravel : 2.62 km
Karatara Pass is found on the 'Seven Passes Road' immediately after the forestry village of the same name. Like all gravel road passes in rainy regions, the usual cautionary of 'slippery when wet' applies. This roads is usually corrugated, which can cause loss of traction and control, particularly on corners with non 4x4 vehicles.
Hoogerkraal Pass (Seven Passes)
Gravel : 2.98 km
The Thomas Bain-built "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna features the Hoogekraal Pass, covering 2,98 kms of breathtakingly beautiful views along its narrow gravel road. It descends to and from the Hoogekraal River, and ends just before the Geelhoutsvlei Timber Mill - another Garden Route location, rooted in the history of the Knysna woodcutters. This pass ends west of the forestry village of Karatara.
Touw River Pass (Seven Passes)
Gravel : 2.98 km
The Touw River Pass forms part of the well-known 7 Passes Road in the Garden Route. The road was built circa 1883 by Adam de Smidt, the brother in law, of Thomas Bain - pass builder extraordinaire. This is a gravel road and remains virtually unchanged from it's original route, with the one exception that the original timber bridge was washed away. This was replaced with a steel bridge in the 1900's.
Silver River Pass (Seven Passes)
Tar : 2.68 km
The Silver River Pass, is one of the Garden Route's 'Seven Passes', and covers 2,68 km of narrow, tar-road driving, descending to and from the Silver River starting where the Kaaimansgat Pass ends and finding its end at picturesque Wilderness Heights. (Circa 1882.)
Kaaimansgat Pass (Seven Passes)
Tar : 2.8 km
The historic "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna includes 'Kaaimansgat' - a twisting, turning tarred road, close to the town of George, which passes down through heavy, lushly indigenous forest to this area's famous 'black water' rivers. The road is old, narrow and the tarring is in sub-standard condition, but the beautiful indigenous forests through which it passes more than makes for this minor inconvenience. The pass has an old bridge (a national monument) worth stopping at. The pass ends at the start if the Silver River Pass. It was built in the 1800's by Thomas Bain's brother in law - Adam De Smidt.
Black River Pass (Seven Passes)
George (c. 60 km)
Tar : 3.72 km
The historic "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna includes the Black River Pass or 'Swartrivier Pass' or in it's original format "Zwartrivierhoogte Pass"- a modern, tar road with smooth, sweeping bends making this pass seem almost effortless as it runs from the main road in George past the imposing Garden Route Dam wall to cross over the Swart River and quickly rise up to the neck at Saasveld via a big S-bend. The pass was first used circa 1853.
Old Cape Road
Knysna (c. 2 km)
Tar & Gravel: 6.5 km
The Old Cape Road is located just to the north of Knysna and traverses the line of hills above the town through indigenous as well as pine and bluegum plantations. The 6.5 km long road is generally on a level gradient, with the exception of the western ascent, which is very steep. Although the average gradients are a comfortable 1:21, the climb up past Simola Golf Estate is as steep as 1:5.
Simola (c. 7 km)
Gravel: 4.18 km
The Gouna Pass is a gravel road branching off the Old Cape Road close to the Simola Golf Estate. It is a spectacular drive through dense indigenous forests and amber, tumbling rivers. It is also known as Kom se pad pass. Despite the easy numbers of the average gradient at 1;30, many parts of this pass range between 1:5 and 1:8. The Gouna Pass leads to the Gouna Forestry Station and also joins Kom se Pad traverse at that point, allowing a complete circular drive starting and ending in Knysna.
Kom se Pad
Gouna (c. 15 km)
Gravel: 11.9 km
This beautiful drive through the lush indigenous forests of the mountains north of Knysna, takes about an hour, as it winds its way between Gouna in the west and Diepwalle in the east. This is one of the best publicly accessible roads in deep indigenous forests where one doesn't require to be in a 4WD vehicle. The summit is reached a few kilometres after the western start which provides open views of the forest draped mountains.
Prince Alfreds Pass
Concordia (c. 6 km)
Gravel: 67.4 km
The Prince Alfreds Pass on the R339 gravel road between Knysna and Uniondale is probably Thomas Bain's greatest work. Not only was this an extremely long pass, but it also presented almost every possible technical obstacle to the pass-builders. At 68 km it is the longest mountain pass in South Africa by a considerable margin, as well as being the second oldest unaltered pass still in use. The video footage focuses on the northern section starting at Avontuur and ending at the Buffelsnek Forestry Station, but the full pass starts at Avontuur and ends at the junction with the N2 just east of Knysna.
Wittedrift (c. 41 km)
Gravel: 16.0 km
The Paardekop Pass delves a long way back into history and is recorded as far back as 1772 by the explorer, Thunberg in his journal. The original route was an elephant path which was later to become a bridle path, followed by the inevitable need for an ox-wagon route. It was considered to be one of the most dangerous passes in the colony in its day.
Knysna River (c. 7 km)
Tar: 8.9 km
This 9 km tarred road connects the seaside village of Brenton-on-Sea with the N2 at the main bridge over the Knysna Lagoon. The road is in good condition and offers a varienty of enchanting Garden Route views which include the eastern perspective of the lagoon from high above Belvidere Estate and a summit view westwards over Buffalo Bay (Buffelsbaai) with its 7 km long beach sweeping back away from Brenton on Sea towards Walker Point.
Knysna River (c. 7 km)
Tar: 8.9 km
This pass is short, steep and dangerous. It forms a fabulous section on the N2 in the Garden Route between Sedgefield and Knysna and brings the N2 lower in altitude by 166 vertical metres to end at the crossing of the Knysna River at 1m ASL. The views are of thickly forested hillsides with excellent views of the Knysna Lagoon once on the road bridge. The pass is named after the railway station of the same name, hidden amongst the trees just to the south of the summit.
N2 (c. 16 km)
Tar: 4.9 km
The Goukamma Pass traverses the lovely green valley fed by the perennial Goukamma River with the Ganzvlei farm taking centre stage in this fertile valley. The railway line overpasses the road at the river and this is followed by a long, steep ascent up the eastern side of the valley with gradients up to 1:11. The scenery is fabulous as this is in the very heart of the Garden Route with forest and heather clad green hills topped off with tall pine forests and onyx coloured rivers.
Goukamma River (c. 12 km)
Gravel: 1.55 km
This short, rough gravel road winds its way up the slopes of the Goukamma River Valley just to the north of the N2 between Knysna and Sedgefield. The pass offers great views over the Ganzvlei farm, after which it is named, where it nestles on the green banks of the Goukamma River.
Groenvlei (c. 25 km)
Gravel: 0.67 km
At 670m this is one of the shortest passes on our database, but this little pass has plenty to offer the traveller. In that short distance are dense coastal forests, steep descents, a gravel surface, some water diversons, nine corners of which two are very sharp as well as fabulous views over the Indian Ocean at the Goukamma Nature Reserve's Platbank Beach.
Groenvlei (c. 20 km)
Tar: 5.67 km
This is a good quality, well engineered tarred road that starts in the north at the T-Junction with the 7 Passes Road close to the tiny hamlet of Barrington. It traverses an upper coastal plateau which is covered in forests and green pastures - perfectly suited to dairy farming. The road descends rapidly though a series of bends and one 180 degree horseshoe bend, to end just over 5 km later, at the intersection at Ruigtevlei.
Groenvlei (c. 20 km)
Gravel: 3.36 km
This short pass makes up for its lack of length in providing magnificent scenery of lakes, rivers, gorges and ravines amongst dense indigenous forests and pine plantations on the higher mountain slopes. It is one of several access roads between the N2 highway and the ever popular Old Cape Road or 7 Passes Road. This one is a gem and not used by many vehicles, so it's usually peaceful and quiet as its a sort of "road to nowhere". With two good tarred roads duplicating the purpose of this gravel pass, the majority of heavy traffic opts (as usual) for the tar. This leaves the Ruigtevlei Pass in peace and quiet.
Sedgefield Mountain Road
Sedgefield (c. 24 km)
Gravel: 7.44 km
This lovely gravel road traverses the mountain ridge immediately to the north of Sedgefield in the heart of the Garden Route. The 7,55 km long drive offers a wide variety of scenery including lakes, estuaries, indigenous forests and mountains, plus a birds eye view of Sedgefield itself. The careful observer might spot one of the resident fish eagles soaring the ridges.
Sedgefield (c. 30 km)
Tar: 5.3 km
An easy tarred pass on the N2 between Wilderness in the west and Sedgefield in the east, offering sweeping views over Swartvlei - a large semi-saline lake forming one of the many lakes in this region with the typical transparent onyx colour. The pass is 5,4 km long and descends 115m to cross the estuary via a low level bridge at sea level.
Rondevlei (c. 36 km)
Gravel: 1.75 km
A short and very steep gravel pass that connects the tiny settlement of Rondevlei on the shores of the Bo-Langvlei in the Garden Route's Lake District with the upper coastal plateau dairy farming region and the 7 Passes Road near Bergplaas and Beervlei forestry sectors. The pass is almost always corrugated and suffers damage quickly from heavy rain due its steep gradient. It provides attractive views of the lakes in the Garden Route National Park.
Wilderness (c. 46 km)
Tar: 2.61 km
The Hoekwil Pass is a short, steep pass connecting the mountain-top village of Hoekwil with the coastal village of Wilderness. The well designed, tarred road carries a fair amount of traffic and services both the village of Hoekwil, as well as local forestry areas and farms. Views from the pass are quite magical, revealing first the blue waters of the Indian Ocean at Wilderness with its surf-washed white beach, then the valley filled with rivers and lakes.
Wilderness (c. 47 km)
Tar & Gravel: 5.61 km
"White's Road" meanders gently up Wilderness Heights - a quiet, country road where Welsh ponies on the local stud farm add to the almost English charm. This lovely drive is also popular with cyclists and walkers.
Wilderness (c. 47 km)
Tar : 5.61 km
Heights Road (also known as Hoogte Road) is a short and very steep, narrow tarred road connecting the holiday village of Wilderness with the farms and residences on top of the hill known as Wilderness Heights. It is the preferred, quicker route for locals over the much longer, gravel surfaced Whites Road.
Kaaiman's River Pass
Wilderness (c. 48 km)
Tar : 5.92 km
The Kaaiman's River Pass boasts several records. Although a fairly short pass in terms of distance, the curves are extremely sharp and the gradient is steep. The pass connects George in the west with Wilderness in the east and traverses magnificent scenery with steep mountainsides, where the amber coloured waters of the Kaaimans River are crossed via the first curved bridge built in South Africa in 1952. The pass provides perfect views of the famous rail bridge at the mouth of the estuary and plays host to Dolphin Point - a perennial favourite with tourists offering 270 degree views including one of the best panoramas of Widerness beach.
George (c. 64 km)
Gravel : 7.65 km
This was the first road between George and Oudtshoorn. The Montagu Pass was opened in 1848, having taken 3 years to build by some 250 convicts at a cost of 36,000 Pounds Sterling. It lays claim to being the oldest, unaltered pass still in use in South Africa and covers 7,4 kms of magnificently scenic narrow, gravel road driving, ascending to the tiny hamlet of Herold, on the northern side of the Outeniqua Mountains.
George (c. 64 km)
Tar : 12.5 km
The Outeniqua Pass is a relatively modern pass connecting the coastal town of George with Oudtshoorn and the Little Karoo. It was first built in 1951 to provide an alternative to the Montagu Pass. It has been widened and modernized several times since then and today carries the bulk of the traffic flow between the two towns and the Langkloof. Rockfalls and trucking accidents close the pass from time to time. The higher reaches of the pass are subject to heavy rainfall and dense mountain mists which can reduce visibility to a few metres.
Nature's Valley (c. 58 km)
Tar: 7.4 km
The Grootrivier Pass - (on route R102) played a significant role in the economic developement of the Cape Colony and was originally built by Thomas Bain between 1822 and 1823. Together with it's sister pass, the Bloukrans Pass, they presented some highly technical problems to Bain, who had to contend with rockslides, mud, high rainfall, shale, unstable slopes and the omnipresent baboons. This pass is a perennial favourite and a joy to drive with its tortuous corners and stunning scenery amongst veryold forests of the Tsitsikamma.
Bloukransrivier (c. 69 km)
Tar: 6.57 km
Master pass-builder, Thomas Bain, relished the challenge of planning a route through both of the formidable obstacles of the Grootrivier and Bloukrans gorges within the Tsitsikamma Forests, when the government first started considering a coastal road between Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay in the 1880's. The Bloukrans Pass is one of the most revered and respected passes in South Africa. It is a sad indictment that this road has been allowed to degenerate into such a state of disrepair that it has now been declared closed to traffic.
Storms River Pass
Storms River Village (c. 93 km)
Gravel: 6.28 km
This was the first of the series of classic Garden Route/Tsitsikamma passes to be built by Thomas Bain in the late 1800's. The pass bears all of Bain's hallmark features, with sweeping curves and high retaining walls, whilst still retaining a reasonable gradient for wagon traffic - in this case 1:15. Today the pass falls wholly under the jurisdiction of the National parks Board and no vehicles are allowed to drive the pass. the good news is that you can walk it or cycle it.