A Secret Way to the Top of Table Mountain

Table Mountain is possibly the number one destination for travelers visiting Cape Town, South Africa. The prominent landmark consisting of approx. 500 million year old rocks, forms a dramatic backdrop to the city.

Most people take the aerial cableway to the top of Table Mountain, which offers spectacular views of jagged rocks, bare vegetation, and the city below. Once you reach the viewpoint, plan to spend an hour walking around to see as far out as Cape of Good Hope in the south, Devil’s Peak in the east, and Lion’s Head to the west. Buy tickets in advance, though also note that the aerial cableway is closed when there’s adverse weather, high winds or needs maintenance. On busy summer days, the lines can be very long and the visit may take an entire day, if not a better part of it.

Sunset is the best time to be on top of Table Mountain and local residents can get tickets for half off.

When I was in Cape Town in late December, I was stuck in traffic to get to the entrance of the park, it took about an hour in the line to get to the cable car (with advance tickets), and 2 hours to get back down. There was one restaurant on top, but I couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, because the lines took forever.

Another way to explore Table Mountain is by hiking, and the Platteklip Gorge trail is the most direct and popular trail up the mountain. It normally takes 2 hours each way. Some areas can be slippery and steep. In summer, this may be strenuous as the sun is quite strong and there aren’t many trees. You must carry lots of water, walking poles, some granola bars, hat and sunscreen.

The best way to see Table Mountain is a private wine safari. I met with my Durbanville Hills Table Mountain Wine Safari Guide, Henri Bruce, at the SANParks Table Mountain office, and we rode in his open safari jeep straight past the lines, unlocking barriers marked as no private entry, and driving through the winding rugged paths through the mountain. On the scenic drive, Henri pointed out the different shrubs and flowers indigenous to the mountain, and shared interesting stories of his many hikes. We stopped to take photos of sparkling fynbos trees and vibrant protea flowers, as well as False Bay, and the beaches dotting Cape Town below us.

Once we reached Devil’s Peak, we got off the vehicle and went for a walk around the block house and historic cannons. Meanwhile, Henri set up a picnic table with different kinds of cheese, fresh fruits, and cold cuts, accompanied by a selection of Durbanville Hills wines.

We spent about 3 hours wine tasting, talking about travel, and enjoying the infinite scenery, while an occasional hiker or two would walk past, perhaps a little jealous of how relaxed we were, while they still had the afternoon sun ahead. It also gets quite windy midday on top of the mountain, so make sure to bring a jacket.

After a beautiful day, Henri dropped us at the Cape Grace Hotel for a wine tasting at the bar, and a scrumptious dinner at Signal restaurant.

The experience can be booked through the concierge desk at Cape Grace Hotel, a charming family-owned boutique hotel located at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, or directly through Durbanville Hills.

Ten percent of all proceeds are donated to South African National Parks (SANParks) for the conservation and general upkeep of South Africa’s national parks.

A Day Trip to Muir Woods

Located 45 minutes north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge is a place where you can find trees older than the USA itself. It’s called Muir Woods and it happens to be the home of thousands of ancient Red Wood trees. Not only is Muir Woods a national park, it is also a great hike for any outdoor enthusiast.

San Francisco Bridge

The hiking trails are good for beginner to advanced hikers and can take from 2 hours to a full day to complete. There are a few campsites on the property if your inner boy scout needs a nature fix. If you have the time and can handle the terrain the hike up to the hidden beer garden is absolutely the best thing you could do with your day.

Muri Woods Trail

The full day hike will take you through a variety of landscapes from the glorious red woods to fields of wildflowers. There are small creeks sprinkled through the trails and as you ascend you will be rewarded with extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains.

Hiking at Muir Woods

The beer garden or Nature Friends Tourist House is a nice break from the hike. It’s a hidden cabin isolated on the side of a mountain that can be accessed by driving, but the hike is much more enjoyable. As you sit among the other travelers playing popular 90’s board games and consuming beer on picnic blankets you will feel a bit of nostalgic euphoria.

Overlooking the Canopy

If you have some time in San Francisco – Muir Woods is highly recommended for all travelers alike. The welcome center has a variety of educational information and activities for all ages. If you enjoy adventure, the hiking is beautiful and the smell of evergreen with a shady canopy brings you into a state of instant serenity.

~ By Joy Hmielewski. Joy is an ex office worker with a love for adventure. A few years ago she picked up a camera and learned everything she could. She never wanted to spend her days in a cubical so she started a photography business and traveled anywhere she could go for cheap. She now travels extensively with a backpack and a small budget. Follow Joy on Facebook, Twitter @JoyDoesStuff and Instagram: @JoyDoesStuff