Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon
Moderate – Difficult
Out & Back
Hiking up Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain, is arguably one of the best hikes up the mountain. Albeit not an easy hike, it’s certainly worth every ounce of effort you put in. From the beautiful Kirstenbosch botanical gardens and the lush indigenous forest above, to the diverse fynbos at the top, this hike has it all. Taking approximately 5 – 6 hours for most people to complete, it is advised to pack a lunch and make a day of it.
Getting started on the trail
To get started on the hike up skeleton gorge to maclears beacon you have two options, with money being the deciding factor in which route you opt to take. Option 1 starts at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. Although a beautiful addition to the hike, it’s not entirely necessary to pay the R55 entrance fee if you just want to go for a hike up the mountain.
I would suggest taking option 2, as you can always go into Kirstenbosch on the way down and avoid paying altogether. Bonus! This route may take a little longer, but there’s probably no more than 10 minutes difference.
Park your car at Cecilia Forest on Rhodes Drive. Take the first footpath to your right. After a short walk up, turn right at the contour path and walk until you reach a sharp right turn in the road accompanied by a stream. You will see a trail up to your left, follow this until you reach the next contour path where you will take another right. Follow this path all the way along. 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.
Heading up Skeleton Gorge
Continue straight along this path for about 20 minutes until you reach Skeleton Gorge. Before you head up you might like to have a short rest at the waterfall just past the start of the trail, this is also a great spot to snap a few pics!
The trail starts off fairly steep and continues in this fashion all the way up, winding its way through the lush indigenous forest setting. After about 20 minutes the real fun begins! You will reach a set of step ladders taking you up some steeper sections, these can be quite slippery so watch out!
After a short while you will get your first look out from the gorge with a great view over the southern suburbs of Cape Town and False Bay. From here the path winds its way up in a zig zag fashion before reaching the top. From here you can either head straight, which will take you to the Hely-hutchinson Reservoir where you can enjoy a bit of a break, or head right onto Smuts Track and continue on towards Maclears Beacon.
Smuts Track to Maclears Beacon
With most of the height being covered heading up skeleton gorge (700m), Smuts track is quite a welcoming change with only about 300m left to climb. The trail continues fairly level before climbing up a series of steps, providing great views when looking back from where you have come.
The last stretch before reaching Maclears beacon can feel like an eternity, but keep your head up as once you’re at the top, you can only go down! Once at the top you can find a spot to grab a bite to eat and take in some of the spectacular views of Cape Town.