Hiking Table Mountain - The Ultimate Guide & Routes [2022]

Hiking Table Mountain is no easy task! There are many different routes of varying difficulty. This explains and compares all of them.
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If you're visiting Cape Town for the first time, or you're new to the area and looking for a guide that can help you understand and choose the hiking routes around Table Mountain, you've come to the right place.

This is the complete guide to hiking around Table Mountain. Inside, you will find:

  • A comparison table which lists all the Table Mountain routes and hikes, to give you an overview
  • A description of each of the hikes and routes
  • A section of commonly asked questions about hiking on Table Mountain.
  • Useful tips and suggestions for each of the routes

But first, tackling a common misconception about Table Mountain...

PS: All the "ratings" and difficulties assume that you are a reasonably fit person who can run 5km non-stop. Use that as your barometer.

It's way more than just the 'Table Top'

You've more than likely seen a ton of pictures of Table Mountain that look something like this:

A picture of Table Mountain taken from Blouberg
From left to right: Devil's Peak, Table Mountain, Lion's Head. This is a picture taken from the Blouberg area.

Table Mountain is not just the 'table-top' that you see in all those famous pictures. The Table Mountain range, is much bigger than just what you see in that picture. Extending far behind what you see here is a mecca of hiking trails, dams, rivers, fynbos and one of the most beautiful regions of hiking in the world.

A satelite image of the table mountain mountain range
The arrow indicates the direction from which the photo above was taken. The solid line is the 'table top'. The dotted line is the extent of the mountain range.

There are many different routes and access points to this mountain range. This post is going to explore them.

Table Mountain Hiking Routes: Overview and Comparison

Here is a list of the hiking routes up Table Mountain. You can use this table to sort and filter according to your preferences.

Note: The starting point links contain a Google Maps link to the closest access point by car.

Each of the routes mentioned here are described in more detail below.

Lion's Head Hike

Although not technically part of Table Mountain, Lion's Head is most certainly part of the Table Mountain hiking range.

Lion's Head is probably the most popular hike in Cape Town. As such, it gets very busy, especially in Summer (October to April).

Difficulty: 3/5

Length: 4.2km round trip

Meters of Ascent: 280m from the car park

Time Estimate: 1hr45 round trip

The 12 apostles from the top of lions head
Last light from the top of Lion's Head.

Lions Head Routes

There are two starting points to go up Lions Head (1 and 2 in the screenshot below).

A satelite image of the lions head routes
Main route starts at 1. Secondary route starts at 2.

The main starting point is right off the main road to Signal Hill. There is some dedicated parking, but it gets very busy and cars are often parked along the side of the road. Beware the deep gutters (No. 1 one the map). The main starting point goes up on a jeep-track for the first ±1km of the hike.

A secondary starting point takes you up "the back side" of the mountain to start, and then about half way up you join the main route. The secondary route starts near "the Kramat" (No. 2 on the map). The secondary start is on a trail right from the start.

Lions Head Chains

Further up the trail you will get to a point where you need to make a decision. The "straight" more direct route is to use "the chains". There is a secondary route where you can go round the chains.

The chains section requires you to climb vertically on a rock face for about 6m upwards. There are steps and supports that have been drilled into the rock to help you. If you have vertigo, rather go the longer way around.

The longer route branches off left from the main trail and then comes up "the spine" of the mountain with beautiful views of The 12 Apostles. It is about an extra 400m in total distance.

Lion's Head Contour Loop

An equally beautiful, but less challenging route you can take is the contour path. You can see it in the map above. You can start at the main parking and do a loop either way around.

The lap is almost exactly 5km with less than 70m of climbing.

Lions head contour loop
The Lion's Head Contour Path is beautiful if you want something a bit less challenging

Wally's Cave on Lion's Head

There is a cave which looks out of Camps Bay called Wally's Cave on Lion's Head.

Currently, the path to Wally's Cave is closed and you may not go there.

It is closed due to erosion, and the path has become dangerous. If you are caught going to Wally's Cave you would be liable to pay a fine to San Parks.

Lion's Head Hike Tips

  • There is a full-moon hike every full-moon. It is one of the most beautiful things you can do. It gets very busy in summer!
  • There is a Yoga group that climbs the mountain on a Monday morning in Summer.
  • Sunset is over the sea.
  • There is no water en route that is drinkable.
  • Take a flask and a picnic blanket to sit on the top. The top is flat with lots of little spots to sit down.

Platteklip Gorge Hike

Platteklip Gorge is the most popular hiking route up the face of Table Mountain.

Difficulty: 4.5/5

Length: 2.4km to the top

Meters of Ascent: 680m from Tafelberg Road

Time Estimate: 1hr30 to the top

Warning: This is not a hike for beginners. There are slippery rocks and steep sections. If you are not confident of making it to the top, rather choose a easier route. You can see the "type" of trail you will be on in the picture below.

I have personally seen the rescue helicopter rescuing at least 5 people who underestimate this hike.

Looking back down platteklip gorge from half way up
About 3/4 of the way up the Gorge, looking back down onto the lower slopes of Table Mountain.

The Platteklip Gorge Route

Starting Point: https://goo.gl/maps/R6wUbG6jqpcm7jPw7

You start off of Tafelberg Road. There is a small parking lot. You can park on the side of the road if the parking lot is full.

There is only one path up, made up of two sections. You start on a trail and after about 15 minutes you will get to a point where another trail comes in from the right side. This is the contour path. Stay left.

After another 50m you will get to another intersection where the path you're on continues on. You want to turn right and up.

From here on, you are on the only path up and you will be able to see the valley you're going up in front of you.

Platteklip gorge from tafelberg road
This is the view up the Platteklip "gorge". You can't see the top which is covered in cloud. Photo taken from Tafelberg road, having driven passed the start of the hike.

Once you make it to the top, you have a few options.

The most popular is to take a right and walk up onto the famous "table top". You will head on cemented paths towards the Cable Car building. This will be a busy area in Summer. You can then take the cable car back down.

Another beautiful route is to turn left at the top, and head on the "front route" which traverses the flat table top towards Maclear's Beacon. The path in some places is right on the edge of the cliff. Again, not for you if you are afraid of heights. If you go this way, you can complete a loop of Maclear's Beacon and end up back at the top of the Gorge and then head down via there, or via the cable car.

More on the Maclear's beacon route below.

A view of Cape Town city bowl from the front face of Table Mountain
The view from the front face of Table Mountain. If you get to the top of Platteklip, turn left and follow the front-face route you will be spoiled for views of the city bowl.

Platteklip Gorge Tips

  • The weather at the top of the mountain can be completely different from the bottom, and it changes very quickly. You should absolutely take extra layers of clothing and if possible a water-proof jacket. You can never be too careful.
  • You can catch the cable car back down to the bottom. You will have to pay for a ticket though.
  • There are many different ways down from the mountain when you get to the top of Platteklip. It is "the gateway" to the Table Mountain mountain range.

Devil's Peak Hike

Maclear's Beacon Hike

India Venster Hike

Kasteelspoort Hike

Pipe Track Hike

Diagonal Hike

Skeleton Gorge Hike

Nursery Ravine

Newlands Ravine

Questions about Table Mountain Hiking