Table Mountain is one of Cape Town’s most recognizable landmarks. It’s a beautiful backdrop to the city, with incredible views from the top. To get to the top, however, you can take the famous cable car, or you can take a Table Mountain hike.
A Table Mountain hike takes you to the famous plateau which overlooks the city of Cape Town. It is beautiful and rewarding in so many ways. Table Mountain offers an abundance of biodiversity and an immense amount of flora and fauna that is native only to this area.
With its one-of-a-kind landscape, hiking up Table Mountain is a rewarding experience. The mountain offers a few different hiking trails for you to choose from. They differ in terms of their level of difficulty and/or distance.
Regardless of which trail you choose, do not hike Table Mountain on cloudy, foggy, or rainy days. (Locals refer to the clouds as Table Mountain having a tablecloth on it.) Here’s why:
- If it’s cloudy or foggy, you won’t be able to appreciate the views because visibility will be poor and therefore you won’t see much; and
- hiking to the top can be challenging if the clouds are too dense.
- Hiking on rainy days should also be avoided because the rocks can be slippery.
Distance: 1.24 miles / 2km
Duration: 1 – 2 hours (one-way)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Table Mountain Hiking: Here are a few helpful tips for hiking the Platteklip Gorge trail:
- The trail is easy but it is also quite steep. This is why it is classified as moderate.
- Check the weather forecast before you go. The Platteklip Gorge trail gets full sun so it can be a scorcher in the heat. Dress accordingly.
- It is best to start early on hot days because it can get really hot up on the mountain as the day progresses.
- Take enough water with you.
- The trail is rocky. There are lots of high stepping stones and zig-zagging. There are also concrete stairs leading up to the summit.
- This is a heavily trafficked trail.
- It’s accessible year-round.
- Wear good shoes with good grips to avoid slips.
Distance: 1.55 miles / 2.5km
Duration: 2-4 hours (one-way)
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
The India Venster trail provides incredible panoramas. The views of the city are magnificent. But while the India Venster trail is more scenic than the Platteklip trail, it is also more challenging. Check out the video to see for yourself.
Table Mountain Hike: Here are a few helpful tips for hiking the India Venster Trail:
- This trail is definitely not for beginners—only for experienced hikers and climbers. If you are unfit or inexperienced, avoid it.
- Going down the India Venster trail is more dangerous than going up. It is slippery and steep. Unless you know what you are doing, choose an alternate route down or take the cable car.
- Wear appropriate shoes with good grip. The rocks can be slippery.
- Avoid this trail when it is windy. It can be dangerous.
- The terrain can be challenging and can pose risks.
- To hike this trail, you need to be fit. You will be climbing over boulders.
Distance: 3.85 miles / 6.2km
Duration: 3.5 hours to Maclears Beacon + 45 minutes to the upper cable car station. (one-way)
The Skeleton Gorge takes you through a lush jungle, emerald ravine, and moss-covered slopes before you reach the top of Table Mountain. With lush vegetation, the trail is a nature lover’s dream. The trail starts in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Because it is so long, the most popular route down is via the cable car.
The first half of the Skeleton Gorge trail does not have any panoramic views of Cape Town. You won’t see any sea views either until you make it to the top of the mountain.
Because the trail starts in the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, there is a fee for entry into the gardens.
Distance: 3.7 miles / 6km
Duration: 4 – 5 hours
Compared to the India Venster trail, the 12 Apostles trail is considered easy but long. It is definitely worth the effort because this trail offers incredible views.
The trail has multiple peaks, gorges, valleys, and views of the Atlantic Ocean, Lions Head, and a lot of fauna and flora.
Table Mountain Hike: Helpful tips for hiking the Twelve Apostles Trail:
- Take a camera with you. The flora on the mountain is amazing—you will want to take photos.
- Be sure to pack water—it’s a long walk.
- This trail is easier than the India Venster but even so, be sure to walk with appropriate shoes because it can be slippery on the rocks.
- Try to start early. One advantage of doing this is that you’ll spend the most strenuous parts of the hike in the shadows because the sun is blocked out by the Twelve Apostles.
The Twelve Apostle Trail is less crowded than many other trails.
Before You Embark On Your Table Mountain Hike
Hiking Table Mountain is exciting for any hiker, but for your safety, it is important to keep a few things in mind:
- You can get maps from the Cape Town tourism visitor information centers.
- Check the weather forecast. Cape Town weather can go from sunny to cloudy very quickly, so there is always the threat of cloud cover over the mountain. The clouds will not only spoil your views, but they will also bring down the temperatures considerably.
- Once you are on the mountain, have a good sense of where you are and where your hiking buddies are, because if the clouds blow in, you may have trouble seeing each other.
- The South African spring and summer is the best time to hike Table Mountain safely. Experts recommend November to February because the weather is nice and there is less chance of rain.
- Despite the weather forecast, be aware that there might be sudden changes in weather. Pack a fleece just in case.
- People will often hike up the mountain and come down with the cable car. While this is completely acceptable, do keep in mind that the cable car will close sometimes due to bad weather.
- If you are an inexperienced hiker, it’s a good idea to hike in a group or at least with someone else.
- If you decide to take the cable car up Table Mountain and hike down, you should know that the recommended route for hiking down the mountain is via the Platteklip Gorge route. However, the end of the Platteklip Gorge route is 2km from the cable car station. You can solve this minor dilemma by following the signs on your way down and turn off the Platteklip Gorge, and walk towards the cable car station.
How To Stay Safe While Hiking In South Africa
- Tell someone the route you plan to hike. If you are traveling alone, tell the concierge or the front desk at the hotel.
- If at all possible, do not hike alone. There are hiking groups in Cape Town.
- While many people visit South African without incidence, there remains a risk of muggings (as in any big cities.) Therefore, do not flash your wallet, cash, or valuables. (If you have valuables in the car, hide them so that it’s not visible to prying eyes.)
- In the unlikely event where you are confronted by a mugger on the mountain, calmly hand over your valuables.
- If you are hiring a guide to hike with you, do make sure that he/she represents a reputable company.
- If you get lost, wait where you are. Call Wilderness Search and Rescue +27 (0)21 948 9900, Table Mountain National Park +27 (0)21 957 4700, or for any other emergencies call +27 (0)21 480 7700.