Cape Town has a solid outdoor culture, with hiking being one of the top activities. The city is surrounded by undulating mountain chains, acres of forest, and vast nature reserves. The Mother City has it all, from the rainbow-coloured Kaap's homes to its breathtaking beaches and towering Table Mountain. There are numerous trails covering all types of terrain in the city's surrounding national park, Table Mountain, and other scenic routes that can be found within an hour of the city centre. These top 15 hiking trails will transport you to a different world.
1. Lion’s Head
It won't be difficult to comprehend how Lion's Head got its name once you've seen it in person. One of Cape Town's best-known hikes is on the knob-like mountain, which is to the right of Table Mountain when viewed from the City Bowl. It is cherished for its accessibility and short length; it's ideal for excursions at sunrise and sunset. But that doesn't mean it's simple; Lion's Head will unquestionably put your stamina to the test. Along the way, you'll get views of Camps Bay Beach, Sea Point, the City Bowl, and other sights while making your way around the mountain on a moderately steep but well-maintained path. The path quickly becomes pretty steep with rock faces and boulders that you can scale with the support of metal rungs and ladders once you've ascended a full rotation. The difficult terrain continues to the mountain's summit, making reaching the picturesque peak all the more satisfying.
Among all the hikes in Cape Town, the Hoerikwaggo Trail is possibly the most breathtaking and hard. This is one of the best if you are looking for a longer and more exerting hike. The Khoi people call Table Mountain by the name Hoerikwaggo, which translates to "Mountain in the Sea." The demanding 75-kilometre trek typically takes five days to complete with the guidance of skilled tour guides from nearby travel agencies. This scenic, inclining trail starts in the Cape Point Nature Reserve and travels along a marked route that passes cliffs, steep ascents and descents, beach walks, and mountain paths before coming to an end on Table Mountain's western flank. Typically, hikers spend the night in tented camps along the way.
Difficulty: Challenging Time: 5-6 days Length: 75kms
3. Cape of Good Hope Trail (Cape Point)
At Africa's southwest corner, in Table Mountain National Park, is the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Numerous one-day hiking trails offer a variety of scenery, including deserted beaches, shipwrecks, local wildlife, and striking sea cliffs. The Cape Point to Cape of Good Hope trail, which showcases the dramatic landscape and ocean, is one of the most well-known trails in Cape Point. The trail leads to the well-known Cape of Good Hope sign, which is situated on the rocky shoreline far below, along a well-maintained and clearly marked boardwalk. The Diaz Beach and rugged western shoreline are spectacularly visible from the trail, which is popular for both its accessibility and its breathtaking views.
Difficulty: Easy Time: 2-3 hours Length: 3.5kms
4. Platteklip Gorge
Platteklip Gorge is one of Cape Town's most popular hikes. It is the oldest and most direct route to Table Mountain’s summit. Your endurance will be put to the test, but the panoramic views you'll start with will make stops along the way, both acceptable and encouraged. Starting at the bottom of the gorge, you'll ascend a set of steep but well-maintained stone steps that split through a small ravine. The trail will then begin to zigzag, after which it will continue to be rocky and stacked with large steps for the rest of the hike. You'll undoubtedly be exhausted when you get to the top, but keep going down the straight path for another 10 minutes before stopping. You will eventually arrive at the ledge of Table Mountain, where you can take in the incredible views of Camps Bay Beach and beyond from atop a stone wall that is perfect for sitting on. After catching your breath, spend some time exploring the vast plateau of the mountain before going to the Aerial Cableway and riding a cable car down.
With a name like Skeleton Gorge, it goes without saying that this hike won't be easy. But it's well worth the effort because of the breathtaking views and the opportunity to swim in one of the most bizarre reservoirs on earth. The breathtaking Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town is where the hike begins. It starts by leading you up Table Mountain's eastern slopes, which have the most rainfall on the Cape Peninsula and, as a result, have the most incredibly lush and varied indigenous mountain forest terrain. As its name implies, your hike's first hour or so will involve scrambling up a gorge. When you reach the top, you have two options: turn right onto Smuts Track or go straight to reach the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir. It is advised to take a detour to the reservoir because it is an absolutely breathtaking place to go swimming and boasts an otherworldly reddish colour thanks to the fynbos (indigenous South African plants) growing underneath.
Note: To enter Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, it will cost around R210 for adults. Difficulty: Challenging Time: 4-5 hours Length: 6.5kms
6. Elephant’s Eye
This hike begins at the Silvermine Nature Reserve, about a 25-minute drive from Cape Town's City Bowl, and will show you just how vast Table Mountain National Park truly is. The reserve is great for hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and plant spotting. The reserve is worth visiting for the entire day. The hike to Elephant's Eye is particularly noteworthy as it will lead you inside a sizable cave that is located on Constantiaberg Mountain's face. You won't fully appreciate the size and depth of the cave until you hike to its mouth. To see its mossy interiors up close, hike all the way into it. When you reach the very back wall, turn around for a majestic view of the Constantia Valley.
Difficulty: Easy Time: 3-4 hours Length: 7.5kms
7. Newlands Forest
Newlands Forest, which is located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, has a selection of walking and hiking trails suitable for people of all fitness levels. In addition to numerous rivers, streams, and indigenous fynbos, the forest is home to many distinctive landmarks, including the historic Lady Anne Barnard Cottage, the Newlands Reservoir, and the City Parks Nursery. Popular trails include the Forest Station Walk, the Contour Path to Rhodes Memorial, and the Fernwood Trail up to Newlands Ravine, a moderate climb that leads to a lookout point with breathtaking views of the southern suburbs.
8. The Pipe Track
It is a relatively flat path with a few slight climbs and descents that is situated just below Table Mountain's western slopes. It won't feel like a hike at all, more like an energetic walk. If views are what you're after, the Pipe Track still provides, so don't worry. The trail was built to lay a water pipeline, and as you hike along it, you'll pass sandstone cliffs and come across aqueducts. To your right, you'll also get expansive views of Camps Bay and the Clifton beaches. Get ready to experience the dramatic Twelve Apostles Mountain Range up close. After doing a steep climb and passing the Woody Ravine trail marker on your left, keep an eye out for some stone steps. They indicate your arrival at Slangolie Ravine, the designated turn-around spot.
Difficulty: Easy Time: 3-4 hours Length: 6kms
9. Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch
This simple, family-friendly route starts at the Constantia Nek pass on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and travels six kilometres to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It is perfect for people with all fitness levels. The charming path meanders through the fynbos-covered mountains with breathtaking views of the southern peninsula.
Difficulty: Easy Time: 3-4 hours Length: 8.9kms
10. Devil’s Peak
Devil's Peak, which can be seen from Cape Town's City Bowl to the left of Table Mountain, has a number of excellent hiking trails. It also serves as the setting for one of the most notorious folktales, one in which retired Dutch sea captain Jan van Hunks accidentally challenges the devil to a pipe-smoking competition. According to legend, van Hunks and the devil are at it again when the blanket of smoke-like clouds that cover Table Mountain (referred to as the "table cloth") rolls in. Participate in the local legends to raise your heart rate. The first 20 minutes or so of the hike are spent zigzagging uphill before the trail levels out and leads to the saddle that connects the peak to Table Mountain. Don't forget to occasionally turn around because you'll almost immediately get a beautiful view of the City Bowl. The trail sign for Devil's Peak will tell you to turn left as you continue along it. The path will split off into a few different unmarked trails after climbing a section of steeper terrain. Take the path that leads to a clearly visible trig beacon. This is not the summit, but once you get to the marker, you can see where the mountain's true summit is. Continue on for another 100 metres to get there. Once there, take in the panoramic view of Mother City.
Difficulty: Moderate Time: 3-4 hours Length: 6kms
11. Kalk Bay Mountains
Numerous hiking trails and caves can be found in the mountains above the seaside village of Kalk Bay, which is surrounded by thick vegetation and Afro-montane forest. The trails ascend through the Spes Bona and Echo valleys, varying in difficulty from moderate to difficult, and provide stunning views of False Bay. Raised boardwalks are used in the forest to protect tree roots and stop erosion, and the trails are clearly marked with signs. Between June and November, the Old Mule Path, a gentle trail that gradually climbs the mountainside, is a fantastic place to see whales. The Cape Peninsula Speleological Society offers tours of the mountain caves once a month to keen hikers.
12. Chapman's Peak
The Chapman's Peak trail takes travellers to the mountain's highest point and is located above the well-known marine drive between Noordhoek and Hout Bay. The modest three-hour hike offers 360-degree views of the peninsula and includes photo stops. The path starts just past the toll gate (where you can get a free day pass) and ascends steeply before levelling off at the top. The mountainside is colourfully adorned with proteas, watsonias, and other endemic flowers.
Difficulty: Moderate Time: 2-3 hours Length: 5kms
13. Kogelberg Biosphere
A World Heritage Site, Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a part of the larger Kogelberg Biosphere and is situated southeast of Cape Town. The 100,000-hectare Biosphere, known for its pristine beauty and varied fynbos, is thought to be the centre of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The region is perfect for hiking because it is made up of mountain ranges, native forests, highland valleys, rivers, and waterfalls. At Kogelberg, there are many day and overnight trails that range in length from 3 km to 24 km. Crystal Pools is one of the most well-known trails in the area. It's a fairly easy hike that passes a number of rock pools where hikers love to cool off on hot days.
Note: Permits are needed to hike in the Kogelberg Biosphere. Difficulty: Easy-Challenging Opening hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
14. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
The stunning Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the Winelands region, southwest of Stellenbosch, and is home to the magnificent Jonkershoek Mountains. More than 1,100 plant species and numerous small mammals, birds, and reptiles can be found in the expansive reserve, which spans 9,800 hectares. The area has four main hiking trails, lengths ranging from two to six hours, and many different nature walks. You'll pass along rivers, native forests, waterfalls, and expansive views of the valley.
This three-hour route has challenging sections where scaling over big boulders and up wooden ladders are necessary. It also involves a very steep ascent from beginning to end. You'll need a good head for heights and will every so often need to manoeuvre using the grooves or rock staples. The route is not recommended for children or the physically unfit. Still, it does offer some of the mountain's most stunning views, including expansive views of Table Bay, the Twelve Apostles, Devil's Peak, and Lion's Head. Avoid attempting this route on days with strong winds, and plan your ascent for the coolest time of the day. A guided hike is recommended for first-timers, but it is not compulsory.