I’ll be totally honest, I went on my very first small hike over the summer in Sri Lanka.

Both trails were only about 40 minutes tops, and they more or less had paved paths and steps for about 90 percent of each trail. 

So when my friend April suggested we wake up super early on our first morning in Cape Town to hike iconic Table Mountain, it sounded like a great idea.

Little did I know what was in store for me.

My first mistake was grabbing a cappuccino at the bottom of the path from an adorable little coffee shop stand.

It was the first proper espresso machine I had seen in weeks, so to say it excited me would be an understatement.

April, a seasoned hiker, encouraged my need for caffeine because she knew it was going to be entertaining watching me try to climb the mountain with my coffee in hand.

Let’s just say, I quickly realized I’d made a big miscalculation!

I should’ve ordered espresso so that I could get my caffeine quickly before our climb, since we were on a time crunch. 

Turns out my definition of hiking was also not accurate.

The path to the top of Table Mountain was not nearly as smooth as the last two in Sri Lanka had been, especially toward the top. 

Read on to find out all the things I wish I’d known so that you can plan your Table Mountain hike.

Can you hike up Table Mountain without a guide?


Yes, you can absolutely hike up Cape Town’s Table Mountain without a guide. Most amateur hikers chose to do Platteklip Gorge, since it’s the easiest trail to get up without navigating.

What is the easiest Table Mountain hike?

Platteklip Gorge is the easiest trail to hike to the top of Table Mountain. 

It’s basically a straight shot to the top, making it easy to navigate. 

This is the trail my friend April and I did when we were in Cape Town, and as a novice hiker, it was a great workout.

How long is the Table Mountain hike?

Ally victory pose top of table mountain 2

It depends on the hiking route you choose to take on. 

Platteklip Gorge is roughly 1.3 miles and takes about two hours to reach the top without stopping. My friend April and I took some breaks since it was so hot out, and got to the top about two and half hours after we began hiking. 

The India Venster Trail is 2.5 miles and said to be more intense and a bit more dangerous than Platteklip Gorge. This trail takes roughly three to four hours depending on your fitness level. 

Skeleton Gorge Trail runs about 4 miles and doesn’t start off with the beautiful views you’ll see on the other two trails. This trial will take about four and a half hours to complete.

There’s also the 12 Apostles Trail which has you hiking 3.7 miles. This one is meant to be quite easy, just long, taking about five hours to complete.

What is the best time to go up Table Mountain?

hiking table mountain cape town 2

You’ll want to plan to start your hike early in the morning to beat the heat. 

The best time of year to visit Cape Town is between October and March, which is South Africa’s summer. 

I went in the middle of October, and besides a lot of fog the day we hiked, the weather was ideal. I can’t imagine hiking Table Mountain on a hotter day.

A friend who went a few weeks later actually saw them have to airlift a woman off the trail because she didn’t bring water and the temperature was almost 90 Fahrenheit .  

If you decide to skip hiking and take the cable car up, it’s best to go either right when they open, or at sunset for gorgeous views.

Is hiking up Table Mountain free?


Yes, hiking up Table Mountain is pretty much free, since there’s no entrance fee to Table Mountain National Park

The only trail that you will have to pay for is Skeleton Gorge, since it runs through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

You should also plan on paying for tickets to the cable car if you’re planning on taking it up or down the mountain.

Can you hike up Table Mountain and take the cable car down?

Ally and April going down table mountain in cable car

Yes, absolutely!

Just plan to reach the top of Table Mountain before the cable car stops running, and make sure you have money to buy a ticket.

You can check their schedule here.

Which is the best hiking trail up Table Mountain?


Since Platteklip Gorge is one of the most direct and easiest trails, it’s considered the best hiking trail up to Table Mountain. 

You’ll get gorgeous views on the climb up, assuming it’s not as foggy as it was the morning my friend and I climbed it.

This trail is perfect for most tourists who aren’t big hikers.

If you’re a bit more of an expert hiker, consider one of the other trails.

What to bring on with you hiking up Table Mountain?

Ally Travels hiking table mountain in cape town south africa 2

You’ll absolutely want to bring a small backpack with you. Fill it with a large bottle of water and at least one or two snacks to enjoy on the way up. I brought a banana and a power bar. 

Just remember there’s no garbage until you reach the top of Table Mountain, so you’ll need a spot to put trash in your backpack. 

Final Thoughts

Ally Hiking with coffee 2

My last word of advice is, if you do the Platteklip Gorge trail, do not buy coffee at the start of the trail if you’re in a time crunch.

The coffee is delicious, but I had to climb with my caffeine fix in hand because we didn’t have enough time in our schedule for me to drink it before we began hiking. 

If you need your morning joe, plan to buy it there and hang out at the bottom until you’re done drinking it. 

Trust me, it’s much easier than climbing with it in hand. 

Though I’d like to point out that I successfully did it, without spilling a drop of precious caffeine!

Let me know in the comments below which trail you’re most looking forward to checking out while in Cape Town!


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