3 – 4 hours
Out & Back
Nursery Ravine is located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, directly above Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The climb up will have you thinking two distinct thoughts: “Why on earth did I choose this hike?” and “This has to be the most beautiful climb up Table Mountain!” A love-hate relationship if you will.
Yes, Nursery Ravine is almost only steps (give or take 700, but who’s counting?). However, the natural beauty of this rain forest-like gorge is simply breathtaking. You are also afforded the opportunity to link up with the infamous Skeleton Gorge hike, making a spectacular circular route.
HEADING UP NURSERY RAVINE
Much like Skeleton Gorge, you have two options for starting on this trail. Option 1 starts at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (convenient if you are taking the red hop-on hop-off bus) and option 2 starting at Cecilia Forest, a little further along Rhodes Drive.
I like option 2, as you can always go into Kirstenbosch on the way down and avoid paying the entrance fee. If you choose to start a Kirstenbosch, you should be able to get directions at the entrance point.
FROM CECILIA FOREST
Park your car at Cecilia Forest on Rhodes Drive. Once you pass the wooden security box at the start of the path, you will take the first footpath to your right. Continue up this path until you reach the road, turn right and walk until you reach a sharp right turn in the road accompanied by a stream (about 300m from where you join the road).
You will see a trail up to your left which runs alonside the stream, follow this until you reach the next road where you will take another right. Follow this path all the way. The path eventually narrows into a single track and after a few stairs you will reach the border of Kirstenbosch. Here you will see a sign post with a map showing you where you are. Continue straight along this contour path.
Nursery Ravine is located at the second river crossing along the path. You will enter a heavily wooded gorge with steps on the right-hand side of the stream (when facing the mountain). Whilst the climb up is demanding (remember those 700+ steps I mentioned?) try concentrating on the natural beauty surrounding you all the way up. This is one of the few sections of indigenous vegetation which still survives on Table Mountain.
For the bulk of the trail you will find yourself surrounded by trees with the sound of the stream rushing down the slopes, and the bright green hue of the moss strewn rocks. Eventually the path leaves the shelter of the forest and opens up with a large vertical cliff to your right which you may have noticed whilst on the contour path.
TOWARDS THE TOP
Looking back you will have wide views over the Cape Flats and False Bay. The path will zig-zag before the final uphill which is lined with stones and sand. Your last obstacle is a short but steep set of stairs – which made me think of the Led Zepplin song Stairway to heaven. As you reach the top you will find a small map indicating to you where you are and where you can go from there.
A great option is of course heading right and connecting with Skeleton Gorge for your trip down. Heading left will lead you past the site of the old tree nursery (which gives the ravine its name) and on to the Helly Huchinson & Woodhead reservoir’s.