Cape Town is a city built for lovers of the great outdoors, with soaring mountains and white sand beaches on two distinct oceans. Walking is one of the greatest ways to appreciate its natural beauty, with a variety of hiking trails to accommodate everyone from young families to experienced scramblers and fitness enthusiasts. Some of the most notable are located on Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and Chapman’s Peak, which are all iconic natural sights in the Mother City. Continue reading for a list of the top ten.
1. Lion’s Head
The Lion’s Head trek, arguably the most popular hike in Cape Town, climbs 1,270 feet to the summit of an instantly recognizable cone-shaped mountain. The 3.4-mile round route takes about 2.5 hours to complete and begins and ends at the Signal Hill Road parking lot. The topography consists of a gravel route with a few large rocks and boulders in the final stretch, which requires considerable climbing and an alternate set of ladders and chains for the more daring. It is also possible to hike around the mountain to avoid this more challenging stretch. Hikers are treated to spectacular views of Table Mountain, Camps Bay and the Clifton beaches, Robben Island, and the Atlantic Ocean in either case. Consider going on a guided sunrise, sunset, or full moon trek to get a bird’s-eye view of Cape Town at night.
2. Maclear’s Beacon
The Maclear’s Beacon trek, which starts at the top of Platteklip Gorge on Table Mountain, is ideal for those looking for a somewhat flat hike with no severe ascents or descents. You’ll need to take the cable car to the peak to get to the start; from there, it’s a 3.4-mile out-and-back journey to Maclear’s Beacon. The initial beacon established by royal astronomer Thomas Maclear to aid his calculations of the Earth’s circumference is commemorated by this triangular stone cairn. Aside from its historical significance, the beacon (and the rest of the trek) offers breathtaking views of the Cape Peninsula, the Atlantic, and the Indian Oceans. Although suitable for families of all ages, this climb should be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon in the summer because it is quite exposed and offers no shade.
3. Pipe Track
The 3.7-mile Pipe Track, another relatively moderate climb, was built in 1887 to give maintenance access to the pipeline that originally delivered water from the Table Mountain dams to the Cape Town metropolis. It’s now a popular half-day hike that takes three to four hours to complete and has relatively flat terrain, making it a good choice for novice hikers. The route makes its way around Table Mountain, beginning and ending across the road from the Kloof Nek parking lot. Enjoy breathtaking mountain and ocean views along the trip, including photo-worthy views of Lion’s Head and Chapman’s Peak. You’ll also pass through some breathtaking gorges. This trail will not take you to the summit of the mountain, but it will lead you to more difficult trails that will. On weekends, when the trail is busiest, walk for safety.
4. Patteklip Gorge
The Patteklip Gorge trail is both the fastest and busiest way to trek up Table Mountain rather than around it. The trek from the trailhead on Tafelberg Road to the summit of the mountain, where you’ll emerge near the Upper Cable Station, takes about 2.5 to three hours. You may take a cable car back down from here. Expect a strong rise and various portions with high stairs hewn out of the rock along this direct ascent, which gains 2,132 feet in 1.5 miles. While a decent level of fitness is needed to reach the summit, the climb is not technically difficult. There is no scrambling or climbing required, and there are no pure edges to be concerned about. Instead, a beautiful sandstone gorge, plenty of fynbos, and views across Cape Town and Table Bay define the landscape.
5. India Venster
India Venster, the most difficult of the routes up Table Mountain, also starts on Tafelberg Road. This 1.8-mile path takes around three hours to complete and includes a very steep rise from start to finish, with difficult sections requiring climbing over enormous rocks and up wooden ladders. You’ll need to scramble in spots using rock grooves or staples, and you’ll need a strong head for heights. The walk is not recommended for children or the physically inactive, but it does offer some of the best views on the mountain, with panoramic views of Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, the Twelve Apostles, and Table Bay stretching out before you. On exceptionally windy days, avoid this path, and time your ascent for the coolest portion of the day. A guided hike is recommended for first-timers, but it is not required.