Tourism

Beautiful hikes in Cape Town – best trails in the city


Cape Town is a great city for hiking lovers. There are many incredible trails of different lengths and difficulty levels. From easy routes suitable for children to challenging hikes that require some rock climbing skills. When we’re not busy with long-distance treks and walks we love exploring new hiking trails around Cape Town.

Travel insurance for South Africa

It’s highly recommended to have travel insurance when you go overseas especially if you’re planning to do some outdoor activities. Cape Town has many adventurous things to do like hiking, diving, paragliding, mountain biking, etc. If you don’t have an insurance company we can recommend using World Nomads. They specialize in outdoor and adventure activities. Their insurance policy is very flexible and can be purchased online at any time before or during your trip. Get your instant quote right now!

Stingy Nomads on the edge of the Diving Board, a cliff on the top of Table Mountain
The Diving board a famous photo spot on the top of Table Mountain at the end of the Kasteelspoort hiking trail

How to get around Cape Town

The best and easiest way is to rent a car. To drive around the city and to nearby attractions you don’t need a big car but I’d definitely suggest renting a car with an AC. You can rent a car at the airport on arrival and drop it back when you leave.

If you don’t want to rent a car and drive around the city looking for a parking spot you can move around using the hop-on-hop-off bus. With it, you can get to the main Cape Town attractions and to many hiking trails within the city. There are four different routes that you can use. If you buy a 2-day ticket it includes 2 walking tours, the sunset bus, and a harbor cruise.

Easy hikes in Cape Town

Lion’s Head hike

  • Distance – 5,5 km return
  • Time – 1h30min. – 2 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 387 m
  • Terrain – gravel path, rocks and boulders, ladders, and chains (optional route).
  • Cost – free
  • Best time – sunset is the most spectacular time for the hike. Sunrise is a beautiful time as well though in summer you’ll have to get up very early to make it to the top in time. You can join a guided Lion’s Head sunset or sunrise hike if you don’t want to walk alone.
  • Starting/finishing point – the parking lot on Signal Hill Road next to the Vida coffee truck.
  • Parking – free at Lion’s Head parking or along Signal Hill Road.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, the last part of the hike involves some climbing and scrambling not the best for dogs.
Lion's Head trail elevation profile
Elevation profile of Lion’s Head hike – a must-do hiking trail in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Stunning views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, Clifton Beaches, Camps Bay, Cape Peninsula, Robben Island, and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Sunset/sunrise from the top.

Challenges

  • Long and quite steep ascent from the start of the trail.
  • The last part is more difficult especially if you choose the ladders and chains route.

If you have to choose one trail to do in Cape Town I’d say Lion’s Head hike is the one! It’s definitely one of the main things to do in Cape Town. The hike is not as long and tiring as hiking trails up Table Mountain and pretty much suitable for anybody. For some people, it’ll be an effortless walk for some more challenging, but it’s definitely doable.

The last part of the trail is a bit more tricky, but if you choose the recommended route (not the ladders and chains one), you’ll be fine. If you don’t feel like climbing all the way to the top you can do a circular route around Lion’s Head without going to the very top and still get stunning views of Cape Town and the coast. 

If you’re adventurous enough you can combine hiking with paragliding from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill with landing on the beach.

There are many great coffee shops in Cape Town to stop for breakfast or lunch on the way to or from Lion’s Head.

Alya sitting on a big rock looking at the sea on Lion's Head hike
Alya at one of the look-out points on Lion’s Head hike – a must-do trail in Cape Town

Maclear’s Beacon trail

  • Distance – 5,5 km return
  • Time – 1h30min. – 2 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 150 m
  • Terrain – footpath, boardwalk, occasional rocks, and boulders.
  • Cost – free. If you take the cable car up and/or down you’ll have to pay for your ticket.
  • Best time for hiking – in summer morning or evening, it gets very hot in the afternoon there is no shade to hide.
  • Starting/finishing point – on the top of Table Mountain at Platteklip Gorge, 700 m from the upper cable car station. Maclear’s Beacon is the turnaround point.
  • Parking – free along Tafelberg Road before or after the lower cable car station.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, it’s a very long walk with no shade to walk to the top, to the beacon, and back down. With a dog, you won’t be allowed to use the cable car. Read more on walking with dogs on Table Mountain.
Elevation profile of Maclear's Beacon hiking trail in Cape Town
Elevation profile of Maclear’s Beacon hike on the top of Table Mountain

Highlights

  • Great views of Hout Bay, Cape Peninsula, Strand, Gordon’s Bay.
  • Nice landscape, bizarre rock formations, views of the dams on the top of Table Mountain.
  • The monument at Maclear’s Beacon.

Challenges

  • The heat and lack of water is the only challenge. Make sure to bring enough water or to fill your bottle from the drinking fountain at the exit from the cable car station.

Table Mountain is one of the must-visit places in Cape Town. The views from the top are truly spectacular. The easiest and fastest option of getting to the top is to take the cable car. If you’re planning to use the hop-on-hop-off bus in Cape Town you can buy a combined bus and cable car ticket.

The Maclear’s Beacon hike is one of the easiest hikes on Table Mountain without strenuous ascents or descents. Suitable for travelers with children and elderly people. It’s a return route. The trail starts at Platteklip Gorge and finishes at Maclear’s Beacon. A nice well-marked route with great views of and of the coast. including Hout Bay, Cape Peninsula, Cape Flats, Strand, Gordons Bay, etc. The hike ends at Maclear’s Beacon, a man-made triangle rock memorial 5 meters high.

Table Mountain and its surroundings at Maclear's Beacon, an easy hike in Cape Town
The beautiful scenery on Maclear’s Beacon hike on the top of Table Mountain

Pipe Track, Table Mountain

  • Distance – 8 km return, you can walk as far as you want no need to go all the way. 
  • Time – 2 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 171 m
  • Terrain – rocky footpath
  • Cost – free
  • Best time for hiking – sunset is the most beautiful time for hiking though I’d recommend not going alone and returning back to your car before it gets dark. Weekend morning is the busiest time for hiking the Pipe track which makes it the safest time as well. 
  • Starting/finishing point – across the road from Kloof Nek parking lot. After 4 km the trail merges with the jeep track you can turn around at that point or continue on the jeep track.
  • Parking – free at Kloof Nek parking lot.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, it’s one of our favorite trails to walk with our dog. If you like taking your dogs for adventures we have a post on the best dog-friendly campsites around Cape Town.
Elevation profile of the Pipe Track hiking trail in Cape Town
Elevation profile of the Pipe Track hike in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Beautiful views of Lion’s Head, Camps Bay, Chapman’s Peak.
  • Stunning views of the coast and the mountain range.

Challenges

  • Nothing in particular though hiking or running this trail off-peak hours isn’t recommended for safety reasons.

Another easy hike on Table Mountain with very few ups and downs at the start. It’s suitable for people with children and dogs. The name comes from a massive pipeline along the route, originally it was constructed to lay water pipes to carry water from Table Mountain down to Cape Town. The Pipe Track is one of the oldest hiking trails, it dates back to 1887. 

The Pipe Track can be walked as a part of the Diagonal Trail or Kasteelspoort Trail up Table Mountain if you start/finish at the Kloof Neck parking lot.

The trail goes around Table Mountain on the Camps Bay side you get really nice views of the coast. You don’t get to the top of Table Mountain on this route but the views are still very nice. It’s a great route for running or walking with a dog, it’s our favorite dog-friendly hike in Cape Town. Just make sure to bring enough water for your pet. There are no water sources along the route.

Chile on the Pipe Track in Cape Town
Our dog Chile hiking the Pipe Track in Cape Town, one of her favorite hiking trails in the city

Waterfall hike, Cecilia Forest

  • Distance – 5 km loop
  • Time – 2 hours
  • Elevation gain – 324 m
  • Elevation loss – 316 m
  • Terrain – footpath, gravel road, jeep track
  • Cost – free
  • Best time for hiking – weekends morning when it’s not too hot and there are other hikers on the route.
  • Starting/finishing point – Cecilia Forest parking lot
  • Parking – free at Cecilia Forest car park. If there is no space along Rhodes Drive.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, another great hike to walk with dogs.
Elevation profile of one of the hiking trail in Cecilia Forest, Cape Town
Elevation profile of the Waterfall trail in Cecilia forest, a nice weekend hike in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Beautiful forest
  • A picturesque waterfall
  • Nice views of the surroundings

Challenges

  • The ascent to the waterfall, it’s not very steep but quite long.
  • It might get quite hot in summer, make sure to carry enough water.

A nice and easy hike in Cecilia Forest suitable for children, dogs are allowed on the trail. It’s a loop route that starts at the entrance. The first part can be done on a jeep track or on a footpath. The footpath is quite nice, it starts on the right (sign Cecilia Ravine) and goes up pretty much all the way till you reach the waterfall. It crosses the jeep track a couple of times. The footpath is steeper but a bit shorter than the jeep track.

The first half of the route is through the forest, the second part is on the slopes of the mountains quite exposed to the sun. If you walk in summer make sure to use sunscreen and a cap. Bring water with you. You can refill it at the waterfall. The waterfall is not very big but beautiful. It’s a nice picnic or a rest stop. After the waterfall, you continue on the same trail until it joins the Counterpath trail where you turn right and walk back towards the entrance gate. You can combine hiking in Cecilia Forest with visiting wine farms in Constantia Valley, situated just 5 km away.

A waterfall on the Waterfall trail in Cecilia Forest
A picturesque waterfall the highlight of the hiking trail in Cecilia Forest, Cape Town

If you enjoy hiking I’d suggest including the Otter Trail and the Amatola Trail in your South Africa hiking bucket list. Both routes are absolutely spectacular.

Moderate/difficult hiking trails in Cape Town

Skeleton Gorge, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

  • Distance – 6 km return
  • Time – 2h30min. – 3 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 600 m
  • Terrain – footpath, boardwalks, wooden ladders, rocks and boulders
  • Cost – Kirstenbosch Garden entrance fee ZAR 75/US$5 adults, ZAR 40/US$2,5 children 
  • Best time for hiking – any time most of the trail is through the forest you get nice shade on the way up and down.
  • Open – daily from 8am to 6pm
  • Starting/finishing point – Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The turnaround point on the top of Table Mountain is 100 m away from Hely Hutchinson Reservoir.
  • Parking – there are two free parking lots at the entrance to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
  • Dog-friendly – no, dogs are not allowed inside Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
Elevation graph of the Skeleton Gorge hiking trail in Cape Town
Elevation profile of the Skeleton Gorge hiking trail from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the most beautiful hikes in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Stunning lush green forest.
  • Small waterfalls and creeks, picturesque gorge, many birds.
  • Great views of Cape Flats and False Bay from the top.
  • A beautiful dam with a sandy beach at the end of the route.

Challenges

  • Steep ascent from the start.
  • Wet rocks are a bit slippery, not a problem on the way up but have to walk careful when going down.

This is one of our favorite hiking trails up Table Mountain not for the views but for the scenery along the route. Skeleton Gorge is definitely the greenest hike in Cape Town. Even if you’re not planning to walk up Skeleton Gorge Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is worth including in your Cape Town itinerary.

The area is absolutely beautiful; lush green forest, small creeks, and waterfalls, massive boulders, occasional flowers, etc. It’s the only route up Table Mountain that is well-protected from the direct sun. It’s the best trail to take on a hot summer day. The route follows the gorge over rocks and boulders pretty much all the way to the top. At the top, you finish on the opposite side of the cable car, next to a big dam with a nice sandy beach. It’s a great spot for a picnic. 

It’s possible to join a guided Skeleton Gorge hike that starts at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and finishes at the upper cable car station.

Campbell climbing down the ladder on the hike in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
One of the wooden ladders on the Skeleton Gorge hike in Kirstenbosch

If you like hiking through a lush green forest with many waterfalls, rivers, and creeks you might enjoy the Outeniqua Trail, a 1-week hike in the Outeniqua forest near Knysna.

Platteklip Gorge, Table Mountain

  • Distance – 5,5 km return
  • Time – 2 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 650 m
  • Terrain – rocks and boulders
  • Cost – free
  • Best time for hiking – morning or evening, it gets very hot during the day there is barely any shadow here.
  • Starting/finishing point – Tafelberg Road, 700 m past the Lower Cable Car station. The turnaround point on the top of Table Mountain is 700 m away from the upper cable car station.
  • Parking – along Tafelberg Road past the Lower Cable Car station for free.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, though it’s quite a steep up and down, the trail is very exposed to the sun.
Elevation profile of the Platteklip Gorge trail
Elevation profile of the Platteklip Gorge hike, the most popular route up Table Mountain

Highlights 

  • Nice views of City Bowl and the coast on the way up.
  • A beautiful gorge with massive boulders at the end of the trail.

Challenges

  • A steep climb from the start to the end.
  • The rocky stairs are quite high; it really works your legs.

The most popular route up Table Mountain and one of the most popular hikes in Cape Town. The Platteklip Gorge and the India Venster trails are the best to take if you want to end up near the cable car station on the top. This route is very straightforward without winding around the mountain from the very start it just goes directly to the top. Therefore it’s the shortest route as well. We used to “run” this route up and down a couple of times once a week when we were preparing for the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal. 

The route is easy to follow it basically goes straight up from the start till it reaches the top. You don’t have to be an experienced hiker for walking it just make sure you have enough water with you. It’s possible to join a guided hike up Platteklip Gorge.

Beautiful Platteklip Gorge with a view over Cape Town
On the top of Table Mountain at Platteklip Gorge, one of the most popular hiking trails

India Venster, Table Mountain

  • Distance – 8,5 km return
  • Time – 4 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 722 m
  • Terrain – footpath, rocks, boulders, ladders.
  • Cost – free
  • Best time for hiking – in summer early morning before it gets too hot. Not the best route to walk if it’s very windy.
  • Starting/finishing point – on the right of the Lower Cable Car station. The trail finishes on the top of Table Mountain, 700 m away from the Upper Cable Car station.
  • Parking – along Tafelberg Road before or after the Lower Cable Car station free of charge.
  • Dog-friendly – technically yes, dogs are allowed but the trail involves a lot of climbing and scrambling on the edge of the cliffs, not the ideal for walking with a dog.
Elevation profile of the India Venster hiking trail
Elevation profile of the ascent up Table Mountain on the India Venster trail, one of the toughest hikes in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Stunning views of Table Mountain, City Bowl, Camps Bay, Chapman’s Peak, etc.
  • Great views of the Aerial cable car.

Challenges

  • A steep ascent from the start to the end.
  • Difficult climbs over rocks and ladders in the middle part of the route.
  • The trail is exposed to the sun with no shadow.

This route is the ultimate adventure trail with some steep climbs over rocks and ladders and involves some scrambling, not for the faint-hearted. It’s not a children friendly hike. Not suitable for those who are afraid of heights. I don’t want to put you off. It’s not a technical climb, it’s similar to the ladders and chains part of Lion’s Head hike except it’s much longer and higher.

The trail is gorgeous with some of the best views of Cape Town and the coast. I’d say this is our most favorite route up Table Mountain for the views and overall experience. You can walk this trail both ways up and down but we prefer using a different route or taking the cable car for going down.

If you don’t feel confident enough to do this trail on your own you can always join a guided India Venster hike with experts who have done this route many times.

Alya on the India Venster hiking trail in Cape Town
Alya resting on a cliff on the India Venster hike, one of the most thrilling trails in Cape Town

Diagonal/Kasteelspoort Trail, Table Mountain

  • Distance – 11 km loop if you start on the Pipe Track at Tafelberg Road; about 6 km loop if you start at Theresa Avenue Jeep Trail (Camps Bay).
  • Time – 3h30min. – 4 hours, 2h30min.-3 hours the Camps Bay route.
  • Elevation gain/loss – 680 m
  • Terrain – footpath the first part and rocks and stairs the second part
  • Cost – free
  • Best time for hiking – morning when there are more people.
  • Starting/finishing point – Kloof Corner parking area if you start at Tavelberg Road;
  • Parking – if you start at Tafelberg Road – Kloof Nek parking lot for free; if you start at Camps Bay – at one of the nearby streets (Theresa Avenue, Barbara Road) for free.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, I’d suggest going up and down the Kasteelspoort trail rather than the Diagonal.
Elevation profile of the Kasteelspoort hike
Elevation profile of the Diagonal/Kasteelspoort hiking trail in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Fantastic views of Camps Bay, Lion’s Head, Cape Peninsula, etc.
  • The Diving board, a rock formation that reminds a diving board a thrilling place not for faint-hearted, a great spot for amazing photos.

Challenges

  • The climb up on the Diagonal trail is quite steep.
  • There is nowhere to refill water – make sure to bring enough.

This route is one of our favorites for the views of Camps Bay and Cape Peninsula. The trail itself is very diverse and combines 3 different trails; the Pipe Track (the flat and easy part), the Diagonal trail (up), and the Kasteelspoort trail (down). It’s possible to walk up and down following the same trail e.g. both ways on the Diagonal or on the Kasteelspoort trail. The Kasteelspoort route is easier especially for going down. The Diagonal is more challenging and involves some climbing over big rocks.

This hike is a great option for those who’ve been up Table Mountain on the cable car side and want to see a different part of the mountain. The Diagonal trail is significantly less busy compared to the Kasteelspoort. There are better look-out points with views of Camps Bay and Lion’s Head on the Diagonal Trail though.

You can join a guided Kasteelspoort hike from Camps Bay to the upper cable car station.

Stunning view of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean from a hiking trail in Cape Town
View of Lion’s Head and Camps Bay from the Diagonal hike in Cape Town

Devil’s Peak hike, Table Mountain

  • Distance – 6 km return
  • Time – 2h30min. – 3 hours return
  • Elevation gain/loss – 585 m
  • Terrain – footpath, rocks
  • Cost – free
  • Best time for hiking – early mornings in summer before it gets too hot. For safety reasons, it’s better to walk in on weekends or during public holidays when there are quite a few hikers on the mountain.
  • Starting/finishing point – Tafelberg Road, about 2,5 km past the lower cable car station.
  • Parking – along Tafelberg Road, free of charge.
  • Dog-friendly – yes, the trail is steep exposed to the sun and wind.
Elevation profile of the Devil's Peak hiking trail
Elevation profile of the hike up Devil’s Peak in Cape Town

Highlights

  • Great views of the City Bowl and the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the top, just look back.
  • From the top, you get spectacular panoramic views of Table Mountain, Lions Head, the City Bowl, Table Bay, Robben Island, all the way to the Northern Suburbs.
  • Devil’s Peak is the second-highest peak in Table Mountain National Park following Maclear’s Beacon.

Challenges

  • The trail to Devil’s Peak has some steep sections at the start and at the top.
  • The route is very exposed, take proper sun protection and water.
  • Hiking up Devils Peak the wind can be strong on the trail, be careful and take appropriate clothing.
  • Hike of moderate difficulty taking 1.5 to 2 hours to climb the 585m to the top (3km).
  • Some light scrambling at the end to get to the top.
  • Some loose rocks on the footpath.

To ascend Devils Peak you have to go through the saddle between Devils Peak and Table Mountain. There are three different routes to reach the saddle; from Tafelberg Road on the city side; from Newlands Forest (starting at Rhodes memorial), or the upper contour path from Mowbray Ridge.

To get to the start of the Tafelberg Road trail drive past the cable car station and Platteklip Gorge, continue on Tafelberg road until you reach a Devils Peak sign, there will be some cars parked. From Tafelberg Road is the most popular and probably the safest and easiest route to take. The path is clear and well-marked, you turn around and follow the same path back from the top. The hike is of moderate difficulty.

The trail starts with some steep switchbacks for the first 1.5km (30 min). The views of the Atlantic Ocean and the CBD are fantastic all the way, just look around. There is a marker at the end of the trail on top of the cairn that marks the summit. At the top, you will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, city, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Beautiful view of Cape Town city center and the ocean from Devil's Peak hike
The view of Cape Town from the top of Devil’s Peak

Cape of Good Hope hike, Cape Point National Park

  • Distance – 36 km loop
  • Time – 2 days
  • Elevation gain – 1460 m over 2 days
  • Elevation loss – 1500 m over 2 days
  • Terrain – footpath, sand, rocks, and boulders
  • Cost – ZAR 355/US$24 per person for the hike + Cape Point conservation fee ZAR 85/US$5 for South Africans (adults), ZAR 340/US$23 for foreigners (adults).
  • Open – the gate opens at 8am, on the first day of the trail hikers have to register at the entrance before 9am.
  • Best time for hiking – October – April, it gets quite windy and hot between December and February.
  • Starting/finishing point – Cape Point National Park entrance gate.
  • Parking – free at safe parking lot inside the park, at the entrance gate.
  • Dog-friendly – no, dogs are not allowed inside the National Park.
Day 1 of the Cape of Good Hope hike elevation
Elevation profile Day 1 of the Cape of Good Hope hike
Day 2 of the Cape of Good Hope hike elevation
Elevation profile Day 2 of the hike at the Cape Point National Park

Highlights

  • Stunning coastal scenery of the Cape Point National Park; sandy beaches, cliffs, look-out points, rocky pools, fynbos, etc.
  • Diverse wildlife;
  • Beautifully located huts with amazing views of Cape Peninsula
  • Sunset and sunrise at the park

Challenges

  • It gets very windy and hot in summer, make sure you’re protected from the sun. It’s very easy to get sunburned without even realizing it.
  • There are no water sources along the trail only at huts, carrying 2l of water per person is recommended.
  • The second day is a bit long, over 20 km

Cape of Good Hope is the only multi-day hike on our list. The trail is the ultimate adventure for hiking lovers, it’s one of the best hikes at Cape Point National Park. It gives you a chance to explore both sides of Cape Point; the Atlantic side and the False Bay side. Most of the time the trail goes along the coast offering spectacular scenery; dramatic drops, rugged cliffs, white-sand beaches, bizarre rock formations.

During the hike, you can spot zebras, ostriches, elands, mongooses, tortoises, chameleons, different seabirds, etc. Hikers stay at overnight huts with good facilities inside the park. The trail is marked with yellow poles, it’s quite easy to follow. If you’re not planning to do a 2-day hike Cape Point is a great place for a day trip from Cape Town.

Beautiful scenery on the Cape of Good Hope hike in Cape Town
Hiking along the coast on the Cape of Good Hope trail, our favorite multi-day hike near Cape Town

Safety tips for hiking in Cape Town

  • Don’t hike alone, always go in a group of 2-3 people at least.
  • Don’t go hiking at night time.
  • If you want to hike one of the less popular trails do it during holidays or over weekends when there are more people.
  • Always take enough drinking water with you especially in summer (1-2l per person depending on the length of the hike). Most trails don’t have water sources along the way.
  • Make sure to use sun protection and wear a cap many trails are exposed to the sun with no shade to hide.
  • Take photos of rangers’ numbers (usually there is a sign at trailheads) to contact them in case of emergency.
  • If we hike on weekdays we usually take our dog (where dogs are allowed) for extra security.

What to pack for hiking in Cape Town

Where to stay in Cape Town?

There are many hotels, guesthouses and hostels in Cape Town. The best way to choose is to decide where you want to stay: in the city center, close to the Waterfront or on the beach. Here are some accommodation suggestions for your trip.


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