Unlike most cities in the world, it’s not only possible but really advisable to hike Cape Town! At weekends and evenings, locals don their walking boots, running shoes or get on their bikes to explore and exercise all over the local area. And this doesn’t include walking in built up areas of Cape Town, which is a different subject entirely (see our Walking Tour of Central Cape Town).
With its iconic front, and now one of the New Natural Wonders of the World, Table Mountain is the most obvious destination for a hike in Cape Town and its central location, well-established paths and sensational views make for a rewarding half-day or full-day hike. The Mountain is vast: five times the size of the City Bowl, in fact, but most hikers go up Platteklip Gorge, the classic way to the famous table top, and return via the cable car. However, there are many other routes up the mountain, most of which are barely used by other hikers and open up huge areas of Table Mountain where you'll find forests, dams and flower-filled valleys.
OTHER AMAZING HIKES
There are plenty of other options for hiking and walking in Cape Town. Lion's Head sits right next to Table Mountain and its lower slopes make for an easy ramble while its peak offers amazing views of the city, Table Mountain and the Atlantic. On nights with a full moon, you can spot a stream of hikers with head torches hiking up and down the Head.
You don't even have to walk uphill if you don't feel like it. It's only a 20-minute drive from Parker Cottage to the extraordinary Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where you can stroll around bursting flowerbeds and shady forests; a 45-minute drive will take you to Cape Point where there are excellent beach and fynbos walks with the minimum of gradient.
GUIDED OR ALONE?
Some of these hikes and walks can be done without a guide but to get the most out of the experience, hire a professional guide. They'll take care of the logistics, ensure there's all the food and water you need, and will be well prepared for any situation such as bad weather. A guide will also open up the secrets of the Cape Peninsula's astonishing biodiversity and you'll learn all about the wide array of flowers, birds and other animals that you'll encounter on your walk. Parker Cottage recommends The Fynbos Guy - aka Dominic Chadbon - a qualified and registered mountain and nature guide with 20 years' experience in guiding and training.
SUGGESTED HIKES and WALKS
Table Mountain half-day: walk up via Platteklip Gorge or the more demanding India Venster and return via the cable car.
Table Mountain full-day: walk up any one of the mountain's 20 or so paths, explore the top and return via the cable car or walk down.
Silvermine: 30 minutes from Cape Town, Silvermine offers all the huge views and beautiful flora of Table Mountain but without the big hike up. Perfect for families and non-hikers.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: great for a lavish introduction to the Cape's amazing flora plus bird watching in an easy walking environment.
Cape Point: there's flat hiking on the west coast - deserted beaches, shipwrecks and plenty of pristine fynbos plus big game as well.
Bird watching tours: pack in water birds at Strandfontein sewage works, fynbos and forest species at Kirstenbosch and sea birds along the coast. Lots of endemics plus flamingos and pelicans.