Table Mountain routes made easy – 10 May 2021

Having a hard time deciding which Table Mountain route is best for you? Given the glut of information, opinions and reviews online, it’s become a daunting task for travelers to decide on a route. Pundits abound, opinions are a dime a dozen and there’s no shortage of route options. This article aims to help you navigate your way through the bewildering amount of clutter by simplifying what’s on offer and sharing a few essential facts about each route.

Several routes lead up the 12 Apostles, a chain of peak extending behind the famous tabular summit. Kasteelspoort is one of them. The photo was taken on Porcupine Ravine, another great Apostles route.
High up on the 12 Apostles.

This discussion deals with routes that leads to the famous flat-topped summit of Table Mountain – not those that terminate on outlaying parts of the mountain.

In a way there are only two types of Table Mountain hiking routes: Platteklip Gorge and the rest. Platteklip Gorge is the quickest and easiest route to the summit, but also the least scenic and exciting. The latter sentiment is a subjective matter and I voice it contextually with Table Mountain hiking. If you’ve never set foot on a mountain, Platteklip Gorge will impress. But compared to other Table Mountain routes, it offers the least amount of scenery and excitement. All the other routes are quite a bit harder, either physically or technically. They also showcase Table Mountain a lot more, thereby offering a more comprehensive or in-depth experience of the mountain.

Hikers crossing the iconic venster (window) of India Venster, one of the best Table Mountain routes.
Traversing the well-known ‘venster’ (window) of India Venster.

Let’s take a closer look at the rest. Two (sub)types here. The first is India Venster. The second comprises two routes: Skeleton Gorge and Kasteelspoort (on the 12 Apostles). A third type begs to be added, referred to in this discussion as Explorer routes. This brings us to four types of Table Mountain routes:

  1. Platteklip Gorge
  2. India Venster
  3. Skeleton Gorge / Kasteelspoort
  4. Explorer routes (specified below)
The King protea in full bloom high up India Venster.
South Africa’s national flower, the King protea, high up India Venster.

The first three types account for about 90% of all guided Table Mountain hikes. Here’s the barest of barebones on each of those types:

Platteklip Gorge: quickest and easiest route, but not the nicest. Best for those who are not very fit, not into nature, not interested in a more authentic experience of Table Mountain; or those nursing a slight injury or have a time constraint.

India Venster: arguably the best half-day routes. Involves scrambling (elementary climbing) and narrow ledges, so you need at least a decent head for heights to enjoy. Less strenuous and more adventurous than Skeleton Gorge / Kasteelspoort.

India Venster offers different views, first city, then sea, then mountain. Few routes pack such a diversity of views.
Top section of India Venster.

Skeleton Gorge / Kasteelspoort: more or less equal difficulty physically and technically. Involves minimal scrambling and narrow ledges, but considerable distance and elevation gain, making them strenuous. The two big differences between them: setting and views. Skeleton Gorge offers jungle setting along the first half and inland views; Kasteelspoort offers shrubland and sea views.

Jungle vibes in Skeleton Gorge. If you enjoy forest settings, Skeleton Gorge will delight.
Indigenous forest on Skeleton Gorge.

Explorer routes: These include Hiddingh-Ascension, Grotto-Fountain-Cairn Traverse, Kloof Corner, Blind Gully, Left Face B, Wood Buttress, Spring Buttress and several others. They involve lots of scrambling and narrow ledges, often also rugged terrain (bush / loose rock). Ideal for experienced hikers who love nature, have a solid sense of adventure and a good head for heights.

Imposing cliffs high up in Platteklip Gorge. Though it's generally regarded as the least scenic and exciting route up Table Mountain, it still showcases a lot more of the mountain than taking the cable car up. And it gives you a sense of achievement.
Top section of Platteklip Gorge.

The following can be used as a rather simplistic guideline. It’s in no way definitive, as other factors influence route selection. If you consider yourself moderately fit and you enjoy nature, you should discount Platteklip Gorge. If you’re adventurous and don’t have (much of) an issue with heights, go for India Venster. If you have an issue with heights, go for Skeleton Gorge if you enjoy jungle settings, or Kasteelspoort if you enjoy sea views.

If you’re still at a loss as to which route will provider you with the ultimate Table Mountain experience, simply shoot us an email for expert advice and insights.

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