I recently started a new job and every day on my walk from my department to the hospital wards I have a beautiful view of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak with the Woodstock Cave staring at me, inviting me to visit. The Woodstock Cave is one of the biggest caves on Table Mountain. It’s about 15m deep and 50m wide. We have never hiked to the cave and it’s been on our list for a while, so we decided that the long weekend was the perfect time to explore it and we invited our very good friends and their 3 kids to join us. Our 6 kids ranged from 19 months to 10 years old.
We decided on the route starting on Tafelberg Road. We hiked from Rhodes Memorial to the Kings Block House earlier this year and although that’s one of the routes to the cave we decided that we would try hiking from the other side. From what I could read this route also seemed to be easier – a shorter distance and less steep.
We drove along Tafelberg Road, past the lower cable station, until we got to the road closure. The road is closed to vehicles, I’m guessing due to rock slides and surface condition, but it’s fine for walking. This is where we parked and got ready to head off. There was an icy wind blowing which meant we all started the walk like onions with many layers. Having an extra man in the group meant that I could hand Jude over to Seth to porter up. This did however mean that Cindy had to carry the enormous backpack filled with enough food to feed a small army. The hike starts along the tar road, all along this road there are small waterfalls and pools with tadpoles which made for interesting little stops. The view of the Mother City, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and the coastline is also really spectacular. Jude started to complain that he wanted to walk too. I think that he was feeling left out of the action of the other kids. After some negotiations he agreed that he would walk along the rest of the tar road and then get back into the carrier when we got onto the trail part of the hike.
Once you have walked about 2km along the tar you then take a 1.4km single track up the mountain to the cave. This was the point where Jude was meant to get back into the carrier, but he refused and so he started hiking up the single track. I assumed he would be too tired to continue after only a couple of minutes, but I was proved wrong my determined little man and he surprised me by hiking the entire way to the cave.
You gain elevation quite comfortably along this trail. You meet the contour path after about 100m and turn left onto it. You then follow the contour path for about 500m and start a zigzag up to the cave. The fynbos is beautiful and well established along this route. But we did notice quite a large amount of blister bushes (Notobubon Galbanum) very close to the path, so it’s important to watch out for these. This part of our walk was also very quiet; we didn’t see any other hikers. I had expected it to be fairly busy because when we drove past the lower cable station and the start of Platteklip Gorge, there were so many people. We saw a few joggers and dog walkers along the tar road, but not any other hikers. The kids had been enjoying the walk and were pretty excited to get to the cave, but had now started to moan a little, except for little Seth who was completely passed out in his carrier. But the moaning was a cue for a quick rest and refuel. So we all stopped, had some water and sweeties, which was enough for the last little stretch to the cave.
At the entrance to the cave you’re greeted by a waterfall which makes the whole experience feel pretty epic. The cave is cool and dark after coming out of the bright sunlight. The moss and ferns make it feel somewhat pre-historic and Cindy mentioned something about dinosaurs and that set Jude off on the dinosaur hunt. We settled down on the edge of the cave over-looking our city and feasted on a delicious brunch of croissants and preserves. We even had champagne to celebrate Cindy’s birthday.
After eating far too much and taking enough photos we started our walk back. Brian carried Jude for our walk back and I got some time with my little guy. Jude was quickly lulled to sleep while Seth decided that pulling my hair and tickling my neck was way more fun than sleeping. The girls were chatting about the sparkly stones in the path and making puns about quartz and unicorns which were actually pretty funny. The walk back had been quite relaxing, Jude had woken up and decided to start walking again, and then we spotted a snake crossing the road. It was some or other adder, I hate snakes so all I was focused on was safely herding my children past. But the snake was not at all interested in us and was just trying to get out of the road as quickly as it could. We were almost back at the cars when Jude tripped and fell and grazed his hands and knees and his world ended there. Thankfully we had some plasters; and plasters, especially Star Wars plasters, can fix anything. So we rushed the last stretch back to the car, performed some minor first aid and that was the end of our hike to the Woodstock Cave.
I really enjoyed this hike, it was an easy trail with enough of a climb to feel like you have done some exercise and short enough to enjoy as a beginner or as a family with young children. On the downside, I did have a few moments of feeling unsure and unsafe and that is not something you want to feel while out and enjoying what nature has to offer with your children. This route was very quiet and when we got to the cave we did meet some cave dwellers, so I would recommend doing this in a large group (perhaps even larger than ours) and leaving all valuables at home.