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Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, has many beautiful views, fauna, and even wildlife.
The most common way up the mountain is by taking the cable car, which is recommended if it’s your birthday & you have a valid South African ID because it’s then free!
Otherwise, we prefer taking the scenic routes…
One of the most beautiful routes when hiking Table Mountain is by far Skeleton Gorge.
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Hiking Table Mountain: How to hike Table Mountains Most Spectacular Trail
- Time: +- 5 Hours
- Distance: +- 6.5km
- Difficulty: Moderate
This route starts at the back of the mountain, from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which deserves a day all by itself.
A little bit more on one of the best botanical gardens in the world.
- Kirstenbosch was established in 1913.
- The gardens take up approx. 36-hectares… that’s about 36 football fields! (of the European kind)
- The gardens are apart of a further 528-hectare nature reserve which borders the Table Mountain National Park.
- It is the first botanical garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous fauna.
- There are over 7000 rare & threatened species in the gardens.
- South Africa is home to 9 botanical gardens in total, Kirstenbosch being the largest.
- You will find many examples of fynbos in the gardens (Cape Flora). Even South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea.
- Considered one of the top 7 best botanical gardens worldwide.
- The ‘boomslang’ is a 130m long tree-top walkway nestled above the arboretum.
You’ll be offered incredible views over the gardens and even some parts of Cape Town. Originally planned as a present to celebrate the gardens 100 years, it opened in 2014. That’s a year late, rather fitting considering the beach lifestyle. 😉
Pro tip: If you start early, you may still be able to fit in a walk through this beautiful botanical garden on your way down/up.
Entrance to the Botanical gardens isn’t very expensive. About R40pp at the time of writing (=€3, $3 or £3) and the gardens have plenty of parking when traveling by car.
The actual route of Skeleton Gorge starts at the top of the gardens and has a small water fountain in case you need to fill up before your journey begins. I’d suggest taking 2-3 liters per person with you, depending on the temperature. If it’s 30 degrees, 3 liters should be your minimum and you should drink regularly!
The trail is quite easy, without many adrenaline-pumping pieces. If you have a decent fitness level, the route will be slightly straining but nothing to worry about.
If you aren’t in the best physique the route may be more challenging. With plenty of spots to take in the beauty though, it should still be manageable. You will have plenty of opportunities to stop for a rest, and maybe even take in a snack.
The route is well marked with clear signs showing which way to go, and the majority of the people you’ll come across on the path are friendly.
Feel free to greet with a smile and a ‘howzit‘ or ‘hey‘.
The first half of the route is a shaded, forest ravine, with more often than not, flowing waters down the ravine. The forest vegetation is typical for South Africa’s Afromontane regions and will resemble what you’d find in some of the Amazon.
Once out of the forest you’ll be on the mountainside with views looking out to False Bay.
If you do not have confidence in completing the route, you can attempt an easier route, Nursery Ravine.
This alternative has a lot more steps and ‘pathways‘ than you’ll find along the trail of Skeleton Gorge.
The Nursery Ravine route starts at the same location in the Gardens & you’ll be able to reach the same points at the top.
Speaking of the top, once you’re up, you’ll have plenty to see!
The east side of the mountain is a lot less traveled than the much-visited west side where the Cable Car stops. Meaning this side of the mountain is a lot more natural.
There are however some sites that may seem not quite so natural or rather oasis-like. These are the numerous reservoirs and dams, Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir is a must-see, with white sands and a small shoreline. You didn’t expect to find a beach up there, did you?
Another must-see stop on the top is Maclear’s Beacon, where you will probably run into some Cable Car users from the other side. This is the highest point on the mountain, where you’ll be able to experience incredible 360 views, even down to Cape Point!
Now take in the beautiful views and vegetation, explore the top of the mountain and if you aren’t completely exhausted yet, hike down and enjoy the Gardens.
Otherwise, you can take a walk to the Table Mountain Cafe & grab a ticket for the Cableway down.
Oh, you parked at Kirstenbosch?
Then it’s probably best to hike down, maybe take Nursery Ravine on the way down for a different view over Constantia & Muizenberg!
Side note: If you’re lucky enough to make this route on a Sunday afternoon during South Africa’s Summer (more specifically, between December & April), you’ll be able to experience the traveling sounds of Kirstenbosch Gardens Open Air Concerts. These feature some of South Africa’s most well-known artists!
If you prefer to enjoy nature quietly, Sundays during these times may not be the best time for a hike.
How about Saturday?
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Already tried this (these!) awesome hike(s)? Let us know how amazing it was in the comments below.