Kirstenbosch Gardens to Table Mountain
Although there are a number of entry points, we usually start this route with a gentle stroll through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It is an ideal way to warm up the hiking legs and to get an overview of the stunning variation of plant life in the Cape Floral Kingdom. From the contour path we trek up either the shady, ominously named, Skeleton Gorge, or the slightly longer, steeper Nursery Ravine to Back Table and then on, following Smuts Track to the Maclears Beacon and the Upper Cable Station. The route usually takes between 5 & 6 hours from the start to the Cable Station.
What you can expect:
The walk through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a pleasant uphill stroll through the formal gardens to reach the surrounding natural environment. There are various routes, usually including the ‘Boomslang’ Tree Canopy Walkway and the Protea Garden, to reach a network of outlying paths that lead to the various options up the Mountain. Both Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine are steep in parts with a rocky sections of fairly short duration. The shady, Skeleton Gorge is usually the preferred option, although after really wet weather, it becomes a river course and is avoided. There are a series of six short wooden ladders on one section, followed by a rock band where some minor scrambling is required. The alternative, Nursery Ravine is steep zig-zag path, but straight forward with some uneven stony ground near the top. Both these paths come out on the Back Table and link to Smuts Track, named after war time Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, who was a keen hiker and user of this route.
From this path there are spectacular views over the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town and False Bay. The path is clear in most places, leading through a series of ridges and valleys with a generally upward trend and steep in places. There are a few intersections and rocky areas where it can be misleading, especially in heavy mist or rain. It leads all the way to Maclear’s Beacon, the official high point of Table Mountain at 1085. There are 360 degree views from here, of the Cape Peninsula to the south and Table Bay to the north. It is fairly flat from here, either along a middle path or the slightly exposed frontal path, with views over the city, and on to the dip of Platteklip Gorge, with a short, easy scramble to the Western Table and the Cable Station.
Timing: The walk from Kirstenbosch to Maclears Beacon – the highest point on the Mountain – takes about 4 hours, with a further 45 minutes to the cable station. Allow an additional half an hour or more if there is a special interest, to enjoy the Botanical Gardens. If you are using the cableway to descend, allow a fifteen minute wait from the gate to the gondola. In peak times there can be a waiting queue of up to 45 minutes to the gate. In the event of the cableway not running, the walk down is approximately 1½ hours.
Note: This walk is a linear routes and arrangements have to put in place with regard to transport of both hikers and guide, at the end of the route.