Safe Hiking in Table Mountain National Park
Due to attacks and muggings in and around the Table Mountain National Park we wish to provide the public, tourists and regular visitors to the mountain with as much information as possible, in order to keep you safe.
Safe Hiking on Table Mountain
The 5 most popular hiking routes
There are few experiences to beat walking on Table Mountain or elsewhere in the Table Mountain National Park. Use one of the recommended routes to enjoy the wonders the park has to offer. Please be aware that more people die on Table Mountain than Mount Everest. Table Mountain is a mountain, not a hill! Please respect and enjoy your mountain.
Please follow the basic safety rules as the mountain can be dangerous to those who are unprepared or inexperienced.
Ten Basic Rules of Mountain Safety
- Don’t hike alone; four is the ideal number.
- Choose your route carefully and stick to it. Allow yourself enough time - start early. Inform someone of your route and what time you’re expected back.
- Choose a hike leader and walk at the pace of the slowest member.
- If lost - don’t split up. Rather try to retrace your steps. Remember that climbing down is more difficult than climbing up.
- Always take waterproof clothing, even in mid-summer, and wear walking shoes or hiking boots. Wear a hat or cap and sun block in summer. Weather changes rapidly.
- If lost or forced to stop because of bad weather, stay together and remain in one place. Find the closest shelter from wind and rain.
- In case of injury, take time to assess the situation. Then send two people for help and let the third remain with the injured person. If possible, mark the position on a map and send it with those going for help.
- Stick to well-used paths, which will be indicated on the Park's hiking map and read the warnings on this map. Don’t take shortcuts and especially don’t wander into ravines.
- Always take enough water, especially in summer, and food in case of a delay. Watch the weather and time, and turn back before you start running late or if bad weather threatens.
- Take a fully-charged cellphone. Some parts of the Park do not have cell phone reception, but you will always be able to reach a place where you can use a cell phone more quickly than you’ll get to a landline.
Three Rules for Personal Security
As Table Mountain is an urban park, please exercise the same common sense and security precautions that you would anywhere else in the world.
- Do not attract unwanted attention by openly displaying cash, cameras or other valuables.
- If you are confronted by a criminal, don't resist. Handover your goods as resistance might incite a mugger to violence.
- Program emergency numbers in your cellphone before your hike.
Lion’s Head Walk
A great view at every turn
The easy spiral walk starts on Signal Hill Drive, below Lion’s Head. The view from it’s 669m summit offers a breathtaking 360-degree sweep taking in the city bowl; Devil’s Peak and the famous front face of Table Mountain; the majestic Twelve Apostles; the stunning scenery of the Atlantic seaboard from Oudekraal through Bakoven, Camps Bay and Clifton to Sea Point and Green Point; Table Bay, and of course, Robben Island.
The short and relatively easy walk to the top of Lion’s Head is necessary for those wanting to enjoy the very best that the Park has to offer.
WARNING: It is a Cape Town tradition to hike to the summit of Lion’s Head to toast the full moon as it rises over the distant Hottentots Holland mountains to the east. On these festive occasions, the summit can be very busy. If you decide to join in the fun, please remember alcohol, darkness and the initial steep descent can be a very dangerous combination. There have been several accidents, at least one of them fatal.
Distance: about 2km one-way
Time: 1hr - 1hr 30mins up
Rating: easy with some minor rock scrambling
Children: yes but may require help at the chains
Dogs: Are not recommended.
Water: none available along this route
The Pipe Track Walk
This walk starts at the junction of Tafelberg Road and Kloof Nek. The Pipe Track is precisely what it says: a path constructed to service a pipeline running below the series of peaks known as the Twelve Apostles. This pipeline was built to carry water from Disa Gorge in Table Mountain’s Back Table, via the Woodhead Tunnel through the mountain in Slangolie Ravine, to the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht to help slake the thirst of the booming, late 19th century Cape Town.
In several places the path is very stony, but it is an easily accessible and popular walk, with many locals making regular use of certain sections; it is part of the Atlantic seaboard way of life.
WARNING: The Pipe Track is very exposed to the hot afternoon sun in summer; it is at its best early on summer mornings and especially during winter, when many of its protea species are in bloom.
Distance: about 6km one-way to Corridor Ravine
Time: 4hrs - 4hr30mins return
Rating: easy to Slangolie, moderate to Corridor
Children: yes, but the full route is tough
Water: tap at the start; take lots in summer
Platteklip to Upper Cableway Station
Up - relentlessly up! That’s the only way to describe the path in Platteklip Gorge. It’s the most direct route to the top of the mountain and the most popular. However, it is not a route to be trifled with; the going can be tough.
The “highway” to the top
The walk starts on Tafelberg Road and ascends the main gorge that divides the front face (Africa face) of Table Mountain. The path is well constructed with stone steps and anti-erosion gabions, and is not difficult to negotiate at any point. However, it is steep, and the best way to tackle Platteklip is slowly - don’t try to rush it, and frequent stops will give you a chance to look back at the great view of Cape Town and Table Bay below.
Allow sufficient time for walking down, even if your plan is to come down with the cableway. Rapid changes in weather conditions often cause the cableway to shut down unexpectedly, leaving hikers stranded in darkness at the upper cable station.
WARNING: Don’t underestimate Platteklip Gorge, which can be extremely hot and/or very cold and windy. The temperature at the top can be much lower than on Tafelberg Road, with an icy wind blowing, even in January and February. Always take enough water, a hat, sun block and warm, windproof clothing with you - even on hot summer days!
Distance: about 3km up!
Time: between 1hr for the super fit to 3hrs for the slow
Rating: moderate to tough, depending on fitness and weather
Children: older children yes, but it is demanding
Dogs: not recommended, and not on the cableway
Water: always take plenty of your own, especially in summer
Upper Cableway Station to Maclear’s Beacon Walk
This walk is a must if you want to be able to say you've stood at the highest point on Table Mountain, even if at 1 088m it is only 21m above the Upper Cableway Station.
To the very top
From the Upper Cableway Station, choose the main path leading to the diagonally opposite corner of what is known as the Western Table – look for plaques as guide marks to make sure you're on the right track. It will take you 10 to 15 minutes to walk across to the point where chains and poles have been provided to assist the short climb down the rocky steps at the edge: it is not difficult. Do not attempt to climb down at any other point! The path to Maclear's Beacon is marked by painted yellow footprints.
WARNING: Do not attempt this walk if there is low cloud or mist on the mountain. It is very easy to become disoriented and to lose your way.
Distance: 5.5km overall
Time: 45mins to an hour one-way to Maclear’s Beacon
Dogs: not recommended
Water: none available along this route
Skeleton Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon: The Smuts Track
The Smuts Track is one of the most popular walks on Table Mountain, and especially in summer when the Afromontane forest offers shade almost all the way up skeleton Gorge, the toughest section. The climb is steep and unrelenting, although not difficult or requiring more than an ability to climb a wooden ladder and negotiate a few rocky steps. However, many people underestimate the effort required, particularly when they go all the way to Maclear's Beacon. Be prepared; don't make the same mistake.
The walk starts in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, but the heart of this route begins at the intersection of Skeleton Gorge and the Contour Path. The first 40 to 75 minutes is spent in the forest climbing log and stone steps. About two-thirds of the way up a series of wooden ladders eases the way over steep rocks, which can be slippery when, wet.
WARNING: Parts of Skeleton Gorge are slippery, even in summer; take special care after rain and in winter. Avoid this route during and immediately after heavy rain.
Time: from 2hrs for the super-fit to 4hrs for the less-than-fit (one-way)
Rating: moderate, no shade in the second half
Dogs: not recommended
Water: mountain streams usually flow, but it’s best to take your own
The Table Mountain National Park is a World Heritage Site, and an ecologically sensitive area with plants and animals that occur nowhere else in the world - please treat it with respect and help Park’s staff conserve this globally unique and much-loved environment.
- Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. Don't pick, break or trample any plants or flowers, or remove seeds, rocks or plants.
- Don't feed, touch or harm any of the animals or birds in the Park - dassies, baboons and even the African Penguin all have ferocious bites!
- Wild fires can cause loss of life and property. Never light fires anywhere other than in designated braai (barbecue) areas. Do not throw cigarette butts anywhere.
Visitor Safety Rangers
The Park’s safety and security strategy is providing appropriate information to prevent incidents from happening, and also full intervention by 52 dedicated, trained staff who patrol the Park equipped with dogs, vehicles and radios, and who cooperate closely with the South African Police Service.
Visitor Information Centres have been established in the parking areas on Tafelberg Road and at Lion’s Head, and a security hut placed at the bottom of Platteklip Gorge. Volunteer groups have been co-opted to help, and the honorary ranger’s organisation is also being restructured to assist.
- Main emergency number: 086 110 6417
- Emergency SAPS (South African Police Service): 10111 (02110111 on cell)
- Emergency CT Emergency Services: (021) 480 7700
- Emergency CT Central OPS Centre: (021) 467 8002
All of these call centres are primed to respond to incidents on TMNP and investigate suspicious activities.
Other numbers which could come in handy:
Emergency NSRI: 082 911
Emergency TM Cable Car Company: (021) 424 0015
How TMNP is keeping YOU safe
At the moment TMNP is taking every possible action within our power to ensure the safety of our visitors.
Within the available resources (both financial and in human resources) the following proactive programmes are in place:
- Visible Uniformed Policing
- Roving Patrols
- Surveillance and Monitoring via CCTV, night scopes and transparent stake out units.
- Data gathering
- Visitor Information centres
- Gateway Management
- Car Guard Management
The patrol unit consists of:
- 52 rangers actively patrolling the park.
- 16 of those rangers are trained to work with dogs.
- 40 members of the department of labour learnership.
- One policeman on bike patrol.
Ongoing work relationships with local SAPS and government ensure that the park management does everything in our pwer to ensure your safety.
At a safety meeting held at Newlands Forest Station on February 15, an interim committee of volunteers with skills, time and expertise to offer, was formed. Under the guidance of Ray Chaplin and TMNP management, the committee will draw up a strategy to assist in making Table Mountain safer through the mobilization of volunteer services.
View and download maps.
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