How to hike: Skeleton Gorge

Posted on 1 October 2020

How to hike is Getaway’s new series on hikes around South Africa. Summer is near and what better way to get out into nature than by dedicating some time to connect and really get into it on a great hike.

South Africa is lucky to have seemingly endless hiking routes available for all levels. From family friendly excursions along contour paths to expert-only, walking-stick-hikes.

We’re going to start in Cape Town with Skeleton Gorge. Despite the ominous name, the route is tough but fair and gives you a new perspective from a very different side of the mountain.

Here is how to hike Skeleton Gorge:

Length: 5 hours

Grade: A

Difficulty: Challenging

The first thing to know about the route is that it’s challenging because it’s steep. It makes its way up the Eastern side of Table Mountain and is mostly covered by lush trees.

You start the hike in Kirstenbosch Gardens. This means you have to pay entrance and make your way up through the gardens before starting the actual climb. Signs in the gardens will guide your way to the start.

It starts off this way with an ascend up the contour path. This is followed by some rock scrambling and ladders will have to be overcome. This part of the hike is covered by a thick forest and covered in waterfalls after it rains, meaning the path sometimes gets very wet, so be extra careful with your footing.

Once you’ve made it out the forest, the trail doesn’t entirely let up but there are moments of flatter reprieve so you can catch your breath and take in the incredible views.

The summit is Maclear’s Beacon which sits on the top of the mountain. As you make your way to this point, don’t forget to look out for well-known Skeleton Gorge spots like Breakfast Rock and the Hely-Hutchinson reservoir.

Getting down

This is a major part of Skeleton Gorge as most people don’t want to come down the incredibly steep trail they just came up. Not to worry though, there are a few great options. The most popular trail, if you’re feeling fit enough, is Nursery Ravine. From the Hely-Hutchinson Dam you follow the path on the left to the top of the ravine before making your way down.

You could also go down Platteklip Gorge, which is much easier but also quite tough on the knees, as it is basically one very long and uneven staircase.

If you are really done with hiking, you can take a leisurely stroll across the top of the mountain and take the cable car down.

Picture: @amitshiba/Instagram

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