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Table Mountain hiking guide – 5 amazing trails

Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most famous attraction and a must-visit place in Cape Town. Hiking on Table Mountain is a great way to see the city and its surroundings. The views from the top are truly spectacular. The easiest and fastest way of getting to the top is to take a cable car. Walking up following one of the Table Mountain hiking trails is a far more challenging but much more rewarding experience. There are several routes going up as well as a couple of beautiful hikes on the top of the mountain. Hiking Table Mountain is one of the most exciting things to do in Cape Town.

A stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Town beaches from Table Mountain
A breathtaking view of Camps Bay, Clifton Beaches, and the sea from the Upper Cable Car station on Table Mountain

Suggested tours and activities

How long is the Table Mountain hike?

There are 5 official routes (Platteklip Gorge, Skeleton Gorge, India Venster, Kasteelspoort, and Diagonal) for hiking up Table Mountain. The distance and time depend on the chosen trail. The Skeleton Gorge is the shortest and the most popular route – 2,5 km. It takes between 1 hour and 1h30 min. to get to the top.

Is Table Mountain a hard hike?

Hiking Table Mountain is challenging regardless of the chosen route. The average ascent (depending on the route) is between 600 m and 700 m. The descent is just as difficult as the ascent considering the rocky terrain and steepness of the trails.

Is it safe to hike alone?

  • If you follow one of the popular routes or hike on the top of Table Mountain you should be pretty safe.
  • Don’t hike at night time or late in the evening in winter.
  • If you choose a lesser-used route, rather go on the weekend when there are more people.
  • It’s better to be a couple of people on the route especially if you hike on weekdays or off-season.
  • If you don’t want to hike alone you can join a guided tour up Table Mountain. There are several tours that follow different trails. 
  • Bring enough water, at least 1l per person there are no water sources on the mountain until you reach the top. The Skeleton Gorge is the only route where you can get water along the way.

Is it free to walk up Table Mountain?

Yes, hiking Table Mountain is free. There is no entrance fee to Table Mountain National Park. Skeleton Gorge is the only trail where you pay the entrance fee because the route starts inside the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. If you want to use the aerial cable car to go up or down you’ll have to buy tickets.

Campbell at the end of the Maclear's Beacon trail on Table Mountain
Campbell at Maclear’s Beacon on the top of Table Mountain

When is the best time for hiking?

In the hot summer months (December – February), early morning is the best time especially if you’re planning to walk on one of the trails that are exposed to the sun such as Platteklip or India Venster. There are many great coffee shops in Cape Town located close to Table Mountain where you can have coffee and breakfast before tackling the climb.

Evenings are a good time as well just make sure not to walk any of the routes in the dark for your own safety. If you’re planning to use the cable car check for the wind it sometimes gets very windy in summer and it doesn’t operate on very windy days.

Our favorite months for hiking on Table Mountain are November and March, overall these are the best months to visit Cape Town.

In cooler months (April – October) you can walk pretty much any time just make sure you won’t get a lot of rain. It’s not nice to be up Table Mountain in the pouring rain. Clouds are another thing to watch for. If you see massive clouds on the top of the mountain postpone your visit you might not be able to see anything from the top. 

Hely Hutchinson Reservoir and a sandy beach at the end of the Skeleton gorge hiking trail
Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir and a beautiful beach on the top of Table Mountain at the end of the Skeleton Gorge hike

How to get to Table Mountain?

Renting a car is the easiest way of moving around Cape Town. If you’re a couple of people sharing a smallish car it won’t be expensive to rent a car for a couple of days

Using a hop-on-hop-off bus is another option for getting to Table Mountain. There are four different sightseeing routes including one that goes to the Lower Cable Car Station (the red route) and one that goes to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden (the blue route). A 2-day ticket includes 2 walking tours, a seal & harbor boat cruise, and a sunset bus. If you’re planning to go up or down with the cable car you can buy a combined ticket that includes the bus, the cable car, and a free city walking tour.

Cape Town and its surrounding from Platteklip Gorge
Cape Town from the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail up Table Mountain

Table Mountain cable car

You can walk up and down or if you don’t feel like it or don’t have enough time you can use the cable car one way or return. Don’t worry about skipping the hiking part if you take the cable car there are a couple of very nice trails on the top of the mountain. Regardless of which way you choose you should definitely include Table Mountain in your Cape Town itinerary.

The views from the cable car are amazing, the floor rotates clockwise during the ride you get 360° panoramic views of Cape Town. The cable car operates daily during summer months (November to March) from 6.30 am (first car up) to 4 pm (last car up)/5 pm (last car down). You can buy your tickets online.

  • To go one way (up or down) costs ZAR 220/US$12 for adults and ZAR 120/US$6 for children.
  • For a return ticket, you pay ZAR 395/US$22 (morning time); ZAR 340/US$19 (after 1 pm) for adults, and ZAR 195/US$11 (morning time), ZAR 170/US$10 (after 1 pm) for children.
  • If you’re planning to use the hop-on-hop-off bus you can buy a combined ticket that includes a return cable car ride. It’s the best option if you’re not going to rent a car. 
A view of the cable car and the coast on the way up Table Mountain following the India Venster route
a View of the Cable Car and Lion’s Head from the India Venster hiking trail

Top 5 Table Mountain hiking trails

Platteklip Gorge trail

  • Distance – 5,5 km return
  • Time – 2 hours return
  • Total elevation gain/loss – 650 m
  • Starting point – Tafelberg Road, about 1,5 km past the Lower Cable Car Station towards Devil’s Peak.
  • Finishing point (on the top) – 700 m away from the cable car station.
  • Difficulty – 3 out of 5*
  • Terrain – footpath, rocks, and boulders
  • Parking – along Tafelberg road (on the left) past the Lower Cable Car station there is a parking spot right at the start of the trail but it’s often full.

*difficulty comparing different Table Mountain hiking trails with the 5 being the most difficult route up Table Mountain.

Hiking Table Mountain Platteklip Gorge with a tour

A route map of the Platteklip Gorge trail up Table Mountain
A map of the hike up Platteklip Gorge to the cable car and back

Highlights

  • Nice views of Cape Town city center and its surroundings.
  • The scenery at the end of the trail.

Challenges

  • The steep ascent from the very start of the trail.
  • The first part of the route is exposed to the sun with no shade to hide.
  • The second part of the trail involves a bit of climbing over the rocks.
  • From the end of the trail on the top, it’s another 700 m to the cable car station.
Elevation profile of the Platteklip Gorge trail
Elevation profile of the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail, the most popular route up Table mountain

Route description

  • The route is pretty straightforward, there is a sign at the start of the trail.
  • A rocky trail climbs up the mountain from the start.
  • A zigzagging footpath section in the middle.
  • A steeper and a bit more difficult climb in the second part of the hike.
At the end of the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail
On the top of Platteklip Gorge, the most popular hiking route up Table Mountain

If you’re planning to do hiking or other adventure activities in Cape Town it’s advisable to have travel insurance that will cover you in case something goes wrong. Some hiking routes up Table Mountain are quite strenuous and can be dangerous, especially in bad weather conditions. Make sure to have appropriate travel insurance at least for the days you’re planning to do outdoor activities. We can recommend using World Nomads insurance company, They specialize in covering adventure activities like hiking and diving. Their insurance policy is very flexible it can cover the entire trip or only a specific day. It takes a couple of minutes to buy it online at any time during your trip. Get an instant quote right now!

India Venster trail

  • Distance – 4,3 km to Upper Cable Car station, one way
  • Time – 2-3 hours from the start to the cable car, one way
  • Total elevation gain – 722 m
  • Starting point – Lower Cable Car Station
  • Finishing point (on the top) – 700 m away from the Upper Cable Car station.
  • Difficulty – 5 out of 5, it’s the most challenging and dangerous route up Table Mountain, not suitable for children or elderly people.
  • Terrain – rocks, boulders, occasional chains and ladders, footpath at the very end of the trail.
  • Parking – along Tafelberg Road before or after Lowe Cable Car station.

Hiking Table Mountain India Venster with a tour

India Venster trail map
A map of the India Venster hiking trail to the top of Table Mountain

Highlights

  • This route has the best views of Cape Town, Lion’s Head, Camps Bay, and many other city attractions. 
  • A couple of amazing look-out points
  • Bizarre rock formations and cliffs
  • A beautiful path along the cliff at the end of the hike

Challenges

  • A steep and long ascent.
  • The trail is exposed to the sun for the most part of the day there is no shade to hide.
  • Many very steep climbs over rocks using ladders and chains.
  • Some parts of the route are quite close to the edge; sometimes it’s a bit scary if you have to climb up.
India Venster climb elevation profile
Elevation profile of the climb to Table Mountain on the India Venster trail*

*all trail data including elevation profiles and maps for the post we got from our Garmin Fenix GPS watch. We love using our watches for hiking and training.

Route description

  • The route starts with a gradual footpath that takes you from the Lower Cable Car station to the Counter path, the easiest part.
  • There you’ll see a sign indicating the India Venster trail and the first yellow footprints (behind the sign). 
  • From there the trail starts climbing up over the rocks and boulders but nothing hectic yet just a steep ascent. 
  • Somewhere in the middle when you reach the rocky walls of Table Mountain you start scrambling over rocks and ladders. 
  • The last part around the mountain is pretty relaxing on a footpath with one last climb.
  • From the end of the trail, it’s another 700 m on the top of Table Mountain to the upper cable car station.
Alya on the cliff on the way up Table Mountain
Alya is on the edge of the cliff somewhere on the India Venster trail halfway up Table Mountain

If you’re looking for more places to hike in Cape Town have a look at Cape Point hiking trails – breathtaking scenery and incredible hiking experience.

Skeleton Gorge trail

  • Distance – 7 km return 
  • Time – 2,5-3,5 hours up and down, depending on how fast you walk
  • Total elevation gain/loss – 600 m
  • Starting point – Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
  • Finishing point (on the top) – 100 m away from Hely Hutchinson Reservoir.
  • Difficulty – 3 out of 5
  • Terrain – footpath, stairs, rocks, and boulders (some quite slippery), wooden ladders.
  • Parking – there are two quite big parking areas inside Kirstenbosch Garden.
A map of the Skeleton Gorge hiking trail to Table Mountain
A map of our route up Table Mountain on the Skeleton Gorge trail. On the way down we took a different route at the end

Highlights

  • Beautiful Kirstenbosch Garden; the sky bridge is not to miss here.
  • Stunning lush green forest.
  • Breathtaking views over Cape Town and False Bay.
  • White-sand beach and a dam with cold water.

Challenges

  • A long and quite steep ascent from the start.
  • A couple of wooden ladders to conquer.
  • A slippery rocky path that is a bit tricky for walking down.
Skeleton Gorge hiking trail elevation profile
Elevation profile of the Skeleton Gorge hiking trail up and down Table Mountain

Route description

  • The trail starts inside the garden and there are several signs at different parts of Kirstenbosch indicating the way to Skeleton Gorge. 
  • The ascent starts from the beginning first you go up wooden stairs, then on a footpath with occasional rocky steps. 
  • The second half of the trail is more tricky and involves climbing over rocks and wooden ladders. 
  • The last bit is on a footpath with stairs. 
Wooden ladders are a part of the Table Mountain hiking trail from Kirstenbosch
Long wooden ladders in the lush green forest on the Skeleton Gorge trail up Table Mountain

Diagonal/Kasteelspoort trail

  • Distance – 11,5 km loop including distance to the diving board and back to the trail.
  • Time – 3h30min. loop
  • Total elevation gain/loss – 680 m
  • Starting point – Kloof Nek parking at the turn-off to Tafelberg Road
  • Finishing point (on the top) – 200 m away from the Diving board
  • Difficulty – 3 out of 5
  • Terrain – rocky/gravel footpath, rocks, and boulders, rocky stairs
  • Parking – Kloof Nek parking if there is no space look for a spot along Tafelberg Road.

Hiking Table Mountain Kasteelspoort with a tour

A route map of the Diagonal/Kasteelspoort hiking trail up Table Mountain
A map of our loop route up Table Mountain; Pipe track – Diagonal trail (up) – Kasteelspoort trail (down) – Pipe track.

Highlights

  • Stunning views of Camps Bay and Lion’s Head from a lookout point on the Diagonal route.
  • Beautiful landscape and bizarre-shaped rocks on the top of Table Mountain.
  • The diving board is a small rocky cliff hanging above the abbey that in shape reminds a diving board. It’s an amazing photo spot not for the faint-hearted.

Challenges

  • A steep climb over rocks and boulders on the Diagonal trail.
  • A steep descent down to the Pipe Track from the top.
Elevation profile of the Kasteelspoort hiking trail
Elevation profile of the Diagonal/Kasteelspoort trail up Table Mountain

Route description

  • It’s a loop trail. The route starts across the road from Kloof Nek parking. 
  • The first part is on the Pipe track, a very easy and flat walk around the mountain with nice views over Camps Bay and Lion’s Head. 
  • At 2,7 km there is the first split, the left trail (Diagonal) climbs up the mountain, and the left continues on the Pipe track. 
  • The next split is at 4,5 km, the left route is the Diagonal trail, and the right route is the Kasteelspoort trail. 
  • If you continue on the Diagonal trail you’ll reach the top at about 5 km. 
  • From there continue straight for about 400 m until you see the sign pointing to the Kasteelspoort trail. Soon after that, you’ll see another split the route on the right goes down the Kasteelspoort trail. 
  • You can start going down but before checking out the Diving board, it’s about 400 m ahead at the Old Cable Car station. 
  • The way down is quite easy; you just follow the Kasteelspoort trail all the way to the Pipe track and from there continue walking back to Kloof Nek parking.
Stingy Nomads on the cliff called the diving board on Table Mountain
Campbell and Alya on the Diving board on the top of Table Mountain. One of the most photographed spots!

Maclear’s Beacon trail

  • Distance – 5,4 km return
  • Time – 1h30min. – 2 hours, return
  • Total elevation gain/loss – 150 m
  • Starting/finishing point – Upper Cable Car Station towards Platteklip Gorge
  • Difficulty – 1 out of 5
  • Terrain – footpath, boardwalks, boulders
  • Parking – along Tafelberg Road near Lower Cable Car Station

Highlights

  • Stunning views of Cape Point, Hout Bay, Muizenberg, Strand, Gordons Bay, etc.
  • Bizarre rock formations along the route.
  • The beautiful landscape on the top of Table Mountain

Challenges

  • The only challenge is the heat, it gets extremely hot in summer and there is no shade
Maclear's Beacon trail elevation profile
Elevation profile of the Maclear’s Beacon trail. As you can see it’s a very flat and easy route

It’s an easy walk suitable for travelers with children and elderly people. The route starts at Skeleton Gorge, about 700 m from Upper Table Car Station. There is a metal plank indicating the way to Maclear’s Beacon. The trail is marked with yellow footprints and arrows, it’s easy to follow.

The route is flat with hardly any ascent or descent. It’s a great hike for those who don’t want to endure one of the challenging routes up Table Mountain but still want to explore its top and do an easy hike. The views of the way and from the beacon are quite impressive. You get to see the scenery on the other side of Table Mountain that is not visible from the cable car. 

Landscape on the top of Table Mountain on the way to Maclear's Beacon
Beautiful scenery on the Maclear’s Beacon trail

Upper Cable Car Station to Skeleton Gorge

  • Distance – 4,8 km
  • Time – 1h20min. – 2 hours
  • Total elevation gain – 66 m
  • Total elevation loss – 395 m
  • Starting point – Upper Cable Car station
  • Finishing point – the top of Skeleton Gorge near Hely Hutchinson Reservoir
  • Difficulty – 1,5 out of 5
  • Terrain – boulders, boardwalks
Elevation profile of the trail from Platteklip to Skeleton Gorge
Elevation profile of the hiking trail from the Upper Cable Car station to Skeleton Gorge

This route is an extension of Maclear’s Beacon trail. The beacon is about halfway. It’s a nice route that offers very different from the cable car side views. The landscape along the trail is quite amazing with wired rock formations, narrow passages between two rocks, etc. Right after Maclear’s Beacon, it’s a steady downhill all the way to Skeleton Gorge.

Nothing very steep or scary I’d say the route is suitable for anybody. You don’t have to go all the way to the gorge you can just walk a little bit and turn around. The walk to Skeleton Gorge and back to the cable car is about 10 km. The walk back is more difficult for more details read the description below.

A wooden path on the top of Table Mountain
Amazing scenery on the Platteklip – Skeleton Gorge trail

There are free guided walks on the top of Table Mountain that anybody can join. The meeting point is near the exit from the coffee shop. Tours depart daily every hour from 9am to 3pm. These are not long hikes mostly on boardwalks near the cable car station. During the walk, you learn interesting facts about Table Mountain and discover the best photo spots on the top.

The surface of Table Mountain is a massive area with a couple of water reservoirs, overnight huts, several hiking trails, and monuments. One can spend hours if not days walking and exploring it. In a way hiking on the top of Table Mountain reminds me of the Mount Roraima hike in Venezuela.

Free guided walks on Table Mountain meeting point sign
The meeting point of free guided walks on the top of Table Mountain

What to pack for hiking on Table Mountain?

Places to stay

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Dan

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

If you're willing to walk a bit further you can also start from outside Kirstenbosch and hike along the lower part of the mountain to the start of trails like Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine.

Another good walk that involves a bit of scrambling/climbing is from Constantia Nek past Eagle's Nest to Camel Rock. 7 year old was able to complete it too.

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