- 2-3 hours (up)
- Difficult terrain
- Partly shaded
- Little water
- Not dog friendly
The most direct yet adventurous pathway up Table Mountain. Breath-taking views of Cape Town harbour, the city bowl, Lions Head, Signal Hill and the ever shrinking suburbs below accompany you on what is often described as the most difficult route up to the top. Best to go in a group, this route involves a number of rocky outcrops to scale, narrow gullies to navigate through as well as a metal-laddered section to help you up a small cliff-face. Snaking its way up directly beneath the cable station, passengers in the cable car will keep your spirits up as they happily wave overhead.
Starting adjacent the Table Mountain Cable Car Station on Tafelberg Road – 50metres to the right of the station, facing the mountain – this popular hiking trail up Table Mountain follows directly beneath the cable car wires all the way to the summit of the peak. It starts with a gradual incline, made up mostly of rocky stairs for approximately 20 minutes until it reaches the contour path. At that point, a very clear sign for “India Venster” will point you in the right direction. The entire route upwards is demarcated with yellow-painted footprints on rocks along the path, which are a constant marker to keep you on the right track. They are sporadic, yet should you not see one for 15 minutes, take it as a sure sign you have deviated off the path.
From the sign onwards, the elevation steepens, with a bit more scrambling and larger rocks to tackle. All are made easier to scale with sufficient hand and footholds eroded into the rock over time.
The path snakes its way upwards at fairly steep elevation, maintaining its course under the cable car while providing breath-taking views of the Cape Town city bowl, harbour and beyond, as well as the ever-diminishing figure of Lions Head.
Just after the point of being at level elevation to Lions head, about 1.5 hours in, the first of three steep sections of the hike appear. This first rock-face is around five-seven metres high, yet has more than enough footholds to help you up. Be prepared to wait a bit at this point as it may become congested on a busy day.
Further up the path, just a few minutes later, the second scramble awaits, again with more than sufficient ledges and footholds to help you clamour over the large boulders.
The path continues to wind its way up, until it reaches the last rocky face that requires climbing. This 15-20m ascent is the most taxing part of the hike, with steel rungs and chains embedded into the rock to help your climb up the rock face, before entering a narrow gully that has numerous edges, nooks and crannies to use as hand and foot-holds.
At this point, the cable car station at the summit of the mountain is 400m above you, just to the right. With the hard part over, all that is left is to follow the path and yellow markers along an easily walkable path to the summit.
A few large step-like rocks lie in wait, before meeting a large rocky outcrop beneath the cable car. Take the clearly marked pathway on the left, which leads up and around this feature to a level area with a clear view of the pylons streaking up from Kloof Corner, to the far right of Table Mountain.
The clearly marked path then veers off to the right beneath the cable car station, with the path to the summit then making its way around the right hand side of the mountain, behind the station and directly above Camps Bay. In winter, the steep rock faces to the top become mini waterfalls as water drips down onto the pathway at certain points.
The well-beaten track, now consisting of sand, continues around the back of the mountain, passing a square concrete building – an old pump station – before intersecting the pathway from the route up Platteklip Gorge.
A short segment along wooden boards then appears, before a gentle, paved ascent to the summit of the mountain, where spectacular views, inquisitive dassies, a curio and snack shop, and the beauty of nature and surrounds awaits!
The path is clearly marked with yellow painted footprints, and is well-used and easily distinguishable. Stay on this path. If you haven’t noticed a yellow painted footprint for more than 15 minutes, retrace your steps and follow the well-beaten track.
Pack warm and water-resistant clothing, no matter the weather at the start. Rain and mist can quickly cover the mountain, with strong and icy winds to boot. Gloves and a beanie in winter won’t be misplaced. In Summer, avoid starting the hike too late in the day as temperatures may rise rapidly.
Pack enough water and snacks for the day to stay hydrated and energised. It is one of the most direct ascents up Table Mountain, and can be quite taxing on those less fit.
It is not advisable to descend down the same route. Either descend via the cable car – remember to take money with you at the start of the hike – or down Plattekip Gorge.
Although deemed “one of the most difficult trails up Table Mountain”, we were honestly underwhelmed by this description – it is very manageable, and not at all what we were initially told it would be. Bear in mind, though, that this is coming from 20-something, fit and more or less experienced hikers, so if you’re a rookie, read this with a pinch of salt.