Cape Town, home to magnificent forests and mountain ranges is a paradise for nature lovers. The city boasts several highly rated trails which makes hiking in Cape Town one of the top-rated activities.
Escape the hustle of the city and discover a different side of Cape Town on the cities best hiking tracks. We’ve put together nine of the best hiking trails in Cape Town to help you discover the natural beauty of the Mother City.
Best Hikes in Cape Town
Table Mountain Hike
Approximate Hiking Time: 1.5 – 4 hrs depending on the hike you choose. | Level: Hikes range from moderate to challenging.
Table Mountain is the most significant natural landmark in Cape Town. There are a range of Table Mountain walks and hiking trails with varying difficulty and lengths.
Bear in mind though, other than the Pipe Track, which goes around Table Mountain, walking up Table Mountain is rarely easy. The marked Table Mountain hike routes cover all types of terrain from marked paths, Stairmaster style challenges, to rock scrambling.
Hike up Table Mountain to discover various fynbos, the distinctive vegetation found only in the southern tip of South Africa. Look out for the native rock hyrax, and explore mountain lakes and reservoirs.
Platteklip Gorge, the most popular Table Mountain hike is a shorter trail (1.5 – 3 hrs depending on your fitness) that zig-zags its way up the centre of Table Mountain to the summit.
From the top of the hiking route, you can easily access the Cableway and restaurant.
So how long does it take to hike Table Mountain? Depending on the route you choose, a Table Mountain hike can take anywhere from 1.5 – 4 hrs one way including the Table Mountain trailhead.
Remember, on many of the hikes; you can spare your knees the downhill trek, and take the Cableway down.
Cape Point Hike
Approximate Hiking Time: 2.5 – 3.5 hrs return for the Sirkelsvlei Route | 2 – 3 hrs for the Cape of Good Hope Trail. | Level: Easy for both hikes.
Cape Point Nature Reserve on the South-Western tip of Africa in the Table Mountain National Park is one of the most popular day trips from Cape Town. Cape Point has a variety of one-day hiking trails with dynamic scenery that includes shipwrecks, dramatic sea cliffs, unique wildlife and flora and deserted beaches.
The circular Sirkelsvlei Route and Cape of Good Hope Trail are famous Cape Point hike trails surrounded by some of South Africa’s most iconic oceans vistas and landscapes.
They are also some of the more popular day hikes for visitors to the park. You can find more of the Cape Point Hikes here.
Approximate Hiking Time: 2 – 4 hrs depending on fitness levels. | Level: Challenging to difficult. Don’t forget to take snacks and water.
Skeleton Gorge is a challenging hike. However, it rewards hikers with unbelievable vistas and some of the most unique and fantastic reservoirs on earth.
The hiking trail starts from Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (you’ll have to pay the regular ZAR 40 entry fee ~USD $2.50) and takes you up Table Mountains’ eastern slopes. It is the “up” part that makes this 3km so strenuous.
In this first part of the hike, which receives the highest rainfall in the region, you will hike through lush green forest landscapes. There’s no sugar coating it, the first hour of the hike is pretty hard going.
You will have to climb up a gorge followed by a rocky stream. At some of the more challenging climbing points, you will find wooden ladders installed to assist hikers.
At the top, choose from two paths – straight to reach the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir or take a right onto the Smuts Track. Consider the detour to the reservoir.
The Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir, which has a unique red hue, is one of the most beautiful of the five reservoirs on the mountain. It is also a welcome spot for hikers who reach the summit to take a break on the white sandy beach on its eastern shore.
After Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir, head back to the Smuts track which will take you to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain (1,086 metres above sea level). Enjoy sweeping views of the southern suburbs of Cape Town and False Bay.
Continue hiking until you reach the Aerial Cableway. If you choose not to take the cable car down, you can take Platteklip Gorge down, or head down Skeleton Gorge or Nursery Ravine to return where you started.
Lion’s Head Hike
Approximate Hiking Time: 2-3 hrs depending on fitness. | Level: Moderate to difficult, depending on how you summit.
Lion’s Head is an iconic mountain peak to the right of Table Mountain and undeniably Cape Town’s most popular hike. At 669m above sea level, the Lion’s Head hike is the city’s most famous trail owing to the incredible views of the Atlantic ocean, mountains, and the city.
The Lion’s Head hiking trails start at the Signal Hill Road and winds its way around the mountain to the summit. From the get-go, this hike is uphill for quite a while, but the path is very well marked, and the views en route are a great distraction from the workout.
The long and gradual uphill climb is not the most challenging part of the Lions Head hike. Below the summit, you have the choice of taking the easy route via a roundabout foot track for the jaw-dropping views from the top.
Or, tackle the Lion’s Head climbing challenge reaching the summit via the original rock scrambling route. The rock scrambling option is assisted by climbing chains and metal ladders installed at the site.
It’s no wonder Lion’s Head trail is the most popular of Cape Town’s Hiking Routes as it is relatively short, easily accessible for all level of hikers and challenging for those who want it. And, the views from the top are outstanding.
Newlands Forest Hike
Approximate Hiking Time: 2-3 hrs depending on the hike you choose. Level: Easy to moderate.
Newlands Forest hiking trail on Table Mountain’s eastern slopes offers easy to moderate hikes popular with leisurely strollers, serious hikers and nature-buffs, dog walkers, trail runners and families.
You’ll find several walks and hiking trails in the forest area as well as various unique sights and attractions such as the Lady Anne Barnard Cottage, the City Parks Nursery, and Newlands Reservoir. There are also numerous streams and rivers with beautiful fynbos.
The Contour Path, the Forest Station Walk, and the Fernwood trail to the Newlands Ravine are some of the most popular trails. Each of the trails offers numerous vantage points along the way to enjoy magnificent views sweeping from the city centre to Blouberg.
Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch
Approximate hiking time: 2 hours. Level: Easy (family-friendly)
Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch is an easy family hiking trail starting on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and finishing at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens 6km away.
The one way route includes a large section of the Newfoundlands Forest and is home to one of the most essential fynbos landscapes in Cape Town, vegetation unique to this part of South Africa.
Kalk Bay Mountains Hikes
Approximate hiking time: 3-3.5 hrs depending on which path you take. | Level: moderate.
Kalk Bay Mountains have several fabulous hiking trails and caves in the dense vegetation of the indigenous Afro-montane forest. Take your choice of moderate to challenging trails up through the Spes Bona and Echo Valley for views over False Bay.
Take the Old Mule Trail back down the mountain for beautiful views over Kalk Bay. In season between June and November, you can even stop for a spot of whale watching in the bay.
All the trails are well signposted and sturdy raised boardwalks along the trails protect the indigenous trees and prevent erosion.
For an added adventure, take advantage of guided tours of the Kalk Bay Mountain caves offered by the Cape Peninsula Speleological Society once a month.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve Hikes
Approximate hiking time: 2 -6 hours depending on the hiking trail. | Level: Easy to challenging.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is south-west of Stellenbosch in South Africa’s acclaimed wine region.
Home to the Jonkershoek Mountains, the reserve which stretches over 9800 hectares boasts an impressive line up of fauna and flora that will impress any nature lover. Including, over 1100 plant species and a variety of birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve has various short walks and four main hikes ranging between 5 km and 18 km
- Swartboskloof: 18km
- Panorama: 17km
- Tweede Waterval: 6km
- Swartboskloof—Sosyskloof: 5 km or 7km.
No matter the hiking trail you choose, Jonkershoek Nature Reserve promises hikers stunning vistas and panoramic valley views, rivers and waterfalls, and beautiful indigenous old-growth forests.
Kogelberg Biosphere Hikes
Another World Heritage site, Kogelberg Nature Reserve renown for its incredible beauty, stretches over 100,000 hectares.
It is the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom and celebrated for the picturesque landscapes of mountain ranges, highland valleys, waterfalls, and rivers making it one of the best hiking spots in Cape Town.
Within the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, you will find several hiking trails ranging from 3 km to 24 km in length. Crystal Pools is one of the most popular hiking trails in Kogelberg.
The two-hour hike follows the Steenbras River Gorge and leads to four natural rock pools where hikers can stop for a dip. Be warned; the water is very refreshing. The hike is considered easy but can be moderately challenging in places.
Note: You will require a permit to hike in the Kogelberg Biosphere which you can get at the park. Get more information on Kogelberg Nature Reserve here.