[This was written by Fran Siebrits and published online by Wild Magazine http://www.wildcard.co.za/, 2011]

Chapman’s Peak, or Chappies as it is locally known, towers 593 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and is one of Cape Town’s best kept hiking secrets.
Sweet mountain water tantalising your thirsty taste buds; scented fynbos tickling the insides of your nostrils; sun warming your back through to your spine; the vast expanse of the mountains and ocean stretching in front of you; the pounding waves below whispering romantically to your inner-ear; birds of prey soaring effortlessly on the thermals around you … the charm of Chappies awaits you!

If you live in Cape Town then Chapman’s Peak Drive is nothing new to you. But if you are not from the fairest Cape, then you will just have to believe me that it is one of the most beautiful roads in the world! With the sea on its western side and mountain peaks snuggling close to its eastern shoulder, the road slices gracefully through pristine natural fynbos. 

But the best way to appreciate this wonderful stretch of mountain range separating Hout Bay and Noordhoek is to explore it on foot.

What is spectacular about this section of the Table Mountain chain (stretching from the City Bowl all the way to Cape Point) is that there is something for all levels of fitness.

There is the obvious gradual stroll on Chapman’s Peak Drive itself, where many an active Capetonian can be spotted on weekends (although come April cyclists from around the world hog the yellow line in preparation for the Argus Cycle Tour). Then there is the other extreme of outdoor lovers who take the bare-minimum and head to the peaks for a few hours of trail-running.

But like I said, there really is something for everyone. So if you’re looking for something in between gradual and extreme, then fill up the water bottles, pack in those sarmies, grab a warm top and head for the singular peak closest to Noordhoek: Chapman’s Peak.

Just before the lookout point on Chapman’s Peak Drive (coming from Hout Bay) is a small parking area and a sign announcing the start of the Chapman’s Peak hiking trail. The stone steps leading up to the saddle above you should take no longer than half an hour. Once on the saddle, your destination is the peak to your right (south-westerly direction).

Believe it or not, the worst is over. Yip, from here it’s a gentle climb to the single peak which appears to be reaching for the horizon. The last few metres are a bit steep but completely manageable; and well-worth the final push for the reward of a 360 degree view, encompassing two oceans and a complete mountain range from beginning to end. You’ll want to extend your stay on the top so be sure to save some picnic for the occasion.

Oh, yes, the way back. Although personally I am not a fan of taking the same path back, this is one hike I make an exception for. So simply follow your trail back the way you came, admiring the unique view from a different angle. 

Give yourself three hours to complete the trail. Thereafter drive the short distance to the beach you would have already been eyeing-out on a hot day. It’s now time for a treat: place your toes in the sand and an ice-cream in your hand.

  • However, if you wish to stick to this height and continue with a flat walk, go left (northerly direction). This is a delightful option as the path contours its way back towards Hout Bay, running parallel to the road below. The peaks of this mountain range flank the path all the way to its gradual descent, meeting Chapman’s Peak Drive just before the beach.

Please note: Because of the Cape’s winter rainfall, the streams this time of year abound with fresh rainwater. The dry summer months, however, are thirst quenchers. Even though the hike may only take a couple of hours, the fynbos environment can have a drought-like effect on many people. So be sure to pack plenty of water; it’s a lot hotter and drier up there in summer than it is on the beaches below!