Africa Travel Articles
Table Mountain - Cape Town, South Africa
Author: Sandra Mallinson
Date: December 2012
You simply can't miss Table Mountain: its famous flat-topped silhouette is the first thing you’ll see when flying into Cape Town and since this iconic landmark sits at the heart of the city, it's easy to access as well.
Most visitors take the leisurely approach and catch the cable car straight to the top of this Natural Wonder of the World, but consider hiring a mountain guide and setting out to explore Table Mountain on foot. With a huge network of hiking trails, unique fynbos vegetation, secret forests, dams, waterfalls, isolated valleys and phenomenal views to discover, a day spent on Table Mountain is sure to be a highlight of your Cape Town holiday.
Catch the Cable Car
An effortless four to five minutes is all it takes for the cable car to carry passengers from the lower to the upper cable station. During the journey the floor slowly rotates (always a hit with kids!) giving everyone a 360-degree view of Camps Bay, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, the city bowl, and, just as it’s about to reach the top, heart-stopping close-ups of Table Mountain’s sheer cliffs.
Once on the relatively flat ‘tabletop’ there are well maintained footpaths to explore, plenty of viewing platforms, a restaurant and bar, and a scattering of conveniently flat rocks that are perfect for picnics. If you have the time (and a pair of decent walking shoes), hike to Maclear's Beacon - at 1 086m it’s the highest point on the mountain and is a comfortable 45-minute walk (one way) from the upper cable station.
The most direct hiking trail up Table Mountain is Platteklip Gorge. This well maintained and popular route up the city-side of the mountain could easily be compared to a giant stair-master; it’s a strenuous and often sun-baked slog straight to the top so allow frequent stops to catch your breath and admire the views of the city and glittering Atlantic Ocean.
Other popular routes start in Kirstenbosch Gardens: Skeleton Gorge will have you scrambling up ladders and through shady indigenous forest, while the slightly less strenuous (but longer) Nursery Ravine is often used as the downward route back to the Gardens.
And that’s just the start: Table Mountain really is a hiker’s paradise with dozens of other amazing ways up and plenty of nooks, crannies, peaks and valleys to explore. We'd strongly recommend using a professional guide - not only will they take the guesswork out of a Table Mountain hike, but you'll also learn all about the environment you're in.