6 Hikes to Do in Cape Town

jana meerman skeleton gorge table mountain cape town (6)

Having spent a week in Cape Town when I first arrived in Africa in mid-November and immediately falling completely in love with the city and its incredible mountains, delightful vegan scene, endless beaches and coastline and its absolutely wonderful humans, I planned to spend two more weeks exploring the city after our cross-African roadtrip ended and I'd crossed a few more things off my wishlist in eastern South Africa, such as a trip to Lesotho.

I checked into a hostel in the heart of Cape Town and spent most of the weekdays working and enjoying wandering the streets of the city in the early evenings. However, when the weekend rolled around, I was amped to get back out onto the many trails of Cape Town. The city is exceptionally lucky in that there are simply loads of hikes literally right in town, what with Table Mountain and Lion's Head both in the heart of everything; in fact Cape Town wraps itself around these two beautiful mountains offering numerous places to explore.

During my total of three weeks spent in the glorious Cape Town, I tackled six beautiful and different hiking trails.

Panorama Route

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a challenging yet breathtaking landscape home to waterfalls, epic valley views and even a wild baboon or two (which we encountered on the trail and were briefly scared for our lives!). The best hike in Jonkershoek is the Panorama Route, a challenging 14km loop up one mountain, traversing across a ridge and then descending the mountain on the other side of the valley. The sign says 17.1km but we tracked the whole think on Strava and, with the bit of walking we had to do from the first gate to the parking lot before we got picked up and driven the rest of the way to the trailhead by fellow hikers, we only tracked just under 14km...

Difficulty: difficult

Length: just under 14km, even though the sign says 17.1km, which took us about 3.5 hours

Check out my detailed hiking guide for the Panorama Route here!

jana meerman panorama route jonkershoek south africa (7)

Lion's Head Summit

Lion's Head

One of the absolute best things to do in Cape Town is a hike up to the prominent Lion's Head. Based right in the middle of the city, Lion's Head, in my opinion, looks much more like a shark’s fin than a lion’s head but that’s not for me to debate upon. From the top, if the weather is on your side and the notorious coastal mist hasn't rolled in, you can have panoramic views over the city to the north and the stretching ocean to the south. The short hike is a popular one for sunrise. The first half of the trail is an easy dirt track however, the second half involves some rock scrambling and ladder climbing, not for the faint of heart. Particularly the last stretch to the summit is a bit of a heart-racer with rock climbing on a narrow precipice.

Difficulty: intermediate

Length: 5.3km return, which took 1h 25m

Check out my detailed hiking guide for the Lion's Head Summit here!

jana meerman lions head sunrise cape town (1)


Table Mountain

Of course, the defining feature of Cape Town is Table Mountain, straddling the city, protecting the downtown core from the ocean winds and providing an aesthetically beautiful and rugged backdrop to the city’s coastline. Seemingly flat-topped, resembling in every way a table, a whole host of trails work their way up its sides. At the peak, on the westernmost side, a cable car provides hikers with a safe return down and, for the bulk of Table Mountain’s visitors, to do a return trip sans effort but with all of the views. We woke up at 4:30am in the morning to hike up the Kasteelsport trail, a challenging trek known as one of the trickiest on the mountain, with a steep 1000m elevation gain. Sometimes I have those moments where my mind can’t fathom what my eyes are taking in. What a dream to stand here, in person, and see this view for myself. Worth every cold, tired step up the mountain.

Difficulty: difficult

Length: 7.6km one way, with a 1000m elevation gain, which took just over 2 hours (we took the cable car back down)

Check out my detailed hiking guide for Kasteelspoort here!

jana meerman table mountain sunrise cape town (1)

Lion's Head Loop

Lion's Head

After hiking the summit in November for an early morning before work, I was absolutely keen to hike the Lion's Head Loop with a Cape Town-based colleague of mine which wraps all the way around the perimeter of the base of the Lion's Head. It's also a great trail for dogs, and we took four dogs out on the morning adventure with us, too. The best part of the Lion's Head Loop hike is the extra detour out to The Rock, offering exceptional views all the way down the coast over the many pretty beaches of Cape Town.

Difficulty: easy

Length: 6km loop, with a 200m elevation gain, which took us 1 hour 25 minutes

Check out my detailed hiking guide for the Lion's Head Loop here!

jana meerman lions head loop cape town (1)


Table Mountain

A fun hike up part of Table Mountain without needing to make it all the way up to the mountain's summit is to take on the trail to Oppelskop, a small dome-shaped bump on the front of Table Mountain just under Devil's Peak. The trail for Oppelskop starts on the same one as Devil's Peak and then about half-way, turns left flat across the mountain to this outcrop with wonderful views over the city of Cape Town and especially of Lion's Head.

Difficulty: intermediate

Length: 6km loop, with a 305m elevation gain, which took just under 2 hours

Check out my detailed hiking guide for Oppelskop here!

jana meerman oppelskop hike table mountain cape town (1)

Skeleton Gorge

Table Mountain

We decided to go out with a final hurrah with a long challenging hike up the Skeleton Gorge track to the summit of Table Mountain. Skeleton Gorge is one of the hardest trails up the mountain, at points climbing ladders and scrambling straight up a waterfall. It was a total blast. Skeleton Gorge is accessed through Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden but if you want to hike to the summit and nearly 1240 metres of elevation gate, I highly recommend coming early in the morning. This means that you won't be able to go through Kirstenbosch as it doesn't open early enough, but you can park in Newlands Forest and add an extra 4km along the Contour Path to reach the start of Skeleton Gorge, hike all the way up, and then walk across Table Mountain past McLears Beacon, the highest point on the entire mountain, before returning to the base via the cable car.

Difficulty: difficult

Length: 11.65km one way, with a 1238m elevation gain, which took 3 hours 20 minutes

Check out my detailed hiking guide for Skeleton Gorge here!

jana meerman skeleton gorge table mountain cape town (1)



Pinterest - Panorama Route
Pinterest - Panorama Route
Jana Meerman

Hi! I’m Jana, a British-Dutch-Canadian with a dream of seeing every country in the world. I am a storyteller, photographer and adventurer passionate about documenting and sharing my travels.

Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.