Lion’s Head

Lion's Head. Photo courtesy Phillip Friederich

Lion’s Head forms part of the Table Mountain range and provides a scenic backdrop to the City of Cape Town. It falls within the Table Mountain National Park and rises to a height of 669m (2195ft) above sea level.

During the 17th century Dutch settlers first named the peak Leeuwen Kop (Lion’s Head). Its counterpart, Signal Hill, was referred to as Leeuwen Staart (Lion’s Tail), as the two mountains and the space between them is reminiscent of a crouching feline.

Lion’s Head is best known for its stunning views of the Mother City and Table Bay on one side, and the Atlantic shoreline on the other, which makes the hour-long walk to the top really worth the effort. Add a little mystery to the walk by tackling it during full moon and be rewarded with a glittering view of Cape Town by night.

Photographers should set aside the first clear day of their visit to Cape Town to walk to the top of Lion’s Head, as it provides a great location to orientate oneself and from which to photograph the famous Robben Island prison, where South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela, was held captive for 19 years.

Due to its height above the city and the ideal wind conditions that prevail around it, Lion’s Head is a great spot to go paragliding, hang-gliding or microlighting. Cape Town offers a number of sites for these activities, including Lion’s Head. Call +27 (0)21 487 6800 for further information.

Geographically speaking, the “table top” of Table Mountain is of sandstone origin, while its slopes are composed of granite. This underlying composition supports the growth of natural fynbos vegetation which, in turn, provides a home for a host of small animals. Many millions of years ago, Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head would all have been joined together, but due to erosion are now separate.

The three-hour walk to the top of Lion’s Head is quite a challenge, and not suited to the unfit, elderly or very young. The route starts at Signal Hill Road, at the base of Forestry Road and spirals around the head to a section with chains. These have been put in place to assist climbers over a steep, rocky section. Although there is an alternate route that bypasses the chains, the ascent is still steep and not to be taken lightly.

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