Top Hiking Destinations in Cape Town, South Africa
he Cape Town area is surrounded by a unique range of mountains called the Cape Fold Mountains. They were formed eons ago to create a wonderland of majestic peaks and amphitheatres with valleys and slopes dominated by vegetation called ”Fynbos”.
Fynbos is unique in being one of the most diverse groups of plants in the world and only found in the Western Cape district of South Africa.
The mountains here are any hiker’s playground with so many trails and areas to explore. There is a trail for every type of hiker, from laid back half day hikes to more extensive multi day hikes for those wishing to push the limits. The landscapes of the Cape are breathtaking and the benefits to general fitness and mental health are an added bonus that will have you coming back for more.
Let’s check out some favorite hiking spots in Cape Town
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is situated just outside Stellenbosch, about a 40 minute drive from Cape Town.
There are a few different hikes to choose from in this stunning valley.
The Panorama route takes one along the contours of the valley and zigzags its way up to a saddle on the higher ground between two peaks. The trail then takes a loop to re-join the first section of the trail back down to the start. This is an intense trail not for the unfit.
There is also the Swartbos Kloof trail and the Waterfall trail which are both a bit more laid back than the Panorama route.
Payment for hiking can be made at the gate entering the reserve and is open 7 days a week. Winter time can be a hazard on these hikes because Jonkershoek valley has the highest rainfall catchment in the whole of South Africa, making things wet, slippery and dangerous for hikers.
Lions Head Hike
Lions Head hike in the mother city is a great way to familiarise yourself with Cape Town’s lay of the land.
It is very easily accessed and takes you on a 3 to 4 hour trip around this famous mountain peak, where you can view the city bowl and harbour on one side and the western seaboard of Cape Town on the other side.
It’s not a strenuous hike and hikers can take their time to take in the views and stop for a picnic along the way. It’s a great if you are visiting Cape Town and access is free of charge. Get out there and do it.
Elandspad hike in the Limietberg reserve is a mere 35 minute drive from Cape Town towards du Toits kloof.
This trail follows the Elands River upstream towards it’s source and then turns back on the same route out. It’s a beautiful valley and not too strenuous, so it’s the perfect trail for a family outing.
There are spectacular pools where you can take a dip in the summer when things get too hot in the valley. You might also come across the occasional trout fisherman plying their trade on the crystal clear runs of this stream. Make sure you get a wild card or day permit from the nearest Cape Nature office.
The Hoerikwaggo is a 5 night multiday hike which traverses the Table Mountain National park from the spectacular Cape Point Mountains to Table Mountain itself.
It is a relatively strenuous hike because of the distances each day and because of the ever changing landscape you need to cross. Accommodation for each night is in tented camps with communal ablutions and cooking areas.
This trail will give you a very good idea of the wild side of Cape Town before civilisation happened here, and you’ll encounter many animals along the way. It’s long and gruelling but well worth the trek!
Another fantastic day hike in the Limietberg reserve is the Kromriver day hike. It starts at the same parking as the Elandspad hike and deviates at the confluence of the two rivers.
The Kromriver is stunningly beautiful with unspoilt pools of the purest water. The trail follows the river upstream and ends at a waterfall pool where you can enjoy a relaxing hour or two before heading back downstream to the car park.
Also make sure you have a wildcard or a day permit from your closest Cape Nature office.
This short meandering trail on one of Cape Town’s famous landmarks is also a great half day hike or walk. It’s quite easy going and offers splendid views of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s harbour and the city bowl.
Plan it so that you hike in the morning and reach the summit before noon, then relax with a picnic and wait for the noon cannon to be fired. This is an iconic tradition to Cape Town and happens each day without fail at the strike of exactly 12:00 o’clock midday!
This famous hike on the eastern slope of Table Mountain starts off at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The name makes it sound like a place from a pirate movie and no one actually knows why it is called Skeleton Gorge, but maybe the bones of a lost explorer were once found here.
The hike takes one up through lush montane forests of indigenous hard woods to the more open summits of Table Mountain.
It can be very slippery here, so care should be taken and the hike is more suitable for the sure footed. There are also a few chain holds to follow on steeper parts of the hike. Rather do this hike as a group and have fun searching for the lost skeleton!
Cecilia Forest Hike
This lovely trail is one for the whole family and takes approximately 2 to 3 hours to complete. The trail is situated just next to Kirstenbosch.
It slowly ascends through beautiful fynbos and eventually reaches a forested ravine where you will make your way up over wooden steps and walkways until you reach a peaceful waterfall in Cecilia ravine. It’s a nice and relaxed trail with stunning views of the eastern side of Cape Town.
Always adhere to the trail markers and hike in a small group instead of attempting trails on your own. In the cape it’s advisable to wear adequate footwear with good ankle support and always carry a rain jacket or windbreaker, the weather here can turn from sunshine to cold in a matter of a half hour.
Most importantly, get out and enjoy our diverse landscape and amazing floral kingdom unique to the Cape Town area. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world.
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Guest Author bio
Bianca Birgit loves Hiking & the Outdoors. Her passion for nature has taken her around the globe but she always returns to the wild walks and cool mountain streams of the Cape.
Check out Bianca’s blog at My Wild Earth
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