Hikes, Walks & Trails
Table Mountain National Park is a walking Park with exciting trails for all levels of walkers from the super-fit to the casual stroller.
There are many routes to choose from along the Table Mountain Chain offering spectacular views of the City of Cape Town, rugged mountains and deep blue seas. Most of the popular hikes up Table Mountain such as Platteklip Gorge (north face), Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge (the latter two being accessible from Kirstenbosch Gardens) are fairly strenuous, while Silvermine, the Cape of Good Hope and the Constantiaberg offer easier options.
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.
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.
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: 1 – 1.5 hours 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
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.
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: 4 – 4.5 hours return
- Rating: easy to Slangolie, moderate to Corridor
- Children: yes, but the full route is tough
- Dogs: yes
- Water: tap at the start; take lots in summer
Platteklip Gorge (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.
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: 1 hour for the super fit to 3 hours for the less-than-fit
- 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
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.
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: 45 min to an hour one-way to Maclear’s Beacon
- Rating: easy
- Children: yes
- 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.
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.
- Distance: about 4km
- Time: from 2 hours for the super fit to 4 hours for the less-than-fit (one-way)
- Rating: moderate, no shade in the second half
- Children: yes
- 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.
For a guide to the most popular hiking routes get yourself a copy of Mountains in the Sea – an Interpretive Guide to Table Mountain National Park by John Yeld.
Cape of Good Hope Trail
The two-day, one-night Cape of Good Hope Hiking Trail follows a circular route of 33.8km. It begins and ends at the entrance gate of the Cape of Good Hope, where secure overnight parking is provided. This hike offers hikers fragrant fynbos trails, secluded beaches and overnight accommodation at Rooikrans in one of three cottages each of which sleeps six. Cutlery and crockery are provided but you need to bring your own bedding.
- R390 per person
- The rate is a per person rate and not a per hut rate.
- The Hut sleeps x 6 people and groups may have to share a hut. If you wish to have a hut on an exclusive use basis you will need to pay for the spare beds in the hut to ensure you are not sharing.
- This tariff does not include the daily conservation/entry fee that is payable on the day of arrival at the Main Gate.
Gates open at 06:00 October to March, and at 07:00 April to September; no entry will be allowed before this time. Hikers must start the trail before 09:00 on the day of arrival, to ensure the hike will be completed in daylight.
Departure from the hut by 09:00 the following day.
Weekdays from 08:00 to 16:00.
- Deonese Visser
- Email: [email protected]
- Telephone: +27 (0)21 712 7471
- Musa Makhubele
- Email: [email protected]
- Telephone: +27 (0)21 780 9100
- It is essential to complete the Overnight Hiking register upon collection of key, which is obtainable from the Access Control Officer on duty. The same register should be signed upon departure. Please remember to hand in the keys. Your Confirmation booking form needs to be handed to the Access Control Officer before 09:00 on date of arrival.
- Bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, pillows, etc).
- All cutlery and crockery are provided (Plates, knives, forks, mugs, etc.).
- There are showers.
- The huts are solar powered, so please conserve power. A light meter has been installed and lights will only switch on when it is sufficiently dark.
- There is a two-plate gas burner at the ERICA hut.
- At The PROTEA and RESTIO huts there is a communal bathroom and kitchen with a three-plate gas burner.
- Please ensure that the lights are switched off before you leave.
- All huts have braai places and braai grids. We do not supply wood or charcoal. Please carry your own charcoal or use the gas on site.
- Please ensure that all fires are extinguished or secure before sleeping and before you leave.
- Be aware: there are baboons in the vicinity of the Hut. When given the opportunity they will enter the hut and destroy property and personal belongings. When you leave, please ensure that all the doors and windows of the Overnight Hut are closed and locked so that baboons cannot enter.
- Prices are increased annually.
Free Guided Walks at Cape Point
There are enthusiastic volunteers who are now offering free guided walks at Cape Point.
- Meeting point for all hikes is just inside the main gate on the 2nd Sunday of each month, adjustments made in March and November due to race days.
- Walkers must wear strong boots and have hat, sun block, raingear, water and a snack.
- Get a Wild Card or pay the Conservation Fee at the gate.
- John: +27 (0)21 782 2379
- Ian: +27 (0)21 782 8552