The very scenic Helshoogte (Hell's Heights) Pass lies along the R310 and links the wine districts of Stellenbosch with Franschhoek. It travels through the small villages of Pniel, Kylemore and Johannesdal and Helshoogte Pass is one of the most loved and travelled roads in the Western Cape. The Pass transports you through fruit farms and vineyard, traversing both the Simonsberg and Jonkershoek Mountains. If there is one route all visitors should drive, it is this one.
Helshoogte is one of the oldest Passes in South Africa and was built in 1854. Parts of the Pass utilises the old Banghoek (Scary Corner) Pass, where history shows was first used by Elephants and other wild animals that used to scare local travelers! The old Pass is still there, but closed off to vehicles where it meets the new road. In later years the summit became a lookout point for ships arriving in Table Bay and the Pass became known as Botmanskop, meaning “Boat Man’s Head”.
The Pass has been upgraded several times, with a major facelift as recently as 2010 turning it into the multi-lane road we use today. Starting in Stellenbosch the long straight climb begins almost immediately on the modern four-lane motorway. The speed limit, at 80 km/hr. is enforced here and the road veers off to the left into a couple of S-Curves. The views are breathtaking from here and open up wonderfully with scenes of the Stellenbosch Valley and glimpses of the Idas Valley Dam. The downhill trip passes through some of the most exclusive South African Wine Estates and the views are particularly beautiful from down the long straight descent.
The Helshoogte Pass is also a favourite with cyclists who regard the ride as safe and challenging. The climb is steep and not necessarily for the faint-hearted, but the views from the top are well worth the energy required. The downhill is somewhat easier, but no less scenic. The very popular “Die Burger Cycling Tour” uses Helshoogte Pass as part of its route.
There is no charge to travel along the pass and it is recommended to travel during daylight hours.
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