When it comes to hiking Table Mountain, not all routes were created equal. Most first-time visitors make the steep but safe trek up Platteklip Gorge. Others might branch out to the likes of Skeleton Gorge, or stick to Devil’s Peak or Lion’s Head. But if you want a truly exhilarating experience, there are some memorable hikes and scrambles you should consider.
Just a word of warning: these hikes are dangerous. They are often exposed, and may require the use of fixed chains or your own climbing ropes. You should only attempt these hikes with a guide or someone who knows the route well. The outlines below are also not comprehensive route guides — for that, pick up the excellent Table Mountain Classics by Tony Lourens, the most comprehensive guide to walks and hikes on the mountain.
With a cool head and adequate preparation, these routes produce some of the most remarkable experiences on Table Mountain.
Blind Gully is a superb hike leading up the Twelve Apostles above Camps Bay. It’s a challenging but manageable route with enough scrambling and exposure to get the heart rate up. The views on the way to the top are also spectacular. The hike starts on the sedate Pipe Track, but then takes an upward turn towards the steep but manageable Diagonal route. A faint path to your left will take you up towards Blind Gully and eventually the famous Blinkwater Needle — where you’ll be treated to incredible panoramic views. You’ll eventually pop up in Echo Valley, which is an easy walk away from the upper cable station.
Kloof Corner starts off with a bang – a near vertical ascent up a rock face, with the aid of a single slippery chain embedded into the rock. But consider this the entrance test for one of the city’s most incredible and exhilarating hikes. If you can make it up the first hurdle, you’ll be fine for the remainder of the hike. The route follows the narrow ridge on the right hand side of Table Mountain and includes some heart stopping exposure, several chains, some scrambling, and a few very tight squeezes through cracks in the rock. The views en-route, and at the top, will stop you in your tracks, and combined with the sheer drops and a few technical sections, make it one of the most memorable hikes to the top.
If Kloof Corner sounds a bit too extreme for your liking, give India Venster a go first. This is a generally safe and manageable route that runs beneath the cableway for much of the hike. There are some sections where you’ll have to move up short vertical faces with the aid of staples embedded in the rock, but much of the route follows safe pathways. Even so, this is one of the most notorious hikes on the mountain for injuries and fatalities – owing to the easy accessibility behind the cableway and hikers not heeding the warnings. But the views and sense of accomplishment as you make your way directly up the front face of the mountain are incredible.
Hiddingh-Ascension is one of the more exhilarating trails up Table Mountain. Combine it with Ferny Dell, a beautiful patch of forest about halfway up, and you’ll be able to claim one of the trickier ascents up the mountain. This is a great option for seasoned hikers who have outgrown the nearby Skeleton Gorge. It throws in some dramatic twists and serious surges of adrenaline. The hike starts off in the tranquil Newlands Forest, but escalates quickly. At times you’ll feel as if you’re embarking on an impossible traverse across the cliff face, and parts of the hike are on loose rock that’ll have you making extra sure about your footing. But with a good guide and some cautious hiking, you’ll be richly rewarded. Eventually, you’ll pop out on Smuts path, not far from Maclears Beacon. The views and generally unexplored nature of this route will leave you with a true sense of achievement that makes it well worth the momentary bursts of anxiety.
Seasoned hiker and professional guide Riaan Vorster, from Hike Table Mountain, considers Grotto Fountain Cairn to be one of the most sensational routes on the mountain. It takes you along a trail with dizzying exposure, some bushwhacking and plenty of scrambling. If that’s not enough, wet rocks, and an at times unclear route, may just throw some extra challenges into the mix. The sheer drop offs on the traverse will raise the pulse of even the calmest hikers, but with no climbing experience needed, it’s one of the more popular extreme hiking routes for anyone looking to test their true sense of adventure.