17 Best Hiking Trails in Cape Town | Waterfalls & Easy Hikes - 2020
The Cape has so many amazing hiking trails that it can be difficult to pick the perfect one. Luckily for you, we have done the research for you so that you can go ahead and choose the one most suited to you.
Choose from hikes with waterfalls, easy hikes, iconic hikes and hikes to get your blood pumping. Excellent views are guaranteed!
Please make wise choices as some hikes are for experienced hikers and should not be ever done on your own. Rather do them in a group for safety purposes and pack rain gear or a jersey as the weather can change quickly. Be sure to pack at least 1 litre of water, some snacks and some kind of sun protection, which is essential.
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Table Mountain Hikes
The Table Mountain cable car is the easiest way to ascend to the top of Table Mountain – the glorious natural heritage site that looms above Cape Town’s city bowl. It is understandable why it offers some of the most popular places to hike in Cape Town. For all you need to know about Table Mountain National Park and the cable car:
- Visit our comprehensive guide to Table Mountain National Park and Cable Car
The majority of hikes in the Western Cape fall under the SANParks banner, for more information call:
- General Contact:
- +27 (021) 712 0527
- SANParks Emergency Number:
- +27 (0)21 957 4700
Recently there has been an increase in criminal activity on popular hiking routes closer to the city centre, avoid a bad experience by follow these tips to stay safe while enjoying our beautiful flora and fauna.
- Always hike with a buddy.
- If you are new to the trail, do your research, even better to bring along a friend who has experience this hiking this route.
- Do not flash and display valuables - it could make you a target.
- Tourists are advised to find a local to join them on hikes, as local would best know what an unsavoury character would look like, these criminal low lives often act friendly and will hike alongside you for hours before making their move.
- Facebook and Gumtree are great ways to find hiking groups that are always looking for new members.
- Keep your wits about you and if you feel threatened do not hesitate to use the emergency number ((0)21 957 4700 ) and shout out for help. Protect each other out there.
If you seek a sense of accomplishment and physical exhilaration then ascending to the top via Platteklip Gorge is a must.
The hike begins about 1.6km after the cable car station (to the left) on Tafelberg Road and is well signposted all the way to the top.
Although it is the easiest way to climb to the top of Table Mountain, it is physically taxing, although not requiring much mountaineering skills. The 3km long trail rises by 700m and is a relentless and steep gradient to climb. Only attempt this hike if you are confident that your fitness levels will allow you to ascend at a fair pace.
It is essential to take plenty of water with you on this hike as you’re exposed to the sun for the duration of the hike and you’re not going to find any water on the mountain. You should also pack something warm in your hiking bag as the temperature often decreases by 6 to 8°C once you reach the summit.
The hike will reward you with a stunning panorama of Cape Town as you look down onto the CBD and Camps Bay. You have three choices once you reach the top of Table Mountain:
- Take the cable car down,
- Take in the views and return down via Platteklip Gorge,
- Proceed to hike even further along the multitude of hiking trails.
None of the routes on the top of the mountain require much skill and can actually be regarded as leisurely walks. The most prominent one would be the walk to Maclear’s Beacon which affords you a stunning view of the Cape Flats and Table Bay.
- Location: 1.6km after the Cable Car Station
- Distance: 3km
- Elevation: Very steep, climbs 950m
- Estimated Time: 3 - 4 hours
The hike up Lion’s Head is iconic. It is one of the most popular hikes in Cape Town. Its gradient is not as punishing as the climb up Table Mountain and it is arguably a much prettier hike.
This is especially true when you decide to do it at sunrise or sunset. The climb yields some stunning views of the Sea Point area and you also walk through one of the highest concentrations of beautiful Silver Trees, which are endemic to the Cape Peninsula.
The hike is pretty easy to access, even without a car. Cape Town’s transport system will easily get you to Kloof Nek and then it’s a short walk up the road to Signal Hill until you reach a gravel parking area on both sides of the road. You start your ascent via the gravel road, which has a boom.
The popularity of Lion’s Head has fooled many people over the past couple of years as they assume that it is an incredibly easy hike that can be attempted in wholly inadequate footgear, or by relatively unfit people. This has resulted in a few people having to be rescued off of the mountain.
The hike can be deceptively tricky especially if you decide to use the chains to climb the rock face. It is advised to rather use the chains on the return trip if you wish to have a rather exhilarating descent.
An important point to note is that you will encounter a fork in the path quite early on in the hike. The upper right fork will take you to Lion’s Head. The left hand fork will take you to Lion’s Rump – commonly known as Signal Hill.
You should bring plenty of water along for this hike and make sure to pack a torch and warm clothing if you plan to do the sunset hike. Cape Town can get icy once the sun has set, even if you’re hiking.
- Location: 650m up Signal Hill road
- Distance: 5km
- Elevation: 500m, but a gradual slope
- Estimated Time: Roughly 3 hours
If there is one place in Cape Town shrouded in folklore – it is Devil’s Peak. The legend is that Jan Van Hunks, a regular pipe smoker that lived at the foot of the mountain, was often forced out of the house by his wife when he wanted to smoke.
One day while smoking he met a mysterious man who was also smoking. They ended up bragging about how much they smoked and entered into a pipe-smoking contest. The man turned out to be the Devil and Van Hunks ended up winning the contest. The smoke he produced formed the blanket of cloud that is called the tablecloth cloud when it covers the mountain.
Luckily, you won’t meet the Devil or Van Hunks on the hike to Devil’s Peak. There are two routes to the top. The one is an incredibly easy route that involves parking on Tafelberg Road and taking a hike up to the top.
The other route is the ascent via Mowbray Ridge and the Knife Edge Path. This is reserved for expert hikers. If you want to take on the challenge, then head on over to Rhodes Memorial, as the hike begins there.
Your first landmark is the King’s Blockhouse. Climb up to the concrete reservoir behind the Blockhouse which marks the beginning of the Mowbray Ridge. This is a good place to stop as there is usually fresh drinking water in the reservoir.
Your next landmark is a lookout hut perched on top of the cliff. The only way to get there is to ascend straight up from the reservoir. A faint path shall appear on your right a short while into ascent. Do not take that path as it will not take you to Devil’s Peak.
Take a moment to rest at the lookout and take in the view. Take note of the time, as the next turnoff from the main path you need to take should come up in 15 minutes. Continue along the main path until it starts to zig-zag.
A faint path up should appear on the fifth bend – this is known as the Knife Edge Path. You will need to take this path to get to the final ascent to the summit of Devil’s peak. You could continue along the main path to reach Devil’s Peak, but the Knife Edge Path is much more breath-taking, in terms of aesthetic beauty.
Be warned, however, if you’re afraid of heights then this is not the path for you as it features sheer drops on both sides. This path shall lead you straight to the vertical ascent up Devil’s Peak and onto some stunning views of the city.
You descend via the Saddle between Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain. Upon reaching the Saddle you shall encounter three ravines: Dark Gorge, Newlands Ravine, and Els Ravine. The first and last are reserved for experienced mountaineers as they require ropes. Rather head to the far side of the Saddle and climb up high before turning left – signposts should guide you to the top of the ravine.
You descend from the Newlands Ravine down a contour path which takes you back to the Rhodes Memorial where you can head to the tearoom for a well-deserved cup of tea.
- Location: Tafelberg Road or Rhodes Memorial
- Distance: 8.5km from Tafelberg, 13km from Rhodes Memorial
- Elevation: 1260m
- Estimated Time: 4 hours excluding breaks
Many hikes in Cape Town either begin in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or end in Kirstenbosch.
You will have to pay an entrance fee for Kirstenbosch regardless of whether you start or end your hike there.
- Adults: R60
- Students: R30
- Children (6 – 17 years): R15
- Under 6 years: Free
- Botanical Society Members: Free
- More Info: A Guide to Visiting Kirstenbosch
The two most popular hikes are: Skeleton Gorge, Boomslang Tree Canopy Walk and the Contour Path from Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch.
The hike is incredibly well-maintained due to its constant use and the majority of the hike is well signposted, so there is virtually no chance of getting lost.
It can be a strenuous hike due to its distance and gradient but it doesn’t require much experience, as there are only a few rock scrambles and ladders.
It is best to approach the hike via Skeleton Gorge, as opposed to climbing up Nursery Ravine. Nursery Ravine should rather be used to make the descent.
Nursery Ravine is incredibly steep and can make for a bone-jarring descent that should be done carefully. The rest of the hike is a short walk along a contour path to get back to the Gardens where you can relax and enjoy one of the most beautiful places in South Africa.
- Location: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
- Distance: 6.2km
- Elevation: 930m
- Estimated Time: 3 to 4 hours
Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch
This hike doesn’t begin in Kirstenbosch but rather at Constantia Nek and ends in Kirstenbosch. It is a favourite early morning hike as you can end it with a lovely breakfast at Kirstenbosch’s restaurant.
The contour path that you follow makes the hike an easy one and is suitable for the entire family. It is fairly lengthy as it takes about 2 hours to do one-way.
It is best to travel in two cars and leave one at Kirstenbosch so that you don’t have to walk back.
The contour path is well-maintained by its constant use. It takes you through a wonderful mixture of indigenous fynbos species and towering invasive trees that form part of the Cecilia Forest plantation. The trail is well-marked and you’ll find yourself leisurely strolling along the trail taking in all of the sights.
- Location: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
- Distance: 5km
- Elevation: Relatively flat with a few hills
Hikes with Waterfalls
The mountainous nature of the Cape Peninsula and our high winter rainfall results in a number of waterfalls around the Cape Town area. They are not as majestic as the Victoria Falls, but are breath-taking nonetheless.
This one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Cape Town. It is situated in the Kogelbay Biosphere just outside of Gordon’s Bay near the Steenbras River mouth. The hike takes you up to the waterfall that feeds into the Steenbras River.
It is named after the fact that the hike is dotted with a series of pools that allow for an exuberant swimming experience that has made the hike so popular.
Pack in a costume or wear clothing that dries easily. When cliff jumping take care to make sure where you are landing is deep enough and clear of rocks hidden in the dark waters.
Due to it’s popularity, a permit is required for the hike. The trail is limited to 50 people a day and you will need to email the City of Cape Town in order to acquire a permit. The steps are as follows:
- Email your name, the size of the group, contact number and the date of the hike to firstname.lastname@example.org The minimum group size is 3 and the maximum is 10.
- Await confirmation that you have a provisional booking.
- Pay the R60 per person via EFT.
- Email your proof of payment to the City on the same email address.
- Wait for your permit to be emailed to you.
The hike is only open from 1 November to the end of April. Hikers wishing to approach this hike should be relatively fit. They must also not be fooled into wearing flip-flops as the hike has some serious rock scrambles. The hike is well-marked by a series of pegs to keep you on track.
- Location: Parking for the hike is found along the R44 just after the bridge over the Steenbras River Mouth.
- Distance: 5km
- Elevation: There are some gradual ascents
- Estimated Time: Roughly two hours, but give yourself time to swim
Cecilia Forest Waterfall
This hike is close to Cape Town and the waterfall in question is on the backend of Table Mountain. You hike up through Cecilia Forest – one of Cape Town’s many plantations, to access it.
Much of the plantation has been felled recently and replaced with fynbos, thus enhancing the natural heritage of the area. If you wish to see the trail in its full beauty then do it in spring when the majority of the trail is through flowering fynbos.
The only negative aspect is that the initial stage of the hike has a lot of exposure to the sun and it is thus better to do it in the early morning or late afternoon, or on a cool and cloudy day.
The hike requires you to make your way to the edge of Kirstenbosch, along the same contour path that extends from Constantia Nek. Upon reaching the edge, you will encounter a signpost indicating the various routes.
You must take the route that points you towards the Cecilia Ravine via the way of Rooikat Ravine (labelled as Rooikatkloof on the sign). The rest of the hike is a rather steep climb up a series of wooden steps. The exertion is worth seeing the pristine and tranquil waterfall at the end of the hike. Give yourself two hours to do this hike.
- Location: Cecilia Forest, Wynberg NU
- Distance: Roughly 4km
- Elevation: 460m
- Estimated Time: About 2 - 3 hours
Krom River Hike
The Krom River Hike is a situated well out of Cape Town after the exit of the Huguenot Tunnel.
Look for a small road on the left with an “authorised vehicle only” sign. Just like Crystal Pools, this hike requires a permit to ensure that only a few people can use the trail each day. Booking the permit:
- Contact Cape Nature on +27 (0)21 483 0190
- The permit must be booked for at least two people
- Cost: R30 per person
The hike is well marked and follows the river for a while. You will cross over the river several times before the path takes you up a ravine to a rock pool with a waterfall.
This is one of two rock pools along the hike where you can cool off. The path then continues to a bigger and better rock pool. Remember to pack your costume if you want to swim.
The trail will take you through an incredibly beautiful section of the Boland where you will be able to see some of the hardier species of fynbos that exist within the Cape Floral Kingdom.
There are sparsely dotted trees along the wetter parts of the ravine and you can find disas along the final waterfall if you look close enough.
The hike is often closed during the winter months due to the river overflowing after high rainfall. This hike is best done in summer or spring.
- Location: Park near the Worcester exit of the Huguenot Tunnel at the “authorised vehicles sign”
- Distance: 7km
- Estimated Time: 6 hours
Other Hikes Near Cape Town
There are shorter and less strenuous hikes all over Cape Town, making getting outdoors for almost everyone and any fitness level. Even if you are juts planning a short walk always carry enough water and have emergency contacts on hand. Being prepared is never over kill.
Silvermine Nature Reserve
Silvermine is an immensely popular destination for family outings and picnics. It isn’t as far away as Cape Point and the entry fee isn’t as high.
Silvermine has a stunning and easy hiking trail along a gravel road and that takes you on a full circuit of the nature reserve.
You can follow the main road from the parking lot for the duration of the hike, but there are also several trails that fork off from the main path which will take you around the reserve.
Upon leaving the car park, it is best to keep to the left as the right hand track is used on your return. This path will take you below Noordhoek Peak and take you past some truly amazing viewpoints which gives you a bird’s eye view of parts of False Bay.
You can also fork off from the main path and tackle the climb up to Noordhoek Peak if you’re looking to take in the tremendous view the peak offers. It is best to reach the top by late morning else you will be looking into the sun.
If you follow the main path it will take you to the trail that heads to Elephant’s Eye Cave. This can also be accessed from the Tokai Forest.
You can skip this trail and head back down to the car park. But you would be missing out on exploring a cave that offers a unique view of the Southern Suburbs.
- Location: Silvermine Nature Reserve, Ou Kaapse Weg
- Adults, R50
- Children, R25
- Wild Cards, free
- Distance: About 9km
- Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
- +27 (0)21 789 2457
Newlands Forest is one of the more popular walking locations in Cape Town due to the towering trees which provide ample shade for a leisurely stroll through the forest.
It offers many short hikes among a labyrinth of trails, but it is difficult to get lost when you bear in mind that your car is always going to be at the bottom of the slope. The forest is divided by 3 rivers that gently careen down the mountainside and provide a much needed slash on a hot day. If going off track is something you enjoy then Newlands is perfect for you as hiking up any of the rivers is easy to navigate and a great workout.
You can also reach Kirstenbosch gardens from Newlands Forest via the contour path or make your way to the famous Rhodes Memorial which is perched above the gorgeous Upper UCT campus.
You can also reach the mountain damn on top of the backside of Table Mountain from Newlands Forest, as well as the loved vantage point on Hospital Bend, where views of both the Indian and Atlantic oceans can be enjoyed.
- Location: Newlands Forest, M3 , Newlands
- Distance: 3km per trail
- Time: Each circular trail can be done in just over an hour
- +27 (0)21 712 0527
Chapman’s Peak Hike
Chapman’s Peak Drive is famous for its gorgeous views and for being a truly amazing piece of engineering.
It also boasts a moderate hike that will leave you winded if you struggle with vertical inclines.
The hike is well signposted and the steep vertical climb will take you through beautiful indigenous fauna and give you brilliant views of Hout Bay and later of False Bay. It is an absolute must if you wish to tackle some of the best hikes Cape Town has to offer.
The hike begins just before the ticket checkpoint on Chapman’s Peak Drive so you don’t have to pay the toll fee. It is a very worthwhile hike on a windless day, to have a picnic with an amazing view.
Chapman’s Peak Drive itself was built by convict labourers. The construction started in 1915 on the Hout Bay side with the Noordhoek side being started a year later. The construction from Hout Bay to the lookout point was completed in 1919, but it was only two years later when the road from Hout Bay to Noordhoek was completed.
The drive remains a feat of engineering prowess as the City of Cape Town regularly has to find new ways to ensure that the mountain doesn’t collapse on top of the road. They have set up an ingenious series of measures to catch falling rocks as the area is prone to rock falls further along the road.
- Location: Above Chapman's Peak Drive
- Distance: 2.5km
- Estimated Time: 3.5 hours
Cape Point Hikes
Cape Point forms part of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, this protected area is a nature lovers paradise, featuring both short hikes and walks and overnight trails.
The Reserve itself houses a variety of restaurants, cafes and activities including a train lift to as look out point where you can see the entire False Bay coastline. Entrance to the Reserve is payable at the main gate.
- R320 - Standard Entry Adult
- R160 - Standard Kids
- R80 - SA ID Holders Adult
- R40 - SA ID Holders Kids
- R160 - SADC Nationals Adults
- R80 - SADC Nationals Kids
- From False Bay: Continue along the coastal road to Table Mountain National Park entrance on your left. A scenic drive through the National Park leads you to the parking area at Cape Point.
- From Atlantic Coast: Take Chapman’s Peak Drive, which will take you to Noordhoek. Turn right to follow the magnificent coastline to Kommetjie, Soetwater, Witsand, Misty Cliffs and Scarborough, where you then drive inland for a few kilometres. Table Mountain National Park’s entrance will be on your right.
- Operating Hours:
- October - March: 9am - 6pm
- April - September: 7am - 5pm
- +27 21 7809010
- More Info: Website
Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail
Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail is a short trail that runs below the well-known landmark, the trail begins just behind the upper funicular station, hikers will follow a narrow well-established path that will lead you along a sheer cliff-face towards the lesser-known new lighthouse.
It offers a fascinating perspective of the old Cape Point lighthouse which towers many metres above, and it walks you through historical bunkers and beautiful fynbos until the path runs out, at what certainly feels like the very tip of Africa.
- Location: Behind upper funicular station
- Distance: +-2km
- Estimated Time: 1 hour including return
Cape of Good Hope Trail
The Cape of Good Hope trail takes you along a marked boardwalk towards the famous Cape of Good Hope sign, located on the rocky shoreline far below.
The trail is popular for its accessibility, and for the unsurpassed views over the pristine Diaz Beach and rugged western shoreline. Make your way all the way to the very end of the trail, and you’ll have reached the most southern point of the Cape Peninsula – a perfect photo opportunity to prove that you’ve visited the most South Western corner of Africa.
- Location: Main parking area. Follow signs towards Cape of Good Hope.
- Distance: +-3.5km
- Estimated Time: 2-3 hours including return
Buffels Bay Beach is a hidden gem, and the Antoniesgat Trail that departs from nearby offers beautiful views, a moderate level of difficulty, and the opportunity to cool off in the tidal pools, or enjoy a braai at the well-maintained facilities, at the end of the walk.
The walk takes you close to the action where powerful waves pound the peninsula, and there are a number of caves and tunnels to explore en-route. The views over the bay, towards the mountains, and of course up towards the Cape Point lighthouse make this one of the region’s most enjoyable short trails.
- Location: Traffic circle south of Buffels Bay Beach
- Distance: 3.5km
- Estimated Time: 2-3 hours return
Perhaps the most popular of the shorter walks at Cape Point are the shipwreck trails.
These unique walks depart from the Olifantsbos parking area, and each offer fascinating insight into the early days of the many Cape Point maritime disasters and access to unspoilt fauna and flora.
Shipwreck Trails include:
- Thomas T. Tucker Trail - Short and accessible trail down to the beach
- Distance: 3kms
- Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
- Sirkelsvlei Trail - The Sirkelsvlei walk will take you through a beautiful loop up to the Sirkelsvlei pan. It is an impressive and rugged route.
- Distance: 7.5kms
- Estimated Time: 3 hours
Long Hiking Trails & Overnight Walks
The Cape of Good Hope Trail and Hoerikwaggo Trail are two overnight, long hiking trails that start in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, and are only recommended for people with moderate levels of fitness.
While they are not particularly technical, the distances covered are significant, and hikers must be prepared to cover up to 15 kilometres per day.
- The Cape of Good Hope Trail: 2 Day, 1 Night trail that follows a circular route through the reserve.
- The Hoerikwaggo Trail: 5 Day, 4 Night hiking trail through the heart of the Table Mountain National Park.
All campsites are immaculate and offer beautiful surroundings in which to relax after the day’s long walk. They provide accommodation for up to 12 people, and you are required to provide their own bedding and towels.
There are full cooking facilities at each site, including braai places, however all accommodation is self-catering, and hikers must make plans to transport their own firelighters and matches.
Well there you have it, whether you are looking for a family friendly active activity or something to challenge those muscles, Cape Town is known for it's scenic hikes and variety of routes. Remember to lock valuables in your cars and keep emergency numbers on hand.
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