Explore South Africa’s amazing biodiversity without leaving home
Hiking up Devil’s Peak
Last updated: 28 August 2017
“Stop nagging, woman,” mumbles Jan van Hunks striding up the mountain away from his dwelling. Soon his wife’s words are carried away on the wind, and finally, the ex-pirate has some peace to smoke his pipe. He had only taken one deep puff, when he sees a stranger approaching.
“Spare some tobacco?” asks the man. And soon they start bragging about their pipe-smoking prowess; this leads to a contest.
Finally, after several days, Van Hunks wins. Unfortunately, the stranger is the devil. With that, thunder rolls across the sky, and a zag of lighting scorches Van Hunk off the face of the earth.
Next time the south-easter blows, look out for the blanket of cloud that covers Table Mountain, legend has it: Van Hunks and the devil are at it again.
They see me hiking
It’s a bright, slightly windy morning. The weather man predicted sunny skies; so I’m clad in shorts, a T-shirt, and my new Hi-Tecs: V-lite Total Terrain Lace. We’re beginning the hike on the Table Mountain side. The pull of this hike is the panoramic view.
What to bring
- Something warm. No matter how scorching the day promises to be, you will hit wind pockets. And the top can be chilly.
- Hat and sunglasses. Think short, scrubby fynbos; you’ll be at the mercy of the elements.
- Hiking shoes. Flip flops just won’t do, neither will sneakers. The terrain is rocky and steep.
- The obvious. Bring water, a flask of tea, or anything that you like to drink. And a snack for the summit: we recommend fruit and sarmies.
- Get snap happy, the 360° view demands it, but bring the lightest camera possible.
- Children from age 10 and up.
You can reach the saddle from three routes, ranging from moderate to difficult. Ascend from Tafelberg Road on the city side, up Newlands Ravine from Newlands Forest, or the upper contour path from Mowbray Ridge and Minor Peak.
Drive towards Table Mountain; carry on straight past the cableway for roughly three kilometres. You’ll see a space to park.
We recommend this route for its outstanding views: Table Mountain, Lions Head, City Bowl, Table Bay, Robben Island, and Northern Suburbs, all laid out for your peepers.
If it’s been raining recently, expect to see some small waterfalls. The path can be rough, and often quite steep: so wear shoes with grip.The wind can be extreme at parts: watch out for fly-away hats.
Duration: 4 hours for the regular person, this includes a half hour break at the top, budget 2 hours for the super-fit.
Park at Rhodes Memorial, and follow signs to the Kings Block House, from there climb up Mowbray Ridge before moving along Knife’s Edge. Keep going to the minor summit of Devils Peak.
Our advice, if you’re not an experienced climber, is to go with someone who has done the route before, as it can be tricky as well as steep. Also there are sections with sharp drop-offs: some may find the exposure to the height intimidating.
Duration: 2-4 hours, depending on how quickly you can traverse the tricky terrain.
This route also begins at the Rhodes Memorial parking lot. Head towards the steps in the far-left corner, climb these, and continue towards a T-junction, here you’ll turn right,
keep going, and just before you reach the turn-stile turn left, and you’ll find yourself on the Contour Path. The Newlands Ravine can be a bit of a slog, so make sure to rest for a few minutes before attempting it.
The joy of this walk is the forest scenery; the fragrant shade is a big plus on hot days too.
Duration: 4 hours, or much longer if you decide to picnic under the trees.
What to look out for
Flora: Nature conservationist, Farrah Feldman, shared her pick of fynbos: “The vegetation is really special. Peninsula Shale Renosterveld, which is critically endangered, is endemic to the Cape Peninsula—so it grows nowhere else on earth. Urban expansion has now restricted this vegetation even further and it is only found in two locations: Devils Peak and Signal Hill.”
Fitting for the devil’s mountain: another bloom to look out for are the star-shaped sticky flowers called drosera cistiflora or snotrosie. “They’re carnivorous plants,” says Farrah. “So they're quite odd and special.” (Find them close to water.)
Trivia: A site of great beauty, and of great tragedy. On 26 May 1971, an aircraft crashed into Devil's Peak, killing all 11 on board. The impact was heard throughout the city. If you look closely, the scars in the ground can still be seen today.
By Malu Lambert
*Sponsored by Hi-Tec
Keen to bring Rover along? You’ll need a permit, and it couldn’t be easier, go here for all the information on My Activity Permit. Check out our Facebook album of the hike, and follow us on Twitter to find out where (and what) we’ll be hiking next. Plus, subscribe to our weekly newsletter for a seven day weather forecast.