I am always keen to safely try new hiking trails, so it was with great excitement that, back in October 2016, I set out with a hiking acquaintance to tackle the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP)’s Pipe Track.
Back then, this somewhat secluded hiking trail was relatively ‘unknown’ (at least as far as Cape Town hikes go). Nowadays, though, it is a popular trail, largely due to its incredible views and relatively easy hiking. Even in 2016 though, this trail was pretty popular among Cape Town’s more well-travelled hiking enthusiasts and a few Camps Bay locals too.
Hiking Popular Pipe Track in Camps Bay
Pipe Track hiking trail starts on the Camps Bay side but it still falls under the protective jurisdiction of TMNP. So we set off from the blustery CBD (hence why we switched from hiking Table Mountain’s more exposed Platteklip Gorge) and wound our way up into the steeper streets of Camps Bay, as this trail starts above the Camps Bay housing. (Fun fact: All the avenues and roads in the area seem to be named after women, like Susan Avenue and Barbara Road).
It takes you up a gravel road on Theresa Avenue. From here, you join the Theresa Avenue Jeep Track, which eventually bleeds into the Pipe Track.
A New Hike Discovery
At the start of the trail, we encountered a group of very organised-looking hikers. They were clearly old hands with this route – and many others. As they carefully gave us instructions, they helpfully allowed me to take a few photos of the map inside their hiking guide.
As they explained, after you turn right at the first fork in the Theresa Avenue Jeep Track, you continue straight for quite some time. While it gets steep in places and tiring after a while (especially in early afternoon sun), it’s fairly pleasant going.
Though if you’re photo crazy like I am, you will stop every few moments to snap another picture-perfect photo of the surrounding shrubbery, ocean views and wild proteas.
Hiking from Pipe Track to Tranquility Cracks
We only turned right because our end destination was the Tranquility Cracks, a wonder of nature, as you will see further on.
I have to say though, the Pipe Track, as a hiking mission on its own, is a truly beautiful experience.
You snake right along the Twelve Apostles mountain range. This affords you some of the most breathtaking views of Camps Bay, Clifton in the distance and of course, the azure beauty of the nippy Atlantic Ocean.
History of the Pipe Track
Built in 1887, the Pipe Track was designed to service the pipeline that brought water from Disa Gorge. (This is found on Table Mountain’s southern side, otherwise known as the Back Table). It would pass through Woodhead tunnel, onto Slangolie Ravine and eventually, onto the Molteno Reservoir.
After you have passed several benches (which double as great sightseeing spots), you will approach the pines. They are possibly the most recognisable part of the trail. Since my hike, I’ve seen many notable Cape Town Influencers using the pines for their Pipe Track-related posts.
Yet it is the Blockhouse aqueduct, found at the start of the trail, that caught my attention and required a little exploration. It’s particularly cute, so, of course, a photo was mandatory.
From there, it’s fairly easy going for a while. This allows for friendly converse and the quiet absorption of nature. And trust me, the further you go along the trail, the more beautiful the views and surrounding vegetation become.
Midway Mark: Woody Ravine
In time, at what could be considered a midway point of sorts, you come across Woody Ravine. Here, we had to once again ask for directions to check we were on the right track. Though our fellow hikers again assured us that we were and, if we wanted to get to Tranquility Cracks, we could carry on straight.
Beyond Woody Ravine, you encounter the first real views of places like Oudekraal, a favourite spot of mine.
It is also at this point that the first makeshift steps start. These remind me faintly of the Platteklip Gorge ‘steps’. Although, more tellingly, you also come across the first rusted pipes. These help you to see why the trail is so named.
Cave of the Royal Navy Deserter
A little further on, near a slight cliff overhang, there’s a shady spot where you can rest, if necessary. There’s also a small cave entrance, which, despite the threat of bats, I slipped into. Inside, there wasn’t much to see (not even any bat guano).
Although, later on, I discovered that it was once apparently the hiding spot of a Royal Navy deserter. He apparently stayed here and lived off (much to my disgust) dassies and shrubs.
Danger Signs, Milkwood Forest and a Rocky Overhang
Further on, near what I believe is Slangolie Ravine, we saw several no entry signs warning of ‘dangerous ascent’ and rock falls. (It is not hard to see why). So, if this is still the case – just walk on and please rather be safe.
We passed a trickling stream of clear mountain water, the Milkwood forest (which was very lovely) and then a cool overhang that faces Slangolie ravine.
Heart-in-Mouth Moments and Views for Days
It’s fairly easy going to Slangolie but after that, as you get closer to Corridor Ravine, it becomes a more moderate hike and the path narrows considerably.
Though once again, the views offer suitable compensation for any breathless or brief, heart-in-mouth moments.
Tackling Corridor Ravine
Corridor Ravine was the steepest part of the hike. For us, it required at least one coffee and biscuit break.
Although there is limited shade offered by large shrubs – on a very hot day, there’s not much protection from the sun. This makes it a bit more tiring and poses a sun risk – so be generous with sunscreen and sun protection!
Nature’s Reward at the Top
Don’t give up though because once you reach the top, you are rewarded with the most amazing and expansive sights of the ocean, the back of Table Mountain and in time, far below, the beautiful Constantia Wine Valley and False Bay regions of Kalk Bay and Muizenberg. Especially once you get nearer the Cracks.
At the top, take a left at the cairn and then onto the rocky structure to your right.
Once you’ve crested that section, keep an eye out for a largely concealed path to your left. This leads you through some vegetation to the Cracks themselves.
On Top of the World: Standing at the Tranquility Cracks
And there, with fissures, eternal tracings and grotesque rocky shapes, you can stand on top of the world, just above the Cracks. Alternatively, carefully make your way across or down into them. (I had to quite literally be lifted across and then down at one place because I was too short.)
Honestly, it’s one of the most amazing natural wonders I have ever seen.
The whole vicinity of the Cracks, a labyrinth of winding tunnels with mini forests essentially contained within, is simply breathtaking. As are the coastal views below and just across the way, the back of Table Mountain. From here, we could see the cute, overnight chalets and what I assumed is one of the dams that naturally exist on top of the famous mountain.
Post-Hike Picnic in the Cracks
After soaking up the atmosphere, which literally injects life back into you, we made our way into the Cracks. Here, we feasted on slap chips and coffee. Inside the cracks, we encountered only silence, a peaceful silence. Somehow, this soothes rather than disquiets one.
And, apart from the occasional bird call, we were fortunate enough to have the Cracks entirely to ourselves for about thirty minutes.
Zigzagging Down Woody Ravine
After that, we made our way rather haphazardly down Woody Ravine. Here and there, this was a pretty hair-raising trip down.
I would not recommend this route unless you’re an experienced hiker or outdoorsy person. Even then, be advised that it’s still slippery and unsteady going at times.
Although it was re-opened in 2009 after bad rock falls – even when I hiked in 2016, it was still not the safest place to navigate down.
I would suggest that you rather take the same route back via Corridor Ravine or hike your way to the Table Mountain cable car. (I assume the cableway is close enough if you have the stamina for a little bit more hiking and if it’s still early enough in the day.)
For us, it was getting close to 16:00 pm so we decided to rather head back down. Once we had ‘braved’ Woody Ravine, it was very quick getting back down. Although I passed each place with a far heavier heart than I had gone up with.
With the sun starting to dip lower and the land beginning to flush with the approaching golden hours of sunset, we made our way back to Theresa Avenue. Oddly, we felt more rejuvenated than we did tired.
With lots of time spent stopping for photos and our picnic and moments experiencing the Cracks themselves, it took us about five and a half hours to head up and down at a fair, yet unrushed pace.
General Hiking and Safety Tips
For this hike, I recommend taking lots of water, light snacks to replenish your energy banks and of course, wear comfortable walking shoes with a good, non-slippery grip.
You will also need plenty of sun cream (especially if it’s hot – and keep re-applying) and a light, yet warm top or windbreaker jacket, just to be safe. It can get cold on the mountains, even on the warmest day.
Please do not attempt this or any other hike alone – always hike in a group of at least two to three people. There is always a risk of snakes and crime, as this hike is fairly remote and, at times, deserted. So keep your wits about you, avoid hiking with or flashing valuables around and keep your eyes on the ground for snakes.
There is limited cellphone reception on this hike – although you can pick up some signal by the Cracks – so just be aware of that.
Please note: While writing this post, I did some online research regarding the Pipe Track and Tranquility Cracks hiking trail(s). However, although I have done my best to be accurate with my descriptions and images, they in no way reflect on the accuracy or safety of the hike. If in doubt, please arrange a guided hiking tour or contact a reputable hiking group/body.
About the author
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust - Travel Writing and Photography, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. Despite having a national diploma in Journalism and working as a content writer by day, Tamlyn's preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.