Skeleton Gorge

A Table Mountain classic. Follows a lush ravine through indigenous jungle before emerging onto shrub-covered slopes to eventually gain the highest point on the mountain. A short detour along the way leads to a ‘beach’ at the historic Table Mountain reservoirs. Takes in all floral zones and covers the length of the famous tabletop summit. Jungle setting with Cape Peninsula and inland views on the ascent.

Grade: A+

Time: 4 to 4.5 hours to the upper cable station

Cost: R1300 per person

A Table Mountain classic, Skeleton Gorge leads up the lush eastern side of Table Mountain, offering jungle setting and inland views on the ascent, with eventual city views. It starts within the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (no doubt contributing to its popularity) and covers a big chunk of the Table Mountain massif. The route involves some light, non-exposed scrambling, so you don’t need a head for heights. One section requires you to negotiate a series of wooden ladders lightly exposed to heights – not difficult, but fairly challenging if you suffer from fear of heights; more challenging during wet conditions. In winter (June to August), the route gets very wet and quite treacherous, especially directly after rain, but at the same time offers small waterfalls and cascades.

The first half of the route leads through indigenous Afro-montane forest (resembling tropical jungle), after which you emerge onto shrub-covered slope that leads up to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain (about 20 meters / 70 feet higher than the rest of the ‘Table’). From here, we traverse the length of the famous tabletop summit to eventually reach the upper cable station.

Cons: the route is long and strenuous, so if your fitness is below average, you will take strain. Also, the route scores low on the adventure scale, so not ideal if you’re very adventurous. The route sneaks up the less-steep back of Table Mountain, offering little in the way of dramatic mountainscapes. Pros: starts from within the Botanical Gardens; a short detour midway up leads to a ‘beach’; the route takes in all the floral zones on the mountain; tops out at the highest point; leads across the length of the famous ‘Table’.

Difference between Kasteelspoort (12 Apostles) and Skeleton Gorge? The former offer sea views on the ascent, the latter jungle setting / inland views. Different views appeal to different people, so hard to say which is best. Both routes are more or less equally strenuous and both scores quite low on the adventure scale – though Skeleton Gorge is quite an adventure in winter after rain, sometimes downright impassable!

Book the Skeleton Gorge hike here