From leisurely walks to invigorating hikes, Cape Town has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a windswept wander trail along the coastline or a mountainous and rocky climb, you’re bound to find a trail with spectacular views, suitable to hikers of any experience level. From the nature reserves to the lookout points, these are our picks of the best hiking trails in and around the greater peninsula area that you absolutely must check out on your next car hire Cape Town adventure. In just a quick 7-minute read, find out which of the following hiking trails floats your boat and suits your experience level as well as what you need to know before heading out into the wild – so pack your hiking boots and get ready to explore the Mother City by car and by foot on your next car hire Cape Town trip!
Tips and Tricks for Hiking in Cape Town
The hiking trails on offer in Cape Town and the surrounding areas are some of the most beautiful in the world, a trip to the Mother City truly is a hiker’s dream come true! However, there are a few important things to keep in mind when you plan on taking a hike here, follow these simple rules to make the most of your car hire Cape Town hiking adventure:
• Stay on Track: As tempting as it is, do not stray from the trail on your hikes unless you are or are being accompanied by a regional expert. Whether you’re doing a half-day, full-day or even multi-day trail, stick to the marked trails at all times – most importantly because straying from the path could inflict damage on Cape Town’s nature, particularly on the city’s indigenous plant, fynbos.
• Leave No Traces: It’s simple, don’t leave your trash behind. Bring a designated plastic bag along on your hike for disposing of all your rubbish or any rubbish you might come across on the trail – this is a super simple and effective way of maintaining Cape Town’s natural beauty and respecting the rules of the nature reserves that are open to the public.
• Stay Safe: Unfortunately, Cape Town does have a reputation for muggings on hiking trails, particularly in the Table Mountain Nature Reserve. Practice precautionary measures by hiking in groups, bringing along self-defence items, leaving valuables at home and utilising emergency contacts when necessary. We also recommend hiking with familiar people as strangers on the trail may have malicious intentions.
• Invest in WildCard: Although most hiking trails in Cape Town and the surrounding areas are free, some may have an entrance fee and that’s where WildCard comes in – South Africans can subscribe to a yearly WildCard membership that gives you free and unlimited access to over 80 national parks, reserves and resorts for hiking and other outdoor activities. Though this is a great option for avid hikers who regularly explore the greater Cape Town area, it is not essential and you won’t be excluded from any trails or reserves without this membership.
What to Pack for a Cape Town Hike
There are a few absolute must-have day and night-hiking essentials you don’t want to get stuck without! With unpredictable weather and fast changing winds, you need to be prepared for anything by bringing along the following necessities depending on the kind of hike and level of difficulty of the trail you’ll be taking on your next car hire Cape Town hiking adventure:
• A Good Pair of Hiking Shoes: This is dependent on the kind of hike you’re going on, for lighter walks hiking boots are not necessary but for others it could save your feet from a world of discomfort and strain! Make sure the shoes you wear have good grip, and don’t go hiking in a new pair of shoes, you’ll regret it!
• Sun Protection: This should be obvious by now but the South African sun is blistering hot and can cause some serious skin damage – even on overcast days! Hiking in the winter or in cloudy weather won’t save you from a sunburn, we learned that one the hard way! Always keep a bottle of high SPF sunscreen in your car hire Cape Town rental just in case, and always have a sunhat and glasses handy as they go a long way in sun protection too.
• Pack A LOT of Water: This is quite self-explanatory but most hiking trails in South Africa don’t have water refill stations so pack as much as you can comfortably carry! Just like the South African sun will burn you, it will dehydrate you just as much so be sure to have enough water on hand for the duration of your hike and then some.
• Pack Snacks: You don’t have to pack a whole picnic basket for a quick morning or afternoon hike but be sure to always have snacks on hand, even for the shortest hike. We’d recommend a cereal/energy bar, a banana or even just an apple in case you’re needing an energy boost or the hike takes longer than expected.
• Bring Rain Gear and a Jacket: With the unpredictability of Cape Town weather, this is always essential – however more so in the months leading up to and throughout winter. It would be a good idea to bring along a dry bag on hikes so as to protect any technology or valuables from water damage should you encounter a rapid change in weather or water sources along the way!
• Small First Aid Kit: We’ll always recommend having a small bag of essential medical supplies on hand when heading out into nature, anything can happen! A trip could lead to a nasty scrape or twisted ankle, or you could get nicked by a thorn or branch and need a plaster – just keep them on hand or in your car hire Cape Town rental and rather be safe than sorry.
The Table Mountain Trails
Table Mountain is obviously the most popular landmark in Cape Town and so a natural first choice for hikers that are visiting the city, with numerous hiking trails available for adventure seekers, hikers can expect splendid views and nature experiences on their Table Mountain hike. Our recommended trails for more experienced hikers are: Skeleton Gorge (The most challenging trail), and McLear’s Beacon – both of which are quite steep and challenging. For hikers that want a direct route up to the top of the mountain, we’d recommend the India Venster Trail Route, you can expect your thighs to burn after this one! Lastly, for those looking for a more leisurely hike and peaceful walk, we’d recommend the Kasteelpoort Trail or the Pipe Track, neither of which take very long and they are both super enjoyable!
The Newland’s forest trail is the perfect cherry on top of any car hire Cape Town adventure, with bushy canopy surroundings, this trail has various routes for different fitness and skill levels indicated by signposts all along the trail. With many interesting sights to keep an eye out for along the way, such as the Lady Anne Barnard Cottage or the Newlands Reservoir, the Newlands Forest Trail is an easy and enjoyable route guaranteed to leave you feeling fulfilled and sufficiently stiff (depending on the route you take)! Popular trails at Newlands Forest include the Forest Station Walk, the Contour Path which leads up to Rhodes Memorial and the Fernwood Trail which leads up to the Newlands Ravine, a moderate difficulty hike which ends with stunning views of the southern suburbs from a lookout point.
This moderate-difficulty hike takes about 3-4 hours to complete and it ends with one of the best panoramic views of the Cape of Good Hope and its coastline you will ever see! Take one of the three possible routes which connects to the Saddle (the bit that connects Devil’s Peak to Table Mountain), and then ascend to the summit! The Tafelberg Road Route is best suited to beginners, the Mowbray Route which starts at Rhodes Memorial is considered to be more challenging and the Newlands Ravine Route, which is considered to be the most difficult ascent, is also a challenge but it is well shaded which makes it rather enjoyable.
The Kalk Bay Mountains
This is considered to be an ideal trail for newbie hikers, it’s got signs of route maps and tracks all along the way and isn’t too challenging for first-timers who want to get into the outdoor activity! Hikers will be amazed not only by the exquisite range of foliage along the way but also by the captivating caves that are perfect for rest stops with shade or even cool photo-ops. The trails lead up through the Spes Bona and Echo valleys, offering incredible views of False Bay – we recommend the Old Mule Path to beginners, it’s a gentle trail which gradually ascends along the mountainside and also makes for a great whale-watching spot between the months of June and November!
Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch Gardens
This relatively easy walk along dirt and wooden tracks consists of mild uphill sections but is mostly downhill and flat – perfect for the whole family or beginner hikers who want to partake in an outdoor activity without the strain of a classic hike. This trail boasts the greenery of the Cecilia and Newlands forests and shows off vast views of Table Mountain’s slopes with an aerial view of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where the route eventually ends. This 6km long trail is mostly shaded and winds its way down along the fynbos-coated mountains with stunning views of the southern peninsula – this is our favourite route for car hire Cape Town adventures!
Crystal Pools in Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Just a short drive in your car hire Cape Town rental out of the city, you will find the Kogelberg nature reserve – home of the famous Crystal Pools hiking trail which is loved by tourists and locals alike. This stunning trail is only open for six months of the year, from November to the end of April (the South African summer), and it attracts a lot of visitors each season! The difficulty of this trail is easy to moderate, and the route is relatively flat with several rock pools along the way, making for the perfect spots to take a break, have a dip on hot days and relax before continuing with the hike. The half day hike consists of rocky yet manageable terrain, and when you reach the top there’s a lovely waterfall waiting for you to take a dip! Be sure to bring along plenty of water and snacks as the trail is quite lengthy but it makes for the ideal half-day activity!
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
The lush Jonkershoek Nature reserve, situated just a 5 minute drive in your car hire Cape Town rental of the Winelands town of Stellenbosch, is considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This sprawling reserve, which is home to over 1000 plant species and a variety of small indigenous animals, hosts various nature walks and hiking trails which range in time and level of difficulty. The four famous hiking trails which are accessible to hikers of all skill level are: the Swartboskloof to Sosykloof Route which takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete, the Swartboskloof Trail which takes 6 hours, the Panorama Circuit which also takes 6 hours, and lastly the Tweede Waterval Route which takes 2 hours and is arguably the most popular choice among locals because of the waterfalls located along the way where you can swim and unwind under shady trees.
It should be noted that there is an entrance fee to this reserve of R50 for adults and R30 for children, but this is a small price to pay for the stunning views you’ll encounter on your chosen trail! Hop in your AroundAboutCars car hire Cape Town rental today and head out to explore one or a few of our hiking trail recommendations in and around the Cape for a memorable visit to the Mother City!