Table Mountain hiking routes offer much diversity in terms of views, landscape, vegetation and challenge. Two of the best and most popular routes, Kasteelspoort (on the 12 Apostles) and Skeleton Gorge score equally on the challenge scale, but offer very different views and vegetation. Let’s look at some distinguishing features that would help you decide which route is best for you.
Kasteelspoort is one of many routes that lead up the 12 Apostles, a chain of seaboard peaks extending behind the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain (and considered part of Table Mountain). It offers sea views on the ascent, interesting rock-formations and much nature. Indigenous shrub (fynbos) is the dominant vegetation type. As with most other Table Mountain hikes, the route can be structured to include additional viewpoints and topographical features in line with your interests and preferences. It tops out on the tabletop summit near the upper cable station.
Skeleton Gorge starts out from within the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It leads up the lush eastern slopes of Table Mountain, offering jungle setting for the first 1.5 hours or so, followed by fynbos and inland views. It tops out at Maclear’s Beacon, highest point on Table Mountain (about 20 meters / 70 feet higher than the flat-topped summit), from where it traverses the length of the famous tabletop summit to the upper cable station. A classic as far as hiking Table Mountain goes, it takes in all the floral zones on the mountain, though offers little in the way of dramatic rock-formations.
Both routes covers a lot of the mountain and provide superb views across the Cape Peninsula. Both are strenuous, covering more distance and involving more elevation gain than most other Table Mountain hikes. Despite being strenuous, they involve minimal scrambling and exposure to heights (narrow ledges), so score low on the adventure scale.
In a nutshell, you need at least a moderate fitness level, and at most a moderate sense of adventure, to enjoy these routes. If you enjoy jungle settings, go for Skeleton Gorge; if sea views appeal more, then Kasteelspoort will not disappoint. For those averse to meeting others along the way, Kasteelspoort sees fewer hikers, and offers more solitude. Overall, both routes provide an unforgettable experience of Table Mountain.