The Not So Secret Spots of Cape Town: Our Top 4 Hiking Trails in the Mother City
The top spots to hike during lockdown in Cape Town
If there’s anything to discern Cape Townians from the rest of the Southern tip of Africa, it is their loyalty and zest for a good old hike. That, and their ability to order a triple shot cappuccino low fat with substitute milk made from a rare nut harvested in the Congo without the bat of an eyelid. If you do, however, find yourself a little behind on being in the know about the fantastic trails and hikes that exist in Cape Town, we’ve got you covered.
The Mother City of hiking spots
Cape Town, oh Cape Town! Our beautiful Mother City, home to an array of panoramic views that you can reach in the space of a few hours and spring in your step.
Thanks to Lockdown Level 2 (can we get a HOORAY!?!), you no longer have to rely on doing virtual half marathons in your back garden (or let’s be honest, watching people on Instagram doing half marathons in their back gardens). Alas, you are free to amble through all the rolling hills and challenging climbs that Cape Town has to offer.
A little heads up before we get going - fresh mountain air does not cancel out the need for masks or social distancing. Carry on being a vigilant member of your community and wear a mask to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19.
While we’re talking about safety, it would make sense to comment on the fact that some of the hikes below are known to be common rescue sites for hikers that have not taken their fitness levels, departure times, hydration and protection from the sun into account. All of the trails mentioned should be approached with preparation and precaution to ensure a safe and successful hike! Find some advice on making your hike as enjoyable as possible here.
Without further adieu, let’s get this show on the (rocky, winding) road!
The exciting thing about hiking in Cape Town is that most of the hikes are offshoots of Table Mountain trails - most of them taking you up a certain side of the mountain and offering different terrains and skill requirements. Devil’s Peak is a well-known hike that exists on the left of Table Mountain. It is known for being the home of the legend responsible for the billowing clouds that spill over the top of Table Mountain whenever Cape Town's infamous South East wind picks up (note - this is when you choose to forgo your trek up Devil’s Peak). The tale surrounding Devil’s Peak involves retired pirate and pillager, Jan Van Hunks, wagering a bet with the Devil of who could smoke the most from their good pipes resulting in pillows of smoke pouring down the mountainside.
This hike should take about 4 hours to complete and will lead you up to the Saddle - the ridge that connects Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain! You have the options of three routes to start - Tafelberg, Newlands Forest and Rhodes Memorial. It is advised, especially for women, to be wary of being at Rhodes Memorial alone as there have been various instances of assault in recent years.
While you’re here, check out this delicious blog (the perfect breakfast to have before a hike!)
Despite the ominous name, this hiking trail is a Cape Town favourite that is accessible and gives hikers a good idea of the locations of the peaks and layout of Table Mountain. As a dear, misinformed friend of mine would warn you from experience: do not do this hike in slops and without a drop of water in sight. You will deeply regret it.
Hiking boots are essential for this one as is hydration! The beginning of the hike has Afro-montane terrain (a uniquely African rain-forest) which means you’re in the thick of the forests to start.
This hike will take you from one side of Table Mountain to the other, beginning at Kirstenbosch Gardens. You will finish off your walk of about 4-6 hours looking over the Atlantic Ocean and being able to see Robben Island.
There are multiple trails up Table Mountain - each offering a different view of the mountain and with various difficulties and sceneries. There are the Platteklip Gorge and Maclear’s Beacon trails that both provide fantastic views and the opportunity to take the Cable Cart back down the mountain (please check the timetable of the cart to ensure you won’t be spending the night on the mountain, unless that’s your jam)
Lion’s Head - the initiation hike for every Cape Town local that wants to be taken seriously (and the hotspot for any time you’re looking to show the new guy you’re dating that you’re very active on weekends but not so active that you’ll have to be airlifted before you reach the top.)
This hike is a guarantee to get your thighs burning but, before you know it, they will be soothed by the breathtaking views at the top of the Cape Town City Centre and the Atlantic Ocean.
This hike is pretty quick - you’ll probably be done within 2 hours. If you finish your hike before sunset, we recommend heading up the road to the Signal Hill Paragliding Launch Site to see an incredible ending to the day.
If you’re in the market for being surrounded by fynbos and freshwater rivers, then we recommend you take a drive to the town of Stellenbosch, about 40 minutes out of Cape Town, to hike the trails at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.
Their hikes range from 5,6km to 18km, which is cool if you’re looking to gradually improve your fitness and have tangible goals set ahead of you.
Jonkershoek is also an appealing option during lockdown because it will be less populated than the hiking trails closer to town.
There is also a variety of wildlife including leopard and honey badger (but don’t set out with the intentions of seeing these shy creatures, they’re very rarely sighted). Bird enthusiasts will be thrilled to know the area is home to spotted eagle owls, black eagles and a variety of other rare and beautiful birds. Most of the trails lead to a swimming-friendly river so bringing your cozzie and towel is on the checklist!
Whether you’re a regular hiker or just feel like getting out of the city and into our abundant wilderness, these hikes and trails are a step in the right direction. We hope you enjoy them!
Yours in quality health insurance,