Table Mountain hiking trails: what terrain to expect – 2 July 2015

Table Mountain hikes cover all sorts of terrain and leads through diverse environments. The quickest and easiest route to the summit, Platteklip Gorge, follows a well-defined trail consisting of rock-steps, many requiring a high step. It meanders up a deep gorge, the gradient steep at times. The trail is always rocky and uneven, or covered with scree (loose stones). Table Mountain hiking trails don’t get much better than that; if they do, then only for short stretches at a time. Another Table Mountain favourite, Skeleton Gorge, follows a jungle-choked gorge where slippery rock and a few wooden ladders add spice to the hike. Most routes involve scrambling (elementary climbing, NOT boulder-hopping) at some points along the way, some exposed to heights (sheer drops), others awkward and requiring contortionist moves to the amusement of other group members.

Most Table Mountain hiking routes are off-the-beaten track, or trail, meaning they are seldom done, difficult to find and typically bushy (overgrown), at least along some stretches. If you’re adventurous and / or a nature lover, and you have an inquisitive mind and love to explore and want to experience the essence of Table Mountain – or as I sometimes say, ‘Table Mountain unplugged’ – then you will find much joy on one of these routes. They come in all levels of adventure and technical difficulty. But they have one thing in common: rugged terrain, meaning bush, loose rock and often scrambling as well as exposure to heights.

Many routes pack it all, from springy, leaf-littered slope in a jungle environment to trim trails traversing reedy marshes to rocky, sun-baked ridges where you scramble airily to the sound of the ocean far below. Terrain adds much diversity to a hike, and challenge. The difficulty of Table Mountain hikes should rather be gauged by the terrain they cover rather than  elevation gain or distance.

Whatever you expect from hiking Table Mountain, don’t expect a garden path. While some routes offer manicured stretches of trail, much of it is rough and rocky. Even though the mountain overlooks a city, it’s still a mountain, a wilderness.