Table Mountain: Up Skeleton Gorge, Down Nursery Ravine


This past weekend I went on my third hike up Table Mountain. This time we decided to switch it up a bit and hike up the backside of the mountain, which is very different than the front as it gets most of the rain on the mountain. Unlike the hot and dry frontside, it is very forested and much more wet. Personally I found the hike a lot more exciting than Platteklip Gorge.

The Skeleton Gorge hike starts in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. You can begin the hike inside of the gardens after paying the entrance fee, however, there is an option to bypass this by starting on a trail to the side of the parking lot.

At points the hike is very steep. The beginning section consists of large rock steps, similar to those on the Platteklip Gorge hike. After a while there is a series of ladders to climb. This is followed by some scrambling up a rocky riverbed. I can imagine this could be extremely dangerous if done while it was raining or there was water going through the stream.

When we got to the top of the mountain we were very surprised to find a beach! Whaaaaa?!? The rock on top of Table Mountain is made of sandstone, which turns into sand when broken down. All of the sand has been blown into one dune, making it feel as if you should look up and find the ocean sparkling in front of you. 

The beach gives way to the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir, one of five reservoirs created on top of Table Mountain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Apparently the reservoir sometimes makes for a nice swimming spot, but as it is summer it was completely dry. 

After making it to the top we hiked along the top of the mountain to get to a viewpoint where we stopped for lunch.  

...and of course to also take some yoga pictures. 

After lunch we started our trek back down the mountain, this time crossing in front of the second dam (this one had water) and following the signs to the nursery ravine. The nursery ravine is basically just lots of down, down, down steps which I'm very grateful I did not have to hike up. The bottom of the hike lets out in Kirstenbosch and we made our way back to the parking lot from there.

The hike took us between 5 and 6 hours total, including breaks. Either this hike was significantly easier or I was significantly more in shape, but I was NOT sore for an entire week after this hike...Hallelujah!

Overall I enjoyed this hike much more than Platteklip Gorge, however I would still recommend Platteklip if you are new to Table Mountain and in need of a introduction. 

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