Moderate – High
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens / Cecilia Forest, a little further along Rhodes Drive
Upper Table Mountain Cableway Station
3 – 5 hours (depending on your fitness and experience level & the route)
Photo credit: Flickr: mallix
Much like Skeleton Gorge, the Nursery Ravine hiking trail up Table Mountain boasts two starting points. You can either choose to start your hike from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (pay to enter) or from Cecilia Forest, a little further along Rhodes Drive, along the contour path. If you choose to start your hike from the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, you will be able to get directions at the entrance point to the start of your hike.
The Nursery Ravine hiking trail is located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, directly above Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Although Nursery Ravine is widely known as one of Table Mountain’s most beautiful hiking trails, it should not be underestimated. The climb up Nursery Ravine almost entirely consists out of steps – +/- 700 steps to be exact – so, you better be ready! However, the exhaustion and burning sensation in your thighs will soon be replaced by the unapologetic natural beauty and breath-taking scenery of the rain forest-like gorge that surrounds you. When hiking up Nursery Ravine, you can also link up with the infamous Skeleton Gorge Table Mountain hiking trail, making for a thrilling hiking experience.
NURSERY RAVINE HIKE – ROUTE DESCRIPTION
If you choose to start your Nursery Ravine hike from Cecilia Forest, park your car at Cecilia Forest on Rhodes Drive. From there, pass the wooden security box at the start of the path and take the first footpath to your right. Continue up this path until you reach the road. Turn right and continue walking until you reach a sharp right turn in the road accompanied by a stream (about 300m from where you joined the road).
You will spot a trail up to your left which runs alongside the stream – Follow this trail until you reach the next road. Once there, you will take another right. Follow this path all the way – The path eventually narrows into a single track and after a few stairs you will reach the border of Kirstenbosch.
You will see a signpost with a map indicating where you are – Continue straight along this contour path. At the second river crossing along the path, you will find Nursery Ravine. Once at Nursery Ravine, you will enter a heavily wooded gorge with multiple steps on the right-hand side of the stream. This is where the REAL climb and hard work begins! While the climb up the steps is demanding (it is +/- 700 steps after all), remember to keep your eyes firmly on the prize and let the magnificent natural beauty and stunning surrounding scenery distract you from the exhaustion and aching muscles. This is actually one of the few sections of indigenous vegetation which still survives on Table Mountain today – so be sure to take it ALL in!
For the bulk of your hike up Nursery Ravine, you will be surrounded by a multitude of beautiful trees, complimented by the sound of the stream rushing down the slopes as well as bright green hues of the moss strewn rocks. It will almost feel like you’ve escaped to some far away jungle oasis right in the heart of the Mother City. As you continue on your path, it eventually leaves the shelter of the forest and opens to a large vertical cliff to your right which you may have noticed whilst on the contour path.
You are now in the final stretch of your hike – finally! The path will start to zig-zag before you reach the final uphill of your hike which is lined with stones and sand. Just before you think it’s all over, you have one more obstacle to conquer – a short, but STEEP set of stairs of course! Once you reach the top of your hike, you will find a small map showing your current location and where you can go from there. A great option is to head right and connect with Skeleton Gorge for a thrilling adventure down Table Mountain. If you decide to head left, the path will take you past the site of the old tree nursery (which gives the ravine its name) and on to the Helly Huchinson & Woodhead reservoir’s.
Photo credit: Flickr: Vaughn
TIPS FOR HIKING NURSERY RAVINE
- It is important to be fully prepared for your hike. Wear good hiking shoes and proper hiking attire as well as take plenty of water, sunblock, a hat, and something warm along. Cape Town is notorious for its unpredictable weather – even if it looks like a sunny day, take that jacket with you anyway.
- While Nursery Ravine offers hikers an epic climb and a spectacular view, hikers should always take extra care when navigating the route.
- If you are planning on taking a cable car down Table Mountain after your ascending hike, it is vital that you plan and time your hike appropriately / properly to avoid missing the last cable car – Ultimately leaving you stranded.
- While Nursery Ravine is certainly a challenging hiking trail, requiring a great deal of stamina and focus to reach the summit, be sure to take a moment (or a few) to enjoy and revel in the sheer excitement and beyond incredible nature of the experience as well as admire the untamed natural beauty and abundance of indigenous flora you’ll find along your route – You are hiking in the glorious Table Mountain National Park after all!
- As Nursery Ravine offers hikers tons of shade along the way, it’s a great Table Mountain hike to enjoy any time of the year, even during the Mother City’s hot summer months.
- Due to its lush natural surroundings and abundant greenery, Nursery Ravine transforms into the ultimate nature lover’s paradise during Cape Town’s green season – also known as its winter season (due to the winter rainfall).
- Nursery Ravine is a great descent route from many of the climbs/hikes on the East or West side of Table Mountain, especially in summer due to its pleasant and abundant shaded areas.
- Nursery Ravine is not a good route for dogs or inexperienced hikers – The top of the Ravine involves some rough boulder hopping on large steps. There is also a ladder at the top which dogs cannot climb.
KNOW WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY
In the event of an injury, threatening weather conditions or an emergency, stay in one place and find a spot that offers some form of shelter. In the case of an injury, do not move the injured person unless they are in a dangerous position. Don’t leave the injured person alone or unattended. If possible, send two people for help (depending on the number of people you’re hiking with), while someone remains behind to supervise. When you do go looking for emergency help or assistance, make sure you take detailed notes of where the injured person is, as well as look out for landmarks to navigate your way back to the spot.
In the case of a snakebite (Table Mountain National Park is home to prolific wildlife and reptile species), immobilise the person immediately and lay them flat on their back. Do not give them any food or water. Get help and most important keep the victim as calm as possible – one of the top factors in the progression of snakebite symptoms is shock and adrenaline.
In the event of contact with the blister bush (a plant resembling common celery) cover the area from sunlight. This will avoid skin irritations and the eruption of blisters.
If you get lost anywhere along your hiking route, stop, and retrace your steps. If you can’t find your original path, move down broad, open slopes. If conditions become more threatening as you go, revert to taking shelter and seeking help.
IMPORTANT EMERGENY NUMBERS
Visitors are urged to take all the necessary safety precautions when hiking or exploring secluded areas. Your safety should always be top priority. Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand:
- Emergencies: 021 480 7700
- Table Mountain National Park: 021 957 4700
- Wilderness Search and Rescue: 021 937 0300
@safetymountain is also an incredibly useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via WhatsApp. You are also able to provide hourly updates on your progress as well as notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.