1. The Pipe Track
This contour path undulating along the Twelve Apostles is like a supermarket aisle for an array of some of the most exciting Table Mountain hiking trails. However, I love it just for itself. It’s great for brisk early morning walks, or an evening chat while strolling, or just thinking; there are several well placed benches, as well as rocks to sit on.
Mid-summer during the day can be baking though, or very windy. But in perfect conditions, walking amongst wildly-strew boulders and fynbos, and brief snatches of afromontane-like forest, can be the perfect way to help wind down the day. You can start near Kloof Corner, or further along from Theresa Ave, Camps Bay.
2. Cecilia Ravine Circut
The walk takes you to an extraordinary mossy, fern-lined water … not quite ‘fall’ – let’s say a wall of green ‘trippy drippingness.’ The route is a steep cardio-challenge. I knew that my faithful old Rotty who I’d hiked with all over the mountain was on his last legs when he refused to go further up these steps.
The path takes you close to half way up the mountain through dense fynbos with some great protea groves. Once in the ravine, sit in the cool shade and maybe have a snack or picnic. On a hot day drench yourself in the dripping coolness of the waterfall. Awe-inspiringly, nature has drastically altered the shape of the place since a large earth-slide wiped away part of the ravine two years back.
It is a short outing, taking between an hour-and-a-half to three or four hours to complete.
I hesitate to recommend doing this route done without someone who knows the way. But if you stick carefully to the map, there’s little possibility of getting badly lost. The main concern is getting onto the trail from the Cecilia Forest car park.
3. Chapmans Peak into Silvermine
Just the thought of this walk, which starts with views that never let up until it ends in the heart of Silvermine, gets my heart racing. With some transport logistics to manage, and a testy haul up (Blackburn Ravine) as opposed to the usual down to end off a hike. But just know: some of the peninsula’s best view-sets await as you summit Chapmans Peak, and more as you dip in and out of shaded ravines while traversing way above the high coastal Drive. Don’t forget your swimming gear, because after that last trek, there’s the soothing waters of Silvermine (and whatever cool goodies you may have packed in your car boot.)
So, two cars needed (at least,) one you drop off at Silvermine dam-side. To avoid disappointment go there early (Silvermine is now so popular on weekends they sometimes have to turn cars away at the gate by nine am by due to lack of parking space.) Then pile into the other car to get to your starting point. There have been some changes to the early part of the route since I was last there, so consult a most recently published map.
4. Up Woody Ravine and Down Kasteelspoort
Approach this rewarding half day Table Mountain Route on its western slope with caution. I would not call it dangerous, but I’ve recently came across utterly under-prepared hikers who, graduating from the increasingly crowded Lion’s Head route to this trail, have been looking shocked, cold and beat. Be aware that you are now heading into physically demanding territory, with short sections that require scrambles on slippery scree.
The rewards though are really charming – from fynbos through forest, and widening views of the Atlantic coast. It doesn’t stop. Once you are up there, gaze down the other side – into the vast Oranjekloof forest. Then experience the Back Table before descending, but not before posing on what must be becoming one of the most-photographed high mountain rocks in Africa – the jutting overhang over from the old Kasteelspoort cable station. But be super-careful on it. And really, do not go onto the rock in the wind.
5. Skeleton Gorge
Back when I was a kid, this route of old stairs and sections of ladder was a big ask. But it was a rite of passage for many southern suburbs kids. It is one of the best known ways to go up, and is shaded for much of the way by the canopy of a magnificent aged forest. But be careful. Even though you are in a gorge, the route is not always clear. And the path can be quite slippery. Once up there, take a walk around the dams, and go down one of various other routes, like Nursery Ravine, or the jeep tack.
Please remember: Never hike alone, and always let someone back home know where you are going, details of your route and what time you will be back. Wear good shoes with suitable shoes. Take at the very least a litre of water per person for a three or four hour walk – double that in the heat of summer, and more on longer walks. Also rain gear and something warm, as well as sun protection is essential. Never allow the hiking group to split up.
– Nicholas Ashby
Sideways Guide Spotlight: Nicholas Ashby
I am a fully qualified and registered hiking guide. It wasn’t my first job, though. I worked as an actor for ten years, having studied drama at the University of Cape Town. When my wife and I planned to take a year off from acting so as to travel, it turned into seven. During that time we became English teachers in Egypt, Russia and Taiwan, parents in the USA, and studied Mandarin. We hiked and trekked wherever we went. The highlight was always the Himalayas. Since coming back to South Africa in 2005 I have published a novel, taught more, as well as kept guiding on my old favourite, Table Mountain, and other hiking trails around the Cape.