The many faces of hiking Table Mountain – 16 October 2014

Covering 58 square kilometres, Table Mountain offers several habitats, from lush indigenous forest reminiscent of a tropical rain-forest to shrubland punctuated with sculpted rock. The mountain features four distinct sides, each unique from the other in terms of views, topography, vegetation, weather and mood.

The north side – the famous side that features the iconic outline of Table Mountain – overlooks the city; the east side is covered in forest and offers inland views across the city suburbs from around midway up; the west side overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and offers mostly shrubland with pockets of forest. The south side consists of a forested valley and commands views of Hout Bay Valley once above the forest line. Hiking Table Mountain up different sides gives the impression of being on different mountains altogether. Different people prefer different sides. Making use of a mountain-guide will ensure you get to hike Table Mountain up the side that is most compatible with your preferences.

Table Mountain hikes lead up all sides, so no single hike can really showcase all the mountain’s facets. Choosing the side from which to hike Table Mountain is an important choice that can make a big difference in your overall enjoyment of the mountain. Often overlooked, the mood  / atmosphere on each side differs greatly, and needs to be taken into account when deciding on a route. Table Mountain hikes can be structured to include more than one side, but often result in a longer hike. A few routes, like India Venster, take in more than one side on the ascent – a real bonus.

Table Mountain hiking offers much variety – more than most people have time and energy to experience in a week-long visit to Cape Town. Route choice is crucial in optimizing your experience of the mountain. Popular routes like Platteklip Gorge and Skeleton Gorge should not be assumed to be the best route by virtue of their popularity. Discussing your expectations, preferences and abilities with a competent Table Mountain guide will ensure that you end up on the best route for you.