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All You Need To Know About Climbing Lion’s Head
One of Cape Town's popular hikes with picture-perfect views
Are you really a Capetonian if you’ve never stood at the top of the iconic Lion’s Head peak, with its panoramic city views?
On a clear day, you’ll see picture-perfect views of Table Mountain, The 12 Apostles Mountain Range, Camps Bay and Clifton beaches, Signal Hill, Robben Island, and the city. There are different routes, all with the option to summit, or to circle the mountain without reaching the top, making it suitable for a variety of ages and fitness levels.
Enjoy views of the mountains, beaches, and the city. Image: @iambrandonconradie
CHOOSE YOUR ROUTE, FROM BEGINNER TO MODERATE
The hike takes roughly 1.5 to 2.5 hours up and down, depending on your level of fitness and how long you spend on top. The main routes start from the parking area on Signal Hill Road. The popular clockwise route starts from the Jeep track and spirals up, offering constantly changing views: Camps Bay, Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles, and the City Bowl.
Lion's Head is popular for sunrise and sunset hikes. Image: @warrenemett
There are benches along the path where you can take a break and admire the view. You’ll pass the green netting-covered area where paragliders launch just before the path narrows into a one with stone steps veering right and uphill. If you prefer to avoid hiking uphill, look out for the sign-posted path veering left which takes you all the way around the mountain.
Choose a route that suits your fitness level. Image: @celest.els
CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH CHAINS AND LADDERS
If you like a bit of a challenge, stick to the main path which curves around the mountain before reaching a series of ladders and chains to help you scramble to the top. As an alternative to the chains and ladders, you can follow a sign-posted path that skips the climbing: it’s a better choice if you struggle with heights, but there is still a bit of scrambling to get to the top.
Conquer your fear of heights and brave the chains and ladders. Image: @sporty.traveller
OPT FOR THE LESS POPULAR ROUTE
There is a second, less popular route, too. From the base, it circles anti-clockwise, passing a kramat that was erected in remembrance of two apartheid-era religious leaders. It then joins the main route to the top, or you can follow it all the way around back to where you started.
Hike around Lion's Head to see this kramat. Image: @fats_on_a_mountain
ADMIRE THE VIEW
At the top, you can take a breather to enjoy the scenery and take photos. The summit has a partially concreted surface so you can walk around and appreciate the 360-degree views.
Pack a picnic and take in the views from the top of Lion's Head. Image: @alieinafrica
SEE FLORA THAT YOU WON’T FIND ANYWHERE ELSE
Lion’s Head forms part of Table Mountain National Park, and hosts a stunning array of endemic flora. Keep an eye out for the silver trees, mainly growing on the bottom half of Lion’s Head. The silvery sheen that earned this plant its name comes from the tiny hairs that cover the leaves. This species is unique to the Cape Peninsula. Right on top of the summit you can see Peninsula Sandstone fynbos, an ecosystem which is only found there and at Cape Point.
Flora around Lions Head is at its best during Spring. Image: @ilhaamsara
STAY SAFE DURING YOUR HIKE
Hike in a group, and make sure you take a charged phone and enough water. It’s always a good idea to notify a friend or family member that you’re hiking, and when you expect to be back, especially as reception is spotty in parts of the hike. You don’t need a permit to climb Lions Head, and there is no entrance fee. It’s a good idea to stick to popular hiking times, which includes all daylight hours, and at night during the full moon.
Dogs are permitted on leashes. Mountain biking is not permitted on Lion’s Head: there is a R500 fine. Save the Table Mountain National Park emergency number, 086 110 6417.
Hiking in groups is safer, enjoy the day with friends. Image: @danika_met_n_k
HIKE LIONS HEAD AT NIGHT
Regardless of the season, every full moon, and the nights before and after, Lion’s Head literally lights up with hikers. It’s become a Cape Town institution for hikers to set off in the early evening, reach the summit in time to watch the sunset, and head down by moonlight. It’s a fun, social and relatively safe experience.
What to bring:
- Your mask and sanitiser
- Someting warm (once the wind picks up or the sun sets, it can become chilly)
- Sun protection (hats, sunglasses, sunblock)
- Hiking shoes
- Plenty of water
- Snacks/Picnic (please bring a bag for your rubbish and help keep our mountains clean)
Hiking Lions Head at night is especially popular during full moon. Image: @lost_at_me
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