A Cape Town Hiking Guide with Nicole Eddy
From forested canopies to endless sand dunes, Nicole Eddy rounds up four of the best hiking trails in the Western Cape. Join in on her adventure!
At the southernmost tip of Africa where two oceans meet. you’ll find a beautiful place called Cape Town, nestled among mountain ranges and surrounded by deceivingly cold sea. Situated in South Africa’s Western Cape region, it’s home to one of the most diverse landscapes and indigenous vegetation in the world.
From views of the wild Atlantic and Indian oceans to wildlife both big and small, forested canopies and never-ending sand dunes, the Western Cape is an avid hiker’s dream.
Let’s explore four amazing trails within the Western Cape:
Hike 1: Twelve Apostles, Table Mountain National Park
- Distance from Cape Town International Airport: 25 minutes (20.9km)
- Difficulty Level: Moderate
- Elevation: 3,563 feet above sea level
- Terrain: Everything from dry, sandy landscapes to moist, tropical microclimates, waterfalls, and densely forested vegetation. You name it, it’s got it.
The 12 Apostles hike is an all-day excursion and stretches across Table Mountain National Park traversing across the 12 Apostles Peaks on Table Mountain. Starting in Suikerbossie, Hout Bay, the hike ascends to the plateau on top of the mountain traversing across small waterfalls and streams. However, once the plateau is reached the hike follows sandy paths across plateaus and open grasslands as well as caves, and more waterfalls to help you cool down. That’s followed by dense vegetation before you’re finally onto the beautiful, flat, granite topped Table Mountain.
If you’re exhausted after the hike and have jelly legs, you can take the cable car down.
- Hiking boots (waterproof are the best, like the La Sportiva Primer GORE-TEX® SURROUND® Shoe).
- Camera (you’ll get some amazing views of Cape Town)
Hike 2: Wolfberg Arch, Cederberg
- Distance from Cape Town International Airport: 2.5 hours (200km)
- Difficulty Level: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 5278 feet above sea level
- Terrain: “Am I on Mars?” is something I’ve asked myself when I’ve hiked Wolfberg Arch. It has a harsh, dry, red rock landscape.
The Cederberg Wilderness reaches extremely high temperatures in summer and has bitterly cold, snowy conditions in the winter.
It’s in a remote, yet absolutely beautiful location dotted with occasional farms, small villages, and places to camp, glamp or stay in style. The Cederberg offers both rock climbers and hikers alike a wide menu of different hikes across its 71,000 hectares of rugged mountainous Mars-like landscapes.
Wolfberg Arch, a phenomenal arch rock formation at the top of a mountain overlooking the wilderness, is a highlight for any visitor in the Cederberg region. You need to buy a pass to hike the trail, which you can do at the local shop in the Sanddrif campsite where the hike starts.
Pro tip: To avoid hiking in extremely hot temperatures, start the 6 to 7-hour hike before sunrise and end with a refreshing swim in Maalgat rock pools.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous and are an experienced hiker, start out in the afternoon (don’t forget the drinking water) and set up camp for the night where you can watch the stars rise over the arch. It’s perfect for night photography, not to mention that you’re more than likely to see shooting stars.
Keep an eye out for the shy Cape leopards that hunt at night. They’re a magical and rare sight if spotted. You’re bound to see baboons along the way, which are a common sight along the trail. There is no need to be fearful of either animal, as the leopards are extremely shy and will more than likely run away before you even get the chance to see them. When baboons are around, it is always handy to pick up a few small stones to throw as a warning in the unlikely event that they decide that your snacks are better than their berries.
- Hiking pass
Hike 3: Geelbek Day Hike, West Coast National Park
- Distance from Cape Town International Airport: 1 hour (100 km)
- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 16.4 feet above sea level
- Terrain: Arid and white sandy beaches.
This hike is a 7 km scenic trek through Cape Town’s pristine West Coast National Park. Sightings of ostrich, tortoise, large antelope and snakes are virtually guaranteed.
The hike starts within the typical dry, arid environment synonymous with South Africa’s West Coast, but it includes a segment along the white sandy 16 Mile Beach. You can end the day in style by cooling off in the warm turquoise waters of the lagoon and cook up a barbecue, or as South African would say, a “braai” in the designated spots that overlook the bay. It’s an amazing experience to catch the sunset before the gates close.
Hike 4: Suicide Gorge, Hottentots Holland
- Distance from Cape Town International Airport: 1 hour 12 minutes (78 km)
- Difficulty Level: Difficult
- Elevation Gain: 5217 feet above sea level
- Terrain: Waterfalls, forested and arid landscapes
Suicide Gorge should only be tackled by fit and experienced hikers. Situated in Hottentots Hollands Nature Reserve an hour outside of Cape Town, Suicide Gorge is a 17 km day hike that is a little different from most others. The route follows the river downstream.
Getting wet is mandatory as sliding down the mossy rocks and jumping from one pool to another is often the only way down. Despite the fun to be had on the hike, there’s plenty to see including rare and endemic fynbos species, over 110 bird species, antelope, and if you are extremely lucky, leopards that frequent these mountains.
- Snacks and water
- Dry Bag
- Permit money
- Waterproof camera
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Change of clothes
Be sure to check out Nicole’s recent video from #thebreatheproject!