One of the most popular routes to hike up to the top of Table Mountain is Skeleton Gorge. This hike is on the Newlands side of Table Mountain which means you’ll climb up through a gorgeous forest and end at the top of the mountain at the Hely-Hutchinson dam. If you’re looking for city views on your way up and to end at the iconic Table Mountain Cable Station then you should maybe opt for the Platteklip Table Mountain Hike or Kasteelspoort Table Mountain Hike. The hike up Skeleton Gorge is strenuous but accessible to anyone who is generally hiking fit.
Start Location: Cecilia Forest Parking
Duration: 3,5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate with a steep climb up which is fairly strenous. There are ladders which can be a bit tricky and slippery in winter. Path is easy to follow.
Conservation fee: None
There is an option to begin this hike at Kirstenbosch but you then need to pay the Kirstenbosch entrance fee (which is quite pricey these days) and your hike is one long climb up. We opted to start at the Cecilia Forest Parking and hike across and gently up to the Contour Path. This route is slightly longer but it provides a much more gradual start and you get to walk through the gorgeous Cecilia Forest which is always a treat.
Begin by taking the first path on your right at Cecilia Forest. You’ll walk up a few hundred metres before turning right again at the first cross road. You’ll then cross a wooden foot bridge and turn left to walk along a single track along a river. You’ll then turn right onto a wider gravel path and walk along here for a short while before turning left up a narrow bushy path. At the top of this you will turn right onto a wide jeep track. Follow along here until you reach a sign that points down to Kirstenbosch and up to the Contour Path/Skeleton Gorge/Nursery Ravine. You’re going up towards the Contour Path.
From here the path is really straightforward as you just walk along the contour path, continue along past the Nursery Ravine turn off and on to the Skeleton Gorge turn off. It is very well sign posted and simple to follow. It should take you about an hour to get here. At the Skeleton Gorge sign you’ll turn left up the mountain. This follows a path of wooden steps. It is steep and will definitely leave you a bit short on breath!
The climb continues up some wooden ladders (which can be slippery in winter so exercise caution), and then up a dried waterfall/rocky section. There is a clear sign showing the way so it is easy to know you’re on the right track.
Once you’ve passed the rocky section you’ll find a normal stepped path again which will do a final zigzag wind up to the top of the mountain. The climb up from the start of Skeleton Gorge took us about an hour with lots of breaks to catch our breath.
You’ll know you’re nearly at the top when you reach the white ‘beach’ sand. From here it’s just a little bit over the last hill and you will have made it to the top of Table Mountain! You’ll arrive at what appears to be a beach on the top of Table Mountain and the shore of the Hely-Hutchinson Dam. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a well-deserved rest and hiking snack or coffee.
You’ll then begin your descent down Nursery Ravine. You’ll walk back along the white sandy bit and then when you reach the metal hiking map mounted on a stone pillar you will turn right. Cross the wooden foot bridge and follow the narrow path down through the ferns. When you see a path up to your right take it – you need to go up a little to get onto the correct path to walk down Nursery Ravine.
You’ll soon plateau and walk along the flat rocky path that loops around a rocky outcrop. Once around the corner the path gradually goes downwards until you reach a wooden staircase. This is where the real descent begins. It is super steep and rather harsh on your joints. By the end of it you’re sure to have wobbly legs!
After a while of walking down with gorgeous views over Kirstenbosch and False Bay, you’ll enter the forest once more. The path zigzags a bit more here and continues to be extremely steep. You will eventually reach the bottom of Nursery Ravine (about a 45 min descent) which connects with the Contour Path. Here you’ll turn right and go back down towards Cecilia Forest the way you came up (another 45 mins down).
The Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine Hike is a very solid 10km hike up Table Mountain. The scenery through the forest is just beautiful and the spot at the top by the Hely-Hutchinson Dam is gorgeous. It’s tough and strenuous but a worthwhile hike up Table Mountain.
If you’re looking for more Cape Town hikes check out these hiking guides: Constantia Nek Hike, Diagonal Cave Hike, Kalk Bay Peak Hike, Silvermine Waterfall Hike, St James Peak via Bailey’s Kloof Hike, Red Disa hike, Suther Peak Hike, Tranquility Cracks Hike, Cecilia Waterfall Hike, Kloof Corner Hike, Judas Peak Hike, Devil’s Peak Hike.