Hiking Table Mountain
Hiking on Table Mountain is incredible, with its wide variety of unique hiking trails, diverse endemic vegetation and mind-blowing scenery. Table Mountain must be one of the best places on earth to hike. Where else can you venture through indigenous forest and scramble over steep fynbos-rich cliffs on the same hike?
There are numerous hiking routes on Table Mountain. There are, of course, the few popular regularly hiked routes. But when you really delve into it, the list gets longer and a lot more interesting. The more you hike Table Mountain, the more experience you gain. The more experience you have, the more you can discover.
A beginner’s guide for hiking Table Mountain
Pick your route carefully
Choose a Table Mountain hiking route that matches your fitness and interests. A lot of routes lead to the top of Table Mountain. Some are longer and some are more challenging. Moreover, each route is unique, offering something a little different than the next. One must know their limits and select a hike accordingly.
There are some Table Mountain hiking routes that are very technical and extremely difficult to navigate. Hikers commonly get lost or stuck. There have been emergency rescues on many occasions. With a wide selection of routes on Table Mountain ranging in difficulty and features, there is something for everyone.
Start off slow
Work towards a being able to successfully complete a full Table Mountain summit hike, hiking the easier routes initially. There are several Table Mountain hikes that don’t go to the top. If you are out of shape and/or new to hiking, then start off with these short and easy hikes that go around the mountain.
Try out level routes like the Pipe Track or the contour path below Devil’s Peak when hiking the mountain at first. Completing these easy routes will give you a good understanding of what hiking Table Mountain is all about. It will prepare you for a more demanding hike up to the top of Table Mountain.
Pick a half-day or full-day hike
How much time would you like to spend hiking on Table Mountain? This is a point to consider when planning a Table Mountain hike. Most hiking routes from the front face of Table Mountain are more direct. These are known as half-day hikes. Note that the most direct hikes up the mountain are also the steepest.
Longer full-day hikes may cover a greater distance but are often more gradual. Although it takes longer, you will experience and learn more about Table Mountain hiking. The most highly recommended half day-hike for beginners is Platteklip Gorge and the best full-day hike is Kasteelspoort to Table Mountain.
Know the distance and hike times
Research these two significant factors thoroughly before hiking Table Mountain. It is important to know how long your hike is going to take, for a variety of reasons. Safety is one of them. For example, if something goes wrong and you don’t make it back by a certain time, then a friend or companion can alert authorities.
A half-day hike on Table Mountain covers a distance of three kilometres on average and takes approximately three hours to complete. A full-day Table Mountain hike covers about five kilometres and takes around five hours to complete. These figure estimates assume relatively good fitness and factor in rest breaks.
Start hiking early and watch the time
Hiking up Table Mountain in the early hours of the morning is awesome. Begin early to avoid extreme temperatures and direct sunlight in the summer. In the winter, autumn and spring months, you may be able to start hiking later in the day. However, if it’s going to be hot, then that might not be a great idea.
Another reason to start hiking early: You don’t want to get stuck on Table Mountain when it’s dark. Take note of the sunset time before starting a hike and turn back if you aren’t going to make it in time. Remember, the Table Mountain cable car and shops at the top of the mountain shut down when night falls.
Read the weather forecast
Days before hiking Table Mountain, check the weather forecast and examine it carefully. This is a step that you don’t want to skip when you are going to hike the iconic but temperamental mountain. Analyse all impacting weather elements, including wind, precipitation and temperature. You need this information.
Table Mountain is known for its changing and unpredictable weather conditions. Bad weather can make hiking incredibly difficult and extremely unsafe. It is imperative that hikers prepare for this and try to avoid hazardous weather. Check the weather forecast again just before you begin your Table Mountain hike.
Prepare to work hard
All routes leading to the top of Table Mountain are steep and challenging, just to different degrees. You will need to be relatively fit to enjoy a hike to the top. It’s not easy and you can’t take shortcuts, so you will battle if you are unfit. Make sure that you are confident in your fitness before taking on the challenge.
Should you fall into the unfit category, train physically for at least a couple of weeks before attempting to hike to the top of Table Mountain. Exercise daily and take regular walks. Stair climbing and speed walking are excellent forms of exercise for people looking to get ready for a challenging summit hike.
Dress appropriately for the hike and weather
What you wear will go hand in hand with the season and what the weather conditions are like on the day of the hike. Generally, a T-shirt and shorts or some loose-fitting pants will do for hiking Table Mountain. Bring a warm top and light jacket, as well. It can get cold at the top of the mountain, even in the summer.
In winter, it is best to wear layers. This way you can adjust your clothing to the weather. Wear a waterproof jacket if it is forecast to rain and put on a fleece top and some trousers for warmth. Protect your feet with quality hiking shoes or boots. Trainers are okay but we don’t generally recommend them (poor grip).
Bring a lightweight backpack. Pack in tasty snacks that provide energy, such as nuts, bananas, sandwiches and energy drinks. Most importantly, take plenty of drinking water, a minimum of 1.5 litres. This will keep your body hydrated on the hike. You can bring money if you’d like to visit the shop and restaurant at the top.
Equipment to take on a Table Mountain hiking trip include a first aid kit, a torch, matches and a survival blanket. To protect you from the sun, pack in sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Don’t forget to bring a camera and your cell phone, fully charged, with Table Mountain emergency phone numbers saved on it.
Hike in a group
Find hikers with similar fitness levels and expectations and form a group to hike up Table Mountain. It’s a lot more fun to share the experience with others and it is also a lot safer. Always hike at the pace of the slowest hiker in the group and encourage each other. Hiking Table Mountain in groups of four is ideal.
Choose a group leader and stay together if you get lost. In the case of an emergency, split the group in half and never leave anyone alone on the mountain. There are many hiking clubs around Table Mountain. They are typically led by experienced Table Mountain hikers. Consider joining one to enjoy club benefits.
Keep on the trail and use a guide
Do not hike off the Table Mountain trail that you have chosen. It may seem like a good idea to cut corners but this is dangerous. There are often loose rocks off the track and hiking over them can result in injury. Hiking off the track can contribute to creating new ones, which destroys vegetation and confuses hikers.
Use a hiking guide if you are going to hike Table Mountain for the first time. Hiking companies like Hike Addicts have professional Table Mountain guides that can help you plan and navigate your hike. It’s a hiking option that not only saves you time and effort but also increases safety and enhances the experience.
Know the hiking etiquette
Take care of the hiking routes on Table Mountain, respecting fauna and flora. The mountain is home to many animals (do not feed them) and plants (don’t pick them). Follow the no trace rule, leaving what you find and taking your own refuse with you. Even biodegradable foods can disrupt the ecosystem.
People hiking up get right of way on Table Mountain. It is quite tiring hiking uphill, especially on certain routes, and hiking Table Mountain can be mentally challenging. It’s best not to break a hiker’s momentum. Because waiting too long can certainly do that, be courteous and step aside, allowing uphill hikers to pass.