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Hiking up the mountain

Here are 8 fabulous hikes up the mountain for those who think taking the cable car is for sissys (lightweights). They vary in difficulty. There is a hike for the table top, too.  Please note the contact numbers and safety precautions as climbing Table Mountain can be tricky and weather changeable. We strongly suggest that you do not climb alone.

Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch. Fairly easy.


6km walk on a dirt path along the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. It is mostly flat with a few uphills in the beginning and downhill at the end.

Along the way you’ll enjoy the greenery of the Cecilia Forest, cross several streams over wooden bridges, pass lush ravines and gorges hiding waterfalls, and have an aerial perspective over the Constantia Winelands and Kirstenbosch, and views of False Bay.
Start at Constantia Nek parking area, off Rhodes Drive. The walk starts on jeep track, then joins the Contour Path around half an hour into the walk (take the path marked ‘Contour Path/Nursery Ravine’). Continue on the Contour Path until you reach the signpost for Skeleton Gorge – don’t head up, but down along Smuts Track, to get to Kirstenbosch.
End in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and finish with a picnic or lunch in the beautiful gardens. Takes 2 – 3 hours and older kids will enjoy it.

Contact. 021 712 7471 (SANParks Tokai Office)
Kirstenbosch: 021 799 8783, kirstenboschinfo@sanbi.org.za
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


The Pipe Track. Fairly easy


This 6km trail along the western side of Table Mountain is not only mesmerisingly beautiful (thanks to the sea view, and blooming proteas in winter), it also has an interesting story – it was built for the purpose of servicing a pipeline that used to supply 19th-century Cape Town with water from the Disa Gorge.

The route is mostly flat and easygoing, although it becomes slightly tougher after passing by Slangolie Ravine.
Start and End at the parking area at the junction of Tafelberg and Kloof Nek Roads. Takes 4 hours (there and back).
Be aware that the Pipe Track can be tough on hot days, as large portions of it are exposed to the afternoon sun. There are a number of trails that lead off the Pipe Track, but these should not be attempted without a mountain guide. Many are not beginner-friendly, and not recommended for children or dogs (whereas the Pipe Track itself is). If you have a guide, head for Tranquillity Cracks, a hidden gem that Capetonian hikers have only recently discovered.
Children should manage this and you can take a dog if you have a SANParks My Activity Permit (R340 for a year), obtainable from the Tokai Plantation Office (021 712 7471).

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


Smuts Track up Skeleton Gorge. Challenging.


Smuts Track is named after General Jan Smuts, who was reputed to have climbed almost every Sunday when Parliament was meeting in Cape Town.

It’s a Tolkien fantasy of seeping sandstone and granite, pristine indigenous Afromontane shady forest of assegaai trees, rooiels, ironwoods, and keurbooms, bolders and trickling streams. There is shade for the first section.

Start at the Kirstenbosch Fragrance Garden. Allow about four hours. Can be slippery even in dry weather. Fitness is required as this is a strenuous climb and there are ropes and ladders. Once at the top, it’s a two-hour hike across the table to descend via the cable car.  Take food, water (don’t drink the mountain water), sunscreen, hat, raincoat, and please wear hiking boots.

Alternatives:1. Head for the Maclear’s Beacon hike (see above),  the highest point on the mountain, where you can take a well-earned rest and enjoy panoramic views of the city, ocean and Robben Island before returning via the cable car.

2. For an easier descent, go via Nursery Ravine – an alternative route that joins up with the Skeleton Gorge trail. This makes them a popular pairing, with one trail being used for going up and the other for coming down.

3. Descend the same way back to Kirstenbosch. (Allow 5 and a half hours for up and down hike)

4. Head to the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir with its white-sand beach, then head left to access Nursery Ravine to descend.

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office), 021 712 7471 (SANParks Tokai Office)
Kirstenbosch: 021 799 8783, kirstenboschinfo@sanbi.org.za
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


Platteklip Gorge.  Moderate.


Very well used route as on the front face of Table Mountain and it is a straight-up direct route to the summit. It is the shortest route, possibly the least scenic but gets dramatic as the walls of the crack narrow to about 2 meters wide. Can get crowded over weekends and holidays.

Choose a cool day as there is no shade. Platteklip is not so easygoing, despite its popularity There is not much rock climbing or scrambling, but there is 3 kms of upward walking. Rest often and enjoy the dizzying views. Then return via the cable car.

Start at Tafelberg Road a little further up than the Cable Station. Allow about 3 hours to go up but many do it in 2 hours. (Some ridiculously fit people have run up the trail in an hour.)
If you plan to take the cable car down, ensure you reach the station before the last car leaves: 5pm (winter), 7pm (spring & early summer). 15 December – 15 January it leaves at 9pm.

NB. SANParks says many rescues are undertaken at this site, as people underestimate the heat/weather and level of fitness required, or they miss the last cable car and end up stranded on the mountain at night.
Older kids an manage this.

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300
Cableway weather/operational updates: 021 424 8181


Newlands Forest. Easy to moderate


Green, shady swathe on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain with a network of paths, with rocky patches, wooden boardwalks, streams, bridges, waterfalls and assorted nooks and crannies (including a lovely timber picnic carousel). Head up to the Contour Path via the Skelmkoppad and Fernwood Track or Middelpad, or to Rhodes Memorial on the Woodcutters Path (these are the main routes). Depending on which route you take, you may be treated to sunlit patches and bigger views, but mostly it’s a place to get lost in the serene greenery. The city will feel miles away.
Starts at the parking lot near Newlands Fire Base, Union Avenue (M3), Newlands
Ends back where you started, or Rhodes Memorial or even Kirstenbosch (if you’ve followed the Contour Path).
Takes from 1 – 4 hours depending on your route.

NB: It’s open daily from 8am to 6pm, but is officially closed from June to September (due to winter rains). Go early, as it can get very busy. Have a map (take a snapshot of the sign at the start of trails) or an understanding of the network, as it’s easy to become disoriented.
Take the kids. Include your dog on a leash with a SANParks My Activity Permit (R340 for a year), obtainable from the Tokai Plantation Office (021 712 7471).

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


Kasteelpoort Trail. Moderate to Challenging


The 6.5km Kasteelspoort Trail in an alternative western access to the top of Table Mountain along a section of the Twelve Apostles.

Views are stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful fynbos flora. Once at the top, there are paths leading to different points of interest – such as the Diving Board (a rocky ledge popular for photos), the remains of the 1890s steam-engine cableway (used to haul supplies up to the summit to build the two dams) and the two reservoirs themselves.

To take the cable car back down, you’ll need to make the undulating trek through the Valley of the Red Gods (disa flowers) and Echo Valley – and, in the process, discover that the top of Table Mountain is not flat!
Start on the Pipe Track (via the Theresa Avenue jeep track above Camps Bay); turn left once on the track to access the signposted trailhead.
End on top of Table Mountain (Woodhead and Hely-Hutchinson Reservoirs / Upper Cableway Station). Takes 4 – 5 hours

NB: The hike is largely exposed to the sun and can be challenging, so not for novices without a guide – there is a short section at the foot of Kasteels Buttress that requires some scrambling over rocks, you’ll need to negotiate three ladders to reach the summit, and the ravine itself can be quite slippery (especially after rain). Beware of Table Mountain’s infamous cloudy ‘tablecloth’ moving in and covering the summit.

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


Tranquillity Cracks. Challenging


6km hike, not recommended for the unfit. The Corridor is steep, with loose stones and can be slippery. Sections of the path are quite narrow.

The Cracks themselves are a number of caves, caverns and thin slits in the rocks on the Twelve Apostles side of Table Mountain. Some of the fissures are quite deep and interlinked, creating a maze of corridors – yellowwood trees and bushes hide the entrance so this precious mystery is not visible from the outside. The simplest and safest route is via the steep, sometimes tricky Corridor Ravine, which starts on the well-marked Pipe Track above Camps Bay. NB: This ascent to the top follows clear paths but once on top, take a left at the cairn and from there it can be a guessing game to find an ‘entrance crack’ – best take a guide or someone who knows the route.

Many hikers use the nearby Kasteelspoort Trail (see above) to get back down.
Starts and ends at the Theresa Avenue entrance to the Pipe Track above Camps Bay. Takes 5 hours.

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


Orange Kloof . Moderate and fitness is needed.


This pristine wonderland is hidden behind Table Mountain (on the south side), and above Hout Bay. What makes it extra-special is that access is restricted – it’s the only hiking area in Cape Town for which a permit is required. The 8km Disa River Gorge trail heads upriver, past waterfalls and river pools and through mossy, mysterious Afromontane forest, until it reaches the top of Table Mountain. Along the way you can explore the 19th-century Woodhead Tunnel (built to convey water to the Pipe Track).
Starts and ends at the Constantia Nek parking area, Rhodes Drive (starting on the Cecilia Forest jeep track). Takes 8 hours (full day)

The permit is free but needs to be booked in advance – only one permit is issued per day, for maximum 12 people. The group also needs to be accompanied by a registered mountain guide. There is quite a bit of rock scrambling and ledge walking, and it can be slippery.
If you fancy staying overnight on Table Mountain, the Overseer’s Cottage is close by (from R3 970 per night for six people; sleeps 16). Book through SANParks.
Fine for older children.

Contact Permits: 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
021 712 7471 (SANParks Tokai Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300


Hiking along the top of Table Mountain: Maclear’s Beacon. Easy up to the steps.

At 21 metres above the Upper Cableway Station, Maclear’s Beacon is the official highest point on Table Mountain (1 088m) Signs at the cableway station point you towards the beginning of the hike, and from there the 5.5km trail is marked by yellow footprints.
Start  at the Upper Cableway Station.  Takes 2 hours (there and back)
NB: There is a short section of rocky steps on the edge of the mountain that needs to be negotiated using chains and handholds. Do not attempt this trail in cloudy or misty weather, as it becomes disorientating and more difficult to find your way. If taking the cable car, buy tickets online to avoid the queues.

Contact 021 422 1601 (SANParks Kloofnek Office)
TMNP emergency numbers: 086 110 6417, 107 or 021 937 0300
Cableway weather/operational updates: 021 424 8181


Important For ALL Hikers: Even if it seems like an easy trail, be prepared – an injury, severe weather or wrong turn could become life-threatening. Take water, snacks and warm clothing. Never hike alone, and pace according to the slowest person in the group. Trails may be closed temporarily due to flooding or fire damage, so check before heading out; also always check the weather report. Make sure you have the hike emergency numbers in your phone and your phone is charged. Generally it is safe but be aware that there have been a couple of muggings on the quieter routes so, do not hike alone.

Free Tracking Service.  @safetymountain   is a very useful resource for hikers. This allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via WhatsApp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress, and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.

If using the Cable Car to return : Queues are lengthy so we suggest you buy your cable car ticket before you go:  buy your tickets online. You will still need to queue to get on the cable car.

Cable car tickets : 1 October 2023 – 30 September 2024:
One way: R240 (adult), R130 (child)
Senior citizen: R70 (one way)
Student:  R150 (one way)
Fast Track:  R550 (one way)
Remember that if you go in or out of Kirstenbosch, you need to pay.