The best viewpoints on Table Mountain: a weighty point of contention that unfortunately cannot be answered definitively. Short of letting myself off the hook, I will attempt to review what I consider the top contenders of this debatable issue.
Before doing so, it is worth pointing out that some of the best viewpoints can be found on the way up, not from the summit. Perched on the side of the mountain between dramatic cliffs and rock-formations redirects the focus from what is out there in the hazy distance to your immediate surroundings. It energizes your location; it is more immediate and produces greater impact – much like the experience of a diver in an aquarium fish tank compared to the casual visitor gazing at the sea life through a thick glass pane. I consider this effect the most overlooked advantage of hiking Table Mountain.
Much like book and music tastes, views are personal and therefore subjective. And that is why there can never be a claim to the best Table Mountain view, just like there cannot be one for books or movies. But we can single out those ones that appeal to most people.
As an example of how personal preferences can influence one’s perception of view, I will briefly share mine. For a view to be exceptional, there has to be some low cloud that creates a mystical effect; it must be on a part of the mountain that faces away from the city; it must be on a remote part of the mountain, with no people around other than my own group members; the immediate surroundings must be dramatic (lots of sheer cliffs and striking rock-formations).
Having spent a lot of time in the mountains, I have admittedly become fussy, but also keenly aware of the subtle ingredients that goes into my ideal view. All too often have I arrived at a favourite viewpoint only to find my group not sharing my exuberance; and then watch those same people enraptured by a view further up the trail that I considered less than impressive. I see it all the time: different people take photos at different viewpoints – a phenomenon explained by subtle personal preferences.
Time to review the top-10 best viewpoints accessible only by hiking Table Mountain. Despite my best effort to remain objective, this shortlist is by no means definitive. However, with many years’ Table Mountain hiking experience, I can wholeheartedly recommend them.
In no specific order:
#10, Silverstream Buttress summit. Located on the opposite side of the “Table” to the upper cable station, this hummock provides striking views of the famous front face of Table Mountain. And it is off the beaten track, allowing you to soak up the views in peace and quiet.
#9, Reserve Peak. This diminutive peak on the Back Table packs a lot more view than it appears from below. Rarely visited even by local hikers, it offers a commanding vantage point of the expansive back of the mountain.
#8, Klaasens Buttress summit delights me at every visit. Even further ‘back’ than Reserve Peak, Klaasens lords over Orange Kloof, a secluded valley carpeted with pristine indigenous forest.
#7, Judas Peak. Gives unrivalled views up the back of Table Mountain, not to mention across Hout Bay and the Cape Peninsula. Everyone knows the famous, iconic view of the front of Table Mountain; views of the back do not get more iconic than from Judas.
A short hop away, #6, Llandudno Peak. This rocky knoll ranks as one of my darling viewpoints. Though close to Judas, it provides very different views – and very beautiful. If someone asked me to show them only one view of Table Mountain, this would likely be my choice.
#5, Grootkop. As one of the 12 Apostles, conveniently located almost midway down this string of seaboard peaks, and with considerable prominence, the summit views are mesmerizing. One for those who appreciate solitude, as it requires a strenuous hike, but well worth the effort.
#4, neighbouring Corridor Peak. This prow-shaped buttress offers a most sensational viewpoint from the edge of an abysmal drop. A photo perched on what I call The Bowsprit will provide an adrenalin rush in addition to wild views.
The final 3 are route-specific, meaning located midway up a certain route.
The Pulpit at #3 sets you adrift high up the lush, imposing eastern side of Table Mountain. Located about two-thirds up Hiddingh-Ascension, it offers a unique, not to mention impressive perspective of the mountain.
#2, Blinkwater Needle. Another favourite of mine, this striking pinnacle about two-thirds the way up Blind Gully gives you the sensation of floating in space. The tricky scramble up the needle means you will likely have the views to yourself.
#1, Africa-Fountain Ledge Junction, located on the upper portion of India Venster. There are few places on Table Mountain where you go from one view to an altogether different view in a matter of meters, both of them jaw-dropping. Sandwiched between sheer cliffs high up Table Mountain, the location cannot be more exhilarating.
The above 10 viewpoints represent a fraction of what Table Mountain offer. Adding ever-changing weather conditions to the mix only increases the diversity. Whatever your preferences and level of discernment, hiking Table Mountain provides an abundance of views.