This story was updated on 20 February 2019.
It is no secret that the Western Cape offers vast natural beauty for people and animals to enjoy, which is why hikers along with their furry friends come from far and near to Africa’s Southern tip to experience dog-friendly hiking trails.
According to Cape Town dog walkers Mary Puppins, here are the most scenic dog-friendly trails in the country that are sure to inspire both you and your canine companion.
This is one of the best lesser known dog-friendly places in Cape Town. An easy flat track with only steady inclines, the Pipe Track takes you along the base of the Twelve Apostles offering views of Camps Bay, Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean.
Watch the sun set from several benches perfectly positioned along the 6km path. Set aside about 4 hours to do the walk (including the return trip), alternatively, just turn around when you decide to, as the path does not loop. The path begins where Kloof Nek Road meets Tafelberg Road and ends at Corridor Ravine.
The Pipe Track receives a lot of sun during summer afternoons, so be sure to pack enough water for you and your pooch. If you’re planning on tackling it during summer, then get there for an early morning ramble. During the winter months, visitors are often treated to different protea species in full bloom.
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2. Lion’s Head
Getting to the top can be quite an arduous task, but the view is well worth the effort. When bringing your dog along, remember to pack lots of water, stick to the shaded zones when possible and take a lot of breaks. Instead of using the popular route that requires the use of ladders and ropes at certain points, we recommend you take the alternative route, which goes around the base of Lion’s Head.
The view from Lion’s Head is spectacular, but if you’re not feeling up to it there are other trails around the base which are fun too. The climb starts on Signal Hill Road and you’ll need anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours to summit the mountain. Scenic splendour surrounds you the entire time, but reaching the end is the cherry on top.
3. Deer Park Forest
This forest is a delight for dogs as it has a small dam for them to swim in on those hot summer days, as well as many trails leading up the mountain. This forest can be the starting point for Table Mountain or Devil’s Peak – take your pick. Find the main entrance at the top of Deer Park Road. You’ll only need an hour and a half to do a loop of the forest.
The Newland’s Forest offers tall trees, endless paths and the crystal waters of the Newlands River – a paradise for dogs and owners alike. This is probably one of the most shaded trails in Cape Town and is ideal for the scorching Cape Town summer.
Chances are you will probably bump into more furry friends here, including squirrels. Spend as long as you want in the forest, exploring the major pathways or veering off the beaten track. It’s difficult to get lost as the sound of the river is always present, especially in winter. Use the water as a landmark and have fun exploring. The main entrance to the forest is just off the M3 before the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
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5. Vredehoek Quarry
Take a walk by the base of Devil’s Peak through a tunnel and you will find a body of water, surrounded by huge rock faces decorated in graffiti. Use this spot as a pit stop while your dog takes a dip in the shallow dam. As you leave the tunnel you’ll see the city bowl in all its glory, stretching from Table Mountain to Cape Town’s main port and beyond. Turn left at the top of Derry Street and you will find the start of the Quarry.
It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the water, but there are numerous trails to explore around the base of Devil’s Peak with stunning views of the city bowl.
6. Blackburn Ravine, Table Mountain National Park
The beautiful indigenous forest in Blackburn Ravine is the highlight of this gentle 5km walk on the mountains overlooking Hout Bay. It’s ideal for dog walkers – there’s even a pooh-bag dispenser at the start. The trail starts at East Fort car park, just before the tollgates on Chapman’s Peak Drive. The fort itself is worth a quick look before you head up the steps and turn left onto a wide gravel path that climbs gently then contours through magnificent fynbos, around the mountain towards Chapman’s Peak. Once in the ravine there’s a weir for your dog to lap from while you rest in the shade and enjoy the forest and the birds before reversing the route to your car.
Handy hiking info
You and your furry friend are going to need a Level 1 My Activity Permit in order to be able to hike in the Table Mountain National Park. The cost of this permit is R273pa and is valid for up to two dogs. These are available at major Cape Town Tourism Information Centres, the SANParks office in Tokai and at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre in the Cape of Good Hope section of the park. To find out more about where to buy your permit, visit the Table Mountain National Park website for more details.
Of all the above-mentioned trails, Lion’s Head is probably the most physically taxing. However, whether you’re a super athlete or just an average Joe, all the trails are accessible and manageable. The only thing fitness levels may influence is the speed and distance a person can go.
It is always important to not push yourself too hard and remember to carry lots of water. Another important factor to take into account is that your dog can’t tell you when he/she is tired. Pay close attention to its body language and do not force it to walk.
Cape Town’s winding trails and canopied forests offer as much enjoyment for humans as they do for dogs, and the choices are near endless. For the traveller missing their hound back home, or the local looking for some company, Mary Puppins Guided Tours are the perfect day out.
After a long hike, why not relax at one of Cape Town’s most beautiful picnic spots?
Important numbers to have while hiking
- Mountain Rescue: 021 508 4527
- Wilderness Search and Rescue: 021 937 0300
Words Jonathan Rodin with additional words by Fiona McIntosh
Images Jonathan Rodin and supplied