Table Mountain hiking routes: Which is best? – 8 June 2017

About 65 hiking routes lead up Table Mountain, each unique in terms of views, difficulty, terrain, vegetation or atmosphere. Differences might be restricted to only one of the aforementioned aspects, but often include more than one, and in some cases, all. For most, views dictate route choice rather than difficulty, to their consternation. Others blindly defer to the recommendations or reviews of others. In my opinion, the best way to decide on a Table Mountain hiking route is to consult a competent and experienced mountain-guide. Any other way will likely result in a second-rate experience on a less-than-ideal route or in an unpleasant or even traumatic experience.

Table Mountain hikes differ greatly in views and difficulty. Platteklip Gorge is the quickest and easiest route, but the least scenic and exciting. All the other routes offer better views and more exciting hiking – but they are either more strenuous (more distance and uphill) or more technical (involves scrambling and narrow ledges). No single route can be nominated as the route with the best views: people’s appreciation of views differ. A route like Skeleton Gorge offers jungle setting (no views) and inland views on the ascent, while 12 Apostle routes offer sea views on the ascent.  So when deciding on a route, consider what type of views you prefer.

More importantly, match your fitness level, abilities and sense of adventure with the right route. You’re not going to enjoy any type of view if you’re exhausted or terrifed for much of the way – unless overcoming your fears or challenging yourself physically ranks as your primary motivation for hiking Table Mountain. As a mountain-guide, I refrain from using a cookie-cutter approach to making route suggestions, as several nuances exist that creates too many permutations for a simplistic approach to route selection. Case in point: I’ve had people terrified of heights on routes that involved exposure to heights; ostensibly, a bad idea, but not so in those specific cases: they wanted to overcome their fear of heights and were preapred to step outside their comfort zone.

Table Mountain hiking offers routes for all levels of experience and fitness. With so many routes on offer, deciding on the best can be bewildering. Before you spend hours online researching different options, consult an experienced mountain-guide to guide for in-depth and objective advice that will greatly assisit you in the decision-making process. All routes have merit, but since it might be your only opportunity to ever hike Table Mountain, you want to optimize the experience by hiking along the route best suited to your abilities and preferences.