The best time to hike Table Mountain in Cape Town

Best time to hike Table Mountain

When’s the best time to hike Table Mountain? People regularly ask this question. In the summer months, the best time is before 6:30 am. But, as you might expect, it is not quite as simple as that. There are numerous factors to consider to determine the ideal time to start a Table Mountain hike.

In general, morning time is the best time to hike. Early morning. Leaving as late as 8 or 9 am may already be too late. Below are some guidelines to assist you in choosing when to hike up Table Mountain.

Best time to hike Table Mountain

Weather

First, a look at the climate for Table Mountain weather advice. Cape Town has a Mediterranean-like climate, with warm summers and mild, moderately wet winters. There are many days where you can start hiking Table Mountain a bit later and still be okay temperature-wise. However, in South Africa’s hotter summer months – November, December, January, February and March – you will need to leave early to beat the heat. Temperatures can quickly reach over 20°C (68°F) in the mornings and more than 30°C (86°F) later in the day.

Factor in all possible weather conditions into your hike starting time. Gale-force winds, cloud cover, rain and extreme temperatures are common on Table Mountain, so it’s within your interest to time your hike well. You may find that your hike may start off with excellent weather for hiking but then change for the worse throughout the day. Keep checking the weather forecast for the best time to hike Table Mountain. Expect and plan for the worst and go prepared with suitable clothing and supplies to handle unpleasant weather conditions.

Sunshine

Sunshine is a key factor in timing a hike up Table Mountain. Direct sunlight and extreme heat can lead to exhaustion, dehydration and sunburn, all of which can be harmful. The sun rises over the eastern slopes and moves around to shine down on the northern and western slopes throughout the day. This gives Table Mountain hikers the opportunity to comfortably hike the shady eastern slopes in the afternoons. Problem is, the air temperature is still high, so mornings remain the best time to hike Table Mountain on these slopes.

Best time to hike up Table Mountain
Direct sunlight can make hiking Table Mountain challenging.

Nightfall

As a first-time hiker, you don’t want to get stuck in the dark at any point during a Table Mountain hike. Hiking with limited vision is dangerous, even for experienced hikers who know the routes on the mountain well. Therefore, hikes in the afternoon should be planned carefully. Work a good amount of extra time into your hiking plan, as things can sometimes go wrong. If you are considering a sunset hike on Table Mountain, then be sure to get a competent veteran hiker or hiking tour company to help with the planning and preparation.

Winter

Many local hikers feel that winter is the best time to hike Table Mountain. There are days in winter when the sun shines and temperatures can hit 20°C. These days are ideal for long ventures exploring Table Mountain. I still favour summer, though, as there’s a greater chance of clear skies and pleasant conditions. Hikes very early in the winter can see low temperatures of 5°C to 7°C. Starting later in the morning often makes a big difference and is a more comfortable time to hike. Table Mountain hiking routes are far less crowded in winter.

Crowds

Over weekends and school holidays, it can get extremely crowded on certain Table Mountain routes. Especially Platteklip Gorge and around the upper Aerial Cableway station. A lot of hikers start their hike in the morning, which offers a number of advantages. The mountain isn’t as crowded later in the day, though, making this the best time to hike Table Mountain for some. Then again, it’s just as quiet in the very early hours. Hiking routes on the eastern and western sides don’t normally get as crowded. Thus, start times have less impact here.

If you are planning a hike up Table Mountain and a cable car ride down, then count on waiting. You can wait as long as two hours in queues if you arrive at lunch time in summer. A good reason to start your hike on Table Mountain early. You can even plan your hike to summit Table Mountain before the cable car starts running. It’s a spectacular way to view the plateau in silence, before the restaurant livens up. Leave plenty of time to complete the hike if you want to cable car down, as it stops running in the evenings and with strong winds.

Table Mountain cable car
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.

To conclude, mornings are the best time to hike Table Mountain, in my opinion, but hiking later in the day may suit some individuals. Browse our Table Mountain hikes now or contact us for more information.