Table Mountain, a prominent landmark in Cape Town, South Africa, is renowned for its breathtaking vistas, diverse fauna, and captivating wildlife.
The Preferred Ascend
For many, the cable car is the most popular way to reach the summit. Particularly for locals, there’s a delightful perk: if it’s your birthday and you have a valid South African ID, the ride is free!
Choosing the Scenic Path
However, for those seeking a more immersive experience, scenic hiking routes offer a splendid alternative.
Skeleton Gorge: A Trail of Unsurpassed Beauty
Hiking Table Mountain: A Comprehensive Guide
- Duration: Approximately 5 hours
- Distance: About 6.5 km
- Difficulty: Moderate
The journey begins at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a destination worthy of a day’s exploration in itself.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: A World-Class Attraction
Established in 1913, Kirstenbosch covers approximately 36 hectares, equivalent to 36 European football fields. It’s part of a larger 528-hectare nature reserve adjoining the Table Mountain National Park. This prestigious garden is globally recognized for its dedication to preserving indigenous flora, housing over 7,000 rare and endangered species. Among these is the iconic King Protea, South Africa’s national flower. Kirstenbosch is the largest of South Africa’s nine botanical gardens and is ranked among the top seven worldwide. A highlight is the ‘boomslang’, a 130m long treetop walkway offering stunning views over the gardens and parts of Cape Town.
Navigating the Most Spectacular Trail
Entry to Kirstenbosch is affordable, and ample parking is available for those arriving by car. The Skeleton Gorge trail begins within the gardens, featuring a handy water fountain for refilling bottles – a necessity, especially on hot days.
Skeleton Gorge provides a relatively easy hike, suitable for those with average fitness. The path is well-marked and traverses a shaded forest ravine with typical South African Afromontane vegetation. Emerging from the forest, the trail offers spectacular views over False Bay and diverse mountain flora, including the Fynbos. Wildlife sightings, like the Rock Dassie, are a bonus.
Nursery Ravine: An Alternative Route
For those less confident in their hiking abilities, Nursery Ravine offers a gentler alternative, with more steps and defined pathways. This route also begins in Kirstenbosch and reaches the same summit points.
At the Summit
The east side of Table Mountain, less frequented than the west, presents a more natural landscape. Highlights include the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir and Maclear’s Beacon, the mountain’s highest point, offering panoramic views.
Descending the Mountain
After exploring, you can descend via the same trail or take the Nursery Ravine for varied scenery. Alternatively, head to the Table Mountain Cafe and catch the Cableway down.
Bonus: Kirstenbosch Gardens Open Air Concerts
On summer Sundays (December to April), the Gardens host open-air concerts featuring top South African artists – a treat for music lovers, though perhaps less ideal for those seeking tranquility.
Share Your Experience
We’d love to hear about your adventures on Table Mountain. Share your experiences in the comments, and don’t forget to recommend this guide to fellow hiking enthusiasts!