Lion’s head (Leuukop in Afrikaans) is an iconic rock peak looming above Cape Town and the surrounding ocean like a sentinel. At 669 meters above sea level, its peak offers panoramas of the city, Table Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a wildly popular destination for hiking enthusiasts (and a top spot for Instagrammers).
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.
The hike takes roughly 1.5 to 2.5 hours up and down, depending on your level of fitness and how long you spend up top. The main routes start from the parking area on Signal Hill Road.
The popular clockwise route starts up the Jeep track. It spirals up, offering constantly changing views: Camps Bay, Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles, and the City Bowl. 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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a few things you should do to stay safe on the 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.
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. A headlamp is essential, and bring something warm. Now you that you know everything about Lion’s Head, you just need to grab your pair of mountaineering boots and go climbing !