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Diagonal Route on Table Mountain – a 2023 guide

The Diagonal Trail is one of the lesser-known Table Mountain hiking trails. It starts on the Camps Bay side of the mountain from the Pipe Track and ends on the top of Table Mountain. The route offers breathtaking scenery of the coast, the mountain range, and Camps Bay. For the scenery and the landscape, the Diagonal route is one of our favorite hiking trails in Cape Town.

Views of Cape Town and its surroundings from the Diagonal route
Lion’s Head and Camps Bay from the Diagonal Trail on Table Mountain

Diagonal route overview

  • Distance – 11 km on the jeep track, 12 km on the Pipe Track
  • Required time – 4-5 hours, depending on the chosen route
  • Total ascent – 680 m
  • Total descent – 680 m
  • Starting point – Theresa Road, Camps Bay for the jeep track. Kloof Nek parking lot, Tavelberg Road for the Pipe Track.
  • Finishing point – the top of Table Mountain, 700 m away from the Diving Board.
  • Difficulty – 4 out of 5
  • Terrain – footpath, rocks, boulders
  • Lowest point – 289 m
  • Highest point – 844 m

Suggested tours and activities

How long is the Diagonal trail on Table Mountain?

It’s a 12 km return trail if you walk on the Pipe Track from the Kloof Nek parking lot (Lion’s Head side) and an 11 km return trail if you walk on the jeep track from Theresa Road (Camps Bay side).

Camps Bay early in the morning from the Pipa Track
A view of Camps bay from the Pipe Track on the way to the Diagonal route

Where does the Diagonal route start?

The ascent on the Diagonal route starts on the Camps Bay side of Table Mountain, from the Pipe Track trail. In order to get to the starting point you have to walk. You have two options. The first one is to walk on the Pipe Track from the Kloof Nek parking lot (the Lion’s Head side of Table Mountain). It’s a 2.5-kilometer stretch. The second one is to walk on the jeep track from Theresa Road (the Camps Bay side of Table Mountain). It’s a 2-kilometer route.

How to get to the trailhead?

Driving is the easiest way of getting to the trailhead. Overall if you want to visit places outside Cape Town’s City Bowl renting a car is the best way of doing it. You can rent a car at Cape Town airport on arrival and drop it off on departure. 

You can use the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus to get to the Diagonal Trail. It stops at the Lower Cable Car Station which is 1,5 km from the Kloof Nek parking lot.

Uber works well in Cape Town and it’s not expensive you can use it to commute within the city.

A trail on the top of Table Mountain leading to the Diving Board
A footpath on the top of Table Mountain

Where to park?

If you start on the Pipe Track then the Kloof Nek parking lot in the foothills of Table Mountain is the best. We’ve parked our car there many times with no problems. If you start on the jeep track then you can try to find a spot along Theresa Road. 

Where on Table Mountain does the trail finish?

The Diagonal Trail finishes on the top of Table Mountain (Camps Bay side), 700 m away from the Diving Board, a famous rock cliff that reminds a diving board. The Upper Cable Car station is quite far from the end of the route. To get there you’ll have to walk 6,5 km on the Aqueduct Trail. 

As an option, you can descend on the Kirstenbosch side of Table Mountain following the Skeleton Gorge hiking trail. The start of the trail is 3 km away from the end of the Diagonal Trail on the top of Table Mountain.

Stingy Nomads on the small cliff hanging over the edge of Table Mountain
Campbell and Alya sitting on the Diving Board at the end of the Diagonal Trail

How difficult is the Diagonal route?

It’s a challenging route with a long and steep ascent of 680 m with the subsequent descent. In my opinion, it’s more difficult than the Platteklip Gorge hike but easier than the India Venster hike.

Diagonal trail elevation profile
Elevation profile of the Diagonal route on Table Mountain

How to combine the Diagonal and the Kasteelspoort trails?

The starting and finishing points of both trails are situated close to each other. You can hike to the top of Table Mountain following one route and descend following a different route. From our experience, I would suggest going up on the Diagonal Trail and going down on the Kasteelspoort hiking trail. The Diagonal Trail is steeper it’s more difficult to go down. 

How much does the hike cost?

To hike to the top of Table Mountain on the Diagonal trail is free if you don’t it on your own. There is no entrance fee or any other admission. As an option, you can join a guided walk. Then expect to pay around 80US$ per person.

Diagonal route map

Diagonal Trail, Pipe Track, and Kasteelspoort map
The route map of the Diagonal Trail on Table Mountain

Diagonal trail route description

Part 1. Kloof Nek parking lot to the start of the ascent

From 0 km to 2,5 km. The walk on the Pipe Track from the Kloof Nek parking lot to the start of the Diagonal route is quite easy. There are small and gradual ascents and descents but overall it’s a pleasant walk suitable for children. 

If you walk on the jeep track from Camps Bay it’s 2 km to the starting point.

Part 2. The ascent to the top of Table Mountain

From 2,5 km to 5,5 km. It’s a steep and long ascent all the way to the top of Table Mountain. The beginning of it is on a footpath, the second half is over rocks and boulders. The views of Lion’s Head and Camps Bay on the way are spectacular. On the top, you’ll find the Diving Board which is around 500 m away from the trail. If you walk 1 km on the Aqueduct Trail you will reach Woodhead Reservoir. 

Lion's Head and Camps Bay from the Diagonal route on Table Mountain
A view of Lion’s Head from one of the lookout points on the Diagonal Route

Part 3. The descent

6,5 km to 9,5 km it’s a steep descent. The descent on the Diagonal Trail is steeper than on the Kasteelspoort Trail. The distance is the same. 

Part 4. Walking back to the car

From 9,5 km to 12 km it’s an easy and flat walk on the Pipe Track. If you walk on the jeep track it’s 2 km to get all the way down.  

When is the best time for hiking?

The dry season between November and March is the best time for walking the Diagonal route. During the peak summer months of December, January, and February it’s important to start walking early in the morning to finish the ascent before it gets too hot. It’s not recommended to walk the trail on a very windy day especially if you want to take photos on the Diving Board.

If you walk the Diagonal Trail between April and October always check the weather forecast to make sure you won’t get rainfall because the trail gets slippery (wet rocks and muddy footpath) which is a problem for going down.

Table Mountain at the sunset from Big Bay
If you look at Table Mountain from the side it does look flat but once on the top you see it’s not that flat at all

What to take on the hike?

  • Water. There is nowhere to buy or refill water along the route. Take 1.5-2l of water per person.
  • Sunscreen. There is no shade on the trail you’ll be exposed to the sun for 4-5 hours.
  • A cap.
  • Comfortable shoes. Trail runners, sneakers, or light hiking shoes. Flip-flops are not suitable for the walk.
  • A light long-sleeve jacket or a long-sleeve top. It’s often chilly on the top of Table Mountain.
  • A mobile phone with a working SIM card in case of emergency. You can buy an e-IM card for South Africa to stay connected.
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