Hiking up Table Mountain


Cape Town City Bowl

Hiking up Table Mountain in Cape Town, or on top of it, is a very popular activity. You can either do this ‘under your own steam’ or with a qualified mountain walking guide. There are several routes up varying in their intensity and length.

The most common option is via the Platteklip Gorge which takes about 2½ to 3 hours. This is a steep walk but involves no rock scrambling. You need a reasonable fitness level as it is a 2½ hike upwards at a typical pace, up a steep path with uneven steps. At the top you can either walk over to the Upper cable car station (approx 20 minutes) or  you have the option of walking to Maclear’s Beacon (about 30 minutes in the opposite direction). At 1,086 m, this is the highest point on Table Mountain. Flanked by Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak the “flat top” of Table Mountain reveals a brand new vista over Cape Town and Table Bay towards the Blouberg Mountains.  From there, you retrace your footsteps to the top cable car station where you can enjoy the spectacular views towards Robben Island, over Camps Bay and the beach and along the Twelve Apostles mountain range, in the direction of Hout Bay. You then descend by cable car.

Another popular route for hiking up Table Mountain is via Kasteelpoort from the Atlantic side of the Mountain. This takes a little longer (3-4 hours) with more time spent on the top getting across to the Upper Cable car. The advantage is that there is more early morning shade on this route so its a better option for a hot day.

The third hiking route is via Skeleton Gorge which starts in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This trail requires good fitness as it typically takes about 5 hours to complete, on a mostly undulating path with some basic rock scrambling and a ladder climb towards the top of the ravine.  However for much of the climb, you are beneath the shady cover of indigenous forest.  After a 1½ – 2 hour climb, you reach Breakfast Rock with its panoramic views. From here, you enjoy a 1½ hour walk through indigenous fynbos vegetation, up and down a few hills and along mountain tracks to Maclear’s Beacon which is the highest point on the Table Mountain plateau. Then you head along the table top towards the upper cable car station.

Things to consider when hiking up Table Mountain

  • We recommend taking a walking guide if possible as they know the various routes well and also are familiar with the changeable weather conditions.
  • If hiking in summer, beware of the effect of summer heat, especially on the no shade routes of Platteklip. Set off very early eg 7am or earlier so that you have completed the climb before the heat of the day. If you are fit enough, you could also take the shadier Skeleton Gorge route.
  • In contrast, in winter be aware of hiking up Table Mountain in poor weather conditions. Weather can change very quickly on the mountain and every year, people have to be rescued having strayed off the paths in poor visibility. Some get lost even in good visibility.
  • Given this changeability, ensure that you are well prepared for hiking, even if it’s sunny down in Cape Town. Have spare clothing, plenty of water and food with you.

Maclears Beacon

If you are not sure about hiking UP Table Mountain, the walk from the upper cable car to Maclears Beacon is also lovely. It takes approx 1½ to 2 hours there and back. The paths are busy for the first 20 minutes and then most people turn round, at the point where the path does a steep little descent, so that you have the mountain, with its pristine fynbos, more to yourselves after that.

Prices for guided tours?

Please note that we don’t arrange hiking trips as stand-alone day tours. Only as part of a tailor-made holiday booked with Cedarberg Africa

This is tricky to give as it depends on whether you join a scheduled tour (which requires you to get to the company’s offices in downtown Cape Town). Or take a private tour which includes a transfer from your hotel. If you don’t mind a scheduled tour, then there is a well-priced combo offer with the Table Mountain abseiling.