The 10 Best Hikes in Cape Town

Hiker admiring views of Table Mountain from a Cape Town hiking trail

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Bookended by soaring mountains and the white sand beaches of two different oceans, Cape Town is a city custom-made for lovers of the great outdoors. One of the best ways to explore its scenic beauty is on foot, with many different hiking trails to suit everyone from young families to experienced scramblers and fitness fanatics. Some of the most famous are centered around the Mother City’s iconic natural landmarks, including Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and Chapman’s Peak. For 10 of the best, read on. 

01 of 10

Lion's Head

Woman hiking up Lion's Head, Cape Town

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Lion's Head, Signal Hill, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa

Arguably the most popular Cape Town hike of all, the Lion’s Head trail takes hikers up 1,270 feet of elevation to the peak of this instantly recognizable, cone-shaped mountain. The 3.4-mile, circular route starts and finishes at the parking lot on Signal Hill Road, and takes roughly 2.5 hours to complete. The terrain consists of a gravel path with a few large rocks and boulders in the final section, where some scrambling is required and the more adventurous can tackle an optional series of ladders and chains. It’s also possible to bypass this more difficult section by walking around the mountain. Either way, hikers are afforded magnificent views of Table Mountain, Camps Bay and the Clifton beaches, Robben Island, and the Atlantic Ocean. Consider joining a guided sunrise, sunset, or full moon hike to see the splendor of nighttime Cape Town from above. 

02 of 10

Maclear's Beacon

Maclear's Beacon on the top of Table Mountain

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Maclear's Beacon, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town, South Africa

Those in search of a relatively flat hike with no strenuous ascents or descents will enjoy the Maclear’s Beacon trail, which begins at the top of Platteklip Gorge on top of Table Mountain. To get to the start, you’ll need to ride the cable car to the summit; from there, it’s a 3.4-mile, out-and-back hike to Maclear’s Beacon. This triangular stone cairn marks the site of the original beacon built by royal astronomer Thomas Maclear to aid his calculations of the Earth’s circumference. Historical importance aside, the beacon (and the rest of the hike) also boasts stunning views of the Cape Peninsula and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Although easy enough for families of all ages, this hike should be timed for early morning or late afternoon in summer, since it is very exposed with no shelter from the sun. 

03 of 10

Pipe Track

Pipe Track, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town, 8005, South Africa

Another comparatively easy hike, the 3.7-mile Pipe Track dates back to 1887, when it was created to allow maintenance access to the pipeline that once brought water from the Table Mountain dams to Cape Town city. Now, it’s a popular half-day trail that takes between three and four hours to complete, with mostly flat terrain that makes it an ideal option for novice hikers. The route begins and ends across the road from the Kloof Nek parking lot, and winds its way around Table Mountain. Along the way, enjoy astonishing mountain and coastal panoramas, including photo-worthy views of Lion’s Head and Chapman’s Peak. You’ll also pass through some impressive ravines. This route will not take you to the top of the mountain, but it can be used to access more challenging trails that do. For safety, walk on weekends when the trail is busiest. 

04 of 10

Patteklip Gorge

View from Platteklip Gorge hiking trail

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Tafelberg Rd, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town, 8001, South Africa

If you’re hoping to hike up Table Mountain instead of around it, the Patteklip Gorge trail is both the fastest and busiest route. It takes roughly 2.5 to three hours to hike from the trailhead on Tafelberg Road to the top of the mountain, where you’ll come out close to the Upper Cable Station. From here, you can catch a cable car back down. This is a direct ascent, with 2,132 feet of elevation over just 1.5 miles—expect a steep incline throughout and several sections with high steps hewn out of the rock. However, while a good level of fitness is required to make it to the summit, it’s not a technical climb. There is no scrambling or climbing required, and you don’t need to worry about coming close to any sheer edges. Instead, the scenery is defined by a beautiful sandstone gorge, plenty of fynbos, and views across Cape Town and Table Bay.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

India Venster

Unnamed Road, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town, South Africa

The most challenging of the routes up Table Mountain, India Venster also begins on Tafelberg Road. This 1.8-mile route takes approximately three hours to complete, and involves a very steep ascent from beginning to end, with tough sections where climbing over large boulders and up wooden ladders is required. You’ll have to scramble in places with the help of grooves or staples in the rock, and you’ll need a good head for heights. Not one for kids or the unfit, the route nevertheless boasts some of the most impressive views on the mountain, with panoramic sightings of Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, the Twelve Apostles, and Table Bay spread out before you. Don’t attempt this route on very windy days, and time your ascent for the coolest part of the day. First-timers are advised to join a guided hike, although this isn’t mandatory. 

06 of 10


The Diving Board on Kasteelspoort hiking trail, Cape Town

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Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town, South Africa

The Kasteelspoort trail offers another take on the Table Mountain ascent by approaching from the Twelve Apostles on a 3.7-mile, four-hour route to the summit. Less busy than Platteklip Gorge and less consistently taxing than India Venster (although still with significantly steep sections, some with stone steps or ladders), it’s a favorite choice for those in the know. The route starts on Theresa Road, where a jeep track connects with the Pipe Track to provide access to the Kasteelspoort trail turn-off. Walking from the beginning of the Pipe Track is also possible. The route then follows the course of a ravine past majestic cliffs and rock formations, including a precipitous overhang known as the Diving Board. At the top, it winds across the Valley of the Red Gods and the Valley of Isolation before ending near the Upper Cable Station. 

07 of 10

Skeleton Gorge

Hikers on the Skeleton Gorge forest trail, Cape Town

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Skeleton Gorge, Wynberg NU (2), Cape Town, 7824, South Africa

Many of Cape Town’s best hiking trails begin or end in Kirstenbosch Gardens. One of these is the 4-mile Skeleton Gorge route, which takes roughly five hours to lead hikers from the botanical garden through 1,970 feet of elevation to Maclear’s Beacon on the top of Table Mountain. A relatively challenging route involving boardwalks, a gravel path, and ladder sections, it winds its way through lush forest habitat with plenty of shade and picturesque creeks and waterfalls. It’s the ideal choice for those who want to spot indigenous flora and fauna along the way, or for anyone looking to escape the heat on a scorching summer day. Upon reaching the summit, the trail comes out near the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir—a great spot for a picnic, with epic views of the Cape Flats and False Bay. Be wary of slippery rocks on this route, especially after heavy rain.

08 of 10

Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch

Pond with mountains in the background in Kirstenbosch Gardens

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Constantia Nek Trail, Wynberg NU (2), Cape Town, 7824, South Africa

If you’d rather hike to Kirstenbosch Gardens, the 3.7-mile Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch route is another great option. It takes around two hours to walk one way; from there, you can either hike back or arrange to have a car pick you up. Rated as an easy to moderate hike, it’s popular with families, joggers, and dog-walkers, with good signage and some shade on hot days. Most of the gravel track and wooden boardwalk sections are pretty flat, although you will need to climb over or around large rocks in places. The route begins at the Constantia Nek parking lot, then follows the Contour Path through sections of the Newlands and Cecilia Forests to Kirstenbosch. Along the way, you'll pass several points of interest, including a series of waterfalls, a river, and great views of Table Mountain—with all of the garden’s wonders waiting at the trail’s end.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Cecilia Forest Waterfall Hike

Cecilia Forest Hiking Trail, Wynberg NU (2), Cape Town, 7824, South Africa

For families with young children, the Waterfall Hike in Constantia’s Cecilia Forest is one of the city’s most rewarding options. You can park your vehicle in the forest parking lot, which also serves as the trailhead for this 3-mile, circular route. Easy terrain and gentle uphill sections make it possible for all but the very youngest to complete in around two hours, although extra care should be taken on wet days when the path may become slippery in places. Sections of gravel track, jeep track, and forgiving steps are surrounded by tranquil forest scenery, including several small waterfalls. However, the main attraction (and turning around point) is the multi-cascade Cecilia Waterfall, which makes up for its modest size with abundant beauty. The best time to hike is on weekend mornings when there are other hikers on the trail.

10 of 10

Chapman's Peak

Hiker looks out over the ocean from Chapman's Peak, Cape Town

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Chapman's Peak, Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Tired of Table Mountain? Head to the Cape Peninsula for a 3.1-mile hike to the summit of Chapman’s Peak, a mountain most famous for its scenic toll road between Noordhoek and Hout Bay. If you approach from the Hout Bay side, you can avoid paying the toll fee by getting a free Day Pass. Park your car at the last parking lot before the Day Pass Control Point, where you will see a green SANParks signpost designating the trailhead. The route starts with a steep uphill hike for the first 30 minutes, then takes hikers up a ravine via a rock staircase, before flattening out for a beautiful walk through the mountain’s protea scrubland. The final half-hour involves a steep scramble to the summit, where 360-degree views of Fish Hoek, Hout Bay, and the entire Cape Peninsula await. In total, the hike should take between two and 2.5 hours to complete. 

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The 10 Best Hikes in Cape Town