Your A-Z Guide to Hiking Lion's Head
Hiking up Lion’s Head is a popular activity. Expect to make new friends while snapping many brag-worthy shots of the incredible views.
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National Geographic recently named Lion’s Head in Cape Town as one of the top twenty walks in the world.
One can walk all the way to the top. While the walk is not difficult, it can be strenuous.
Set aside anything from an hour and a half to up to four hours to enjoy this spectacular footpath and the incredible views on offer.
Hiking up Lion’s Head is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike. Expect to make new friends and take many brag-worthy pictures.
Fun facts about Lion’s Head
In the 17th century, the Dutch named the peak Lion’s Head (Leeuwen Kop). Signal Hill’s name was Lion’s Tail (Leeuwen Staart). To them, the shape of the mountain range resembles a crouching lion. In the 17th century, the English called the peak Sugar Loaf.
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How to get to Lion's Head
Lion’s Head is to the right of Table Mountain with the V&A Waterfront and harbour behind you. Kloof Nek Road takes one all the way towards Lion’s Head. Take the Lion’s Head/Signal Hill turnoff from Kloof Nek Road. Park at Lion’s Head parking lot to make your way up to the summit and back down again.
Best times to hike Lion’s Head
If you’re a morning person you will love a sunrise hike. A sunset hike and full moon hike can be romantic (remember to pack a bottle of wine).
Sunrise, sunset and moonrise times change throughout the year. So, be sure to get an accurate sunrise, sunset or moonrise time on timeanddate.com for the date of your hike.
The heat may catch up with you, but the crowds will not. In summer months, people in general avoid the hike at midday. But, during winter a midday hike can be pleasant.
This is a popular time to head up Lion’s Head. With the sun sinking into the Atlantic ocean at sunset, hikers are in for a spectacular view. In summer, start your hike at around 18:30. Enjoy sunset at around 20:00. In autumn and winter, the sun sets between 18:00 or 19:00.
Full moon hike
The Lion’s Head full moon hike is a very popular nighttime activity. It is special to feel your way through the vegetation. Catch a glimpse of the moon reflecting on the water. Take extra care in the dark to avoid slipping on loose rocks. You can check Cape Town’s full moon calendar here .
Lion's Head hiking trails
The primary Lion’s Head trail is easy to spot: look across the parking lot for a wide, red gravel trail. The route is well marked and you will not easily get lost.
Adventure seekers will revel in the thrill of using the chains, steps and ladders. Negotiate the sheer rock face and experience freedom in nature.
Duration and difficulty
Slack packers can take their time to enjoy astounding views all along the route. The view from the top is a well-deserved reward. Enjoy it at leisure.
Families with children should stick to the spiral route (to the left). Allow three hours or more if you want to take it easy along the way. On the other hand, super fit trailers will negotiate the 5,5km of the trail both ways in about an hour to an hour and a half.
The route is rocky and steep at times. Remember this is a climb of almost 670 metres. As you reach the summit, it gets rockier and steeper. However, don’t let the difficulty deter you because the views from the top far surpasses the strain of the hike.
What to expect
One of the many things travellers love about Cape Town is the views. No matter where you are in the Peninsula, magnificent views abound. The same goes for a Lion’s Head hike.
Views while climbing Lion’s Head
Your Lion’s Head climb will give you n eagle’s eye perspective of the Cape Peninsula coastline and its various areas.
As you head up, you get a 360ᵒ view of Cape Town. You will enjoy views of the City Bowl, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak. You will see the Twelve Apostles Mountain range and Camps Bay and Clifton beaches.
Your view will also reveal Robben Island and the V&A Waterfront. On a clear day, you will see all the way to the Hottentots Holland mountain range. These mountains are on the far side of Paarl and Stellenbosch.
View from the top of Lion’s Head
Sweat your way up to the top. It is worthwhile! The vast breathtaking blueness of the Atlantic Ocean meets the clear African sky when one looks toward the South over Camps Bay. The Eastern view shows off the city and the Boland Mountains further afield. Towards the North, you get a look at Robben Island, Bloubergstrand and the West Coast. Spend time recording your memories before commencing descent.
Geology, fauna and flora
The lower slopes of Lion’s Head show examples of Cape granite. The upper part of the peak consists of flat-lying Table Mountain sandstone. Indigenous Cape fynbos vegetation covers the peak.
This biodiverse natural area supports many species of small animals. The rock hyrax (known as dassie) is a small furry animal you may spot on your hike. Five amphibian species live in Table Mountain’s perennial streams. You may spot lizards such as the black-girdled lizard, Cape skink and the southern rock agama. Identify the male agama by its bright blue head during summer’s mating season.
There are still snakes, porcupines, water mongoose and small antelopes. However, hikers hardly ever come across them.
Picnic at Watchman’s Cave
Check the weather forecast before your hike
It is always a good time to visit Cape Town. If Nox Rentals’ comfortable holiday rentals in Camps Bay are not enough reason to entice you to plan your trip, hiking Lion’s Head could. However, sometimes, the weather keeps even the most adventurous indoors.
It is best to stay in your apartment in Camps Bay and enjoy some rest and relaxation when:
- The rain is pelting down – Cape Town gets winter rain. Don’t attempt the Lion’s Head trail in the rain. The route is rocky and becomes slippery when wet.
- The mountain is misty – Mist can hamper visibility and will also make the rocks, chains, steps and ladders slippery.
- The wind is strong – Strong wind can be hazardous when one negotiates a steep trail with rock faces. The summer months from November to February can be windy. Avoid Lion’s Head when the South-Easter is howling.
Where will you stay during your visit?
Take the time to ponder where you’ll stay during your visit to Cape Town. Camps Bay, Clifton and Fresnaye with lovely villas to rent, lie just below Lion’s Head and Signal Hill.
Preparing for your hike up Lion's Head
In Cape Town, you may experience four seasons in a day. Be well prepared for your hike up Lion’s Head. Wear good hiking boots or shoes and suitable socks. Comfortable clothing such as fitted exercise gear works best. UV sleeves, a buff and peak cap or hat are useful. Wear sunscreen. Insect repellent can be handy on a hot day and during a full moon hike.
Include the following in your daypack:
- Sufficient water – around 1.5 litres per person should be ample
- Snacks such as bananas or any trail bar, nuts or trail mix
- Your camera with the battery fully charged
- A lightweight, wind and waterproof jacket with a hood
- Sunglasses and a hat or baseball cap
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- Basic first aid kit with plasters, antibacterial spray and antihistamine cream
- Whistle and space blanket in case of a severe injury
- Cellular phone with emergency contact numbers
- Toilet paper and plastic bags for your waste
- Head torch for full moon hikes
Staying safe when hiking Lion's Head
As Friends of Lions Head advises here , “… Lions Head and Signal Hill are in an urban park, please exercise the same common sense and security precautions that you would anywhere else in the world.”
Avoid hiking alone. The ideal number of hikers is a group of four.
- Plan your route carefully.
- Choose a leader to set the pace according to the slowest hiker.
- Never split up.
- Avoid flashing cash, jewellery and watches, cameras and devices.
- In the unfortunate event of a mugging, do not resist attackers. Stay calm and hand over your valuables to avoid a violent altercation.
- Report any criminal incidents to the nearest police station.
- Save emergency numbers on your phone before your hike. The main emergency number is +27 (0)86 110 6417.
SafetyMountain Tracking is a useful resource for hikers. It is a free safety tracking service. You notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via WhatsApp. You provide hourly updates on your progress. Once you are off the mountain, you notify trackers.
Consider the weather
Check the weather forecast before you hike Lion’s Head. If it is very hot and sunny, avoid hiking from midday until 15:00. If the South-Easter wind is howling, avoid the hike altogether since the wind can be hazardous. Foggy and rainy conditions are not optimal for hiking due to the risk of slipping and getting lost.
Get a hiking guide
Please respect the mountain
Friends of Lions Head urges hikers to keep in mind on their hike:
- Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.
- Do not pick, break or trample any plants or flowers, or remove seeds, rocks or plants.
- Do not feed, touch or harm any of the animals or birds.
- Wildfires can cause loss of life and property. Fires are not allowed on Lions Head or Signal Hill. Do not throw cigarette butts anywhere.
- A simple rule is to take everything you brought along, back with you.
- Fruit peels do not belong on the mountain and can take up to two years to biodegrade.
- This also applies to eggshells, tea bags and all other objects that do not naturally occur in wilderness areas.
- Take a small plastic shopping bag with you. Carry all litter back to place in the big bin at the bottom of the footpath.
Make your holiday memorable
If you are ready to book accommodation for your trip, browse through our portfolio of luxury villas and apartments to find a rental near Lion’s Head.
What to do after your hike
In the morning
Your early morning hiking adventure is sure to have awakened your appetite. Go for breakfast at Manna Epicure in nearby Kloof Street. Or, head to the Oasis Bistro at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Orange Street. You will enjoy a breakfast fit for a king.
Next, catch some sun on one of the beautiful Cape Town beaches of Camps Bay or Clifton. There is nothing more pleasing than spreading out on a beach with a full tummy.
If the weather is glorious, make use of the opportunity to go up Table Mountain. You can hike if you have strength left, or take the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway car. Enjoy the view towards Lion’s Head from this mother of a mountain. Also, walk across the tabletop to the East where you’ll find Devil’s Peak and views of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs.
In the afternoon
Fancy grabbing a cold drink and tasty snack after a bit of exercise? Head to any of the roadside cafés in Camps Bay. Great tapas are available at many city restaurants. Phone first since lunch services may close around 14:30 or 15:00.
An afternoon at leisure is the perfect time for a spot of shopping. If you happen to be in the city, head to Greenmarket Square. The V&A Waterfront is also close by with shopping and many other activities on the menu.
A harbour cruise or sunset cruise could be the perfect end to your day. Simply head to the piers at the V&A Waterfront and set sail. Bon voyage!
In the evening
Other fun activities near Lion’s Head
Fill up your schedule by planning more activities for your trip. If you are travelling with children, Cape Town offers lots of fun things to do with kids of all ages (and many are exciting for adults too).
Here are a few ideas to get your activity-list started:
- Adventure seekers may enjoy the thrill of tandem paragliding from Signal Hill.
- Summit Table Mountain with Hike Table Mountain or The Fynbos Guy for an informed experience.
- Adrenalin junkies can opt for rock climbing up Table Mountain.
- Visit any of the beautiful sandy beaches in Camps Bay, Clifton, Hout Bay or Llandudno.
- Go for a swim at Sea Point Pavillion , which offers four sparkling pools.
- Jump on a Monster Mountain Scooter with Scootours and freewheel into the city.
- Visit the Iziko South African Museum and Planetarium.
It does not matter when you visit Cape Town; you are in for a treat. Combine a relaxing holiday with a hike up Lion’s Head where you can get close to nature and feel to the heartbeat of the mountain.
Do you still have questions?
For more information on hiking Lion’s Head or booking a villa, call our friendly reservations team on +27 21 201 1217.
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