South Africa’s most popular city is known for being the nation’s capital for outdoor leisure and lifestyle, and as such, there’s little wonder that you’ll always find people running around every corner of Cape Town at any time of year.
There’s no shortage of spots for trail running in Cape Town that are ideal for both complete beginners and experts alike. Whether it’s along the ever-bustling Lion’s Head or somewhere quieter like Silvermine Dam, there’s definitely a spot or few that will give you great views and a workout at the same time.
We’ve partnered with First Ascent, the go-to brand for outdoor leisure living, to bring you a rundown of the best running trails in Cape Town to try right now. And if your gear and gadgets can do with an upgrade, have a look at our guide showing a list of must-have trail running essentials to buy now.
And although we all love to relish in the beauty that the Cape has to offer, we would like to remind runners that there is safety in numbers, especially when running in secluded areas.
NEWLANDS FOREST SHORT CIRCUIT
Where: Newlands, Cape Town
Distance: 8.9 Kilometres
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
The tranquil Newlands Forest as we know it today is all that remains of the once-dense, indigenous forest that used to blanket much of Table Mountain’s eastern slopes.
There are two main routes depending on your fitness level. The Short Circuit is fairly easy and comes with wide enough walkways for both runners and dogwalkers, but can get quite busy over weekends. If you’re after a solid workout, try the Newlands Ravine via the Dark Gorge route. This is a fairly steep and quieter trail that requires a little technique, but the scenery is worth the effort.
The tall trees and luscious greenery cast soft shadows to shelter runners from the harsh African sun. The trees and trails also grant incredible views of nature, and in some areas, runners can see the city through the forest as a quick reminder that civilisation isn’t too far away, making this trail the best of both worlds.
ALPHEN RIVER TRAIL
Where: 31 Alphen Dr, Alphen, Cape Town
Distance: 7.7 Kilometres
Absolute beginners to trail running will love the flat and undemanding Alphen River Trail that winds its way from Alphen to Constantia Heights. You’ll get a mild workout from the easy inclines and varied surroundings to keep things interesting. But the cherry on top is endless greenery, soothing sounds of the stream, and smaller peaks giving interesting landscape scenery.
Take the kids and dogs along, the trail is a haven for dog walkers. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot waxbills, bronze manikins, a few squirrels, and some painted stones that can be rehidden.
Where: Blokhuiskop Loop, Clovelly Rd, Clovelly, Cape Town
Distance: 10 Kilometres
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Discover the Deep South’s long and thrilling trail run stretching up to an impressive 10km, giving you ample opportunity to revel in the beauty that surrounds you.
Starting from Clovelly Road, Blokhuiskop Loop winds its way up the mountain, surrounded by dense foliage and lush vegetation that lend a sense of mystery and intrigue to the journey. As you climb gradually through the breathtaking fynbos, expect to see stunning waterfalls and trees that lead to exquisite views of False Bay and the picture-perfect Kalk Bay harbour.
But that’s not all – be sure to keep an eye out for the bats that roost in the Boomslang cave and the White Dome Grotto, two stunning natural wonders that are sure to leave you spellbound while giving your quads a proper workout.
Photo Credit to – Jordan Morley
UPPER WOODSTOCK TO RHODES MEMORIAL
Where: Philip Kgosana Drive, Woodstock, Cape Town
Distance: 8.5 Kilometres
For trail runners with a little more experience and stamina in search of a longer route, take on the steep ascents and descents of Devils Peak via the Upper Woodstock to Rhodes Memorial trail.
This trail starts in Upper Woodstock off Philp Kgosana Drive and continues all along Devil’s Peak towards the Rhodes Memorial. Along the way, runners can enjoy the views of the cityscape, Cape Town harbour, Atlantic Ocean stretching to Big Bay, and Southern Suburbs. End off at the historical Rhodes Memorial with a bird’s eye view of the iconic University of Cape Town architecture.
It’s a mostly quiet route with very little to no shielding on the Woodstock side, and you’ll encounter mostly cyclists and the occasional hikers on the way.
Where: Bayview Rd, Hout Bay, Cape Town
Distance: 9 Kilometres
On the outskirts of the quaint and adorable pirate cove in Hout Bay lies the Duiker Island and Hangberg hiking and running trail. The trail boasts incredible and astonishing views of Hout Bay and the harbour, Chapman’s Peak, and Sandy Bay from Karbonkelberg lookout.
This small but mighty mountain serves as a stunning landmark, offering a breathtaking view of the bustling harbour below. But what sets this peak apart from the rest is the unique dune-like feature that has been formed by the powerful winds blowing sand up its slopes.
The spectacular Karbonkelberg is a magnificent peak nestled within the Table Mountain National Park.
Photo Credit to – Robert Kleinbaum
Where: Signal Hill, Cape Town
Distance: 5.3 Kilometres
Lion’s Head ranks as one of Cape Town’s popular sunrise and sunset hikes so you can expect hikers and off-leash dogs in certain sections.
Contrary to popular belief, the running trail is not a walk in the park. This 5.3-km loop trail starts easy with a slow steep ascent offering fantastic 360-degree views of Cape Town with gems such as Signal Hill, Camps Bay, City Centre, the Twelve Apostles and the ever-popular Table Mountain in sight.
From then onward it gets moderately challenging and you can reap the fitness benefits with narrow routes and steep inclines. Headlamps are highly recommended for sunset and sunrise.
For an easy and quick extension, The Signal Hill Spine is a great add-on to this run if you feel like you can burn some more calories.
EAST FORT CONTOUR
Where: Chapman’s Peak Dr, Hout Bay
Distance: 6.3 Kilometres
East Fort Contour Trail is a magnificent path that offers spectacular views of the majestic Chapmans Peak as it towers over the quaint village of Hout Bay.
The trail begins with a visit to the historic fort, a fascinating glimpse into the rich history of the area. Then, take to the slightly steep steps and turn left onto a wide gravel path, immersing yourself in the stunning surroundings at every turn.
As you follow the trail, you’ll find yourself in a riverine forest nestled in a ravine, offering a welcome respite from the sun and the perfect spot to cool off by the perennial waters of a nearby weir.
To make the most of your journey, it’s best to arrange for a car at the endpoint of the trail, but if you’re feeling adventurous, why not enjoy a brisk run back along the road and soak up even more of the spectacular views along Chapman’s Peak Drive.
TABLE MOUNTAIN ROAD
Where: Tafelberg Rd, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town
Distance: 9.5 Kilometres
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Starting from the lower cableway station, Tafelberg Road runs across the Northern side of Table Mountain for approximately 4km until it reaches its terminus at Devil’s Peak. There are some gentle climbs and declines on the route that offers runners and hikers alike a series of scenic smooth curves to navigate and explore.
For trail runners, the 9.5-km out-and-back trail typically takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete. While dogs are allowed on the trail, they must be kept on a leash to ensure safety.
If you’re keen to explore Tafelberg Road without worrying about traffic, simply park at the endpoint and set off on foot from there.
Where: Kasteelpoort Starting Position, Theresa Ave, Bakoven, Cape Town
Distance: 4.7 Kilometres
For those seeking an unforgettable ascent of Table Mountain, look no further than the epic Kasteelspoort route. Taking you up the Western slopes of the iconic Twelve Apostles, this trail offers unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean that follow along Camps Bay’s coastline and Lion’s Head, showcasing the very best of the Mother City’s famed natural beauty.
One of the highlights of this route is the opportunity to snap a thrilling photo on the ‘diving board’, an adrenaline-fuelled experience not for the faint-hearted. However, with great adventure comes great responsibility, and it’s important to be aware that weather conditions on Table Mountain can change rapidly with clouds sometimes appearing out of nowhere and winds picking up to gale-force speeds. Warm clothing is essential for the top to ensure your comfort and safety.
Even with these unpredictable conditions, Kasteelspoort remains a popular and awe-inspiring trail. Keep in mind, if the wind speeds are too high, the cable car may not be operating. Nevertheless, with its incredible vistas and sense of adventure, this route promises an unforgettable experience for all who dare to brave it.
SENTINEL LOOKOUT VIA SILVERMINE DAM
Where: Silvermine Dam, Silvermine, Cape Town
Distance: 7.1 Kilometres
Another Chapman’s Peak trail running attraction is Sentinel Lookout and the refreshing, still waters of the Silvermine Dam. Let the verdant landscapes of Constantia and Noordhoek envelop you and soak up the sights, sounds, and scents of Cape Town’s very own natural paradise.
With its circular route, this trail can be tackled from either direction, giving you the freedom to choose your path and explore the terrain at your own pace. As you make your way along the winding path, you’ll feel your heart racing with exhilaration and your spirits lifting with each passing moment.
And what better way to cool off after a long and challenging run than with a refreshing dip in the Silvermine Dam? Join the ranks of the adventurous runners who take the plunge and emerge reinvigorated and ready to tackle the next run.
Photo Credit to – Catherine Masters
ABOUT FIRST ASCENT
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, investing in top-of-the-line clothing and gear can make a world of difference. This is why First Ascent is the go-to brand for all your trail running needs. Their outdoor gear and clothing are not only stylish but also highly functional, ensuring you stay comfortable and focused on the trail ahead and endorsed by many outdoor athletes. Shop their range online here.