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The Best Table Mountain Hikes

Everyone knows that Cape Town is an outdoor addict’s dream with its amazing mountains, beautiful nature reserves and lush stretches of greenery. Especially hiking up Cape Town’s most iconic landmark, Table Mountain, is a must do. There is more than one way to ascend Cape Town’s most iconic landmark and the multitude of trails all have their pros and cons. Our intern Nina wrote down her favourite Table Mountain hikes in this blog!

The Best Table Mountain Hikes

2019-05-15

Everyone knows that Cape Town is an outdoor addict’s dream with its amazing mountains, beautiful nature reserves and lush stretches of greenery. It really is an ideal hiker’s PARADISE! Especially hiking up Cape Town’s most iconic landmark, Table Mountain, is a must do. You will be rewarded with a good work out, an exceptional view and bragging rights to stay you conquered one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. There is more than one way to ascend Cape Town’s most iconic landmark and the multitude of trails all have their pros and cons. They range from gentle, forested trails to endurance-testing rock-climbing adventures. Our intern Nina wrote down her favourite Table Mountain hikes in this blog!

That said, you shouldn’t underestimate a hike up Table Mountain. It is a steep climb and the weather changes quickly. It is best to walk up Table Mountain in a group, because it’s safer and also more fun! The hikes require a fair amount of physical fitness and you shouldn’t start without enough water, some snacks, warm clothes, a map of the area or –even better­– someone with local knowledge. However, once you reach the top you will know that it was worth all the suffering that you might have experienced on your way up. 

 

The Pipe Track

Table Mountain Pipe Track trailPhoto by Knollski 

This trail doesn’t go up Table Mountain, but rather circles around it.  It is one of the easier hikes and therefore a nice one to begin with. It gives you spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Lion’s Head, as well as a good opportunity to see the mountains fynbos and perhaps even a “dassie”. Fun fact: those little animals are closely related to the African elephant.

Photo by Ebatty 

Not only is this trail mesmerizingly beautiful, it also has an interesting history. The trail was made for the purpose of servicing a pipeline that used to supply 19th-century Cape Town with water from the Disa Gorge. Which explains its name!

Starting point: the junction of Tafelberg Road and Kloof Nek
Duration: 1.5 – 3 hours one-way
End point: Camps Bay

 

Platteklip Gorge

Platteklip Gorge trailPhoto by Ramon Mellet

This might be the most well known hiking trail of Table Mountain. But don’t let this popularity fool you, because it is not an easy trail. Up – relentlessly up, is the best way to describe Platteklip Gorge’s path. There’s a lot of upward walking involved, which makes it the ideal route for a good workout. The best way to tackle this trail is slowly and with frequent stops to take a look at the great view of Cape Town and Table Bay below. The route leads up a deep ravine – pretty along its lower sections and imposing along its upper sections, where the ravine’s beetling sidewalls converge.

Starting point: Tafelberg Road
Duration: 3 hours one-way
End point: Upper Cableway Station

 

Kasteelspoort

Table Mountain Kasteelspoort trailPhoto by Ramon Mellet

This trail tackles the mountain form the Camps Bay side, which gives you the opportunity to marvel at the Twelve Apostles, Lion’s Head, the Atlantic Ocean and even Robben Island on a clear day. In the early morning this trail will be shaded by the mountain, which makes it a pleasant trail for warmer days. Once you’ve reached the summit you will spot the famous “diving board”. An overhanging rock that is great for adventurous looking photos. Walk a bit further and you’ll reach the top where you’ll see the famous Table Mountain reservoirs and mountain huts.

There are two ways to get on this trail. The first one is by starting with the Pipe Track trail (which could add an extra hour to your hike) and the second one is by parking in Theresa Road and then walking up the Jeep track to the Pipe Track. For this one, you’ll need to take a left once you’re on the Pipe Track to get the Kasteelspoort turn-off. Once at the top, it’s about an hour of walking to the Cableway if you want to head down that way.

Starting point: Top of Theresa Avenue, Camps Bay / Top of Kloof Nek Road
Duration: 2 - 4 hours one-way
End point: Top of Table Mountain / The Woodhead and Helly-Hutchinson Reservoirs

 

Skeleton Gorge

Kirstenbosch Skeleton Gorge trailPhoto by Noortje van Randwijk

This trail takes hikers through an emerald ravine, lush jungle, and shrub and moss-covered slopes before reaching the highest point of the mountain, Maclears Beacon. The route starts in the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (you have to buy the regular entry fee) and then takes you up the back of Table Mountain.

Photo by Noortje van Randwijk

The first half of the route is shaded and makes you feel like you’re in a jungle somewhere far away, but the views really get spectacular once you get closer to the top. Along the way you’ll come across multiple small waterfalls, a stream, typical mountain fynbos and some interesting rock formations.

Steenbok on Table MountainPhoto by Noortje van Randwijk

The route ends at Maclear’s Beacon, which is the highest point of Table Mountain (at 1086 metres above sea level). The perfect place to sit down and enjoy panoramic views of the city and Robben Island. On our hike we even saw a female Steenbok running around there! From here it’s about an hour walk to the Table Mountain Cableway station if you want to spare your knees the trip down. Another option is to take Platteklip Gorge down, otherwise, head down Skeleton Gorge or Nursery Ravine to end up where you started.

Starting point: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Duration: 2 ­– 4 hours one-way
End point: Maclear’s Beacon

 

India Venster

The India Venster trail is my personal favourite! It charges straight up the front face of Table Mountain and most of the trail runs directly underneath the cable car route. It arguably provides the best panoramic views of the city below. However, it is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights because it leads you through imposing cliffs and involves scrambling and climbing on staples embedded into the rocks. The views are sensational, the hiking engaging and the surroundings stimulating. Very adventurous!

India Venster trail Table Mountain

The route is less strenuous compared to routes like Skeleton Gorge, but it is more technical because it necessitates the use of hands to negotiate vertical rock sections. You’ll take breaks, look back and wonder how you got to where you are and how you’ll get to the top!

Starting point: 50m to the right of the Cableway Station. Take the Contour Path from the cable car parking lot. Continue until you see a green sign indicating you will climb “up.” Behind this sign is the start of the India Venster — it is not actually marked by name. Follow the blue or green spray paint markers on the rocks.
Duration: 2 – 4 hours one-way
End point: Upper Cableway Station

 

The way down

On top of Table Mountain

Once you reached the top of the mountain, took all the *extremely necessary* photos and relaxed for a bit, it’s time for the descent. There are multiple ways of going back down.

Table Mountain cable carPhoto by Andrew Tallon

The easiest and most popular way to get back is by taking the cable car, if it is running. Be prepared for the fact that weather changes quickly on the mountain. So even though the cable car was running when you started, it may have shut down by the time you reached the top. Be prepared to hike back down if necessary. I would recommend taking “easier” routes like Platteklip Gorge or the Pipe Track back down, instead of a route like India Venster.

Abseiling Table MountainPhoto by insideguide 

Are you up for a more adventurous way down? It is also possible to abseil Table Mountain! This is perfect for any adrenaline junkie. Find more information on Abseiling Table Mountain here.

I hope this blog post made you excited for hiking Table Mountain and gave you a good idea of which trails to take! I'll see you on the top of the mountain!

Nina