Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97. Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.Baz Luhrmann
With that crucial nugget of advice out the way, can we just agree that Cape Town is a hiking and trail running Mecca? How many other places on the planet offer cityscapes, mountain views and glimpses of the glimmering Atlantic ocean all in one snapshot? That’s why it’s key to be acquainted with all of the best hiking routes this summer and, because you also have to eat, Sol’s Foods is a great wingman for the adventure.
The beauty of hiking and trail running in Cape Town lies in its inclusivity and accessibility to people of varying fitness levels. Some comfortable gear and shoes and you’re set to go. Also, fear not, this selection of routes has been compiled very much with the beginner hiker in mind. From leisurely strolls to shake off the cobwebs to more challenging scrambles that leave your knees grazed, Cape Town truly has something for everyone.
So, what’s all this got to do with us? Well, we’re all avid mountain-goers/runners so there’s a decent amount of collective experience under our belts. Check out our top ten hikes with tips, personal anecdotes, route info and, of course, advice on which snacks to take along on your journey.
Here’s our top 10, in no particular order, although the relatively trickier routes are towards the end of this article.
Sol’s top 10 Cape Town hiking trails in summer 2021
- Lion’s Head Loop & the summit itself
- The Missing Link
- Platteklip Gorge
- Cecilia Forest to Constantia Nek
- Skeleton Gorge
- Devil’s Peak
- India Venster
Follow the links for starting points to each route.
Lion’s Head Loop & the summit itself
If you’re a Capetonian, you’ve probably scaled Lion’s Head at least once in your lifetime. If you haven’t maybe it’s time to get on that this summer! It’s a popular walking route for obvious reasons; it offers brilliant views, is relatively easy and only takes up a couple of hours of your time. There also happen to be numerous trail running routes that start and finish at numerous points on its circumference. You’ll also be able to snap some decent material for your dating apps. Try out the route starting from Top Road in Fresnaye and wrap around all the way to Kloof and Kloofnek for elevated sea views.
The Missing Link
With staggering views of the ocean stretching from Camps Bay all the way around until Llandudno, The Missing Link is one of the most picturesque trails in all of Cape Town. It’s especially popular with mountain bikers but is a versatile stretch of terrain that’s available to runners and hikers too. It’s a beginner runner’s dream because it’s hard and sandy underfoot with almost no rocky sections and flat most of the way until Oudekraal.
Bring rugged trail shoes with you nonetheless. Traversing this trail gives you an elevated Victoria Road view of the Atlantic with none of the automobile traffic. And don’t worry, the mountain bikers are pretty polite and considerate here. Start from the end of Theresa Avenue in Camps Bay.
Easily accessible from the Pipe Track on Kloofnek, Kasteelpoort is a crowd-pleaser and appropriate for the entire family and groups of friends that are keen to catch up after a busy week. There are challenging uphill sections and there is occasional hefty exposure to the sun, but it’s mostly a gorgeous gradual incline that eventually leads to waterfalls, Heli Hutchison reservoir and even all the way round to Constantia Nek if your legs can handle the extra mileage.
The initial stretch of the pipe track alone is enough to boost your step count for the day but it’s mostly flat and can get a bit tedious. Fortunately, around 2km after you embark from Kloofnek, you can start your ascent at the Diagonal or Kasteelpoort itself. In that way, The Pipe Track is the ideal launchpad if you’re looking for some fresh air and sparkling scenery.
Back to what Baz Luhrmann said. The majority of the Platteklip Gorge route is unsheltered so you’ll be spending the better part of three hours with the sun beating down on your face, so wear protection. Kasteelpoort is the superior route if you want majestic views but if you want to up your step count in the sun, Platteklip is also great. We are seriously spoiled for choice in this city. Bring loads of water and snacks because you’ll be out there for a couple of hours.
Cecilia Forest to Constantia Nek
One of the best options available to those living in the ‘burbs. Cecilia Forest is a dream for dog owners and fitness enthusiasts who favour an early start before work, or those chasing sunrises and the epic Cecilia Waterfall on Saturday and Sunday. Cecilia has become quite a favourite so don’t forget your mask, and bring your bottle to take some fresh mountain water home.
Commencing from Llandudno, Oudeschip is a hidden gem that provides uninterrupted views of Sandy Bay beach where you should park for the easier route that’s suitable for kids. If you’re fit and experienced enough and armed with the knowledge of the route, there’s the tantalising challenge of wrapping all the way around to Duiker Island and catching a glimpse of some seals. Tackle this route in a group as it’s quite remote.
One of Cape Town’s most iconic hiking routes, starting at one of the most exquisite botanical gardens in all of the world, Kirstenbosch, Skeleton Gorge is a lot friendlier than the name suggests. Make no mistake, your calves will feel it the morning after, but it’s a mission worth making and one that entire families can enjoy. Meet your mates at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room and forge your path upwards.
Meandering paths that are sporadically shaded by dense green foliage gives you the feeling that you’re exploring a forest, and that’s because you are, but then the ladders lead you to a sun-exposed stretch. Before you know it, you arrive on a beach alongside reservoirs. Quite a lot to process in such a short time. If you haven’t ticked this one off the list yet, now’s the time.
On the other side of Bantry Bay, once you wrap around Victoria Road beyond Oudekraal and the legendary Llandudno beach, Suikerbossie follows soon after and offers routes that are unspoiled and relatively much less travelled. Hiking enthusiasts will know all about the astonishing views from Judas Peak, and the attention to detail required when descending Myburgh Ravine.
One of the most striking features of the areas surrounding Judas Peak is the sheer variety of flora. One minute your legs are being softly caressed by meadowy grass, the next Bring a windbreaker in case the weather gets weird up there, as well as a flask with coffee and the Picnic Pro or some delicious sweets. If any of your hiking enthusiast friends haven’t been here yet, make that a priority.
Another iconic natural wonder of Cape Town whose name is shrouded in mystery but, in reality, Devil’s Peak is just another beautiful section of the mountain well worth exploring. We actually haven’t been in a while so that’s probably getting slotted into this weekend’s agenda. If you go, make sure to take something warm along because wind pockets are a real thing up there. Shorts and proper hiking shoes are also advised as you trek through mostly scrubby fynbos. And as for food, bring a snacksational hamper from Sol’s Foods to enjoy at the summit.
You can reach the Devil’s Peak saddle from three routes that range from moderate to difficult. Ascend from Tafelberg Road on the city side, up Newlands Ravine from Newlands Forest, or the upper contour path from Mowbray Ridge and Minor Peak starting at Rhodes Memorial. Once you’re at the top, stellar company. At the top, a good lunch is much-needed and only accentuated by spectacular views and stellar company. Part of why hiking is such a rewarding experience.
Negotiating India Venster requires some hiking experience in your party. There is a small section with a bit of scrambling, chains and ladder-climbing so it’s advised that you tackle this hike in a group that contains at least one seasoned hiker. The climb is a short, intense one that starts near the Cableway. At the top, you’re free to explore the wide-open space at the top of Table Mountain. It’s pretty flat up there, strangely enough.
We’ve reached the end of our list, so now’s the time for the serious part.
Always hike in groups, be safe, take more water and snacks than you need, stay hydrated, don’t do anything stupid or you’re not comfortable doing, and wear sunscreen. Mountain magic awaits this summer in beautiful Cape Town.