There are more than a hundred hiking routes up Table Mountain. These can be grouped into 4 types.
The first type is represented by a single route, Platteklip Gorge: the quickest and easiest route to the summit, but not the nicest. Most people complete it in around 2.5 hours with varying degrees of exertion. As far as Table Mountain hiking goes, it doesn’t quite do the mountain justice. But if you’re looking for a quick-ish and uncomplicated way to the top, then Platteklip Gorge is the route for you.
The second type are routes that involve about 30% more distance as well as elevation gain, for example 12 Apostles and Skeleton Gorge. You need at least a moderate fitness level to enjoy these routes. No experience required, but if you’re moderately fit, then you need to be prepared to push yourself physically. Average duration: 4 to 4.5 hours. Table Mountain hikes in this group involves minimal scrambling and exposure to heights. Which brings us to the third group…
The third type is only slightly more strenuous than type #2, but more technical, i.e. involves scrambling (elementary climbing) and exposure to heights (narrow ledges). No experience required if you’re with a guide, but a (fairly) good head for heights. If you’re averse to heights, then you need a sense of adventure to make up for it, or you need to be up for a challenge and prepared to step outside your comfort zone. India Venster is an example.
The fourth type is basically a combination of type #2 and #3: strenuous and technical, but with rugged terrain (bush / loose rock) thrown in as an additional challenge, for example Hiddingh-Ascension. Hiking Table Mountain up one of these routes involve a good fitness level, a good head for heights and a solid sense of adventure or love for nature. Again, no exeperience required if making use of a guide. Some bits necessitates the use of a rope. Few people hike these routes, but if you fancy yourself something of an Indiana Jones, then they provide a richly rewarding experience.
If you want the best views with exciting hiking without meeting groups of other hikers along the way, then you either need to be okay with heights (or have a solid sense of adventure) or in reasonable shape. Put differently, to experience the best of Table Mountain hiking, you need to be up for either physicl or mental challenge. And if you expect it to be challenging, it is more likely to end up feeling easier.
Table Mountain hikes exist for all fitness and adventure levels, interests and preferences. But don’t let the mountain’s proximity to a city give you a false impression of its unforgiving terrain and capricious weather. To get the best out of hiking Table Mountain requires effort. And the rewards far outweigh the effort.