Hiking up to Table Mountain is a firm must if you’re in Cape Town in my book – and doing it at the start of the day is even better. There’s nothing better than the view from atop a mountain knowing your feet have carried you every step of the way there. And watching the sun come up over the hills across the city of Cape Town below is a beautiful sight.
The Platteklip Gorge Hike to Table Mountain is a popular route but for good reason: it’s short and sweaty, only taking around 1.5 hours each way, and makes you feel like you’ve had a decent workout for the day (or week!) It’s also fairly sheltered from the sun and wind, which means it’s a fairly pleasant climb.
I love a hike at sunrise; if you’ve been following me for a little while you’ll know all about my hikes up Roy’s Peak in New Zealand, Pulpit Rock in Norway, and Mount Batur in Bali. And Table Mountain is no different: it’s simply magical.
The hiking track is clearly marked from Tafelberg Road with a big green sign. If you’re driving, go past the Cable Car Station and you’ll see the sign for Platteklip a little later on your right. The Google Maps location is here (opens in a new tab). Parking is free and there are many marked spaces available, and the area beside the marked parking is used too. When we arrived at 5am there were only a couple of other cars there.
Likewise, you can ask your Uber driver to drop you off here. Sign up to Uber through this link and get a discount off your first journey!
You can also take the MyCiti bus or the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus to the Cable Car and walk up from there. See this page for more info.
Platteklip Gorge forms a natural staircase all the way up to the summit of Table Mountain. The ‘steps’ are huge, solid rocks which make it a comfortable climb (i.e. you won’t be scrambling up loose gravel!) However ‘comfortable’ might not be as accurate a description when you consider just how many of these steps there are…
The route to the top of the mountain isn’t a difficult one for me to describe. There are a few points at which the trail forks into a different direction, but the summit is clearly signposted so you won’t get lost. You just follow the trail; the staircase leads all the way to the top.
When you’ve been hiking up for about 1 hour 15 mins, you’ll reach a point at the top of the gorge where you can either turn left or right. Turning right (as we did), leads you toward the Cable Car. Turning left, you can join the trail down Skeleton Gorge, which leads to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.
The views from both sides are absolutely stunning! The plain flattens out (hence ‘Table’ Mountain) and there are lots of tufts of grasses and bushes. There are heaps of photo opportunities, so have a wander, eat your snacks and take some photos.
As mentioned previously, if you want some different scenery as you descend Table Mountain, you could come down Skeleton Gorge, which leads to Kirstenbosch Gardens.
We decided to descend the same way as we summited Table Mountain, simply because we had left our rental car at the start of the trail. We found there were a lot of people starting their hike at this point (it was around 7.30/8.00am by this point) and we were glad we had sent off early as it was already beginning to become very warm in the sun.
The descent took a little longer than the climb. Since you are mainly walking down steps, it is fairly harsh on your knees. Walking poles are recommended – I have a compression knee brace I put on my knees if they feel particularly bad.
Platteklip Gorge was the best choice for us when we chose to summit Table Mountain – it’s quick, fairly easy to follow, and accessible for sunrise.
Another popular route up the mountain is the route I previously suggested for the descent – through Skeleton Gorge, which starts at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Due to the gardens not being open until 8:00am, this may not work for sunrise.
The easiest way to reach Table Mountain’s summit is on the Cable Car, however the first journey is at 8am in summer and 8:30am in winter, so again it might not be an option for sunrise! For more info on opening times see this page.
If you want to hike Table Mountain but don’t want to go alone, consider taking a guided hike. GetYourGuide offer lots of different packages so you can pick the one that suits you best; they even have hikes with locals so you know you’ll be getting insider info on your trip! We passed one on the way up and it was very informative to listen to. Choose your options below.
Staying overnight the night before you intend to hike to Table Mountain for sunrise is essential. We stayed in the centre of Cape Town in the Backpack hostel; you can read my full review of our accommodation here. Browse for deals in the widget on the right.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!