Stunning views at varied difficulty levels.
Cape Town, South Africa is an incredible city where sheer mountains meet turquoise waters and everything in between. There is something for everyone in Cape Town, whether it is getting active outside, exploring different museums, market-hopping, or wine tasting, Cape Town has it all. For my fellow adventurers out there, the city has hundreds of different ways to get the blood pumping. I am going to take you through eight of the best hikes in Cape Town, which offer stunning views at varied difficulty levels.
1. Lions Head
Lions Head is one of the most famous hikes in the area. With 669 meters of elevation that can be done anywhere from forty-five minutes to two hours, it is also one of the shortest hikes in the area. Yes, this hike is a killer, but it is rewarded with 360 degree views of the famous Twelve Apostles mountains of Table Mountain National Park, Camps Bay, Signal Hill, and downtown Cape Town. For the best views of Cape Town, this is definitely the hike for you. Huge crowds begin hiking with head torches well before sunrise for gorgeous views of sunrise over the mountains, or late afternoon to picnic and watch the sunset.
2. Elephant’s Eye Cave
Elephant’s Eye Cave hike is one of my favorite hikes in Cape Town. Located in the Silver Mine Park area, the hike is situated up in the hills above a reservoir that allows barbecuing and swimming. What I love most about this hike is that it has varied vegetation, including native brush, forests, rocky hills for scrambling, and sheer cliff faces. The hike slopes up a mountain shaped like an elephant, ending in a huge cave where the eye would be. It is a great spot to look out over the city, eat some lunch, and then relax and swim in the reservoir below. The hike takes about an hour each way, but allot some extra time for swimming at the reservoir and eating lunch afterwards!
3. Platteklip Gorge
This hike is not for the faint of heart. Straight up the main face of Table Mountain, Platteklip Gorge takes you directly up Table Mountain to a top elevation of 1086 meters above the city. The views are breathtaking and the hike is incredibly rewarding and demanding. On the top you can enjoy gorgeous views, grab a drink at the cafe on the mountain top, and take in a birds eye view of the city and the ocean. Many hikers will opt to take the cable car down and avoid knee injuries for the way down, which is definitely recommended if you want to be able to see Lions Head and Table Mountain from yet a different view.
4. Boomslang Kalk Bay Caves
The Kalk Bay Caves are a beautiful hike around the opposite side of the mountains above Kalk Bay. The hike is short and trails along the cliffs and ocean, and ends with a crawl through into a large open cave. A head torch is absolutely necessary for the cave portion of the hike, and is a cool and different take on hiking in Cape Town. While you are in Kalk Bay, enjoy the coastal town, which is known for its fish n chips, bookstores, and cafes!
5. Skeleton Gorge
Beginning from the stunning Kirstenbosch gardens, Skeleton Gorge is known for its ladders, lush and varied vegetation, and famous lake on top of Table Mountain. The hike takes around four hours roundtrip, and leads directly up to the highest point on Table Mountain. On the way up, there is a detour to a reservoir on top of the mountain range, with orange mineral waters at a high elevation. It is a truly stunning hike with incredible scenery in every direction. This hike is a must if you are an avid hiker in Cape Town and want to take in the landscapes the city has to offer.
6. Devil’s Peak
1002 meters in elevation, Devil’s Peak hangs off to the side of the famous Table Mountain. An old legend of the mountain states that the clouds constantly rolling over the peak are actually smoke from the Devil, who was challenged to a smoking contest years ago and is still competing to this day. The routes up to Devil’s Peak range from moderate to difficult, and offer views of Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lions Head. If this hike is not enough for you, try the famous Three Peaks Challenge, in which you attempt to cover 31 miles summiting Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, and Lions Head all in one day (Tip: start early and summit Devil’s Peak as the sun rises!)
7. Woodstock Cave
The Woodstock Cave is a short hike situated part ways up Table Mountain main face that looks out over the downtown and waterfront areas of Cape Town. The cave itself is a large slit in the rock, and is a great way to get a view of the whole city without having to summit any mountains. The hike is short, and takes around thirty minutes to reach the caves. It is a fantastic lunch spot, so be sure to pack a meal.
Kasteelspoort hike starts from an old pipe track around Camps Bay and leads straight up Table Mountain from the opposite side of Lions Head. This hike is known for its famous diving board rock that juts out over a deep canyon leading down into Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain, where millions of hikers sit with their legs dangling off the side. It is a difficult hike but is worth every minute for the views of the Twelve Apostle mountains, as well as the diving board rock the hike is known for. Table Mountain has many routes up to its highest elevation, and all routes lead to the top, but this route stands out for its natural shade, vertical cliffs, elevation gain, and stunning views.
While Cape Town is unparalleled for its access to oceans and mountains, the quality of the hikes stand out for their beauty, elevation, vegetation, and accessibility. If you are in Cape Town, be sure to try any and all of these hikes to enhance your stay! For all of the adventurous jet setters out there, Cape Town is the final destination for all things outdoors, and hiking is just the beginning.
Zoe has been living in Cape Town for four months.