How Table Mountain’s trails can help you stay active this summer
Rising 1 086m above sea level, Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most recognisable landmark. It is more than just a iconic feature of Cape Town, it’s also home to an immense variety of fauna and flora, native only to the area. The mountain’s abundance of biodiversity, coupled with its unique landscape, makes for a truly rewarding hiking experience.
While most public parks and beaches are closed, hiking in South Africa’s national parks is a great way to stay active while spending leisure time with family this summer.
Hiking enthusiast Robert van Zyl attests to the allure of Table Mountain’s hiking trails.
Now 71, he took his first hike up the mountain with his eldest daughter on New Year’s Day 2002, and he has hiked up Table Mountain 1 000 times over the past decade.
Van Zyl enjoys competing in friendly races against fellow hikers to the top of the mountain, and has accomplished personal best times of 42 and 47 minutes for the Skeleton Gorge and Platteklip Gorge trails respectively.
“I hope to motivate others to do the same. I am living proof that age is but a number and you can do anything that you put your mind to,” he says.
Van Zyl reckons his good health is the result of his weekly hikes up the mountain. “What better way to stay healthy than enjoying all that we have to offer in Cape Town? After all, Table Mountain is the most beautiful, free open-air gym that’s situated right on our doorstep.”
As an annual Table Mountain Aerial Cableway cardholder, Van Zyl says he thoroughly enjoys the trips down in the cable car after an intense hike. “At my age, it still takes me less than an hour to reach the summit. In the last 10 years, I’ve mostly hiked up via Platteklip Gorge and saved my knees the pounding of hiking back down by using the Cableway.”
The annual Cable Card provides visitors with greater access to experience the mountain at their leisure, according to Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (TMACC) managing director Wahida Parker.
“Having a Cable Card affords hikers and nature enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy Table Mountain all year round. It is an affordable way to access the mountain. The Cable Card can be purchased as a single membership and is also available for children under the age of 17. It also provides hikers with peace of mind, knowing that there is always a safe way down.”
Parker encourages hikers to be observant and to follow rigorous safety precautions when hiking up Table Mountain. “It is important that hikers prepare and plan their trips up the mountain, as the weather can change very quickly. Never hike alone, dress warmly, carry water with you, and keep emergency numbers saved on your mobile phone.”
TMACC has also made sure that all necessary Covid-19 safety protocols have been put in place to minimise the spread of the virus. Van Zyl says he feels extremely safe using the Cableway to get down the mountain.
“My temperature is always checked, and all health and safety protocols are adhered to, which is great. The staff at the Cableway are extremely friendly and ensure that everyone practises social distancing at all times.”
Top Table Mountain hiking trails
The best-known trail up the mountain is Platteklip Gorge, which is the most direct route to the top.
With its emerald ravine, lush vegetation and moss-covered slopes, the Skeleton Gorge trail takes hikers through a natural wonderland on their way to the highest point of the mountain, Maclear’s Beacon.
Other trails leading towards the summit include the India Venster hiking trail, which runs straight up the front of the mountain and right underneath the Cableway.
The longest route is the Twelve Apostles trail, which is popular among hikers who not only want to get to the top of Table Mountain, but would also like to enjoy the scenic journey.