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The Best Hike to the Top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

Do you want to go to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town and are a fan of hiking? Well, you should do the Platteklip Gorge hike to the top!

If you have heard of Cape Town you probably would have heard of its most famous tourist attraction, the imposing Table Mountain that looms high over this coastal city.

Views from the start of the Platteklip Gorge hike up Table Mountain

When I first visited Cape Town back in 2009 we spent a week trying to get up this famous mountain but were thwarted at every turn.

Cape Town is known as a windy city for at least part of the year, and unfortunately, the cable car that connects the road to the top of the mountain doesn’t run when it is too windy. We never did get to the top on that trip.

This time we made it our mission to make it up, so on our first available day, we headed there.

Unfortunately, the first day we had available happened to be Boxing Day. This meant that there were thousands of other people also making it their mission to get on top Table Mountain. The line was massive.

The start of the Platteklip Gorge trail in Cape Town, South AfricaThe start of the Platteklip Gorge hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town

Trav and I had already decided that we wanted to hike to the top, while Trav’s parents and brother would take the cable car and meet us up there.

We were told that the wait in line was about two hours which would give us enough time to hike up without them having to wait around for us at the top.

There are numerous Table Mountain hike routes but we decided on the popular Platteklip Gorge trail, which began about 1km from the cable car and involved 3km of switchbacks to reach the top, followed by a short walk across to the cable car station.

Hiking the Platteklip Gorge Trail up Table Mountain

I was excited about getting active after our lazy Christmas Day where we stuffed our faces with rich food and drinks while watching the Beatles Anthology as it poured with rain outside.

The sun was beating down and I was feeling good as we walked along the flat section of the road to begin the hike. Already halfway up the mountain, and as far as you can reach by car, there were beautiful views down to Bloubergstrand and the CBD below.

As we started our brutal ascent up Platteklip Gorge we were initially unaware of how steep the hike actually is. There were no flat or downhill sections, it was all upwards. And it was hot.

Views from the Platteklip Gorge trail up Table Mountain in Cape TownHiking the Platteklip Gorge hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town

The path was rocky and uneven so I had to concentrate on where I was walking. Some steps I had to pull myself up onto, essentially crawling, as the step rise was so high.

My lungs burned and my thighs screamed. I was tempted to stop every couple of minutes but I pushed myself to keep walking as long as possible.

When I did stop to catch my breath, I marveled at the surrounding landscape. It was greener than I expected it to be with a lot of dense scrub.

Hiking the Platteklip Gorge trail up Table Mountain in Cape Town Hiking the difficult Platteklip Gorge up Table Mountain in Cape Town

We saw beautiful green sunbirds with long dipped beaks and I caught sight of a striped mouse, similar to a chipmunk or ground squirrel. There were thin streams of water running off the surrounding cliffs as we rose higher.

I kept thinking we were nearly at the top but after walking for another twenty minutes and pushing through the pain, I would look up and somehow we seemed to be further away.

Reaching the Top of Table Mountain

Mist flowed over the ‘table top’ as we were hiking the last stretch. The air was cooler which made it easier to hike. I was exhausted but ecstatic when we finally reached the top. It took us one hour and twenty minutes which I didn’t think was too bad.

It took us one hour and forty minutes to hike the Grouse Grind in Vancouver back in 2009 and that was a shorter distance. We are definitely fitter than we were back then.

Hiking the Platteklip hike up Table Mountain in Cape TownViews from the Platteklip Gorge hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town

Exploring the Summit of Table Mountain

The ten-minute walk along the top of the mountain to reach the top cable car station was ridiculously easy compared to what we had just endured.

The path was shrouded in mist but we would occasionally get a peek at the stunning views when it momentarily cleared. There were no trees at the top, just windswept bushes that grew close to the ground, and smooth grey rocks.

Reaching the top of the Platteklip Gorge trail up Table Mountain in Cape Town Reaching the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

The area around the cable car station was packed full of camera-toting tourists (I was one of them). Trav’s family was still waiting to get on the cable car at the bottom so we headed to the buffet-style restaurant to sate our out-of-control appetites.

I am not usually a fan of buffets but we were so hungry that everything tasted so good. I didn’t care that it was overpriced; it was worth every bite.

It was freezing at the top and the wind cut straight through us. We ended up waiting for an hour for the others to join us and I felt numb with cold. After walking around in the wind for a while I found a picnic table that was in a sunny spot that was sheltered from the wind. We sat and thawed out there.

A feeling of deep satisfaction washed over me. There’s nothing like relaxing in the sun after a strenuous hike with a full belly, and the Platteklip Gorge route to the top was definitely strenuous.

Reaching the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town via the Platteklip Gorge hike View from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

Once Trav’s family reached the top we walked around a loop path where we had dramatic views over the surrounding mountains and coastline.

Near the cable car station, there was a family of dassies, including cute little babies, jumping between the rocks and scurrying around bushes.

Views from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town after hiking the Platteklip Gorge trail Taking in the views from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

The dassie, also known as a rock hyrax, is a small rodent similar in size to a rabbit. They are strangely enough the closest living relative to the African Elephant, despite the difference in size and appearance, and are the only animal I have ever seen that appears to be smiling or frowning.

They are goofy-looking things and I could watch them for hours.

Cute dassie at the top of Table Mountain in Cape TownCute dassie at the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

I must be the only person in the world who is more interested in seeing smaller animals like dassies and chipmunks rather than lions and bears. I just love cute animals.

Taking the Cable Car Down Table Mountain

We weren’t too keen to hike back down again so we caught the cable car back with Trav’s parents and brother. It was actually pretty cool as the inside platform rotated slowly on the way down, giving us a 360-degree view.

I’m a little bit scared of heights but although it was a very steep descent, it went so slowly and steadily that it wasn’t scary at all.

Getting the cable car from top of Table Mountain in Cape Town View over Lions Head from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

If you have a reasonable level of fitness I would definitely recommend doing the Platteklip hike up Table Mountain then taking the cable car down – it is one of the best Table Mountain hikes. It gives you a sense of satisfaction that you conquered it and the trail is beautiful.

It was hard going but completely worth it.

Have you visited Table Mountain? Would you hike up it? Have you done any other Cape Town hiking that you loved?

Amazing views from the Platteklip Gorge hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town

How to Hike the Platteklip Gorge Trail

Getting to the Platteklip Gorge Trail

The trail begins just after the Lower Cable Car Station at the base of Table Mountain and the easiest way to get there is to drive. Alternatively, you can catch an Uber.

Length of the Platteklip Gorge Trail

1.9 miles (3km) one way

Elevation Gain of the Platteklip Gorge Trail

2,300 feet (700 meters)

Difficulty of the Platteklip Gorge Trail

Intermediate/Difficult. It is a pretty steep hike and if you are doing it in summer – it’s hot! It is not super long so I rate it as an Intermediate/Difficult hike. Make sure to bring at least two liters of water, if not more, because you will need it! 

Views from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Plan Your Cape Town Trip

Where to Stay in Cape Town

If you are wondering where to stay in Cape Town, I highly recommend renting a house or apartment. I loved staying by the beach personally so these choices are in beach communities.

Stay at the Camps Bay Ruby Suite with modern amenities and right by the beach, or the Surf Way Beach Cottage, a one-bedroom apartment with a private pool and only minutes from Long Beach in Kommetjie.

If you are traveling solo to Cape Town and you want to meet people, there are so many amazing Cape Town hostels in different parts of the city. My top hostel picks based on ratings and location are Mojo Hostel in Sea Point, Cape Capsules Backpackers in Muizenberg, and A Sunflower Stop in Green Point.

If you are looking for something a little more luxurious, my picks for the Cape Town hotels and B&Bs by the seaside villages are The Muize Bed and Breakfast in Muizenberg, Protea Point B&B in Simon’s Town, South Beach Boutique Hotel in Camps Bay, and Hout Bay Breeze Guesthouse in Hout Bay.

View from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

What to Pack for Your Platteklip Gorge Hike

For day hikes, the Cotopaxi Luzon is an awesome backpack choice and is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.

I highly recommend packing a CamelBak water hydration system to make it easier to hydrate while you are hiking and to store a lot of water in a lightweight way. This was a hiking gamechanger for me!

Take some trekking poles to help with the downhill – your knees will thank you! Also, pack a raincoat in case it rains, and if you are hiking in spring or autumn and are starting early or finishing late, wear a lightweight but cozy thermal underlayer top.

The Best Insurance for Your Cape Town Trip

Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it on longer trips

Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.

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Hiking the Platteklip Gorge Trail in South Africa Hiking the Platteklip Gorge hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town Hiking the Platteklip Gorge Trail in Cape Town

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24 Comments on Tackling the Platteklip Gorge Hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town

  1. It is always so nice to read posts about the town I am so lucky to partially live in! It is great to encourage your readers to hike up as it is so much more rewarding than taking the cable car up! In the high season the queue for the Cable Car gets so long sometimes that it is even quicker to hike. I must admit though that after trying all the different routes the Platteklip is not the one with the best views, India Venster is a lot more scenic but requires some scrambling so it not suitable for everyone. There are a few more secret ones but you hardly see anyone on these trails. As most tourists hike the Platteklip Gorge up it is quite safe though and therefore also a good recommendation. You were very lucky to have the clouds clear up, that doesn’t always happen! One little note though: the beach in the the background when you go up Platteklip is actually Bloubergstrand (Camps Bay is on the other side and could be seen from the viewpoints near the Cable Car Station at the top.) Happy to read you enjoyed Table Mountain so much! Are you planning on going back? Marcella

    • Hi Marcella, I would love to try another route next time but I definitely did enjoy hiking Platteklip Gorge. I will go back to Cape Town one day, but as I have already been twice – there are a lot of other places I want to go to first. Thanks for the correction about the beach, I will change it. Katie

  2. What a great post! I’m from Vancouver and know the Grouse Grind well. I will be visiting Cape Town in the next couple weeks and would love to hike Table Mountain. I don’t feel in great shape now and wanted to gauge the difficulty level. How would you compare the two hikes? Which was tougher? I’m hoping to meet some people to hike with. I’m looking forward to exploring this city!

    • Hi Leanne, I would say the Grind is tougher as the steps are so high that you feel like you are climbing a lot of the time. They are about the same length I think. You will be fine, just take it slow. Good luck!

  3. Every image I’ve seen of Table Mountain has been stunning but I’d never seen a post about actually climbing it! Fantastic guys! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Cheers

  4. What a hike and what a view! Looks spectacular. And by the way, I love seeing small animals too. When we were at Crater Lake in Oregon this summer I spent as much time taking pictures of cute ground squirrels as I did the lake.

  5. What a fantastic adventure. I’d love to hike up it, though I don’t know if the kids could manage it (probably not from your description!). It sounds and looks amazing – what views…..

  6. I felt tired just from reading this and looking at the pictures! I used to think that I like hiking (and I wish I were a hiking kinda person) but I’m not. I get tired really easily too and feel like I”m about to die! But waiting for 2 hours to go up on the cable car? No thanks! I’ll rather take the hike! The views are so gorgeous from up there and those little creatures are SO cute!! I like the smaller animals more too. 😀

  7. Katie that’s an intense hike but what a view! Well worth it. We had to hike up a 150 meter driveway with a 20% grade every day in Fiji for 4 months. After that – in late October of 2014 – we could hike just about anywhere. Horse leg’s lol. As for the rock hyrax, what a cutie! I do love the big animals but agree that little critters like these are so intriguing. I recall years ago I learned their closest relatives were elephants and I was floored. Neat.

    Thanks for the awesome share Katie. Keep on inspiring!

    Ryan

    • Thanks so much for your comment Ryan! Hiking definitely becomes easier the more you do it. It was a hard hike but my recovery time is pretty fast. Wow Fiji – what an amazing place to live! I visited for the first time last October and fell in love with the place. I will definitely return one day to see more 🙂

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