Looming above Cape Town and the surrounding ocean like a sentinel, Lion’s Head is an iconic piece of the city’s wondrous topography. At 669 meters above sea level, its peak offers panoramic views of the city, Table Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a wildly popular destination for hiking enthusiasts (and a top spot for Instagrammers).
Although the Cape is rich in natural beauty, tourists and locals alike are urged to take necessary precautions when exploring secluded areas, as crimes and accidents do happen.
Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700. Criminal incidents should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as able.
We also recommend @safetymountain as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via WhatsApp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress, and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.
Lion’s Head hiking trail: Duration and difficulty
A relatively short hike lasting around two to three hours, the Lion’s Head trail winds its way around the mountain, offering incredible views along the way (that still pale in comparison to what’s visible from the summit).
The route is clearly marked, and most of it can be easily traversed by foot (the path from the parking lot runs uphill for quite a while, offering a particularly good workout). There is a little rock scrambling as you near the summit, but the only part of the trail that could be considered intimidating are the metal ladders and climbing chains required to ascend the rock face at one point. Thankfully, these can be skipped via a roundabout footpath.
It’s no wonder that the Lion’s Head trail is the most popular among the Cape’s many hikes: it’s relatively short, offers a great workout, and the views from the summit are well worth the trip.
Where to start the Lion’s Head hike
The hike conveniently begins at the Lion’s Head parking lot, which you can reach via the Lion’s Head / Signal Hill turn-off from Kloof Nek Road. From there, you make your way up to the summit and back down again.
Is it child-friendly? Yes, although they’ll probably want to avoid the climbing chains (and rock scrambling near the end of the trail)
Is it dog-friendly? Yes, provided you have a permit and your dog is kept on a leash.
Stop by Watchman’s Cave
This quaint little cave, above Lion’s Head’s busy main path, makes the perfect picnic spot where hikers can watch the setting sun and rising moon. It’s an easy cave to access, and makes for stunning pictures of the path winding up Signal Hill towards Lion’s Head. So bring your friends, pack some snacks and trek away. Please note Watchman’s Cave is not to be confused with Wally’s Cave, which is closed to the public as a result of damage to the path.
Full moon rising
On any given evening, if you catch a glimpse of Lion’s Head, you’ll notice a smattering of flickering of torches on its slopes. When there’s a full moon the torches line the mountainside like a string of fairy lights. There is, arguably, no better place to watch the light of the full moon reflecting off the sea as the sun sets on the other side than from the top of Lion’s Head. So diarise these dates to experience it firsthand.
Lion’s head full moons in 2020:
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