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Climbing Table Mountain

October 30, 2023  By: Hilary Walters & Nell Pollak

South Africa is a land of breathtaking landscapes, exotic wildlife and a rich cultural tapestry. One of its most iconic features is Table Mountain, an imposing flat-topped peak that looms over Cape Town, seemingly rising almost directly from the Atlantic. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a national park and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Often shrouded in the famous “tablecloth” cloud formation, conquering the summit is on many travelers’ bucket lists. While many opt to ascend the mountain’s face on a quick cable car ride, others prefer to experience the magic of Table Mountain with their boots on the ground.

scenic view of Cape Town

Hiking Table Mountain is an experience like no other with its stunning views of the city and ocean, its imposing face, precipices and seasonal dramatic cloud formations. This wild mountain, full of plant and animal life, connects visitors deeply to the beauty of nature. In this post, we’ll explore what makes hiking Table Mountain a must-do adventure.

hiker ascending

The Basics

Before embarking on your Table Mountain hiking adventure, it’s essential to be prepared. Here are some fundamental details to keep in mind:

  • Choose the right trail: There are several routes to the summit, catering to different fitness levels and preferences. The Platteklip Gorge, Kasteelspoort, Skeleton Gorge, and India Venster trails are popular choices, each offering a unique experience. Most hikers choose a cable car descent after the hike. With the help of a guide, you can choose the path that is best for you. Let your Journey Specialist know if you are nervous about heights and we’ll recommend a trail with little to no exposure to heights. There are wonderful trails that are suitable for children too!
  • Use an experienced mountain guide: Our guides carefully curate your hike to ensure you have the best experience based on your ability; they provide insights and information about the flora, fauna, history and geology of the mountain; and most importantly, they ensure your well-being and safety. Many hikers underestimate Table Mountain, believing all its trails are mild. But trails that look easy may quickly become unforgiving, slippery, steep and exposed. Your AAC guide will provide a superior experience on the mountain.
  • Weather matters: Cape Town’s weather can be unpredictable and conditions on the mountain can change rapidly. It may be windy, very hot, cold, wet, misty, or covered in clouds. Your guide is a local expert accustomed to Cape Town’s moody weather and will check the weather forecast before starting your hike, preparing you for sudden changes.
  • Safety first: your guide will ensure you carry enough water, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and they will bring a map or GPS device.
hiking trail

The Hiking Experience

Hiking Table Mountain is not just about reaching the summit; it’s a journey filled with memorable moments:

  • Scenic beauty: As you ascend, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Cape Town, the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Peninsula. The mountain’s unique shape allows for 360-degree vistas, making every step a photo opportunity. Note: views are dependent on cloud cover and route taken.
  • Flora and fauna: Table Mountain is home to a diversity of plant and animal species. Keep an eye out for indigenous fynbos (one of the world’s seven floral kingdoms is found only within South Africa), dassies (rock hyraxes) and a variety of birds such as jackal buzzard, steppe buzzard, Cape siskin, Cape sugarbird, orange-breasted sunbird, Knysna warbler, paradise flycatcher and the somber bulbul.
  • A sense of accomplishment: Reaching the summit of Table Mountain is a rewarding achievement. Hikers ascend an impressive 2,300 feet to 3,300 feet, depending on the route. Whether you hike for fitness, photography or the thrill of exploration, the feeling of standing atop this iconic mountain is unparalleled.
hiker with ocean in the background

Tips for a Successful Hike

To make the most of your Table Mountain hiking experience, here are some additional tips:

  • Start early: Begin your hike in the morning to avoid the midday heat and crowds. This also increases your chances of clear views.
  • Stay hydrated: The South African sun can be unforgiving. Carry enough water and take regular breaks to stay hydrated.
  • Dress for the conditions: While you don’t need fancy hiking books or trekking poles, having a comfortable pair of sport or walking shoes is best. Be sure to bring a daypack, water bottle, a warm layer, sunscreen and a hat. If you’re hiking in the winter also pack a rain jacket.
  • Respect the environment: Table Mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Leave no trace and do your part to protect the flora and fauna by staying on designated paths.
Table Mountain peaks

Hiking Table Mountain offers more than just stunning views. It provides a chance to connect with nature, challenge your physical limits and immerse yourself in the unique beauty of Cape Town. As you stand at the summit, gazing out over the city and ocean beyond, you’ll realize that Table Mountain is not just a mountain, it’s a symbol of the remarkable natural wonders that our world has to offer. All this, less than 2.5 miles from the city center! So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera and embark on an unforgettable adventure on Table Mountain.

Nell looking at Table Mountain

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Photos courtesy AAC Journey Specialist Hilary Walters & AAC Safari Concierge Nell Pollak