Browsing the Internet for Table Mountain hikes, Platteklip Gorge and Skeleton Gorge are likely to show up most prominently. And without more research, you might think those are the only routes up Table Mountain; or consider them the best routes based on their online prominence. Since route choice plays a vital part in optimizing your Table Mountain hiking experience, a brief overview of routes will help put things in perspective.
Firstly, there are about 65 hiking routes up Table Mountain (why it’s very hard to put an exact number to it is the topic for another discussion), so no shortage of choice. Routes vary greatly in character, terrain, topography, challenge and views. Platteklip Gorge is the quickest and easiest route to the summit, but the least scenic and exciting. It’s famous because it’s easy, not because it’s the most beautful route. While it still provides a memorable experience, it doesn’t quite do Table Mountain justice.
Skeleton Gorge enjoys much popularity, too, second only to Platteklip Gorge. Its intriguing name no doubt adds to its allure. A far nicer and more diverse route than Platteklip Gorge, it starts out from the Kirstenbosch Gardens and leads up the lush eastern slopes of the mountain. You need to be pretty fit in order to enjoy this one, as it’s strenuous. But there’s much en route to distract you from the physical strain. Platteklip Gorge offers less distraction, so the toil is relentless.
That briefly covers 2 out of about 65 Table Mountain hiking routes. Each route has merit, each present their own set of challenges, range of views and level of technicality as well as physicality. To some, Platteklip Gorge is the best route; to others, the worst (generally the latter). It all depends on your level of fitness, level of enthusiasm / determination, sense of adventure, love of nature and head for heights. These factors determine what route will be best suited to you, giving you the most enjoyable experience of the mountain.
If you want to be sure of the best route for you, consult a competent and experienced mountain-guide. Forget what the taxi driver, the concierge, the online forum, the internet article and even the trusty local tells you. They don’t have the knowledge or the skills to make an accurate assessment. Taxi drivers’ opinions are especially to be slighted in this regard: most of them are quick to give an authoriative and dogmatic opinion of hiking Table Mountain and, God forbid, of a certain route, but the vast majority of them hve never put foot on the summit – not even using the cable car as a means of ascent!