The Kasteelspoort hike article is written by Riaan Vorster, an accredited mountain-guide and Table Mountain expert with 12 years consistent guiding experience on Table Mountain. Riaan has guided thousands of groups up more than 40 different Table Mountain routes. He heads up Hike Table Mountain, a Cape Town mountain-guiding company specializing in hikes and scrambles on Table Mountain. They are the only company that offers guided hikes up all Table Mountain’s hiking and scramble routes.
The Kasteelspoort hike leads up the Twelve Apostles, a chain of seaboard peaks and buttresses extending behind the famous tabletop summit of Table Mountain. Kasteelspoort means castle’s portal in Afrikaans and takes its name from being the easiest way up the castellated Twelve Apostles range. The Twelve Apostles are considered part of Table Mountain and offers many routes of all difficulty levels.
Strictly speaking, Kasteelspoort is a broad, open ravine that leads to the summit of the Twelve Apostles, located at about two-thirds the height of Table Mountain. The top of the ravine is about 3.5 trail-kilometers distant from the summit of Table Mountain. Kasteelspoort hike as described in this article refers to the ravine as well as the hike (or extension) across to the summit of Table Mountain.
The Kasteelspoort hike is technically easy (minimal scrambling and narrow ledges), but strenuous. It requires at least a moderate fitness level for optimal enjoyment. If your fitness is below average, you will take strain, possibly a lot. If accompanied by a guide, the route is suitable for people nervous of heights. Not suitable for people terrified of heights. The extension from the top of the ravine to the summit of Table Mountain can be varied: one option involves a series of inclined, steel ladders – technically easy and somewhat exposed to heights. The second option bypasses the ladders, but involves a bit more distance.
If your fitness is below average, you are going to need more determination and grit to complete the route. The route is not suitable for anyone suffering from impaired balance.
3. Elevation gain, Distance and Duration
The Kasteelspoort route gains 900 meters (3000 feet) elevation over a distance of approximately 6.5 kilometres (4 miles). The average duration is 4 hours. Add 30 minutes for a visit to the famous Diving Board, a photogenic rock-platform.
4. Terrain of the Kasteelspoort hike
The Kasteelspoort hike follows a well-defined trail that involves a few easy scrambles with light exposure to heights. Leads along clean rock-steps with minimal loose rock for much of the way. The route dries off quickly after rain.
The Kasteelspoort hiking trail undulates through secluded valleys and past wind-sculpted rocks, with a fascinating diversity of indigenous shrub throughout. Sea views along the first 1.5 hours. Further up, you get superb views down the length of the Cape Peninsula (as far as Cape Point on a clear day) and onto the rest of the Table Mountain range. Overall, the route takes in a big chunk of Table Mountain and showcases unique features of the mountain. Several asides add interest: the historic reservoirs, the Diving Board, Valken Labyrinth, Blinkwater Peak, Isolation Cave, Rendezvous Cave and Grotto Cave.
6. Safety and Security
While Kasteelspoort follows a well-defined trail, it does not mean you can’t get lost. Several other trails branch off from the trunk trail and these could lead you astray or along a detour to the summit that might prove too strenuous for your abilities. Rescue scenarios can unfold along a well-marked trail, when you run out of water or energy through unwittingly following a much longer route variation to the summit.
Table Mountain’s capricious weather is another good reason to make use of a guide. Cloud often boils up out of nowhere, engulfing the mountain and causing disorientation – even if you are on a well-defined trail. It is very easy to wander around the mountain for hours, looking for the way up. The mountain covers a large area crisscrossed with trails. Wind complicates matters and can easily result in a hike become an ordeal or even a rescue. Especially in summer, when the prevailing Southeaster often results in cableway closure, necessitating a hike-down – tough and unpleasant. A lot of people just manage to drag themselves up the route with no energy or legs to spare, bargaining on a cable car descent. And when they find the cableway closed due to wind, they are physically unable to hike themselves off the mountain. This is an extremely dangerous scenario that can easily be prevented through making use of a guide.
Just because there’s no wind or cloud where you start doesn’t mean it will be wind-free on the summit. And just because there is no wind or cloud when you start doesn’t mean it will be wind- and cloud-free by the time you reach the summit. To avoid the weather ruining your experience of Table Mountain, and possibly causing an ordeal, make use of a guide.
At the time of writing (October 2021), the route is very safe security-wise.
7. Traffic on the Kasteelspoort hike
On weekdays outside December and Easter holidays, you usually have Kasteelspoort to yourself. The lower section up to the Apostles plateau gets a fair amount of traffic on weekends. Beyond that, traffic thins out along diverging trails.
8. Kasteelspoort Hike – Why you should use a guide
It depends on your fitness, experience, general health and willingness to take on risk. Making use of a guide optimizes the experience in the following ways:
- It takes the guesswork and stress out of weather-prediction and hiking logistics.
- You learn about the mountain, which brings your surroundings to life and allows you to appreciate the environment. Guided hikes are educational and provides you with fascinating insights into the fauna, flora, history and geology.
- You hike with someone who’s motivational and enthusiastic – and committed to getting you up the mountain and providing you with the best possible experience of the mountain.
- A guide provides thorough assistance if you become ill or injured along the way.
- It solves all route-finding issues.
- You won’t miss any hidden viewpoints or hidden topographical gems along the way.
To get the most out of the Kasteelspoort route, and to be safe, make use of a guide. Cloud often engulfs the mountain within minutes, complicating route-finding. Making use of a guide takes the anxiety out of route-finding and changes in the weather, allowing you to devote your attention to the scenery and sense impressions. It also ensures that you do not miss out on any scenic points or hidden topographical gems.
9. Pros and Cons
- Views throughout
- Lots of nature: peace, quiet, solitude
- Striking rock formations
- The Diving Board, an airy rock projection overlooking Camps Bay and the Atlantic coast. It offers an exhilarating photo opportunity (but shouldn’t dictate route choice).
- Optional detours to caves, rock labyrinths and the historic reservoirs
- Morning shade along the first half – a huge bonus in summer
- Passes through a part of the mountain that is steeped in history
- Scores low on the adventure scale, so only a con if you’re adventurous. There are many route options on the Twelve Apostles that provide adventure, if that’s what you want.
- Little vegetation change (but highly diverse species nonetheless)
- Quite busy on weekends and during holidays
Compared to Platteklip Gorge:
- Offers more nature and views
- About 30% more strenuous (more distance as well as elevation gain)
- Sea views vs city views
- A bit more technical (scrambling and exposure to heights)
- Much less people; more peace and quiet
Compared to Skeleton Gorge:
- Sea views on the first half vs jungle setting on the first half
- Same level of technicality and physicality (on cool, dry days)
- Less people; somewhat more peace and quiet
- Cooler in summer, less slippery in winter
Compared to India Venster:
- About 25% more strenuous
- Involves less scrambling and heights (therefore less adventurous)
- Sea views vs city and sea views
- Less dramatic rock-formations
- Somewhat less people
11. Ideal hiker profile for the Kasteelspoort hike
- Possesses at least a moderate fitness level
- Not looking for adventure
- Appreciates nature, peace and quiet, solitude
- Keen for a deeper experience of Table Mountain
- Averse to crowds
Avoid the route if you are adventurous, not in good shape or don’t care about nature.
Kasteelspoort is a great option for those hikers wanting a comprehensive experience of Table Mountain without the adventure component. You don’t need a head for heights or any experience, just a decent fitness level. Caves, history, sensational viewpoints, peace and quiet, pristine nature – these are the defining qualities of this venerable Table Mountain route. It covers a sizeable chunk of the mountain, providing a good look behind the iconic flat-topped façade of the mountain.
(c) Riaan Vorster