Hiking up Skeleton Gorge

Skeleton Gorge which takes you from Kirstenbosch Gardens onto the Back Table is one of the most popular hikes on Table Mountain. It is beautiful, has lots of shade and a little bit of excitement. Perfect for a hike.

To get there start walking at the Rycroft (top) gate at Kirstenbosch gardens. It is R37 to enter unless you arrive before 7am. It is also possible to start walking at Cecelia forest. Entry here is free but you add about half an hour onto your walk. (at the moment due to forestry activities it may be impossible to start at Cecelia)

The paved road in Kirstenbosch gardens

From top gate walk straight up the path towards the mountain. You are on a paved path for about 15 minutes until you come to a T junction. Take the small path that goes directly up. 5 minutes on this path and you join another road. Go straight across and you’ll find another path heading straight up. Follow this. After 10 minutes you come to a T junction. This is the contour path which leads from Constantia Nek to the cable way station. Turn right onto this path and follow it for 20 minutes. This is a beautiful path which takes you past Nursery ravine and to the bottom of Skeleton Gorge. You cannot miss the gorge it is well sign posted.

Both Nursery Ravine and Skeleton gorge are well signed

Turn up the gorge and be prepared for a slog. The first half of the gorge is a clear path of steps leading up, up and more up. Regular stops to enjoy the peace and quiet and light through the trees are advised. You cannot believe you are only an hour away from a large cosmopolitan city. On your right the Skeleton gorge stream tumbles down. Trickling strongly even in the summer.  

The first half of the gorge is steep and relentless

After about an hour you come to the first of the ladders. These are great to make you forget about your legs and lungs! The ladders are strong and easy to climb. There are 5 ladders in all, some only 2 or 3 rungs in length and they take you up to where the path and the river converge.

The first ladder on Skeleton Gorge

The next stretch of the path is not as clearly marked and at times you need to use your hands to get over larger boulders. It is not really a scramble route and there is no exposure. You do need good shoes though. In several places even in summer the rocks are wet so coming down is not recommended. During the winter it is advisable to avoid this route immediately following rain as it can get very slippery and dangerous.

The trees offer shade for most of the way up Skeleton Gorge

After following the river for about half an hour you come to a platform and a huge rooiels tree. Take a break here. You are about 3/4 of the way up the gorge and have doen the hardest part. From now on the path moves away from the river and after about 20 minutes you rise above the trees. The view of Kirstenbosch, the Southern suburbs and False Bay are great. It is also extremely satisfying to see how far you have climbed.

Emerging from the trees at the top of the gorge

From here you will reach the top of the gorge in about 10 minutes.