Table Mountain hikes: Waterfalls – 15 May 2019

Cape Town is rainiest June to August, and Table Mountain gets a thorough drenching. While Cape Town winters are pretty wet, there is always sunny breaks in between the rain and cloud that makes for the best hiking weather. The mountain comes alive with burble and splatter of streams and cascades; and in a few places, the thunder of waterfalls greets your ears as you round a bend in the trail. The ever-present clicking and chirping of frogs create an exotic backdrop and accentuates the vitality of the mountain in winter.

Hiking Table Mountain in winter (June to August) gives you the opportunity to experience a relative rarity of the mountain: waterfalls. Not to the magnitude of Niagara or Iguassu, but sizeable enough to enchant and exhilarate. However, they’re short-lived, as many streams rise on Table Mountain, and the run-off is fast due to the sheer sides, so streams’ water levels drop quickly after rain. To get the biggest falls, wait for the heaviest rain and head up the mountain at the tail end of a cold front. Of course, knowing where to go is important, too.

Generally, the eastern and southern slopes generate the biggest waterfalls, as the rainfall on those sides of the mountain is about three times higher than the north and west. Still, a walk along the Contour Path after three days of rain serves up a generous number of cascades and small waterfalls, the biggest being where the trail passes through Silverstream Ravine.

Several Table Mountain hiking routes lead past or through the general vicinity of waterfalls. Skeleton Gorge, a Table Mountain classic evergreen in popularity gushes in winter after rain, and sometimes becomes downright impassable; but if you’re agile and don’t mind getting wet, then you’re in for a treat when it comes to cascades. Another accessible waterfall is Hell’s Gates in Disa Gorge, a real treat after heavy rains.

Other Table Mountain hikes require more detouring to include waterfalls. Fir Tree Ravine, Fountain Ravine, Blinkwater Ravine and Window Gorge all gush after rain, with the white water of cascades visible as ribbons stretching down almost the entire height of the mountain. Standing next to a torrent of water thundering down into a rock pool, and in wild surroundings, is a singular and invigorating experience of Table Mountain. But as winter rains make way for the scorching summer sun, watercourses dry up and the existence of waterfalls seem far-fetched. Only a few Table Mountain streams are perennial, dwindling to only a muted trickle in late summer.

Hiking Table Mountain in winter offers the best and the worse hiking conditions. Timing is imperative, as cold fronts lash the cape over this period, bringing very cold weather, gale-force winds and torrential rain – hardly conditions to be up on the mountain. But with a bit of planning, and certainly the knowledge of a competent mountain guide, you can experience Table Mountain as a veritable wonderworld of water.

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