The subjective best of… hiking in Cape Town

by biltong101

the ultimate CT view

Cape Town as seen from the Elephant’s Eye hike

When I was a kid I used to hate hiking. My parents forced me to go for long walks in the mountains, ignoring my complaints about being tired and sore. As a result, I despised them so much, I’d do and I did almost anything not to go with them. Their forceful attitude has spoilt hiking for me for years and I just assumed it’s something I’ll never like. Things changed after I moved to Cape Town.

Cape Town is known to be full of active people. If you’re an outdoorsy type, you’ll certainly find friends who’ll go hiking with you and even if you’re not so much into it, someone will drag you with sooner or later. My first memories of the activity here aren’t great, honestly. I was rather out of shape (because booze and smoking) and as much as I enjoyed the views, I was rather unhappy with the effort of doing the Elephant’s Eye. But then at the age of 27 I quit smoking and decided to get fit. Hiking was just one of the natural (literally) choices. I won’t lie, Capetonians are truly spoilt for choice. There are at least 10 hiking trails within half an hour from the city centre I could come up with from the top of my head. However, I’m going to share with you only my personal favorites.

  1. Lion’s Head

 

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Lion’s Head is called like this because it allegedly looks like the head of the king of the jungle. I have quite a vivid imagination and can’t see the resemblance, even though by now I’ve been on a safari and I have seen a lion very closely. Oh, well, this doesn’t change the fact that it is my favorite hike in Cape Town. First of all, it’s a very beautiful trail and you don’t have to go all the way to the top to experience its beauty. It’s also important to me that it’s a full body workout with a little bit of climbing on the top. There are two ways to complete the hike: one requires the use of chains and the other one is a slightly longer walk around. I always use the latter as I get dizzy when I think about using the chains. I’m sure you can die doing it or at least break something!

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A fairly fit person can probably do the whole hike (up and down) in just above two hours, if it’s not crowded. This brings me to the only disadvantage of this hike is its popularity. Especially during the monthly full moon hike, there are so many people walking up and down that you feel like an ant. This also means longer waiting times to go past certain narrower passages or to use the ladders. You may get a bit annoyed with stopping to constantly let faster hikers/trail runners go in front of you. Last but not least, taking pictures on the top is a mission with so many posers taking pictures of their asses or doing yoga poses (true story). Parking is a nightmare too so if you’re not particularly patient when it comes to looking for it, rather use an Uber to get to the starting point.

2. Pipe Track

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Pipe Track is a hiking trail which is a by product of a pipeline service built in the late 19th venture. These days people use it to burn some calories and see beautiful views. It’s mostly an easy walk, with the beginning of the trail being the only uphill section. It also helps that there’s a lot of shade and you’re not constantly exposed to the heat.

The trail allows you to walk from the Kloof Nek parking all the way to Camps Bay, so you’re almost certainly end up with sore legs. It’s also a good hike if you want to be social. The Pipe Track allows you to have an actual conversation without panting and heavy breathing, so you won’t sound like a perve on the phone, when discussing your favorite series with your mates. I’m not sure how long the whole hike takes as so far I’ve been ending up taking turn offs or just turning around due to public demand.

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Similarly like Lion’s Head, this hike is quite popular. It makes it a bit challenging to take a nice picture without a human spoiling it. It’s also very popular among trail runners, so brace yourself and be prepared to deal with all these people who are so much fitter than you are.

3. Devil’s Peak

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It’s quite surprising that a hike I’ve only done twice has made it to the list, but I really like Devil’s Peak. That the views are astonishing is a given, but more importantly it gives you a very nice and steady cardio workout. The steps in the beginning of the trail will almost certainly take your breath away. The last time I did it I was lucky enough to hike it also with someone whose fitness level is similar to mine, because I’d probably die of a heart attack if I let my husband dictate the pace. Stops are a necessity for most people but it’s a very satisfying hike that you’ll remember for a bit due to sore calves.

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It’s a really nice trail and surprisingly it isn’t very popular. You won’t have to worry about your safety as you’ll most certainly meet some hikers, but not enough to get annoyed with them. It’s the longest hikes of the ones I’ve enumerated and there’s very little shade. Remember to take a hat with you and enough water. A snack to consume on the top is also a good idea.

I’m sure I’ll have more to share as I continue with my newly discovered hobby. This list is very subjective but it’s important to put it out there, so that more bastards don’t try to make money on people to “guide them” on Lion’s Head (oh, ja, a Cape Town tourist company is charging 700 rand for this extremely doable on your own hike!)… Part of the fun with amateur hiking is that it doesn’t cost you a thing. As long as you have a pair of sport shoes and comfortable clothes you can do it. I’m only going to invest into a pair of hiking shoes now that I’m planning to go on a week long hike called the Otter Trail. I’ll tell you more about it another time.

Do you like hiking, Dear Reader? Any stories to share?