Take the Cable Car
Table Mountain, the symbol of Cape Town, dominates the skyline. The easiest way to get a more intimate look is to take the cable car up to a nearly 3,600-foot (1,089 m) vantage point. The 5-minute ascent includes breathtaking 360-degree views. Go round trip the aerial way or take a more adventuresome way down.
Hike the Front
Early explorers tackled Table Mountain up the challenging Platteklip Gorge ("Flat Stone Gorge") in the middle of the plateau. The most direct route, it is a 3- to 4-hour hike, beginning to the right of the lower cableway station. The initial ascent is particularly steep, but the trail is well marked. At the top, there's the choice of hiking back down or catching the cable car.
Start at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
A hike up Skeleton Gorge doesn't end at the top, but it wanders through solitary forests and past streams and rockfalls before circling to the upper cable station. Beginning in Kirstenboch Botanical Garden on the southeast slop, it is really three segments: Skeleton Gorge, the Smuts Track and a hike across the summit. It is somewhat strenuous, climbing around 3,100 feet (930 meters) over 3.8 miles (6.2 km). Also beginning in Kirstenboch and following a similar route is the slightly less challenging Nursery Ravine.
Silvermine Nature Reserve
Silvermine Nature Reserve - on Table Mountain's back slope about a 10-minute drive from the city centre - has trails at various levels, including easy introductory hikes. While you won't be tackling the Table Mountain summit, you'll have great views of it, the Fynbos (scrublands unique to the Cape) and rock formations, including some sandstone caves worth exploring. One trail ends to a panorama view of False Bay all the way around to Cape Point. Muizenberg Peak has some rock climbing routes for the more adventuresome. There are also well-marked bike trails and bird-watching opportunities.
Locals with nothing to prove favor Karbonkelberg on the southern border of Table Mountain National Park for short treks and mountain biking. Above the seaside resorts of Hout Bay and Llundudno, it is somewhat less demanding than tackling Table Mountain itself and provides great views. The thrill is surfing down dune-like slopes on polished sheets or boards. Safety could be a concern, so go with a pal. Best in the cooler South African winter months.
For the truly fearless, there's no greater thrill than mountain biking on the mountain or even more thrilling, downhill cycling. A number of options exist, but start by pedaling up to the lower Cableway station and head for a path called "The Rollercoaster," which branches off onto a number of routes. Be aware that bikes aren't allowed on the top of the mountain and that snakes are active in the high grass between October and April.