My name is Nasreen. I was born and raised in Cape Town. I work in digital marketing. In my spare time, you’ll most likely find me on one of the best hikes of Cape Town or out enjoying some landscape photography. It’s safe to say that hiking has had a transformative impact on my life. I discovered my love of hiking just over 3 years ago when the lockdown restrictions were eased, and I was invited to contribute to an online magazine.
Back then, I spent most of my time at the beach indulging my love of landscape and seascape photography. Even though restrictions had been eased, we were unable to visit the beaches as they were still closed. I needed to make some alternative arrangements in order to complete my brief for the magazine and decided to explore the mountains instead.
I enlisted the help of a friend who is an experienced hiker and embarked on my first adventure in Cape Town. From that moment on, I was captivated by the vastness and grandeur of the mountains – finding solace and tranquility in its presence. The experience of feeling small in such a majestic environment is liberating and humbling to say the least.
Hiking has not only strengthened my perseverance, but it also provides me with a profound sense of accomplishment and self-belief. The feeling of pride and glory upon completing a hike is unparalleled, leaving me with an unmatched sense of fulfillment. And Cape Town and its surrounding areas offer an abundance of options that will leave you spoiled for choice.
Table Mountain National Park, for instance, spans from Lions Head in the City Bowl to Cape Point and offers a diverse range of trails that cater to hikers of all fitness levels. Whether you’re in search of towering waterfalls, lush forests or a thrilling scrambling experience (for those with a good head for heights), there is something for everyone to enjoy in Cape Town.
The breathtaking and awe-inspiring views along these trails are truly unforgettable, making Cape Town a destination that’s guaranteed to keep drawing you back for more. Best of all, most of these trails are free to explore, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area without accruing expenses. For more info, visit www.sanparks.org.
My Favorite Hike in Cape Town: Suther Peak
It’s difficult to choose which of the hikes in Cape Town is my favorite, as I have so many, however Suther Peak definitely deserve to be mentioned. This peak is a bit of a thigh cruncher but so rewarding, with all of its ridiculously beautiful views. Suther Peak is located in Hout Bay and is part of the Karbonkelberg mountain range. It has an elevation of 2,016ft/614m.
The hike to Suther Peak is known for its challenging incline and is often referred to as “Suffer Peak”. During my first hike, we started before sunrise and encountered overcast weather plus strong winds – which made for an interesting visit. There is a brief section of the trail that requires the use of chains, staples and some rock climbing but it’s not overly hard. Despite its demanding nature, Suther Peak is a popular choice among hikers due to its stunning views of the peninsula and diverse vegetation.
What are the Top Hikes in Cape Town?
1. Kloof Corner Hike (Table Mountain)
This hike is categorized as easy to moderate. It’s about 1.5 kilometers and each way can be completed in around 20 minutes. It leads you to a scenic viewpoint overlooking the City Bowl, Lions Head and the Atlantic Seaboard. It’s an ideal choice for a brisk walk during sunrise or sunset.
The trail consists of a well-maintained path that is suitable for both pets and children. It features a series of stairs along a wide and stable route, guiding you through a protea forest. Although it’s not considered technically challenging, there are some steep sections to be aware of.
This trail can be done alone during busy times – from an hour before sunrise/sunset daily. I would avoid hiking it alone during quieter times. It takes 20-40 minutes each way depending on your fitness. No shade.
2. Smitswinkel to Simon’s Town Hike
This trail offers a demanding and exhilarating experience, earning its reputation as a challenging hike. Spanning approximately 10 kilometers with an elevation gain of 982 meters, it’s a hidden gem located on the Southern Peninsula. The trail is well-marked and rewards hikers with panoramic views of Simon’s Town, False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The surrounding flora is spectacular, attracting a variety of sunbirds and sugarbirds. It’s important to allocate a good amount of time to appreciate the beauty of this trail. The hike typically takes 5 to 6 hours and involves some scrambling. Additionally, there are sections along a narrow ridge that may pose a challenge for individuals with vertigo due to mild exposure. It’s recommended for more experienced hikers and not suitable for dogs.
This hike is recommended in a group. Keep an eye out for baboons. The weather changes quickly, so layers are recommended. Bring lots of water. It takes 6-7 Hours point to point. Slight exposure (drops). Little to no shade.
3. Skeleton Gorge Hike (Table Mountain)
Skeleton Gorge stands apart from other routes that lead to the summit of Table Mountain through the western and northern paths. The distinction lies in the fact that the eastern slopes of Table Mountain receive the highest rainfall, resulting in a varied landscape and a beautiful forest walk.
The Skeleton Gorge trail is shaded for most of the journey – providing a cooler hiking experience, particularly in summer (December to April). During winter, this trail boasts multiple waterfalls. Along the way, hikers follow a waterfall that leads to a mountain-top beach leading to the Hely Hutchinson Reservoir, the first of five dams located on Table Mountain.
Skeleton Gorge hike is recommended in a group. keep an eye out for baboons. It takes 5 Hours. Single rocky track, stone steps and scramble.
4. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve Hikes
Located just outside the charming town of Stellenbosch, this reserve is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. Within just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Jonkershoek offers an exhilarating and adventure-filled day. The park is a haven for various activities such as hiking, cycling, picnicking, swimming and immersing oneself in the views of waterfalls. Upon arrival, visitors receive an access permit that grants them entry to the conservation area and covers all activities. The day permits are priced at ZAR60.
Within the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, I have a few personal favorite routes. The first is the Waterfalls Trail, which is the most popular. This approximately 6.5km trail takes around 2 hours to complete and offers a moderate level of difficulty with a slight incline towards the end. Along the way, hikers traverse through a gorge – walking through shallow water and lush jungle – leading to a serene water pool and a magnificent waterfall.
Another noteworthy route is the Panorama Route, spanning 18km. While not technically challenging, this trail requires a good level of fitness. It takes 4 hours each way. The Panorama Route treats hikers to exceptional beauty and endless panoramic views that will leave them in awe.
Jonkershoek Waterfalls Trail – Difficulty: Moderate
This can be done alone but hiking in a group is recommended. Dogs aren’t allowed. It takes 3 hours. Permit is purchased at the park entrance.
Jonkershoek Panorama Route – Difficulty: Hard
Hiking the Panorama Route is advisable in a group. No dogs are allowed on the trail. The loop takes 8 hours. Scramble, loose rock and steep at points.
Best Time to Go Hiking in Cape Town
Each season in Cape Town offers unique hiking experiences. During spring, you can witness a breathtaking display of flora. Our region is home to the smallest and most diverse floral kingdom among the world’s 6, boasting an impressive 9,000 plant species. Winter attracts refreshing rains that bring waterfalls and mountain streams to life – creating picturesque scenes.
Summer is the busiest time for mountain activities, thanks to longer daylight hours. From December to February, our parks experience a surge in visitors. Finally, autumn showcases a stunning transformation of colors in the wine lands where vast farms adorn themselves with vibrant hues. It’s the perfect time to explore and appreciate the beauty of the landscape.
What to Pack for the Hikes of Cape Town
The weather can change quickly, so pack warm. I suggest layers. The South Africa sun can be harsh. Sunscreen and hats are important. The staples to bring are: plenty of water, a charged cell phone for emergencies, a first aid kit and snacks. If you decide to take on the best hikes of Cape Town in the early morning or before sunset, bringing a flashlight is essential.
Need to Know Before You Go
There are a myriad of hikes in and around Cape Town. If it’s your first time hiking here, Platteklip Gorge or Lions Head may be a great option. Though both carry risks, and you’ll still require a good level of fitness, they are both well trafficked and established. When in doubt, use an app. There are many trail apps which can help in providing trail information and route tracking.
The busier trails can be enjoyed solo, but always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. There are plenty of hiking groups and tours available. That being said, try to hike in groups. This is not only for safety when it comes to medical emergencies, but also to keep you safe from impulsive criminals. The chances of something like this happening are very slim in Cape Town but a little caution is sensible.
It’s a good idea to carry a charged cell phone with the necessary emergency numbers. The city has an impressive mountain rescue team, and they’ll swoop in and pick you up, or hike to your position, if you’re in difficulty. These are the most important emergency numbers to record:
Table Mountain National Park: +27 (0)21 957 4700/0861 106 417
Wilderness Search and Rescue: +27 (0)21 948 9900
Medical emergencies from a cell phone: 112
Finally, start early to beat the sun and avoid dehydration – and don’t feed the animals. Just stop to enjoy the view and leave nothing but footprints. Thank you for reading my guide on the best hikes of Cape Town. I’m sure you will have a fantastic time exploring these epic mountain landscapes.