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Hike Skeleton Gorge to the top of Table Mountain
Table Mountain features more than 50 different hiking trails, which might make the decision on how to access it a tad difficult. One of the most famous trails, Skeleton Gorge, offers what is perhaps the best combination for occasional hikers. It's somewhat strenuous, so don't expect a leisurely walk, but there's not a lot of scrambling to be done, and you're not likely to experience dizzying heights which might make you freeze in place. Average fitness is all that is required to visit South Africa’s best-known landmark.
Diverse Flora, Stunning Views
The walk across the Mountain starts from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. They say that it's not only the most beautiful in Africa, but also one of the great botanic gardens of the world, so you might want to spend some time exploring it before you move on. Displaying a wide variety of the Cape Flora, it also features a conservatory with more than 7,000 species and plants which can't survive outdoors. The Garden is part of the estate which contains protected mountainside with natural forest and fynbos, bordering the Table Mountain National Park. This is also an area that receives the most rainfall and the lower mountain slopes are covered by indigenous Afromontane forest, an incredibly rare type of vegetation which covers only 0.5% of the African continent.
Having enjoyed a walk through the Botanical Garden, you'll next arrive to a relatively steep ascent of the gorge. Steps will help you climb the first half, followed by ladders, all the while the indigenous forest offering a welcome shade. A walk through the rocky water stream and the zigzagging path takes you to Smuts Track at Breakfast Rock. From there, there's less than 300 meters to go (not steep at all, don't worry) and you'll have conquered the highest point of Table Mountain. A stunning view of the Table Mountain chain and Cape Town will surely convince you the hike was well worth it (if it was not already the case). At this point you have a choice: cross the summit plateau to the upper cable station and enjoy a relaxing descent, or walk your way down.
If you're up for some more hiking, take the opportunity to experience the other popular trail - Platterklip Gorge. While it’s the most direct route to the top of the Mountain, it's also the most challenging one. The gorge is about 2.5 km long and quite steep, so make sure you've got enough energy left to negotiate it. Various birds, rock hyraxes and colourful lizards might keep you company on the way down.
Prepare to Enjoy
Depending on how many stops you make to soak in the surroundings, it should take you more or less 4 hours to cover the distance of 6.2 kilometres while climbing 900 meters. Before you start, check what the weather is like on top of the mountain and dress accordingly. Don't forget to pack plenty of water so you can get refreshed on the way. Once you're on the move, make sure to use all your senses and get the most out of this experience; smell the fresh mountain air, feel the wind caressing your cheeks, listen to the birds, and feast your eyes on magnificent views.