Table Mountain is on every visitor’s to-do list when in Cape Town. If you are committed to hike Table Mountain rather than take the cable car up then you’ll want to know this.
The Platteklip Gorge route is by far the most popular way up Table Mountain. The trail head is on Tafelberg Road, a short stroll from the lower cable car station. It’s the ‘easiest’ way up in the sense that there’s no scrambling (hauling oneself up over boulders and short rock faces).
There’s also no exposure to drop-offs or crumbly ledges to inch along. And it’s only 10 minutes to the upper cable car station from where you summit.
It’s not that easy though: it’s a solid two to four hike up Table Mountain – and you’ll have company too. Platteklip Gorge sees a steady flow of hikers up and down, especially on weekends and holidays. The December/January festive period is especially busy.
Platteklip is perfect for hikers who are unsure about their abilities. It’s still a demanding aerobic exercise but if you can slowly walk up a flight of steps for a few hours with plenty of breaks, then it’s in the bag.
But there are a dozen more routes up Table Mountain. Some wind through indigenous forest, others up wild bushy valleys or water-carved ravines. Nearly all require some scrambling but if you can manoeuvre your way around a jungle gym, then you’ll be fine.
And the rewards of taking one of these Table Mountain hikes are plenty: few if any other hikers, better views (Platteklip Gorge is a bit mono-scenic) and at the top, a Whole New World. Did you know that there is a museum on top of Table Mountain? With a steam train in it! There are sandy beaches that look out over whiskey-coloured dams, dripping walls of moss and shady caves. Hike Table Mountain for a full day and you can stick to hiking trails where you’ll see nothing but mountains, oceans and sky..
Nearly all of these other trails up Table Mountain require a hike down unless you plan a route that ends at the upper cable car station. (The exception is the excellent India Venster which runs underneath the cable car – but you’ll need a head for heights and be okay with scrambling.)
The trick to a Table Mountain hike is to come down a safer and easier route. And the good news is that for every challenging route up Table Mountain there is an easier one close by to descend, making a half-day hike as simple to plan as a full-day hike.
The other trick is to engage a Table Mountain guide. These routes are away from the cable car area; you’ll need to know where to start, how to get there and back – and once on the trail, which way to go. Table Mountain is 57 square kilometres and covered in trails – many lead deep into the mountain’s wilder interior. Table Mountain is also subject to sudden changes in weather – temperatures can drop dramatically, strong winds blanket the mountain in soggy cloud – and you may need to make a plan.
Hike Table Mountain with a guide and take the guesswork out of your experience. There’s the guarantee of someone who knows the way and what to do if things go wrong. You’ll have spare water on hand, a first-aid kit and emergency gear if you need it. Hike Table Mountain with me – The Fynbos Guy – and you’ll get fresh coffee and tea plus a chocolate croissant too.