Of all hikes in Cape Town, Lions Head hike is definitely the most popular. Seated between Table Mountain and Signal Hill this sphinx-like peak provides 360-degree views of the city, Table Bay, and the Atlantic seaboard.
For a period of time, I lived below this giant and regarded it as my backyard jungle gym. With the summer sunsets after 8 o’clock, there is ample time to take a jog or walk up to the summit and watch the golden sunset.
On the full moon, this sunset hike is extremely popular with fitter locals and tourists alike, although it is pretty easy for the unfit to use as the start of their new adventure lifestyle. Do not forget your torch or headlamp as you navigate your way down, forming part of a string of Christmas lights spiraling the rocky footpath. Mind your step, especially if you are planning on summit “sundowners”.
A short hike, the ascent is around 45 minutes to an hour and the decent half of that for those wanting to challenge themselves. Relatively steep slopes, rock scrambles, and climbs will give you a good working over.
The route starts off easy but becomes a bit of a challenge for those afraid of heights and climbing as you near the steep cliffs. Halfway through there is a 90 degree climb up various chain ladders which can cause major traffic jams. There is an alternate route to the left of this ascent. If you are a seasoned hiker or climber you will find other routes up and down the left of the chains but consider it confidently driving in the yellow line.
International accents can be heard all along this route. I have met some interesting adventures. From British soldiers on R&R to wanderlust Hollanders on a month long journey of South Africa. I even had the pleasure of meeting a local man who was going up for the first time in his life despite living in the lights below for 50 years.
If you have ever been to the top of a high rise building like the Empire State, this is the equivalent. Gorgeous views but you may have to fight your way for a good vantage point. I still prefer finding a lower rock and lay there letting the 500-year-old sandstone soak up a long day’s sweat.
With so many people scaling the commercial giant, be sure to stay on the beaten path. An easy hike but responsible for many casualties over the years as people do not stick their limits and safety.
There is an area that favors a more peaceful experience. Not many know about the caves that sit on the Camps Bay side of Lions. Specifically, Wally’s cave which is named after a local scout who lived until 104. The salty sea dog of adventurers. We honor him.
Wally’s cave is a short distance from the start of the hike and will take you up a narrow and slippery path with steps at random. The views from Wally’s cave is unique. Make sure you bring a wide angle lens to get a classic shot of Table Mountain from the back of the cave. Leave only but footprints when you descend as Mother Nature prefers geology without signatures of random vandals and so do respectful humans.
The windy conditions are ideal around Lions Head and there should be no excuse for Capetonians not to have walked this beast. Tourists will get a unique view of the city and its sites that rival the paragliders that soar below. Cape Town’s own skyscraper.