Your Guide to Table Mountain’s 7 Best Hiking Trails

Your Guide to Table Mountain’s 7 Best Hiking Trails

There’s more than one way to ascend the Cape’s most iconic landmark.

You wouldn’t exactly call Cape Town’s made-for-postcards mountain a “hidden gem”, since it’s kind of hard to miss. But while many are familiar with its iconic image, those who choose to explore the mountain’s lush reserve by foot, rather than joining legions of tourists aboard the cable car, will discover its true majesty.

No doubt the views from its summit are spectacular, but the old adage “the journey is the destination” certainly applies here. The multitude of trails that wind their way around the mountain (not all actually go to the top) include day and overnight hikes, and range from gentle, forested trails to endurance-testing rock-scrambling adventures.

Here is your essential guide to the best Table Mountain hiking trails.

Important note Although the Cape is rich in natural beauty, tourists and locals alike are urged to take necessary precautions when exploring secluded areas, as crimes and accidents do happen.

Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700. Criminal incidents should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as able.

We also recommend @safetymountain (link to http://hikersnetwork.co.za/safetymountain/) as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via whatsapp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress, and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.

It helps to have a map, and for that, SANParks and The Inside Guide recommends Slingsby Maps as an essential resource for hiking enthusiasts. Their range of carefully compiled maps include a Table Mountain hiking map, with details on popular routes such as the Pipe Track and the Hoerikwaggo Trail. Contact Slingsby Maps at 021 788 4545 for more information.

Fun fact Table Mountain could well be one of the oldest mountains in the world, as its formation is believed to have begun around 280 million years ago (long before that of the Himalayas). Of course, the rocks from which the mountain is formed are older still, dating back around 600 million years.

Platteklip Gorge

Platterklip Gorge Table Mountain Hike
Ramon Mellett

Probably the second most well-known hiking trail in Cape Town (after Lion’s Head), Platteklip is not as easygoing, despite its popularity. Sure, there’s not much climbing or scrambling involved, but there’s a lot of upward walking, which probably makes it the ideal route for a workout. It provides a direct route to the summit of Table Mountain, for those who think taking the cable car is for lightweights.
Starting point Tafelberg Road
End point Upper Cableway Station
Duration 3 hours, though some ridiculously fit people have been known to run up the trail in an hour.
Need to know Platteklip is best avoided on a hot day, as there is little shade along the trail.
Be prepared for all types of weather, and bring a hat, sunblock and jacket.
Proper hiking shoes are required; do not attempt this trail with slip-slops.
If you plan to take the cable car down, make note of operational times and ensure you reach the station before the last cable car leaves.
Important note SANParks has informed us that many rescues are performed at this site, as people underestimate the heat and level of fitness required, or they miss the last cable car and end up stranded on the mountain at night. Please take the necessary precautions.
Child-friendly? Yes, although take note of the above.
Dog-friendly? Bringing dogs is not recommended on this trail, as they struggle in the heat.
Contact 021 712 0527, Table.Mountain@sanparks.org

Maclear’s Beacon

Maclears Beacon Table Mountain Hike
Lara in London

At 21 metres above the Upper Cableway Station, Maclear’s Beacon is the highest point on Table Mountain. Plaques at the Upper Cableway Station point you towards the beginning of the hike, and from thereon the trail is marked by yellow footprints. If you do the Platteklip and Maclear’s Beacon trails in one go, then you can truly say you hiked from the bottom of Table Mountain to the very top.
Starting point Upper Cableway Station
End point Maclear’s Beacon
Duration 1 hour
Need to know SANParks does not recommend attempting this trail in cloudy or misty weather, as it becomes more difficult to find your way in such conditions.
Child-friendly? Yes
Dog-friendly? No
Contact 021 712 0527, Table.Mountain@sanparks.org

The Pipe Track

Pipe Track Table Mountain Hike
Red Bull South Africa

This trail is not only mesmerisingly beautiful, it also has an interesting history, in that it was built for the purpose of servicing a pipeline that used to supply 19th-century Cape Town with water from the Disa Gorge, hence its name…
Starting point The junction of Tafelberg Road and Kloof Nek (you can park your car in the Kloof Nek parking lot)
End point Camps Bay
Duration 4 hours. The route is easygoing, although it becomes slightly tougher after passing by Slangolie Ravine.
Good to know There are a number of trails that lead off the Pipe Track, but these should not be attempted without the assistance of a knowledgeable guide. Many of these trails are not beginner-friendly, and they are not recommended for children or dogs.
If you do have a guide, it’s recommended to visit Tranquility Cracks, a hidden gem that Capetonian hikers have only recently discovered. These are narrow, labyrinthine tunnels through the rock, formed naturally through erosion.
Need to know The Pipe Track can be tough on hot days, as large portions of it are exposed to the afternoon sun.
Child-friendly? Yes
Dog-friendly? Yes, although Table Mountain National Park is under the jurisdiction of SANParks, which requires that dog-walkers have a Level 1 My Activity Permit (R270 per year). Contact Tokai Plantation Office (021 712 7471) for more information.
Contact 021 712 0527, Table.Mountain@sanparks.org

Kasteelport Hiking Trail

Kasteelspoort Table Mountain-hike

We love the Kasteelspoort Hiking Trail for its easy access to the mountain, and suitability to all fitness levels. Not to mention the the stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, Twelve Apostles, and Camps Bay. There are several paths leading to different points – such as the old Cableway Station and the two reservoirs – making each trek a different adventure.
Starting point Top of Theresa Avenue, Camps Bay / Top of Kloof Nek Road
End point Top of Table Mountain / The Woodhead and Helly-Hutchinson Reservoirs
Duration 3 – 4 hours
Need to know While the path is shady in places, it’s best get started in the early morning, and to bring a hat and plenty of water. There is a short section at the foot of Kasteels buttress that requires a certain level of scrambling over rocks, and Kasteelspoort Ravine can be quite slippery (especially after rain), so bring good, gripping shoes and be cautious.
Child-friendly? This trail is not recommended for children or novice hikers, as rock-scrambling can be quite challenging at certain points.
Dog-friendly? No
Contact 021 712 0527, Table.Mountain@sanparks.org

Skeleton Gorge

Skeleton Gorge Table Mountain Hike
Bold Travel

This hike basically takes you from one side of Table Mountain to the other. Starting off in the the serene Kirstenbosch Gardens, you will arrive at the steep ascent of Skeleton Gorge where indigenous trees provide shade. Along the way, you’ll encounter a stream, typical mountain fynbos and some interesting rock formations before arriving at Maclear’s Beacon – the highest point on Table Mountain. Take a rest and enjoy panoramic views of the city and Robben Island.
Starting point Kirstenbosch Gardens
End point Maclear’s Beacon
Duration 2 – 4 hours (depending on your level of fitness)
Good to know Nursery Ravine provides an easier alternative route that also joins up with the Skeleton Gorge trail at certain points. This makes them a popular pairing, with one trail being used for ascent and the other (preferably Nursery Ravine) being used for descent.
Need to know This is a long hike with ladders to assist climbers to the top, and a rockfall to overcome, meaning you have to be extremely fit. Parts of the gorge can be quite slippery, even during summer. It’s recommended to avoid this route during and immediately after heavy rainfall.
Child-friendly? Yes
Dog-friendly? No
Contact 021 712 0527, tablem@sanparks.org (Table Mountain National Park)
021 799 8899, Kirstenboschinfo@sanbi.org.za (Kirstenbosch)

Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch

Constantia Nek Kirstenbosch Table Mountain Hike

A relatively easy walk on a dirt road and wooden track, it consists mainly of mild uphill sections, but is mostly downhill and flat. Along the way you will enjoy the greenery of Cecilia and Newlands forests and vast views of the slopes of Table Mountain, an aerial perspective of Kirstenbosch, and even views as far as the Cape Flats.
Starting point Constantia Nek
End point Kirstenbosch Gardens
Duration 2 hours
Need to know Guided walks can be booked in advance, and arranged to suit your interests and needs.
Child-friendly? Yes
Dog-friendly? Dogs are not allowed in Kirstenbosch Gardens
Contact 021 712 0527, Table.Mountain@sanparks.org (Table Mountain National Park)
021 799 8899, Kirstenboschinfo@sanbi.org.za (Kirstenbosch)

Hoerikwaggo Trail

Hoerikwaggo Trail Table Mountain Hike
Jenman African Safaris

Hoerikwaggo is the Khoi-San word for “mountain in the sea”, an appropriate description for a hiking trail that takes you along cliffs that rise high above the shoreline, and allow hikers  to perch upon the precipice and gaze out at the vast ocean. Cape Town’s unique location – between mountain and sea – gives rise to some of the most diverse and spectacular landscapes, which are on show here, as hikers make their way along sandy beaches, up mountainsides and through flourishing fynbos fields.
Please note Parts of the trail have been closed due to fire damage. The “official trail” takes five days to complete, but if you’d prefer a shorter version, you can elect to hike only certain portions of the trail.
Starting point Cape Point Lighthouse
End point Platteklip Gorge
Overnight accommodation Hikers will spend each night at tented camps located at key points along the trail, equipped with self-catering facilities and heated showers. These include Smitswinkel Tented Camp, Slangkop Tented Camp and Orangekloof Tented Camp. Silvermine Tented Camp is currently closed due to fire damage, although accommodation can be arranged at the nearby Noordhoek Village if you wish to hike that portion of the trail. Each camp can accommodate a maximum of 12 people, including the guide.
Cost The trail is free, but you will need to book the overnight accommodation, which is subject to availability. Rates are available on SANParks’ website.
Accessing the portion of the trail that lies within the Cape Point Nature Reserve requires a conservation fee (R145 for adults; R75 for children under 12).
Contact 021 712 0527, tablem@sanparks.org (Table Mountain National Park)
021 712 7471, deonese.visser@sanparks.org (Hoerikwaggo Trail)

Good to know You may have noticed that a certain, well-known hiking trail is missing: The India Venster hike. Well, we decided not to include it due to its reputation; it is a challenging trail that has even seen some fatalities in the past. Recommended for experienced hikers only.

Date

Daily

Contact

021 712 0527, Table.Mountain@sanparks.org
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700

Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 25 May 2018

Add new comment