Cape Town might not be the ideal place to go for a nice tropical ocean swim, but it sure is a hikers paradise.
The city resembles a grand arena backdropped and mantled by 3 main mountains, each hosting a wide variety of hiking routes and unique panoramic views of the landscape.
Much like how I revitalized by relaxation on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro after a heavy night out in Brazil, here I purified myself of nightlife’s poisonous residue through elevation.
While Table Mountain is the largest and most prominent, Lion's head is the somewhat more relaxed and romantic alternative. Devil's Peak on the other hand has a bit of "mystery" surrounding its name and is known for its windy conditions.
I’ve now hiked up each mountain at least once and these are my impressions and suggestions.
Lion's head is the smallest of the three mountains, and probably the most hiked for just that reason. Its summit also offers one of the best and most varied views of the city.
This is especially true at dusk, when you see the sun setting in the South Atlantic Ocean on the one side, and its illuminations reflecting off Table Mountain’s chest on the other.
And if you stay long enough, you will see the city light up as it fades into its nocturnal state:
My suggestion: dress in layers for the winter months, bring a bottle of bubbly, some snacks, and don’t forget a headlamp for the post-sunset hike down.
The first time I went up Table Mountain was after a solid night of drinking, so I decided to take the cable car up. Unfortunately I wasn’t informed of its revolving floor, and ended up focusing more on holding down my breakfast rather than enjoying the scenic ascend.
“Luckily” my companion was also part of the previous night’s adventures and we took comfort in one another’s squeamish expressions.
Once at the top, the fresh air and scenery replenished our “joie de vivre”, and we started frantically capturing the experience.
The second time I went up Table Mountain was via Platteklip Gorge, the shorter route, and runner up of Skeleton Gorge.
At the end of Platteklip Gorge, you have the choice to go left towards Maclear’s Beacon (Table Mountain's highest point), or go right and wander around the main plateau.
I suggest visiting Maclear's Beacon first, and then returning the other way to eventually take the cable car down.
While you don’t have to be highly athletic for this hike, people still regularly forget the importance of proper hydration during such exercise. And as cool as it may seem, you don’t want to front the bill for a mid-hike helicopter intervention.
While it can be done in 45 minutes, set aside ±2 hours for your hike up, allowing everybody in your group to find their own pace.
Bring plenty of water, some fructose snacks and capable hiking shoes, especially if it rained the day before.
Also don’t underestimate the cold during winter months, you want to enjoy the view in comfort and not be eager to immediately get back down and warm up.
Going down is just bad for the knees, so I suggest doing so by cable car which usually runs till 17:30/21:30 depending on the season and weather.
I thoroughly enjoyed hiking up Devil’s Peak with my trusted hiking partner Nadia. We chose the Saddle route, as it follows a beautiful, and at times refreshing little stream for most of the hike.
While the hike is slightly less challenging than Table Mountain’s Platteklip, it is often underestimated. This is mainly due to its deceptively slow and relatively comfortable beginning, which then suddenly becomes a continuously steep hike till the very top.
At a solid pace, the hike took me about an hour with a picture break here and there. The peak can get pretty windy, so dress warm, and don’t underestimate the slipperiness of the path along the stream.
Looking to plan a hiking trip in Cape Town, but have limited time? I suggest exploring Lion’s head for sunset, set aside a full sunny afternoon for Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge, and if time permits, quickly head up Devil’s Peak.
For a more detailed review on the different routes and hikes check out the following link: