Discovering the mountains surrounding Cape Town has become one of my greatest delights in recent years. As a kid I used to hate being dragged along to hikes yet now I can’t get enough of the beautiful and challenging trails set in the most picturesque scenes. Hiking is a great way to socialize with friends while being out and about in nature. And the best part is: it’s FREE! Here’s my guide to the top 10 hikes in Cape Town!
Duration: 1,5 hours
If you’re only in Cape Town for a short while then Lion’s Head is probably the hike that most people have recommended to you. And for good reason; it’s fairly short, not too strenuous and provides the most gorgeous views of Cape Town. Not only is it popular among the tourists but it is also a firm favourite among locals. I have personally done this hike more times than I can count, but the panoramic vista of the Atlantic coastline and city scenes doesn’t cease to take my breath away. One can also join the throngs of people doing the hike during full moon. For this it is advisable to hike up before the sunset so that you can enjoy the sunset and moon rise atop the mountain before making your way down in the dark (make sure you remember a torch!). There are a few ladders and chains that you’ll need to use to climb to the very top of the mountain. However, if you are uncomfortable with this idea then not to worry as you can admire the views along the whole trail.
Duration: 3 hours
Elephant’s eye trail is located within the Nature Reserve of Silvermine. This beautiful refuge is bountiful in fynbos and fauna. You will need to pay an entrance fee to enter the park. This will cost adults R50 each and children R25 each. However, if you are in possession of a Wild Card you will be given free access. You can find information of applying for a Wild Card here. You will follow the trail to the Elephant’s Eye cave past the reservoir, through the pine trees and up a rocky region. From here you will have beautiful views of the Constantia winelands and on towards the waves of Muizenberg. A perfect end off to the hike is a refreshing swim in the Silvermine Dam (probably only in summer though!).
Duration: 3 hours
Many tourists come through Hout Bay to enjoy a scenic drive along the picturesque Chapman’s Peak Drive. But why not take this a step further and hike to the top of Chapman’s Peak? I promise the views are even more spectacular from above! This hike begins with a steep ascent up a series of steps leaving you a little out of breath. You’ll be rewarded will the view of the Hout Bay lined by steep and dramatic rocky cliffs plunging into the ocean. The trail then wraps around towards the Noordhoek side with gorgeous panoramas of the southern peninsula and Long Beach. At the top it feels as though you can see all the way to Cape Point in one direction and beyond Constantia Nek and Llandudno in the other. The strenuous climb is well worth it all!
Little Lion’s Head
Duration: 2 hours
Welcome to the lesser known Lion’s Head! In my opinion this smaller version provides even prettier views than the main attraction. The starting point of the hike is located in the Mount Rhodes Estate off Suikerbossie Road in Hout Bay. The trail is a bit of a scramble up the mountain side and towards the end you may have to pull out your best rock climbing skills. You can look forward to idyllic scenes of brilliant blue waters as you gaze down at the beautiful Llandudno beach and Sandy Bay below.
Duration: 5 hours
This hike has been on my bucket list for a very long time. The flat rock at the top of the mountain has recently become a popular spot for taking the perfect Instagram photo. I can’t deny that this was a big contributing factor that inspired me to do this hike. That being said, this hike is not for sissies and definitely requires a good fitness level and some hiking experience. The hike begins with an hours walk along the pipetrack. From here you turn left up the mountain and begin the steep climb up to the top of Table Mountain. You’ll pass a gentle waterfall and continue up and up veering towards the right. At the top, turn right and then right again and there you’ll be greeted by the iconic flat rock resembling a diving board into the sea below (unfortunately for us it was incredibly misty on the day we went however, I enjoyed the mysterious feel this brought). It’s a long one so be sure to pack enough water and snacks for most of the day.
Duration: 5-6 hours
Skeleton Gorge holds a certain ominous connotation with the deathly reference. The name is not without good reason! This hike is definitely one of the toughest Cape Town has to offer. The trail begins at the top of Kirstenbosch gardens (entrance: adults- R65, students- R35, children- R15) meaning that you have a bit of a warm up before the event itself. Once the hike has ‘officially’ started you will embark on a continual uphill trek through the forest, up a waterfall, and finally traipsing through sand to the destination of one of Table Mountain’s Reservoirs. It’s a funny sight as the scene resembles that of a beach yet you’re on top of a mountain! you’ll definitely appreciate a swim after the strenuous climb but be warned that it is rather chilly! To return back to Kirstenbosch you’ll descend via Nursery Ravine. Walking back the way you came, you’ll make a right turn towards a rocky region. Crossing this you’ll arrive at the top of a steep set of stairs which will take you back down. Be prepared for some very wobbly legs! It’s a killer so be sure to pack snacks and lots of water!
Kalk Bay/Boomslang Caves
This one is for the adventure lovers! This hike takes you up into the Kalk Bay mountains where you’ll find a cave (it’s quite tricky to find the exact path up to the cave and we end up doing a bit of a scramble each time we go). You’ll have to leopard crawl through a tunnel under a rock before the space opens up into a spacious cave. It’s very dark so you’ll definitely need a torch if you’re keen to explore. If you haven’t been in the caves before or don’t have an experienced person with you then I would strongly advise you turn back around and go out the way you came. However if you’re more confident or are with somebody who knows the way then continue on through the caves. It’s quite a long way through the mountain and there will be sections where you’ll have to crawl or squeeze through tight gaps. But, you will make it to the other side and there is an opening up on the St James side. From there you’ll loop around the edge of the mountain back to the path you came up on. Taking a dip in the cool of the Dalebrook tidal pool is the best, best, best feeling after this hike in the warm summer sunshine.
*BEWARE* recently this trail has had numerous attacks on big groups of hikers. While it is one of my favourite hikes with lots of fun, it probably isn’t safe to do it in the near future.
Duration: 1,5 hours
This is a short and sweet hike through the fynbos with a glorious view of Llandudno beach. You can park your car outside the Ruyteplaats Estate and will find the path just to the left of the security gate. Take a gentle stroll up towards the forest then a right turn and walk through the forest and up onto the main path. There will be a left turn which leads up the mountainside through the cool of the silver trees. This hike is short but steep and so you may be a little out of breath when you reach the top. Look down upon the different hues of blue celebrated in the Llandudno Bay.
Duration: 1,5 hours
This is a quick and easy walk for people of all strengths. The views of Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay are spectacular all the way along this hike. You’ll park at East Fort which is very close to the Hout Bay beach side. Then walk up past the fort ruins and into the mountains. At the top you’ll reach a waterfall where you can sit and rest before returning back the way you came. It’s perfect for when you’d like to go for an outdoor adventure but can’t spare a long time.
Duration: 1,5 hours
Wally’s cave begins at the same point as Lion’s Head. You’ll walk along the gravel road up the mountain but then turn off to the right just before the paragliding strip. There is a steep path uphill where you’ll make the climb while surrounded by silver trees. It’s short but intense before you turn left and make your way around the edge of the mountain to the cave. It’s quite tricky to find the exact path but there are definitely a number of possible ways to find the cave. A truly incredible view of Camps Bay, Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles sits perfectly framed by the dark edges of Wally’s cave.
Those are my top 10 hikes in Cape Town. Have you done any of these hikes, or perhaps you have a few to add to the list? Let me know what your favourite hike is in Cape Town in the comments below.