The Cape Trails: The best table mountain trails!
Mountain hiking is one of the best activities that you can do with your friends and family. Not only is it fun, but it also allows you to discover the beauty of nature in ways that you didn’t know before. The Cape is full of beautiful landscapes that are waiting to be discovered by you. Start your mountain hiking journey with us and we’ll lead you to the best trails across the area. Check out the best mountain trails below:
Kirstenbosch – Nursery Ravine – Constantia Nek Loop
- 10 km circular route
- 4-5 hours
- Shade for part of the hike
- Water on the trail during winter, not summer
- Moderate – Strenuous difficulty
- A 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 a 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 bannister 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 kasteelspoort (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 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 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 remain 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, the track junction continues 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 keep 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.
Jonkershoek Eerste/ Tweede Waterval Trail
- 4km round trip (3km round trip to the first waterfall)
- Approximately 3 hours in total
- Moderate terrain
- Partly shaded
- Drinkable water unavailable
- Not dog friendly
The picturesque Jonkershoek Nature Reserve located just outside Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands is well-known for its plentiful hiking and mountain-biking routes, with the Eerste/Tweede Waterval Trail a shorter, moderately difficult option that most members of the family should be able to conquer. Snaking along the tributaries of the Eerste River, the Eerste Waterval – Afrikaans for “First Waterfall” – is an easy 1.5km away from the start of the hike, with a well-treated, flat and sandy footpath leading to the water cascade. The Tweede Waterval – “Second Waterfall ” – is situated further along the same path, which includes a moderate ascent up the pathway, with the last few hundred metres involving clambering over rocks along the riverbed to the second waterfall.
Jonkershoek Nature reserve is situated just 10km from Stellenbosch, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, at the end of Jonkershoek Road. The nature reserve provides a range of activities for the whole family, including day hikes, swimming, bird watching, mountain biking, river rafting/kayaking, picnicking and fishing. A conservancy fee of R50 for adults and R30 for children is payable at the entrance (free for Wild Card members), where the guard on duty will direct you to the start of this hike, a 5km drive along a rocky dirt road from the entrance gate.
The sandy hiking path takes you on a relatively flat and easy route to the right of the river, with the picturesque Hottentots-Holland mountains towering above. Lizards are often seen basking in the sun, the bird-life is thriving and frogs can be heard croaking in the water as the path remains parallel with the river for the most part, before an obvious though signless right turn 1km in takes you to the first “Eerste” waterfall a few hundred metres off the main path. The area at the base of the waterfall is very small, but shaded, with young children often seen splashing in the gently-flowing stream below.
Back-tracking along the pathway to the waterfall, a right turn will take you along the main path to the second waterfall. The sandy pathway becomes a bit more rocky, first crossing a small tributary before ascending sharply – this ascent is a few hundred metres long, yet wooden logs have been built-in as stairs to help ease the way.
The path then flattens out, but is now elevated above the river, with a well-beaten left turn soon visible – this is not part of the path, but rather a stop-off point many have used to make their way down to the river for a swim or picnic.
Thereafter the path seemingly comes to a fork, leading either to a sharp up-turn to the right or straight on along the actual river. The right turn is in fact the way back from a different route in the reserve, with the rocky route directly ahead leading to the base of the second “Tweede” waterfall some 500m ahead.