Table Mountain is an iconic landmark in Cape Town, South Africa. Popular among locals, university students, tourists, and animals, this mountain is worth climbing for a number of reasons. However, there are a few things to know first, such as when to ascend, what to carry, and what to expect.

Several things make Table Mountain distinctive and unparalleled. The mountain is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and is one of the richest floral regions in the world. The sheer diversity of flowers and plant life is stunning, and most of the species found on the slopes are native to the area. More than this, a big reason why so much life is unique here is that Table Mountain is supposedly one of the oldest mountains in the world - dating back at least 600-million years. There is so much ancient, primordial energy on the mountain that it's hard not to feel it. For these reasons, UNESCO awarded Table Mountain heritage status, which means that it has outstanding universal value to humanity.

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Getting To Table Mountain

For the most part, Table Mountain is only accessible by road. Cape Town does not have a very comprehensive public transport system, so visitors should consider renting a car. If renting a car is not possible, then shuttles and tour buses are the next best option. However, shuttles and buses can be limiting as, depending on the time of the year, hiking up Table Mountain is best done at sunrise.

In general, tourists visiting Cape Town are highly encouraged to rent a car. Apart from Table Mountain, the region is home to some of the most scenic drives in the world, such as Chapman's Peak drive.

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The Best Time Of The Year To Climb Table Mountain

Cape Town is infamous for being extremely windy at all times of the year. Typically, summers are hot and dry, while winters are rainy and overcast.

The mountain can be a hostile place during a thunderstorm, and the clouds can break very unpredictably in Cape Town. For this reason, it might be best to climb Table Mountain in the spring and summer. This is also when the flowers are in bloom, and the slopes are saturated with the rich, mellifluous fragrance of life.

Most locals who regularly climb Table Mountain will confirm that the best time to summit the peak is at sunrise or sunset. Since this mountain is a worldwide tourist attraction, beginning the ascent at 3 AM to catch the sunrise is a good way to beat the crowds and gaze out at the view below, watching the yellowing electrical lights that power the city turn off as dawn turns into day. Conversely, it's a beautiful sight at sunset, when the sun sets below the horizon, shimmering in the ocean, and the street lights come to life, changing the character of the city.

The temperature is cooler at the top, and especially cold at night, so even in the summer, it's worth carrying an extra sweater along. There is a cafe and gift shop on the mountain, but it is not open all the time and only accessible along some of the trails, so hikers who find themselves on the mountain at odd hours or on unconventional trails should carry water and food along as well.

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Ascending Table Mountain

A classic Table Mountain itinerary involves hiking to the top, soaking in the view, maybe having a bite at the cafe, and descending via the aerial cableway.

To complete this itinerary, hikers can take the oldest and most direct trail on Table Mountain - the Platteklip Gorge trail. This trail takes around two hours, from base to peak, and requires non-stop uphill climbing. Therefore, it is a genuine challenge for most people. Luckily, hikers can go at their own pace, as there's no pressure to finish quickly. Alternatively, for visitors with weak knees or a shortage of time, the cable car runs both ways and can be used to ascend the mountain.

The cable car ride takes less than ten minutes going either way and provides gorgeous views of the mountain, sea, and city. Keep in mind that, for safety reasons, the cable car does not run on windy days, so plan accordingly.

The Lion's Head Summit is another popular trail that is, perhaps, less tourist-oriented. This path is not as direct as the Platteklip Gorge trail, so it is less inclined and slightly easier, even though it requires more steps. The Lion's Head Summit trail takes about an hour going up, and around 40 minutes coming down. Since it is less touristy, this trail is more popular among the locals, so weekends can get rather busy.

There are no opportunities for shade along most of the hiking trails on Table Mountain due to the lack of tall trees, which means that hikers should try and leave before the sun hits its zenith at approximately noon. Alternatively, in the summer, hikers should carry a hat and sunscreen.

In addition to these popular trails, there are a couple hundred more that offer varying degrees of difficulty. For casual hikers and tourists, the above-mentioned paths are the safest, most tested, and most trafficked, so they're guaranteed to provide a memorable experience and solid views.

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