The top of the Nursery Ravine ascent
- 10 km circular route
- 4-5 hours
- Shade for part of the hike
- Water on trail during winter, not summer
- Moderate – Strenuous difficulty
- Mix of road, jeep track and single track
- Dog friendly (if fit)
The hike begins at Rycroft gate i.e. the top entrance to Kirstenbosch gardens. There is parking available opposite the entrance. If you have a Wild card or Table Mountain National Park activity/access card you will enter for free. If you do not have such card you will need to pay the daily visitor’s fee. The hike starts gradually as you ascend straight up the road in front of you towards the towering mountain. Straight ahead the road will turn into a jeep track. Take this path until it converges with another jeep track. Turn left and continue upwards towards Constantia Nek. Soon you will encounter a flight of stairs on your right. Head up these stairs that will take you to the contour path, a beautiful well-defined single-track that winds its way all around Table Mountain. Turn right at the contour path and follow it all the way until you reach Nursery Ravine. Although not well signed, this will be the first well-forested area you come across, deep within a ravine and with a daunting stairway to the top on your left. Don’t let this scare you, however, this is where the fun begins!
The hike up Nursery Ravine is long and steep – involving high steps and sections of scrambling. Take your time and enjoy the fresh shaded forest and the inevitable sounds of trickling water and chirping birds to your left. Approximately one third of the way up you will pop out of the shaded area and will have your first glorious view back across the Cape . Continue winding up the mountain and be careful of slippery rocks as you use all the might in your legs and often your arms to help inch your way up. There is a wooden stairway with a side banister to help you pull yourself up the final stretch and collapse on top of the mountain with a sense of relief. Take a moment to acknowledge your climbing prowess and soak in the spectacular views. This is a perfect place for a snack.
Having recovered from the ordeal, facing the mountain take a left (there is a map at the top in case you feel lost) towards Constantia Nek. Approximately 100 m afterwards you will come to a junction where you may turn right to the dams and kasteelsport (all the way on the Atlantic side) or left towards Constantia Nek. Take the latter option. This path twists and turns around the rocky outcrops so stay focused to ensure you do not fall off the track. There are also brief shallow sections of steep rock descents so be careful to slowly choose the safest route and descend in one piece. You will continue for approximately 30 minutes before the path develops prepared ‘steps’ with wooden edges. At this point you will know you are near to Constantia Nek. Continue down until you reach a tar road. Turn left and descend towards the Overseers overnight hut (see Constantia Nek hike). Have a sip of or fill up from the drinking tap graciously provided next to the hut. Then continue down the road and prepare your legs for what is about to come.
The road becomes very steep as you descend towards Constantia Nek. Although challenging, the scenery offers some respite. At the bottom of the first section the road turns sharply to the left and shortly after there is a dirt single track with steps to the right. You may either continue on the tar road straight or take the single track right – they will converge later on. The single track is more technical and involves more tricky rocky sections whereas the road is easy going but slightly longer. At the point where they converge there is another sharp turn in the road. This will be at the end of the single-track or the point at which you can see the single-track stairs coming down from your right if you remained on the jeep track. Turn left here and continue on the jeep track in the direction of Kirstenbosch (with devil’s peak ahead). This marks the beginning of the way home.
At the next jeep track junction continue straight. The path undulates with multiple paths stemming off of it but remain steadfast and do not diverge from the path. Be careful of mountain bikers flying past as this area is very popular. From the aforementioned junction you will walk for approximately 45 minutes before coming to the border of Kirstenbosch (well-signed). Heading left here will take you back onto the contour path into Kirstenbosch. However, continue straight on the bike-friendly single-track that will take you to the upper jeep track of Kirstenbosch. Walk down the jeep track – you will soon come across the flight of steps you ascended earlier on the left. At the next junction turn right onto the jeep track that will lead to the starting tar road that takes you back to the top gate of Kirstenbosch.
When you reach the bottom gate, legs possibly jelly-ish from the elevation change you have just covered, take a look back at the mountain and track the journey you have just accomplished.