The beautiful flat-topped Table Mountain sits in the National Park of the same name and is home to several spectacular hikes. The Platteklip Gorge Trail is the most popular, and there are a few good reasons for that.
First, it is conveniently located just 15 minutes from the city centre, so it’s quick and easy to get to. Depending on where you’re staying, you may even be able to walk to the trailhead. This is great as it gives you more time to explore the 3.2 km tabletop surface at the summit.
Second, it’s suitable for all levels of experience and most fitness levels. Plus, the trail is well-marked and fairly wide, making it nice and safe – there is next to no chance of getting lost or falling off. In addition, visitors will want to go to the top of Table Mountain at some point anyway – why take the cable car when there’s an amazing hike that will get you there?
Not to mention, the views are absolutely out of this world.
It’s best to head out on the hike early before the sun gets too high. It’s a great place to start your morning in Cape Town. This area is well-known for its Fynbos biome, or the types of plants that grow here.
If you’re a plant geek like me, you’ll love the smell of this greenery in the morning, and you’ll go crazy over all the rare and endemic species that grow here. Even if you’re not, you won’t be able to help but marvel over the king protea flowers, especially.
The hike is steep – you basically walk 700 metres up the side of a mountain – but there is very little scrambling over rocks, and no ropes are required. This is another fact that makes Platteklip a more popular climb. No technical rock climbing skills are required.
The trail starts with a flat, rocky bit, with shade for the first 1.5 km or so, but then you’re out in the open, with no shade until towards the end of the trail. After the flat stretch, you will go to the right and begin climbing the large, rough stone steps up up up.
Two resident Tahrs from a Cape Town zoo escaped and the subsequent population is now spread out over the Cape Peninsula. I always love to see local wildlife when I’m hiking, so I was hopeful, but all I spotted were a few of the chubby rock hyraxes or dassies, that call the mountain home. Still a win.
I recommend taking at least a litre of water with you. Two litres is better if you have 2 water bottles along. Also, by all means, wear sunscreen and a hat. Don’t be a hero.
This mountainside can also get extremely windy. I was glad to have a light, packable windbreaker with me for this hike. As well, even with an early start, the sun got strong enough that I wore the jacket after the wind eased up, to block the sun.
Stop often to turn around and enjoy the view. From the trail, you’ll see Camps Bay Beach, and right out over False Bay to Robben Island and along the coastline.
The astounding views are a big part of this hike, so try to pick a clear day for it. When the cloud cover comes in and the “tablecloth” settles over the top of Table Mountain, you might have a disappointing outing.
Keep in mind that the Dizzy Dassie restaurant, as it’s called, is open only when the cable car is operating. If the clouds roll in or the strong winds come up, the cable car is shut down and the restaurant will close.
The second option when you reach the end of the Platteklip Gorge Trail is to go to the left and carry on another 0.8 km to Maclear’s Beacon. This is the highest point on Table Mountain, and I’m told that the views are stunning. The choice is yours.
If you have the time and the energy, the hike down is lovely, as you’re no longer facing the mountain and can enjoy the scenery without turning around. If you don’t, the cable car is waiting for you.
If you’re after a beautiful half-day hike, and a fun way to get to the top of the most famous mountain in South Africa, Platteklip Gorge Trail is perfect. You might want to bring a spare battery for the camera, and an extra SD card, because you’ll want to take the views home with you.
Need to Know
Length: 4 km
Time: 2-3 hours, depending on fitness level
Grade: Moderate – Steep, but lots of opportunity to rest
Car Access: As Table Mountain is right in Cape Town and about 15 minutes from the city centre, it’s definitely easy to find. You’ll approach the trailhead on Tafelberg Road, keeping left to the cable car station. Go past the station about 1.8 km until you see a Platteklip Gorge Trail sign by a parking lot. Tour buses parked here is a good clue to look for. Park and go through the parking lot, keeping left, and you will see a Platteklip Gorge sign with a very helpful map that will show you exactly where to go from there.
Public Transport Access: Due to the hike’s location, it’s very easy to take a taxi or the Hop-on-Hop-off sightseeing bus or public MyCiti bus. The buses will take you only to the lower cable car station, and then you’ll walk to the trailhead.
Further Info:There is no fee to do this hike, and no gate times to keep track of.
Have you visited Table Mountain? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.
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