The Compassberg (2502m) is the highest peak in the Sneeuberg range and also the highest peak in South Africa outside the Stormberg-Drakensberg massif. It was named by Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon when he accompanied Governor Joachim van Plettenberg on a journey to the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony in 1778.

Compassberg together with its neighbouring mountains provides a critical water catchment area, covering over 40 000 hectares of livestock and game farms. In fact, it was recognition of this precious water catchment function that led to the proclamation of the first protected environment in the Karoo: the Compassberg Protected Environment (CPE). The CPE also benefited two shrubs, Euryops petraeus and Selago retropillosa, habitat specialists listed as rare on the Red List of South African Plants.

The mountain is composed of sediments of the Beaufort Series in the Karoo System, and extensively intruded by dolerite dikes and sills.

In recent years, the Compassberg hiking trail gained popularity. It takes four to five hours to climb to the top and another four to descend again. The base of the mountain is a forty-minute drive from Nieu-Bethesda.

The mountain offers different degrees of difficulty, depending on your route. The walk up the northern slope is marked with piles of stones. From the top, the koppies roll beneath you, Graaff-Reinet sits in the distance and on a clear day you can see Cockscombe Mountain near the coast.

You will need permission from a landowner to climb Compassberg. Your place of accommodation in Nieu-Bethesda will provide contact details.

Contact Info

  • Nieu-Bethesda