The spectacular Swartberg Pass is the reason that Prince Albert is so lush in the middle of the Karoo Desert. The pass is Prince Albert's lifeline, not only because it links the farming town to the coast, but also because water channeled off the side of the pass ensures that Prince Albert collects every last drop of any rainfall.Much of the Swartberg is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Swartberg Pass on the R328 run through the Swartberg mountain range (black mountain) which runs roughly east-west along the northern edge of the Little Karoo in the Western Cape. The pass was built using convict labour by Thomas Bain and opened on 10 January 1888. It is not tarred and can be a little dangerous after rain.
The Swartberg is amongst the best exposed fold mountain chains in the world, and cuts through scenic geological formations. The pass is famous for the geology at its northern end. The contortions in the rock display astonishing anticlines and synclines. At the northern end of the pass, 700m high quartzite cliffs of the upper Table Mountain range can be seen. Arguably the most famous of all these cliff faces is the spectacular 'Wall of Fire'.
There are four picnic sites and viewpoints on the southern ascent.There are a number of hiking trails in the Swartberg Mountains, from day hikes to a five day hike.