Platteklip Gorge (Dutch / Afrikaans for Flat Rock Gorge) is the quickest, easiest and oldest route up Table Mountain, but also the least scenic and exciting. It’s better than taking the cable car to the summit, but as far as Table Mountain hiking goes, it doesn’t do the mountain justice. The trail is well-defined and consists of rock steps: natural rock from the mountain rolled and fixed into place to form steps. It zigzags up an imposing ravine that slashes up the front / north side of the mountain, so views are limited by the sheer sidewalls. The hiking is a tad tedious (very tedious if you’re adventurous), but the route gets you to the summit quickly and without complication. Being the easiest and quickest hiking route up Table Mountain naturally makes it the most popular route and it therefore gets busy on weekends, especially during summer.
Table Mountain guides ply Platteklip Gorge throughout the year. Not me. I try to avoid the route at all costs, opting for longer or more challenging routes that showcases more of the mountain and involves more stimulating hiking and scenery. But in the end, it comes down to what you want out of the experience: those who are short on time and extremely unfit, and have no interest in nature or the pristine parts of the mountain, and who have no sense of adventure; those only looking to get to the summit as quick as possible to claim a ‘conquest’ of Table Mountain; those who have no choice but to hike up due to cable car closure – to all these people, Platteklip Gorge is the route for you. The rest, follow me…
Though Platteklip Gorge is not exactly representative of Table Mountain hiking, it does offer some impressive scenery along its upper reaches, where it cuts deep into the “Table” to create beetling cliffs that close in as you approach the head of the gorge, forming a 3-meter-wide corridor that leads to a dip in the tabletop summit. The lower part of the gorge features a fast-flowing stream during winter, complete with lovely cascades and lush riverine vegetation. Scorned by climbers and experienced hikers and climbers as an ascent, Platteklip Gorge serves the mountaineering fraternity well as an easy descent after a grueling ascent of a challenging route on days when the cable car is closed due to strong wind. Dubbed the Coca-Cola route of Table Mountain, well-known Platteklip Gorge has become synonymous to Table Mountain hiking and the default choice of visitors to the mountain. First ascended in 1503 by the first European to climb Table Mountain (Portuguese explorer, Antonio de Saldanha), the gorge has since been ascended by many thousands of hikers.