By Sarah Khan
October 02, 2014
Best Hiking Trails in Cape Town
Credit: M.Sobreira / Alamy

When you start drawing up your packing list for your trip to Cape Town, make sure SNEAKERS is in bold letters near the top. Hiking never figured much in my list of ways I liked to spend my free time when I lived in New York: I’m an avowed city girl, and would much rather strut across a concrete sidewalk then up a grassy mountain. But South Africans are passionate about the great outdoors (and why shouldn’t they—Mother Nature has blessed them with some of the world’s most stunning scenery), and I’ve definitely been on more hikes in the year since I moved here than I’d been on in my whole life before that. I’m still trying to get the hang of it, but even I have to admit, once I’ve huffed and puffed my way through a tough trail, I’m grateful I did. Here are five of the Cape Town area’s most beautiful hiking routes.

Lion's Head

According to my husband, this is the best hike in the world. While I certainly don't have enough experience to confirm that, I'm pretty sure this is the best hike in Cape Town: a winding path that wraps around the cone-shaped peak on Signal Hill makes for an ever-changing 360-degree view over the city. One minute you're gazing at the ocean, the next you're sweating past Table Mountain.

Table Mountain

While this hike is considerably more grueling than neighboring Lion's Head, it's worth it for the view when you finally scale the 3,500-foot mountain and arrive at the plateau at the top. Don't worry if you're completely exhausted by the time you finish: you can take the cable car back down.

Silvermine Nature Reserve

Head to the suburb of Tokai for a picturesque, family-friendly walk up to the Elephant's Eye Cave. When you get to this massive hole carved into the side of a mountain, the views over False Bay are sublime. Reward yourself and the kids with a refreshing dip in the dam when you're finished.

Cape Point

The Cape Point Nature Reserve is filled with countless hiking trails ranging from a few hours to a few days long. One of the easier routes encompasses two of Cape Town's must-see sights: check out the historic lighthouse at Cape Point before hiking along a cliff overlooking Dias Beach. You’ll conclude at the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern-most point of the African continent.

Chapmans Peak

This stretch of road along the coast is easily my favorite drive in Cape Town: the route hugs a sheer cliff that drops into the Atlantic, and the views of both mountains and ocean are stunning. While most people just drive this road, those in-the-know prefer to hike from Noordhoek to "Chappies," as the locals call it.