If you only had one day in Cape Town, I recommend climbing Lion’s Head. I do it once a week for the sunrise before work. But it’s getting a bit dark as we move away from summer in Cape Town, and the sun is rising one minute later every day. So take that into account, and bring a flashlight if you start any time before 7 am. We start at the base of Lion’s Head, on the road that takes you to Signal Hill (directions below).
In the Summer months, you start in the light, as the sun rises around 5:30 am, and it can be quite hot already. So applying sunscreen and wearing a cap isn’t a crazy idea. From April, it’s a bit chilly in the mornings, but as soon as you’ve made your way up the first incline, your heart rate is up, and you’re warm. What I love about the Lion’s Head hike is the full 360-degree view you get of Cape Town as you make your way around the winding trail. From the City Bowl, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, to the Twelve Apostle Mountain range, the Camps Bay and Clifton Beaches, to Robben Island and the V&A Waterfront.
The hike can take you anything from an hour to three and a half. It’s up to you. Your hike, your experience, your pace. We like to get up and down pretty quickly in order to be in the office on time, and often run down. Which is fun as the trail is quite technical and requires some concentration.
Take some decent walking shoes, and if you think you’ll need it, some water, however, your body only hydrates after 45 mins, so rather drink water throughout the day, and you’ll have less to carry up. Some people take a full picnic up, so if you have someone willing to take a backpack with some tea, coffee and muffins, the top of Lion’s Head is a great place to have breakfast.
Halfway up there’s an option to either go around the mountain or take the more challenging route up the chains. This sounds more “hectic” than it is. Just a couple of handles and chains to help you up some steeper ledges, as opposed to the more gradual walk around. This is only a very short part of the hike. Some people enjoy doing Lion’s Head at a full moon. It is very busy on these evenings. So be prepared for the crowds. Take a flashlight and enjoy the sunset and city lights.
How to get to Lion’s Head:
From Camps Bay. As you head up Camps Bay Drive toward the city, from your accommodation in Camps Bay, take a left toward Signal Hill. Don’t take the road that goes back down toward Clifton, but the road left just before you go down Kloof Nek into town. As you follow the road, you’ll see the cars parked on your right, and the security hut on your left. Park there, and head up by the boom. (On your right is the road that goes to the cable car on Table Mountain).
Coming from town. Follow the signs to the Table Mountain Cable Car. Just as you would take a left to go to the Table Mountain Road, or straight over the Nek, take a right instead of toward Signal Hill, and Lions Head. As you follow the road, you’ll see the cars parked on your right, and the security hut on your left. Park there, and head up by the boom.