Table Mountain is easily one of the top things we have done in Cape Town. It is spectacular when viewed from a distance, exciting on the way up and the views once you reach the peak are simply jaw dropping! You can take a cable car if you really want to, but we highly recommend hiking Platteklip Gorge instead – it is completely worth the experience!
Here is how to hike Platteklip Gorge and a little bit about what makes Table Mountain so special:
About Table Mountain
If you search for Cape Town you are bound to come across iconic images of Table Mountain. This flat peaked (hence the name) mountain, stands at 1,086m above sea level and is probably the biggest tourist attraction here.
One of the reasons that Table Mountain is so special is that it is one of the oldest mountains in the world! Some of the rocks have been carbon dated as old as 600 million years, however 300 million years ago the mountain was no mountain at all and sat at sea level.
Ice sheets flattened layers of sandstone to create what we now see as the table top. Later on when the continents started to move, pressure forced the mountain to rise to 1,086m above sea level which is what we see today.
Table Mountain attracts over 1 million visitors annually and during our time here we will definitely be going up multiple times. Many people just get the cable car up and down, but for us Platteklip Gorge was a must – here is our step by step guide to hiking Platteklip Gorge.
How to Hike Platteklip Gorge – Table Mountain
There are a few different options when it comes to hiking Table Mountain, but if you are like us, you probably want the shortest, quickest and most direct route, which is why we chose to hike Platteklip Gorge. For the same reasons, this is the most popular route taken and you will bump into many other hikers along the way.
Where does Platteklip Gorge Start?
There are two options for accessing Platteklip Gorge:
- Arrive at the lower cable car station for Table Mountain. If you are facing the entrance to the station, look to your right and you will see an area where buses are parked. Walk past these buses and you will see the sign shown below. This is your starting point to get to Platteklip Gorge (you are not on it yet).
- The second option is to access Platteklip Gorge via the intersection of Tafelberg Road and Kloof Nek.
We are going to focus on option number one as this one is easier to find. You can not miss the lower cable car station.
Hiking from the Cable Car Station to Platteklip Gorge
You will see on the very first sign a map which clearly traces out the route you are going to take.
From the cable car station, head directly up the hill. This is a straight path with no option to turn off anywhere. Make sure you stop and get a quick picture with the full view of Table Mountain in the background before you go on!
Continue up this path until you hit another signpost – this means you have come to the Upper Contour Path. The sign will say ‘Upper Cable Station via Platteklip Gorge, 4080m’, turn left to follow this sign towards Platteklip Gorge. You will now be walking along the Upper Contour Path.
Again, this walk along the Upper Contour Path has no turn off or options until you arrive at the intersection where Platteklip Gorge crosses the path. You will find a signpost along the way to give you some reassurance you are on the right path, it will point in the direction you are walking and again say ‘Upper Cable Car Station via Platteklip Gorge, +/- 2 hours’.
Keep walking until you hit the sign below. This should have three options. One pointing down which will take you to Tafelburg Road (where you could also start your hike), one pointing back the way you came and one pointing onwards and upwards to the Upper Cable Station via Platteklip Gorge – note, when we went the sign was broken and laying on the floor but it is quite clear which path leads up and which leads down.
From here it is very simple, you will come across one more sign along the way – again pointing you to the Upper Cable Station via Platteklip Gorge so hike and follow! You will know when you reach the top!
Now the reason we highly recommend hiking is very simple – the views. Don’t forget to keep stopping and admiring the views on the way up! They get better and better as you climb higher and make the hard work really worth it!
You can hike up and down – but bear in mind sunset as you do not want to be hiking in the dark. We hiked up in time for sunset and then got the last cable car down. The last cable car was at 8pm – DO NOT MISS IT! Fares are 190ZAR one way or 330/290ZAR return depending on the time of day.
How long does it take to Hike Platteklip Gorge?
As the sign above indicated, you are looking at roughly 2 hours depending on your level of fitness. It isn’t a race and there are plenty of views to stop and enjoy so you can really take your time.
For us, we took 2 hours from the roadside to the very top hiking at a good pace.
How hard is it to Hike Platteklip Gorge? Do I need to be super fit?!
We suggest that you need a moderate level of fitness to hike Platteklip Gorge. It is the shortest and quickest route, however for it to be short means it also is very steep in parts!
We keep in shape but were sweating buckets and really feeling our legs burn but chose not to rest. Like we say, take your time and go at your own pace!
What to do when you get to the top?
You can spend hours exploring the top. There is a cafe, restaurant, shop, the cable car station and plenty of walks. As you hit the top from Platteklip Gorge walk 30 seconds to the right and there will be a metal map showing you where you need to go.
What to wear to Hike Table Mountain? (and pack)
Please be prepared! The weather is constantly changing! You can be scorched by the sun one minute and then find yourself shivering in the winds on top of Table Mountain! We recommend:
If it is a hot day expect to be hiking in shorts and a vest. However regardless of how hot it is, come sunset you will be cold and need a sweater or jacket! Here are the other essentials:
- Hiking boots: We have hiked Table Mountain a few times. Whilst we managed in trainers, it was a lot easier to wear our hiking boots. We have these Salomon boots which are very comfy!
- Hiking socks: You will thank us later, a good thick pair of hiking socks like these are needed.
- Blister plasters: On my first hike I started to get a blister, these blister plasters worked perfectly, make sure you get some of various sizes.
- Raincoat/Waterproofs: You never really know how the weather might change in a few hours. Get a light waterproof to keep you covered.
We like to be prepared for every eventually, it’s a good position to be in! Consider taking:
- Binoculars: A small pair of binoculars are ideal, these views are something else!
- Sun screen: We won’t have been the first or last, but you can burn even through the clouds. We prefer the mist style sun screen because it is so much easier to apply.
- Head torch: Just in case you get caught out in the dark. Get a good quality one like this.
- First aid kit: Safety first! You can get small compact first aid kits for a good price.
- Camelbak: If you are a hiker you probably have one. Even if you aren’t a hiker, the likelihood is that you will be doing a lot of walking and exploring. A Camelbak is a pack you can put into your backpack full of water with a mouthpiece just draped over your shoulder. Make sure to keep hydrated!
Table Mountain is a photographers paradise. Whether as a professional or as a hobby you will want to take lots of memories away with you. We took:
- Go Pro: This is perfect for every activity you can think of in South Africa. The whole country is so spectacular you will definitely want to capture the experience. The most recent models are waterproof, dust proof and shock proof, perfect for all those activities. Take a look at the Go Pro Hero 7 Black!
- High quality camera: You will be in awe once you get to the top. We opted for a Sony camera to get those photos. It would be great to have a DSLR but we find them a little too bulky, this was a good compromise.
- Tripods: We have two styles of tripod. Your standard tall tripod to mount any camera (inc Go Pro) on and a ‘Gorilla Grip’ style small tripod which you can wrap around anything you can grab with your own hands – this one lets you get the really creative photos from places a normal tripod can not go. The standard tripod is important too, as it can be difficult to get any height with the smaller style grip tripod.
So hopefully you know where you are going, what you need to get there and how long it will take. South Africa is one of our favorite countries that we have ever travelled to and hiking Table Mountain is a prime example of why!
For more about Cape Town check out:
- A Guide to Cape Town Gay Pride
- Gay Bars in Cape Town: The Complete Guide
- Cape Town Safety Tips! 12 Tips to keep you safe!
- The Complete Gay Guide to Cape Town
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