Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Gateways to magical Magalies

For city dwellers from Pretoria and Johannesburg, Magaliesberg is a quick escape from the hustle and bustle, offering many adventure and family activities. Getting there sees travellers traversing some suburban passes, including Theo Martin’s Poort and Horn’s Nek Pass. TRYGVE ROBERTS of Mountain Passes South Africa guides us through.

Gauteng is the smallest of South Africa’s provinces geographically, but it has a dense population and is also the seat of economic power. The province was established on the rich gold reefs initially discovered in the Johannesburg area and led to a massive sprawling network of towns and cities covering a vast area, which does not have much in terms of significant mountain ranges. Consequently (other than the Magaliesberg Mountains), there are few official mountain passes in this province.

Horn’s Nek

The gently graded, tarred Horn’s Nek Pass (M17) cuts through the picturesque Magaliesberg Mountains just west of Pretoria. At 3.8km in distance, it rises at a moderate gradient of 1:20 from 1 312m to 1 452m above sea level, but there are some steeper sections near the summit at 1:14. It is a great little stretch of road to test your vehicle or bike’s road grip, and as such, it is often used as a launch route for new models by motor manufacturers.

Head west out of Pretoria Gardens on the tarred R514 (Van Der Hoff Road) for 3km, where you will turn right at GPS S25.715178 E28.105070 onto Horns Nek Road (M17). You will reach the southern end of the pass after 2.9km. Initially, the gradient is very easy, but it gets progressively steeper as the road winds into a single right-hand S-bend. The maximum gradient of 1:14 is reached 2.5km after the start, just before the summit of 1 452m.

The pass rises through a natural dip in the Magaliesberg Mountains before dropping down on the northern side into the outlying suburbs of Pretoria. There are no apparent dangers, but rather be safe than sorry and stick to the speed limit of 80km/h. The descent along the northern side is virtually flat with a gradient of 1:33 and only lasts for 1.1km.

Theo Martin’s Poort

Located along a natural poort through the Magaliesberg close to Pretoria, the Theo Martin’s Poort forms part of the R80 highway and is frequently gridlocked with traffic in rush hour.

While this poort is short, at just over 2km, it climbs quickly through 76m of altitude producing gradients of 1:10. The road connects many outlying suburbs to the north of the Magaliesberg with the city of Pretoria. You will arrive at the northern start of Theo Martin’s Poort 2.7km after joining the R80 just after the on/off ramp to the R513. Being a freeway, the road has up to three lanes in one direction up the ascents and two lanes on the descents. The traffic moves fast on this road, which means there’s not much time to enjoy the scenery – but once in Magaliesburg, you will have ample time to enjoy this little natural gem on our capital’s outskirts.

The road starts ascending immediately after the R513 interchange at a steady gradient of 1:10 as it gently curves a few degrees to the left (east) before reaching the summit point of 1 379m, exactly 816m after the start. The descent is at a similar gradient to the ascent, except longer. Once through the summit zone, the road curves gently back into its original heading. The poort ends after 2.1km at an altitude of 1 303m above sea-level.

After the poort section ends, the road curves through 90 degrees into the east and soon ends, forming an interchange with the R101 (DF Malan Drive). Head south for 4km on the R101 to arrive in Pretoria.


Magaliesberg (historically known as Macalisberg or the Cashan Mountains) is a mountain range extending west and north from Pretoria to just south of Pilanesberg, and extending for some 50km east of Pretoria it peters out just south of Bronkhorstspruit. The highest point of the Magaliesberg is reached at Nooitgedacht (1 852m). The range forms a natural barrier between the lower-lying Bushveld to the north and the cooler Highveld to the south.

The area saw some heavy fighting during the Second Anglo-Boer War. Being extremely familiar with the mountains, the Boers used secret pathways across the mountains to launch guerrilla attacks on the British soldiers. In response, the British forces built blockhouses on top of the mountains to restrict the Boers’ movement. Ruins of these structures are still to be seen on the mountain.

Things to do in the area

On cloud nine: There are very few ways of seeing the world that are as exciting and unforgettable as a hot air balloon ride. Bill Harrop’s ‘Original’ Balloon Safaris has provided once-in-a-lifetime ballooning experiences for over 30 years. With locations in some of the world’s most beautiful places, including the Magalies River Valley and the Cradle of Humankind.

Up in the air: Soar through the skies above Magalies, travelling along zip lines, hanging above this 2500-million-year-old biosphere. A total of 11 platforms offer some of the most spectacular views of the mountains.

Take a hike: Rich in natural beauty, this area is famed for having some of the most stunning hiking, mountain biking and trail-running routes. For fitter hikers, the 7.4km Shelter Rock Trail or the Hennops Trails’ Krokodilberg Trail (10km) promise remarkable landscapes and experiences along the way. Popular shorter routes include the scenic West Pools trail (3.1km), taking you to stunning rock pools or the equally beautiful Grotto Pools trail (3.5km), which offers a bit of a challenge over rocky terrain. The Mountain Sanctuary Trail, situated in a privately owned nature reserve of the same name, is also popular.

Get your 4×4 on: Located just outside Hartbeespoort, the Hennops Offroad Trail is around 9km long, includes various obstacles and takes 2-3 hours to complete. Additionally, the venue offers picnic and braai facilities and guided game drives.

A cave visit: If you have ever wanted to time travel to see what the world was like millions of years ago, visiting the Sterkfontein Caves is a must-do when visiting Magalies. These caves, home to some of the oldest hominid fossils in the world, offer a unique window into our planet’s distant past.

*Check out: www.magaliesburgtourism.co.za for more activities and contact details.

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