Considered by many as one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world, the 27km Swartberg Pass’s untarred road winds to the summit 1 583 metres above sea level in steep zig-zags and sudden switchbacks, with breath-taking views at every turn.
The pass can be accessed from Prince Albert, with the turn-off to Gamkaskloof lying near its summit.
The Pass offers visitors a wealth of opportunities to enjoy and marvel at the Swartberg Mountain and its amazing geology. The entrance is through a narrow Cape sandstone kloof where the eye is drawn upwards by the convoluted rock faces to the sparkling sky above. The only sounds are bubbling water, the wind in the trees and birdsong. Several picnic sites near the river provide tranquil spots to stop and absorb the peace and splendour.
As you cycle on you gain your first sight of the valleys and peaks of the Swartberg Pass. The natural characteristics of the Pass are magnificent – as are the man-made features. This was Thomas Bain’s last engineering masterpiece. His construction philosophy, which has stood the test of time was: “A good hat and good boots”.
The dry stone packed retaining walls are amazing, in one place on the southern side the wall is 2,4kms long. They range in height from ½ metre to 13 metres. Along the way there are relics of an old prison, toll hut, hotel and other interesting historical sites.
Often covered in snow in winter, the mountains’ unique micro-climate supports fynbos and a rich bird population, in contrast with the arid zone flora and fauna outside its cool, shady kloofs. Watch out for black eagles and klipspringers.
The Swartberg Pass is now part of a World Heritage Site.
Cycling the pass
Cycling the iconic Swartberg Pass must be on your bucket list so bring your bicycle and give it a go. Could not bring your bicycle? You can hire a mountain bike to ride up and down … or just down the Swartberg Pass! You can book a guided tour of the Swartberg Pass.
If you want to do a trip along the 4 x 4 route to Botha’s hoek, either in a 4 x 4 or on a mountain bike, you must book with Cape Nature and you need a permit.
Sleeping in the mountain
Cape Nature operates overnight huts at Ou Tol and Botha’s Hoek.
To stay at these huts, whether as hiker, cyclist, or having driven there, you must book through Cape Nature.