Table Mountain is the most famous city’s attraction and a must-visit place in Cape Town. The views from the top are truly spectacular you can see pretty much the entire city and some of its surroundings. The easiest and fastest way of getting to the top is to take a cable car. Walking up following one of the Table Mountain hiking trails is a far challenging but much more rewarding experience. There are several routes going up as well as a couple of beautiful hikes on the top of the mountain. Hiking Table Mountain is one of the most exciting things to do in Cape Town.
Best time for hiking Table Mountain
In the hot summer months (November – March), early morning is the best time especially if you’re planning to walk one of the trails that are exposed to the sun such as Platteklip or India Venster. Evenings are a good time as well just make sure not to walk any of the routes in the dark for your own safety. If you’re planning to use the cable car check for the wind it sometimes gets very windy in summer and it doesn’t operate on very windy days.
In cooler months (April – October) you can walk pretty much any time just make sure you won’t get a lot of rain. It’s not nice to be up Table Mountain in the pouring rain.
Clouds are another thing to watch for. If you see massive clouds on the top of the mountain postpone your visit you might not be able to see anything from the top.
If you’re going to spend some time in the city make sure to include some of the fantastic day trips from Cape Town in your itinerary.
How much does it cost to hike Table Mountain?
Just like hiking up Lion’s Head to walk up Table Mountain is free. There is no admission fee for Table Mountain except if you walk up from Kirstenbosch (on the Skeleton Gorge trail), then you pay ZAR 75/US$5 entrance fee to the Botanical garden. If you walk on any other trail up and down (Platteklip Gorge, India Venster, or Kasteelspoort) you don’t have to pay anything. If you decide to take the cable car you’ll have to pay for your ticket. You can do a guided hike up Table Mountain in this case the price depends on the chosen tour.
How to get to Table Mountain?
Renting a car is the easiest way of moving around Cape Town. If you’re a couple of people sharing a smallish car it won’t be expensive to rent a car for a couple of days.
Using a hop-on-hop-off bus is another option for getting to Table Mountain. There are four different sightseeing routes including one that goes to the Lower Cable Car Station (the red route) and one that goes to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden (the blue route). A 2-day ticket includes 2 walking tours, a seal & harbor boat cruise, and a sunset bus. If you’re planning to go up or down with the cable car you can buy a combined ticket that includes the bus, the cable car, and a free city walking tour.
How difficult are the hiking trails?
All routes up Table Mountain are quite challenging due to the steep and long ascent to the top. Overall hiking trails up Table Mountain are more difficult than Lion’s Head hike. Out of the four routes up Table Mountain I describe in this post the India Venster trail is the most challenging, it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. The trail involves some scrambling and bouldering. The other three (Platteklip Gorge, Skeleton Gorge, and Diagonal/Kasteelspoort) are quite tough but manageable for a relatively fit person. Hikes on the top of Table Mountain (Maclearn’s Beacon, Cable Car to Skeleton Gorge, and Cable Car to Kasteelspoort) are quite easy and suitable for travelers with children and elderly people.
Getting up or down with the cable car
You can walk up and down or if you don’t feel like it or don’t have enough time you can use the cable car one way or return. Don’t worry about skipping the hiking part if you take the cable car there are a couple of very nice trails on the top of the mountain. Regardless of which way you choose you should definitely include Table Mountain in your Cape Town itinerary.
The views from the cable car are amazing, the floor rotates clockwise during the ride you get 360° panoramic views of Cape Town. The cable car operates daily from 8am (first car up) to 3pm (last car up)/4pm (last car down).
- To go one way (up or down) costs ZAR 200/US$13 for adults and ZAR 100/US$6 for children.
- For a return ticket, you pay ZAR 380/US$25 (morning time); ZAR 300/US$20 (after 1pm) for adults, and ZAR 180/US$12 (morning time), ZAR 150/US$10 (after 1pm) for children.
- If you’re planning to use the hop-on-hop-off bus you can buy a combined ticket that includes a return cable car ride. It’s the best option if you’re not going to rent a car.
What can you see from the top?
The views from the top of Table Mountain are truly spectacular. If you come up here on a clear day you won’t be disappointed. Depending on what side of Table Mountain you’re on from the top you can see pretty much everything. From the cable car side, you can see Cape Town city center, Lion’s Head, Camps Bay, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Robben Island, Cape Point, Waterfront, Twelve Apostles mountain range, and more. From the Kirstenbosch side, you can see Cape Flats, False Bay, Muizenberg, Strand, Gordons Bay, Rooi Els, Hout Bay (if you walk towards Maclear’s Beacon), etc.
For the best view of Table Mountain itself go to Blouberg Beach, Big Bay, or one of the Durbanville wine farms. From any of these places, Table Mountain does look as flat as a table.
What is on the top of Table Mountain?
If you walk up Table Mountain following the Platteklip Gorge or India Venster trails you’ll end up about 700 m away from the Upper Cable Car Station. At the station, you can find bathrooms, a coffee shop, a souvenir shop, several look-out points with benches, and a drinking fountain (at the exit of the cable car).
If you walk up following the Diagonal or Kasteelspoort trail you’ll end up on the other side of the mountain, about 5 km away from the Upper Cable Car Station which means there are pretty much no facilities nearby. It’s important to bring enough water and maybe some snacks for this route. Both routes end about 500 m away from the Diving board, a popular cliff for taking thrilling photos.
Those who walk up Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch on the Skeleton Gorge trail will end up about 5 km away from the cable car station at a big water reservoir with a nice sandy beach. You can go for a quick refreshing swim or have a picnic on the beach.
If you’re looking for more places to hike in Cape Town have a look at Cape Points hiking trails – breathtaking scenery and incredible hiking experience.
Different hiking trails up Table Mountain
Platteklip Gorge trail
- Distance – 5,5 km return
- Time – 2 hours return
- Total elevation gain/loss – 650 m
- Starting point – Tafelberg Road, about 1,5 km past the Lower Cable Car Station towards Devil’s Peak.
- Finishing point (on the top) – 700 m away from the cable car station.
- Difficulty – 3 out of 5*
- Terrain – footpath, rocks, and boulders
- Parking – along Tafelberg road (on the left) past the Lower Cable Car station there is a parking spot right at the start of the trail but it’s often full.
*difficulty comparing different Table Mountain hiking trails with the 5 being the most difficult route up Table Mountain.
- Nice views of Cape Town city center and its surroundings.
- The scenery at the end of the trail.
- The steep ascent from the very start of the trail.
- The first part of the route is exposed to the sun with no shade to hide.
- The second part of the trail involves a bit of climbing over the rocks.
- From the end of the trail on the top, it’s another 700 m to the cable car station.
- The route is pretty straightforward, there is a sign at the start of the trail.
- A rocky trail climbs up the mountain from the start.
- A zigzagging footpath section in the middle.
- A steeper and a bit more difficult climb in the second part of the hike.
This route is the most popular trail up Table Mountain, most people choose it to walk up and then take the cable car down. We’ve done this trail many times, we used to come here once a week to run up and down a couple of times preparing for trekking in Nepal. Platteklip Gorge is the quickest trail up Table Mountain, it’s a good alternative to India Venster for going down if you don’t want to pay ZAR 200/US$13 for a cable car ride. Despite being the most popular route the views on the Platteklip Gorge are the least impressive out of the four different trails up Table Mountain described in this post. You can do the hike on your own or join a guided tour that includes return transportation from your hotel in Cape Town.
India Venster trail
- Distance – 4,3 km to Upper Cable Car station, one way
- Time – 2-3 hours from the start to the cable car, one way
- Total elevation gain – 722 m
- Starting point – Lower Cable Car Station
- Finishing point (on the top) – 700 m away from the Upper Cable Car station.
- Difficulty – 5 out of 5, it’s the most challenging and dangerous route up Table Mountain, not suitable for children or elderly people.
- Terrain – rocks, boulders, occasional chains and ladders, footpath at the very end of the trail.
- Parking – along Tafelberg Road before or after Lowe Cable Car station.
- This route has the best views of Cape Town, Lion’s Head, and Camps Bay, and many other city attractions.
- A couple of amazing look-out points
- Bizarre rock formations and cliffs
- A beautiful path along the cliff at the end of the hike
- A steep and long ascent.
- The trail is exposed to the sun for the most part of the day there is no shade to hide.
- Many very steep climbs over rocks using ladders and chains.
- Some parts of the route are quite close to the edge; sometimes it’s a bit scary if you have to climb up.
*all trail data including elevation profiles and maps for the post we got from our Garmin Fenix GPS watch. We love using our watches for hiking and training.
- The route starts with a gradual footpath that takes you from the Lower Cable Car station to the Counter path, the easiest part.
- There you’ll see a sign indicating the India Venster trail and the first yellow footprints (behind the sign).
- From there the trail starts climbing up over the rocks and boulders but nothing hectic yet just a steep ascent.
- Somewhere in the middle when you reach the rocky walls of Table Mountain you start scrambling over rocks and ladders.
- The last part around the mountain is pretty relaxing on a footpath with one last climb.
- From the end of the trail, it’s another 700 m on the top of Table Mountain to the upper cable car station.
This trail is the ultimate route for adventure lovers and adrenaline seekers. I wouldn’t recommend it for inexperienced hikers, people with a fear of heights, or not very fit people. The trail follows the cable car line almost from the start except for the last bit where it goes around the mountain before ascending to the top. The entire trail is marked with yellow footprints/arrows on rocks, it’s easy to follow. If you’d like to do this route but don’t feel confident enough to go on your own you can join a guided tour up Table Mountain on the India Venster trail.
Out of the four trails we’ve done this route has the best views of Lion’s Head (better from Table Mountain itself), Camps Bay, and Cape Peninsula, and the cable car. It’s the longest route as well for both distance and time it takes to complete. It’s important to wear suitable shoes, a cap, and carry enough water (at least 1L per person) there is no place to get water until you reach the top. In my opinion, out of all routes up Table Mountain, this one is the worst for going down; rather take the cable car or use the Platteklip Gorge trail for descending.
Skeleton Gorge trail
- Distance – 7 km return
- Time – 2,5-3,5 hours up and down, depending on how fast you walk
- Total elevation gain/loss – 600 m
- Starting point – Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
- Finishing point (on the top) – 100 m away from Hely Hutchinson Reservoir.
- Difficulty – 3 out of 5
- Terrain – footpath, stairs, rocks, and boulders (some quite slippery), wooden ladders.
- Parking – there are two quite big parking areas inside Kirstenbosch Garden.
- Beautiful Kirstenbosch Garden; the sky bridge is not to miss here.
- Stunning lush green forest.
- Breathtaking views over Cape Town and False Bay.
- White-sand beach and a dam with cold water.
- A long and quite steep ascent from the start.
- A couple of wooden ladders to conquer.
- A slippery rocky path that is a bit tricky for walking down.
- The trail starts inside the garden and there are several signs at different parts of Kirstenbosch indicating the way to Skeleton Gorge.
- The ascent starts from the beginning first you go up wooden stairs, then on a footpath with occasional rocky steps.
- The second half of the trail is more tricky and involves climbing over the rocks and wooden ladders.
- The last bit is on a footpath with stairs.
Skeleton Gorge is probably the most beautiful trail. Unlike other trails, it starts on the “green side” of the mountain in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. It’s the best route to walk on a hot summer day. Skeleton Gorge is definitely the greenest trail up Table Mountain. From the beginning to the end you walk through a humid evergreen forest with many small creeks and streams, massive boulders, and thick tree trunks covered in moss. Once out of the forest you get an amazing view of Cape Town and its surroundings. On a nice day, you can see False Bay and the mountain range along the coast.
On the top don’t miss a water reservoir with a beautiful white-sand beach, it’s just 50 m from the end of the trail. The beach is a nice spot for a picnic. You can join a guided Skeleton Gorge hike from Kirstenbosch to Table Mountain if you don’t want to walk alone.
- Distance – 11,5 km loop including distance to the diving board and back to the trail.
- Time – 3h30min. loop
- Total elevation gain/loss – 680 m
- Starting point – Kloof Nek parking at the turn-off to Tafelberg Road
- Finishing point (on the top) – 200 m away from the Diving board
- Difficulty – 3 out of 5
- Terrain – rocky/gravel footpath, rocks, and boulders, rocky stairs
- Parking – Kloof Nek parking if there is no space look for a spot along Tafelberg Road.
- Stunning views of Camps Bay and Lion’s Head from a look-out point on the Diagonal route.
- Beautiful landscape and bizarre-shaped rocks on the top of Table Mountain.
- The diving board, a small rocky cliff hanging above the abbey that in shape reminds a diving board. It’s an amazing photo spot not for the faint-hearted.
- A steep climb over rocks and boulders on the Diagonal trail.
- A steep descent down to the Pipe Track from the top.
- It’s a loop trail. The route starts across the road from Kloof Nek parking.
- The first part is on the Pipe track, a very easy and flat walk around the mountain with nice views over Camps Bay and Lion’s Head.
- At 2,7 km there is the first split, the left trail (Diagonal) climbs up the mountain, the left continues on the Pipe track.
- The next split is at 4,5 km, the left route is the Diagonal trail, the right route is the Kasteelspoort trail.
- If you continue on the Diagonal trail you’ll reach the top at about 5 km.
- From there continue straight for about 400 m until you see the sign pointing to the Kasteelspoort trail. Soon after that, you’ll see another split the right route goes down on the Kasteelspoort trail.
- You can start going down but before check out the Diving board, it’s about 400 m ahead at the Old Cable Car station.
- The way down is quite easy; you just follow the Kasteelspoort trail all the way to the Pipe track and from there continue walking back to Kloof Nek parking.
Another route that surprises you with incredible views of Cape Town. On this trail, you get some of the best views of Lion’s Head, Camps Bay, and Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most scenic drives in Cape Town. It’s a popular route and it gets quite busy on weekends. One of the main reasons many people walk it is the diving board, a famous photo spot on the top of Table Mountain.
This trail can be walked as a loop starting and finishing on the Pipe Track. Going up following the Diagonal route and down Kasteelspoort or the other way around though Kasteelspoort is a nicer one for going down. You can walk it as a return hike as well. In this case, I’d recommend walking up and down the Kasteelspoort trail, it’s a gradient ascent to the top without too much climbing over rocks. Whichever way you choose it’s an 11,5 km return hike.
As an easier alternative, you can walk around Table Mountain following the Pipe Track without climbing to the top. This route is suitable for families with children and doesn’t involve any scrambling or climbing. You can join a guided walk on the Pipe Track that return transportation from your hotel in Cape Town, a guide, snacks and water.
Hiking trails on the top of Table Mountain
There are free guided walks on the top of Table Mountain that anybody can join. The meeting point is near the exit from the coffee shop. Tours depart daily every hour from 9am to 3pm. These are not long hikes mostly on boardwalks near the cable car station. During the walk, you learn interesting facts about Table Mountain and discover the best photo spots on the top.
The surface of Table Mountain is a massive area with a couple of water reservoirs, overnight huts, several hiking trails, and monuments. One can spend hours if not days walking and exploring it. In a way hiking on the top of Table Mountain reminds me of our Mount Roraima hiking experience in Venezuela.
Maclear’s Beacon trail
- Distance – 5,4 km return
- Time – 1h30min. – 2 hours, return
- Total elevation gain/loss – 150 m
- Starting/finishing point – Upper Cable Car Station towards Platteklip Gorge
- Difficulty – 1 out of 5
- Terrain – footpath, boardwalks, boulders
- Parking – along Tafelberg Road near Lower Cable Car Station
- Stunning views of Cape Point, Hout Bay, Muizenberg, Strand, Gordons Bay, etc.
- Bizarre rock formations along the route.
- The beautiful landscape on the top of Table Mountain
- The only challenge is the heat, it gets scorching in summer, there is no shade
It’s an easy walk suitable for travelers with children and elderly people. The route starts at Skeleton Gorge, about 700 m from Upper Table Car Station. There is a metal plank indicating the way to Maclear’s Beacon. The trail is marked with yellow footprints and arrows, it’s easy to follow. The route is flat with hardly any ascent or descent. It’s a great hike for those who don’t want to endure one of the challenging routes up Table Mountain but still want to explore its top and do an easy hike. The views of the way and from the beacon are quite impressive. You get to see the scenery on the other side of Table Mountain that is not visible from the cable car.
Upper Cable Car Station to Skeleton Gorge
- Distance – 4,8 km
- Time – 1h20min. – 2 hours
- Total elevation gain – 66 m
- Total elevation loss – 395 m
- Starting point – Upper Cable Car station
- Finishing point – the top of Skeleton Gorge near Hely Hutchinson Reservoir
- Difficulty – 1,5 out of 5
- Terrain – boulders, boardwalks
This route is an extension of the Maclear’s Beacon trail. The beacon is about halfway. It’s a nice route that offers very different from the cable car side views. The landscape along the trail is quite amazing with wired rock formations, narrow passages between two rocks, etc. Right after Maclear’s Beacon, it’s a steady downhill all the way to Skeleton Gorge. Nothing very steep or scary I’d say the route is suitable for anybody. You don’t have to go all the way to the gorge you can just walk a little bit and turn around. The walk to Skeleton Gorge and back to the cable car is about 10 km. The walk back is more difficult for more details read the description below.
Skeleton Gorge to the Upper Cable Car station
- Distance – 4,8 km
- Time – 1h30min. – 2 hours
- Total elevation gain – 395 m
- Total elevation loss – 66 m
- Starting point – the top of Skeleton Gorge
- Finishing point – Upper Cable Car station
- Difficulty – 2 out of 5
- Terrain – boardwalks, boulders, rocky parts
This route is the same as the one above but in the opposite direction. This way it’s more challenging than the other way around due to the long and sometimes steep ascent from Skeleton Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon. The elevation of different parts of Table Mountain is not the same, the cable car side is significantly higher than the Constantia side, about 400 m difference.
How to combine hiking trails and the cable car?
You can pretty much combine all Table Mountain hiking trails with each other. It all depends on how far you want to walk and how much time you have. You can as well walk up and use the cable car for going down as many people do. It’s much faster than walking down, a cable car ride takes about 5 minutes. You can buy tickets at the upper cable car station on the top.
Platteklip and India Venster are the best trails for taking the cable car down. Both routes finish just 700 m away from the upper cable car station. Going down you get pretty much to the same place where you start the walk. If you walk up the Skeleton Gorge or Kasteelspoort trails you’ll have to walk 5 km on the top of Table Mountain to get to the cable car station first.
- Platteklip Gorge up/cable car down – 3,5 km from the bottom to the upper cable car station, elevation gain 650 m, takes 1-1h30min. to get to the top. You go down to Tavelberg Road back to your car.
- India Venster up/cable car down – 4,3 km from the bottom to the cable car station, elevation gain 722 m, takes 2-3 hours. Get down to the lower cable car station, the same place where the trail starts.
- Skeleton Gorge up/cable car down – 8,5 km (3,5 km from Kirstenbosch to the top, 5 km on the top to the cable car station), elevation gain 1000 m, takes 3-4 hours to get to the cable car. Note! If you park your car at Kirstenbosch you’ll need a taxi or Uber to get back to it. The cable car descends on the other side of Table Mountain. If you want to use this option it’s better to use the hop-on-hop-off bus.
- Diagonal/Kasteelspoort up/cable car down – 11 km (5,5 km to the top, 5 km on the top to the cable car station, 500 m from the lower cable car station to Kloof corner parking), elevation gain 750 m, takes about 4 hours.
You can do it another way around go up with the cable car and walk down on one of the hiking trails. Going down is less tiring but harder on your knees.
Safety tips for hiking Table Mountain
- If you follow one of the popular routes or hike on the top of Table Mountain you should be pretty safe.
- Don’t hike at night time or late in the evening in winter.
- If you choose a lesser-used route, rather go on the weekend when there are more people.
- It’s better to be a couple of people on the route especially if you hike on weekdays or off-season.
- If you don’t want to hike alone you can join a guided tour up Table Mountain. There are several tours that follow different trails.
- Bring enough water, at least 1l per person there are no water sources on the mountain until you reach the top. The Skeleton Gorge is the only route where you can get water along the way.