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Table Mountain Hike, Cape Town: The Truth about Climbing to the Summit With Children

Table Mountain Hike, Cape Town: The Truth about Climbing to the Summit With Children

Table Mountain is Cape Town’s iconic natural landmark dominating the skyline in South Africa’s legislative capital city. It is a popular attraction for hikers who tackle its trails to reach the top and enjoy the spectacular views across the bay and out to Robben island.

A cable car trip up Table Mountain was high on our South Africa itinerary, but somehow, with persuasion from the kids, we ended up hiking up this formidable mountain instead. Madness – maybe, but a memory that will last a lifetime.

In this post, you can read about our epic adventure of reaching the summit of Table Mountain.

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How we ended up hiking to the top of Table Mountain

Crowds and hot weather are not a good combination

We never woke up intending to hike to the top of Table Mountain; it couldn’t have been further from our minds. Yesterday, the mist and fog had blanketed the mountain, and the cable car was not running because of the inclement weather.

However, the sun was out today, and Table Mountain stood resplendent in its rays. We jumped in the car and eagerly made our way to the cable car station in anticipation of our ride to the top of Cape Town’s most famous landmark.

Plans soon backfired as we arrived to see an almost endless queue waiting in line to board the cable car. I am talking about hundreds of visitors standing in the direct glare of the sun’s rays without any shade.

Now I’m not too fond of queues, and even though this was our only chance to venture onto the mountain top, there was no way I was ready to add myself and my family to the end of what looked like a never-ending line. We knew we were moving on from Cape Town the following day, but sometimes you have to choose the correct judgement for your own family, and mine was not to join that queue!

Pinterest Graphic Table Mountain

 A Hike to a Waterfall

As a consolation, we decided to continue past the cable car queue and drive further along the road so we could at least take some photographs to prove we had come this far. And that’s when it happened.

Jamie, my older son, spotted a waterfall a little way up from the roadside, and before we knew it, he had convinced the rest of us to go up and take a closer look.  Puffing and panting to get to the waterfall, I foolishly thought that this would be our Table Mountain experience, and we would soon be heading back to the car for refreshments and some air conditioning. Wrong!

Jamie had convinced his 14-year-old brother and my husband that it would be the best experience ever if we hiked to the top of Table Mountain. So between the four of us, we have Jamie, who loves adventure and climbing, Dominic, who goes with the flow, my husband, who hates walking (oh, unless it involves a coffee stop at the end) and me, who is happy to try anything once!

a woman and boy standing on the road with a mountain in the background
3 people hiking Table Mountain

Starting our Table Mountain hike

We started up the steps, or should I say boulders at Plattekip Gorge, which led the way to the top of the world and collided with runners coming back down.

It transpires that there is a Table Mountain running club. It encourages its members to run up and then back down daily, and as they passed us by, it looked as if they had walked to the corner shop rather than defeat a mountain. One guy even overtook us as we were going up and then returned by us on his way down. Oh, to be that fit!

Signpost for Platteklip Gorge

Let me reiterate that this hike had not been pre-planned, and therefore, we didn’t have the right footwear or enough water, think sandals and flip-flops, which made the climb even harder, and we were always stopping to rest.

The camaraderie with other hikers along the way kept us going. We overtook them, then they passed us always with that knowing nod to one another that we were all suffering, but the reward would be worth it.

Each time Dominic stopped for a rest, I made him carry on moving quite quickly, fearful that once he sat down for too long, there would be no way of continuing. The views from the mountain as we got higher were awe-inspiring, and we even bumped into some furry creatures along the way called Cape Rock Hydrax that reminded us of large guinea pigs.

Read more here about the Perfect 2-Week Garden Route Road Trip

a man and a young boy standing on Table Mountain
Cape Rock Hyrax animal on Table Mountain

Reaching the Peak

Finally, after what seemed a lifetime but was, in reality, nearly 4 hours, we heard the sound of pan pipes. Were we delusional? Had we succumbed to heatstroke? No, all was well apart from sweat in places I didn’t know existed. Turning the corner, we saw a lone man sitting against a rock playing pan pipes and selling water. Hooray, we wouldn’t die on the mountain of dehydration, and if he had carried water to this spot, then we couldn’t be too far from the top. Right?

It turns out it was another 30 minutes climb with legs like jelly and mouths like the bottom of a birdcage until we eventually reached the plateau at the height of 1,085m. We hugged it out as if we were finalists in some warped endurance race and found inner pride in accomplishing this feat as a family.

A view cross Cape Town
View down from Table Mountain
A boy hiking Table Mountain
a family standing on Table Mountain
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The View from the Top

We wandered around the top of Table Mountain, admiring the views out over Cape Town and out to Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s home, for so many years. We took photographs and, of course, visited the cafe where Dominic and Jamie devoured their ice-cream rewards, and my husband got the coffee he had been yearning for on the way up the mountain; well, a promise is a promise.

And as for me, I got to experience something in my lifetime that I still talk about to this day. In fact, without Jamie suggesting we attempt our Table Mountain hike, I wouldn’t be sharing my story with you today, so I am thankful that he did, and we all shared this unique experience.

A woman sitting on a rock
a boy sitting on a boulder
viewing platform on top of Table Mountain
man and woman standing at the top of Table Mountain

If you wonder whether we hiked back down the mountain, the answer is no. We queued for the cable car, which in 5 minutes had us back at the bottom!!

Advice for your Hike up Table Mountain

Check the weather 24 hours in advance.

Have plenty of water and a snack.

Use factor 50 sunscreen.

Wear a hat.

Wear sturdy walking shoes; this is a tough hike.

Be aware of the time you start your Table Mountain hike to allow enough time to reach the top and then return before the cable car closes or it starts to get dark.

If you would prefer to hike with a professional guide, then you may like one of these options:


Find out about the Table Mountain Cable Car

Pinterest Graphic 2 Table Mountain


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Renee | The Holidaymaker

Wednesday 5th of August 2020

Well done Jamie for pushing your family out of its comfort zone and gaining a memorable experience! The 5 minute cable car down would have seemed not fair based on the feat to get to the top!


Wednesday 5th of August 2020

We weren't too happy with Jamie at the time but on hindsight, it was one of the most amazing things we have done and we still talk about it to this day.

Linda (LD Holland)

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

We took the bus to the cable car and the cable car up. But I am now sorry we did not hike to find the waterfall or to the summit. But you got an amazing day for views from Table Mountain. I do like the idea of getting a profession guide. We were surprised at how quickly the weather changed. So would definitely wait for a fully clear day.


Monday 13th of April 2020

Wow, what an amazing experience. I can only imaginr the joy and exhilaration you must have felt on reaching the top.


Monday 13th of April 2020

It really was a great experience to have with my family. It was hard going but I’m glad I did it !


Saturday 11th of April 2020

Hi Angie,

Those are spectacular pictures, and I haven't seen weather that clear for a veerrry long time..!

I do a bit of hiking here in Hong Kong. We have some wonderful trails here but I, too, have experienced the chastening feeling when some fitness fanatic runs past me on the way up and again on the way down, while I'm still gasping my way up..!

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip :)


Saturday 11th of April 2020

Thanks for your comment Martin, it was a great trip and one we still laugh about several years later. We started to do the Hong Kong peak trail a few years back but were unsure how long it would go on for so turned back due to insufficient time. If you like hiking and ever get to Tasmania there are some stunning trails there.

Chloe Prince

Saturday 4th of April 2020

Love this article! Sounds like a wonderful experience that I will get my partner to do with me at some point! Thanks for the tips too i’ll remember to pack some lightweight walking shoes! Keep up with the posts I love reading them!


Saturday 4th of April 2020

Thanks Chloe. It was a very special experience to have with my family so I hope you can experience it with yours one day if you ever get to South Africa 😃