A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking in the Cape

Like freelancing, motherhood and global warming, there’s a lot of misconceptions about hiking. Let’s address that quickly. Hiking doesn’t need to be arduous or painful. It doesn’t need to involve a heavy backpack and a compass. It doesn’t need to be steep or take much time. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a hike. There are some lovely walks around Cape Town that will do just fine. I’m not sure when a walk becomes a hike, that’s similar to the question; when does air become sky? They’re very close to being the same thing, it’s just a different perspective. If you can walk, you can hike. There’s no need to be intimidated. Besides, you’d be surprised how far you can go.

Many of these trails are well-known to Capetonians, but if you’re just starting out these are the best ones to experience first. I’ve included some easy and flat strolls, a few more challenging hikes up Table Mountain and even some hikes that require a little drive out of the city. So, take your pick and get out there. Just remember the basic safety tips like always taking water, a hat and a cellphone.

1. WALKING

All of these are there-and-back trails so you can walk for as long as you want, just turn back halfway.

Pipe Track
Ideal for an early-morning or end-of-day stroll, the pipe track path is flat with views over Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The path was constructed in 1887 to service a pipeline running below the 12 Apostles. The walk starts at the junction of Tafelberg Road and Kloof Nek.

Newlands Forest
You have the option of walking towards either the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or Rhodes Memorial from the parking lot near the fire station. The path is shaded by trees, both are good options in summer. There are some up-and-down parts but nothing too steep.

Cecilia Forest
On the far side of Kirstenbosch from the city lies Cecilia Forest, another wonderfully-shaded place for a walk. A jeep track starts off the hike that, if you follow signposts for Rooikat Ravine, will take you up some stairs to the beautiful Cecilia Waterfall. It’s easily accessible, quick to get to and the perfect location for a weekend picnic.

Cape Point
Our nature reserve at the very south-western tip of Africa has more than just a lighthouse and a strong breeze. There are stunning beaches and quiet coastal paths perfect for a long stretch of the legs. Cape Point has an entrance fee so the trails are not too busy and there’s guaranteed security. The birds, the fynbos, wild animals and sea-views all culminate in a strong attraction. Entrance is R147 for adults and R76 for children.

2. HIKING ON TABLE MOUNTAIN

Lion’s Head
The most popular hike in Cape Town offers two things; a relatively quick hike (1.5 hours) and probably the best views of the city. From atop the 669m summit, one can see up and down the Atlantic seaboard, the city bowl, harbour, Devil’s Peak, 12 Apostles, and Table Mountain. It’s best at sunrise and sunset. Technically, this is not on Table Mountain, but it’s close enough.

Platteklip Gorge
Some poor workers went through the hard yards before you and laid down stairs all the way from Tafelberg Road to the top of Table Mountain, creating the most direct and popular route up our iconic landmark. It’s a long way though, so be prepared to work. Many people walk up and then catch the cableway down.

Skeleton Gorge
We’re venturing into more serious routes with this one, but it’s worth considering if you’re willing to hike a little longer. This is a good route in summer as the Afromontane forest offers shade almost all the way up the gorge. It starts in Kirstenbosch and the first hour is spent in the forest climbing log and stone steps. At the top you have the option of exploring Table Mountain but beware; you still have to go down. The best option is to have lunch on top by the dam and go back down via Nursery Ravine.

3. DAY TRIPS OUTSIDE OF THE CITY

Jonkershoek Waterfall Hike
There are a number of different trails in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve near Stellenbosch but the waterfall hike is best for beginners. It’s a 6.5-km route along the Eerste River, past Eerste Waterval, followed by a steep climb along a gorge to the foot of Tweede Waterval. The Jonkershoek mountains rise above this trail creating the grandeur that makes this area so widely loved.

Crystal Pools
This half-day route has the added attraction of swimming in rock pools and has become incredibly popular in recent years. So much so that booking is essential as only a certain number of people are allowed to enter each day. The trail starts near Gordon’s Bay and takes an hour to reach the first pool. Entrance is R65 per person.

 

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