Mpumalanga Tourist AttractionsNelshoogte Pass
Where? On the R38 between Barberton and Badplaas, Mpumalanga
Nelshoogte Pass, sometimes known simply as Nelshoogte or Nelsberg Pass, lies on the R38 between Barberton and Badplaas directly north of the Nkomazi Wilderness area. The pass is at once steep and dominated by the dense pine forests of the Nelshoogte State Forest, which add to the enchantment of the drive.
There is a marked difference in the vegetation on either side of the pass. In the west, with Badplaas behind you, the roadside is awash with aloes and drier than the eastern side of the pass, with its lush greenery.
The Nelshoogte forest reserve is the site of the Queen Rose hiking Trail, which follows the Montrose and Queens rivers on one of the most beautiful trails in the country.
Nelshoogte Pass was once a difficult route over the Nelsberg Mountain known for its sticky red mud and boulders; a constant ordeal for wagons, particularly if it rained as they could find themselves stuck for days.
Even though the pass is not very long, it is one of the most beautiful in Mpumalanga and easily incorporated in a number of drives. In particular the 4x4 fraternity enjoy adding it to the Skurweberg, west of the Nelshoogte Pass, leaving the N4 to Belfast to enjoy the road before reaching Barberton.
The pass is also part of a longer loop often appreciated as a day's drive from Barberton, following the R40 over the mountains, through the Songimvelo Game Reserve up to Bulembu in Swaziland and then down through the south western parts of the Songimvelo (this portion needs an off-road vehicle) to join the R541 near the Nkomazi Game Reserve, and on to Badplaas, before driving the R38 on the return.
Part of this drive heads though the Makhonjwa Mountains, south of Barberton, that form part of the Geotrail that explores some of the oldest volcanic pieces on earth.