Best Hiking Trails in Cape Town

Whether you are an occasional hiker looking for some adventure or a true nature lover, Cape Town offers some really interesting trails to explore.

From easy strolls through the forest to more challenging climbs up mountains, the hiking routes in Cape Town and the surrounding areas promise you a memorable adventure in the midst of Nature's lap.

With so many hiking trails to choose from, one more exciting than the other, here is a list to help you make your choice. Whether you are a regular hiker looking for some exhilarating adventure or an inexperience hiker desirous for some thrill, you are sure to find a trail that suits you.

1. Lion's Head

Lion's Head

The remarkable Lion's Head, Table Mountain's neighbour, makes an exciting hiking trail. Overlooking the city and Table Bay on one side and the magnificent Atlantic Ocean coastline on the other, Lions Head is popular mainly for its full moon hikes. Walk up the jeep track and start to go in a clockwise direction around the mountain where you will spot silver trees and rock kestrels.

After a slight rise, views of Table View, Robben Island and Signal Hill will stun you. From the summit of the mountain you are able to watch the sunset over the sea or the moon rising over the mountains – an impressive sight! Visitors often take a picnic and a bottle of wine to the summit and enjoy spectacular views of the sunset or full moon.

2. Table Mountain: Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon

The trail from Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon, also known as Smuts Track is one of the most popular walks on Table Mountain. Hikers opt for this trail especially in summer when the Afromontane forest offers shade almost all the way up Skeleton Gorge, the toughest section. The climb is steep and seems endless but nevertheless, it is not too strenuous. It requires just basic abilities to climb and negotiate a few rocky steps.

Table Mountain: Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon

However, many people underestimate the effort that is required, particularly when they go all the way to Maclear's Beacon. After Breakfast Rock, the path levels out towards Maclears Beacon and affords extensive views of the Hottentots Holland Mountains. You will pass three minor rock scrambles before you reach your final destination.

3. Chapman's Peak

Chapman's Peak

The relatively effortless terrain makes Chapman's Peak a popular trail. Start 700 m before the major lookout point at Chapman's Peak toll booth. After a 30 minute hike, you will arrive at a crossroad on the plateau between Noordhoek Peak and Chapman's Peak. Turn right and head along Lower Chapman's Peak. Continue along this rocky path until the main peak comes into view. From there, begin the final ascent through magnificent stands of protea and scramble to the peak.

The final section of the trail is steep and actually reaching the summit involves a short rock scramble up the final heap of boulders – the easiest way is to go left just before the top and approach the beacon from the south-eastern side. From the top, you're treated to a truly magnificent 360-degree view. Noordhoek Beach stretches out beneath you and you can see right over Hout Bay to the peak of the Sentinel.

4. Silvermine Nature Reserve (Elephant Eye)

Silvermine Nature Reserve (Elephant Eye)

Head to the suburb of Tokai for a picturesque and family-friendly walk up to the Elephant's Eye Cave. Tokai Lookout and Elephant's Eye are found on the slopes of Constantiaberg and offer excellent views of the Cape Flats and False Bay. This is an easy hike-most of the walk is along gravel road, which makes the hike a lot more relaxed. You will find great view points en route, which some call "the most photogenic views in all of the Western Cape."

You will pass clusters of pine trees, the Prinzkasteel Stream and a fire lookout stone hut for the foresters. From the fire lookout you can see the cave, literally a big hole in the side of the mountain. Your reward of the hike is definitely this stop. The roof of the cave is partly covered in green ferns, creating a mystical atmosphere. From here, you can view the dark green forests and vineyards of Tokai and Constantia. Time to unpack your picnic and enjoy the spectacular views. Reward yourself and the kids with a refreshing dip in the dam when you're finished.

5. India Venster

India Venster is one of the most beautiful and exciting hiking routes up Table Mountain. With some scrambling that is required, it is quite a tricky route. In fact, it is said India Venster tests your level of fitness. But if you are in good shape and you follow the trail's indicators, you will have a great time hiking and making it to the top!

India Venster

The India Venster hike route starts about 50 m to the right of the lower cable car station on Table Mountain Road. This path leads you straight to the contour path. It really makes you work your thighs and makes a good warm for the rest of the route. Walking up to the contour path should take you 15 to 20 minutes. When you reach the contour path, you will see a green sign pointing to your left and to your right (basically along the contour path).

India Venster is no longer indicated but it starts behind the sign post up the mountain. Usually there are spray paints on the rocks to indicate the way. As you scramble your way up, do not forget to enjoy the scenery!

6. Kirstenbosch To Constantia Net

Kirstenbosch To Constantia Net

The trail from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens to the scenic heights of Constantia Nek shows off much of the beauty of the area. It is the same lush vegetation of the region that makes Cape Town and the wine-lands famous.

The trail is a relatively easy walk on a dirt road and wooden track. It mainly has mild uphill sections but is mostly downhill and flat. Along the way you will enjoy the greenery and jade-coloured Newlands forests and vast views of the slopes of Table Mountain, a bird's view of Kirstenbosch and even views as far as the Cape Flats.

This area is the well-known home of fynbos- unique vegetation found nowhere else in the world. Along with fybnos which you will be able to see during this trail, you can feast your eyes with spectacular proteas. Being quite easy and less challenging, this trail is ideal for families.

7. The Pipe Track

The Pipe Track

The Pipe Track, as is suggestive by its name, is a path which was built to service a pipeline running below the series of peaks known as the Twelve Apostles. The Pipe Track is an easy out-and-back contour path which offers really picturesque mountain and ocean views over Lion’s Head, Camps Bay and Bakoven. It starts at the intersection of Kloof Nek and Tafelberg Road. Take the flight of granite steps where Stone Pines and the common sugar bush offer shade and you will see Oudekraal and Camps Bay coastlines. Pass the start of the Kasteelspoort path along the concrete jeep track and Corridor Ravine and cross Slangolie Stream.

In several places the path is very stony but it is an easily accessible and popular walk, with many locals making regular use of certain sections- it is part of the Atlantic seaboard way of life. There are a number of benches perfectly positioned to witness wonderful sundowners. The amazing feeling of watching the sun sink below the ocean is an experience that you should not miss! Keen bird-watchers will enjoy watching sugar-birds flitting about dense thickets of protea bushes.

8. Plattenklip to Upper Cableway Station

Plattenklip to Upper Cableway Station

The trail from Platteklip to Upper Cableway Station is the most direct route to the top of the mountain and the most popular. The route seems to be going relentlessly up and up. Indeed, it is not a route to be trifled with as the ascent can be tough.

The walk starts on Tafelberg Road and ascends the main gorge that divides the front face (Africa face) of Table Mountain. The path is well constructed with stone steps and anti-erosion gabions, and is not difficult to negotiate at any point. However, it is steep, and the best way to tackle Platteklip is to go slowly. Do not try to rush. Also frequent stops will give you a chance to look back at the great view of Cape Town and Table Bay below.

Allow sufficient time for walking down even if your plan is to come down with the cable-way. Rapid changes in weather conditions often cause the cable-way to shut down unexpectedly, leaving hikers stranded in darkness at the upper cable station.

9. Upper cable station to Maclear's Beacon

Hike to the highest point of Table Mountain along a very easy trail. Start at the Upper Cableway Station and take the main path leading to the Western Table. Look for plaques 13 & 14 to make sure that you are heading on the right route.

Upper cable station to Maclear's Beacon

Walk for 15 minutes until you reach the point where chains and poles have been placed to ease the short climb down. Take this section as it is not difficult. Continue along the path to Maclear's Beacon, well-marked by yellow footprints.

With most of Table Mountain's summit plateau located at around 1065 m above sea level, the terrain at Maclear's Beacon ticks up to 1088 m (not including the cairn), making it the official summit of Table Mountain as well as the highest point on the Cape Peninsula. Its location near the eastern edge of the 'Table' – about 40 minutes' walk from the upper cable station – means that very few visitors to Table Mountain actually get round to it.

Despite the plain topography around Maclear's Beacon, the place offers exceptional views which are, otherwise, not seen from the upper cable station. The view across the table top reveals how the summit betrays the eye and gives one an appreciation of how flat it really is.

10. Devil's Peak

Devil's Peak

Devil's Peak stands 1 000 m above sea level and can be accessed from 3 different routes, ranging from moderate to difficult. One can ascend from Tafelberg Road on the city side, climb up Newlands Ravine from Newlands Forest or the upper contour path from Mowbray Ridge and Minor Peak. Once on the saddle, (the saddle is the neck that connects Devil's Peak to Table Mountain) there is a path directly to the summit which offers 360 degree views.

Tafelberg Road

The moderate Tafelberg Road is recommended for its great views of Table Mountain, Lion's Head, City Bowl, Table Bay, Robben Island, and Northern Suburbs. At times, the path is rough and quite steep and it can be quite windy.

Duration: 4 hours

Mowbray Ridge

From Rhodes Memorial, follow signs to the Kings Block House, from where you can climb up Mowbray Ridge before moving along Knife's Edge. Keep going to the minor summit of Devil's Peak. This trail can be tricky as well as steep. Also there are sections with sharp drop-offs while some may find the exposure to the height intimidating.

Duration: 2-4 hours

Newlands Ravine

This route also begins at the Rhodes Memorial parking lot. Head towards the steps in the far-left corner, climb these, and continue towards a T-junction, here you will turn right. Keep going and just before you reach the turn-stile turn left, and you will find yourself on the Contour Path. The Newlands Ravine can be somewhat tough. So make sure to rest for a few minutes before attempting it.

The joy of this walk is the forest scenery and the fragrant shade is a big plus on hot days too.

Duration: 4 hours