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When we visited South Africa in 2010, we did not hike Table Mountain: our friends we were traveling with did, but I think David wasn’t feeling well, so we passed on a hike and spent a day in our hotel relaxing.
This visit, I wanted desperately to hike up Table Mountain, and almost four weeks into our nearly-six-week stay in Cape Town, we finally got out and did it!
Why Platteklip Gorge
We chose Platteklip Gorge for our hike because the start was convenient for us to get to, the hike offered more views of the city and bay, and its the most popular route.
My uncle Jim was visiting us and wanted to ride the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway up the mountain and meet up with us at the top. The three of us took an Uber from the V&A Waterfront and dropped him off first at the cableway base while our Uber drove the few minutes up to the start of Platteklip Gorge.
Platteklip Gorge is on the north side of Table Mountain. There were several places, including the start, where we had a killer view overlooking Cape Town and Table Bay.
While there are many other routes, we have heard issues with hikers being robbed on some of the less-trafficked trails in Cape Town. There’s safety in numbers, and Platteklip being the most popular trail meant that we were never far from other hikers. Despite this, there was not an uncomfortable number of people on the trail.
We hiked Platteklip Gorge on January 11th. Yes, Cape Town can certainly be warm in the summer, but our visit to Cape Town in December and January had a surprising number of cool days.
The biggest issues with the weather are wind and cloud cover. In high winds the cableway closes, so that’s a good sign that it’s probably too windy to hike and enjoy the top. Cloud cover is harder to predict. There are many days that the “tablecloth” appears and covers the top of the mountain in thick clouds.
We woke up at 6 am and checked the view. From our place at the V&A Waterfront, we had the picture-perfect view of Table Mountain. Lo and behold, we were surrounded by a thick fog. We made preparations to go anyway, hoping the fog would burn off, and by the time we got our Uber, we could see the top of the mountain.
You can also take public transportation and/or the free shuttle to the cableway base.
When we got to the trail base at 7:45, we could see down into the city. The fog had rolled all the way back so most of the city was visible but the fog hung over the water. Throughout our hike, the fog continued to burn off. At the top, we could see the fog out over the ocean on both sides.
On a clear day, you can see all the way out to Robben Island, or even the other side of Table Bay. I liked having the fog out at sea though; it added drama.
The hike took us a little over two hours to get to the top, with an elevation climb of a little over 600 meters. Much of it is stone stairs or paths cut through the gorge. Early on, trees provided shade on the trail sporadically, but there were some places where the trail cut through bush instead and was open to the sun. Then, since Platteklip is a gorge, the side of Table Mountain tower over the trail towards the end, providing shade.
People-watching on the trail was a lot of fun. There were large groups that were hiking together (including what we think was a group of blind people, tied to a sighted buddy to make it up the trail). We stopped and chatted with quite a few people, including a guy who has done Platteklip Gorge over 100 times and participates in the Charity Challenge. Throughout the hike, we saw all variety of fitness levels, including extreme runners, bounding up or down the trail.
There are additional trails that intersect with Platteklip Gorge, well-marked by trail signs.
We hear that there are mountain goats around, and also dassies (a small angry-looking marsupial), but we didn’t see much wildlife.
There’s definitely a lip where we reached the top of the trail and are at the plateau of Table Mountain. The ground levels out, and we could see the ocean out to the east.
It was a 15-minute walk along the top to get to the cafes and cableway. This portion was very flat, and there were many people walking in flip flops, sundresses, etc.
The Top of Table Mountain
My uncle Jim was waiting for us at the top since he’d taken the cableway up. There is the Table Mountain Cafe at the top, public restrooms, and the Wifi Lounge. The Wifi Lounge is where we met up; it was very empty compared to the main cafe and had fantastic balconies to enjoy the view.
I wish I’d known that they do a “very high” high tea on Thursdays!
The three of us took the cableway back down. The cable car spins 360 degrees while going down, so as long as you have a view out the windows, you’ll see the whole trip, which is pretty cool.
Table Mountain was a great hike. I am bummed we only got one hike in while in Cape Town because there are other amazing ones – many in Table Mountain National Park.