Lion's Head, Cape Town

Photo Caption: The iconic #lionshead in all her glory.
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Photo by @jamesiseray_photography_sa

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Lion’s Head lies between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. The mountain’s name refers to its resembles of a proud lion overlooking the city of Cape Town. Its peak stands 669 meters above sea level, offering scenic views of Signal Hill, Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles, Camps Bay, the Atlantic, Sea Point, and the City Bowl. Lion’s Head is a popular hiking destination in Cape Town.

It is home to the indigenous Cape vegetation flourishing in the area. The endangered Granite Fynbos covers most of the mountain and fades into Peninsula Shale Renosterveld on the lower slopes towards Signal Hill. On the summit grows the endangered Sandstone Fynbos. The upper portion of the peak of Lion’s Head consists of flat-lying Table Mountain sandstone, while the lower slopes consist of the Cape Granite and the Malmesbury formation.

The Route

To reach Lion’s Head, drive up towards the mountain in the direction of Camps Bay, via Kloofnek Road. Then take the Signal Hill turn-off which is just to your right. You can also Uber to the starting point of the hike or you can bring your own vehicle. Hikers are requested to make use of the Kloofnek parking at the corner of Tafelberg and Signal Hill road which is only a few meters from the turn-off.

The route starts at the parking lot. The path from the parking lot runs uphill for quite a while, offering a particularly good workout. It will take you an hour or so to reach the summit and another hour back down to the starting point. The hiking path is also clearly marked so you need not worry about getting lost or deviating from the track. The route winds its way around the mountain which means you will have different but equally stunning views all throughout the hike.

Lions Head, Cape Town

As you get close to the summit, there is a part that requires a little rock scrambling. This is the only part of the trail that could be challenging. Metal ladders and climbing chains were installed to help your way up. If you are afraid of heights, climbing this part will not be an easy task. However, you can skip it via a roundabout footpath to the right. It will only add about 5 minutes to your hike. Finally, the last climb up will be on backbone leading to the head. Although it is steep and could get quite challenging, the path is nicely laid out among the rocks.

As you circle your way up the 5.5km trail to the summit, you will be rewarded with beautiful views in all directions. It is undeniably a spectacular walk to the top. As you hike, take a look around and see the beauty of Cape Town. The stunning views from the top make Lion’s Head worth the hike.

Lion’s Head is a level A hike, which means it is relatively easy and perfect for beginners. The hike is also child-friendly so you can bring the kids along. It is however not a dog-friendly hike so bringing your furry hiking buddy is highly discouraged.

The Full Moon Hike

Lion’s Head is not only famous for day hikes. It is particularly a popular destination for full moon hikes. The full moon hike is a monthly Capetonian tradition. The idea is to hike up the mountain to watch the beautiful sunset and the full moon rising with a picnic and then follow the same path down under the moonlight.

The full moon hike up Lion’s Head starts around 6 to 8pm, depending on the time of year. Be sure to reach the top before the sun sets. To the left, facing the ocean is the magnificent view of the setting sun. When the dark creeps in, move over to the right to have a glimpse of the full moon and be amazed as the city lights begin to twinkle like distant bright stars. It’s as if the beautiful city of Cape Town turns into an elegant woman dressed in black with shining shimmering diamond jewelry. You will surely stand in awe with the great views of Sea Point, Green Point, and Camps Bay.

Take in the Moonlit Views

The full moon hike to the top of this distinctively shaped mountain also offers mesmerizing stargazing opportunities and a chance to take breathtaking night time photographs of the city and surrounding mountains. Remember to bring your camera for an unforgettable photo. Drones are, however, 100% prohibited because the whole of the Table Mountain range has been declared to be a drone-free zone.

The perfect picnic spot where hikers can watch the setting sun and the rising moon is the Watchman’s Cave. It is a quaint easy-access little cave just above Lion’s Head’s busy main path. The cave has views of the path winding up Signal Hill towards Lion’s Head.

Related: Top 10 Caves to Explore In and Around Cape Town

During the full moon hike, Lion’s Head can get dangerously packed because hundreds of hikers make their way to the summit. To ensure the safety of the hikers, groups should be limited between four to ten people.

Lions Head, Night

Hiking Lion’s Head at full moon is something that you have to do at least once. Witness the amazing view of the sun setting over the sea and the moon rising over the mountains. Lion’s Head is a big favorite of both locals and tourists who love a good hike and stunning panoramic views.

 

What to Bring

During the full moon hike, never forget to bring your flashlight or headlamp to identify loose rocks underfoot and ensure a safe descent. Although the path is visible because of the moonlight, it is better if you have your flashlight or headlamp with you. You can use flashlights but headlamps are better because they allow you to keep your hands free in case you slip and have to hold on to something. Also, bring plenty of water to keep you hydrated and some snacks to indulge during your picnic. Alcohol and cigarettes are discouraged. It is strictly no littering on the mountain so bring your own garbage bag and carry it with you when you descend. Also, wear comfortable hiking shoes and warm jackets to protect you from the changing conditions on the top.

Some Safety Guidelines

All hikers should take the necessary safety precautions when exploring Lion’s Head. Especially the secluded areas because crimes and accidents do happen. Rather do not hike alone. To ensure safety, go in groups with at least four but no more than ten people.

Do not deviate from the Lion’s Head trail. Wally’s Cave is a popular secret spot of Lion’s Head. Hikers often take a quick detour to this cave to take epic silhouette shots with the mouth of the cave as a frame and Table Mountain as a backdrop. But the increasing number of visitors has caused major erosion which has led to a high risk of falling rocks. Table Mountain National Park has closed the illegal access trail to Wally’s Cave after the death of a hiker. You will face a fine of R5 000 if you go against the restriction.

Theft incidents had also been reported in the past, so it is better if you do not carry valuables. Also report all incidents at the nearest police station.

Emergency contact numbers 

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