Take a hike up Lion's Head

Capetonians have always gotten a little creative when it comes to naming parts of our city; maybe it’s the mix of cultures or maybe it’s just the fact that interesting names for things stick.

The Dutch can take a bow for naming Lion’s Head. Before they dubbed it Leeuwen Kop, the English tried to claim it with the name ‘King James His Mount.’ Ah, the colonial English. Not really known for their snappy names.

So Lion’s Head it became, and if you look carefully, squint your eyes and summon up a poetic frame of mind you can see it; the majestic lion rising up over the city. To the less poetic it’s just a oddly-shaped mountain, but that doesn’t make the hike up and the views you get from the top any less impressive.

Hiking Lion’s Head is something of a Cape Town tradition. Do as a group and it can be like a moving party. Do it as a couple and it can be really romantic. Do it alone and you can look over the city and contemplate your place in the cosmos.

WATCH THE PARAGLIDERS

Your walk will start going past a security boom and then up the pebbled jeep track. This is an easy meander before you hit the hike proper, so take your time and enjoy the scenery.

There’s a paraglider launch point where you can watch people throwing themselves off a mountain with gleeful abandon. Great for a voyeuristic thrill if you’re not the sort of person to leap into the void yourself.

OFF THE CHAIN

lion's head cape town

Nothing in good happens in life without a little effort. In order to reach the panoramic views you’ll have to climb a steel ladder, negotiate a chain handrail and finally, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s the option to climb across a chain ladder before you reach the summit.

Don’t be deterred if that sounds a little too Bear Grylls for you. Plenty of hikers, young and old, have done it and there’s also the option to bypass the chain ladder via an easier route up the south-east ridge.

WALLY’S CAVE

This little cave is off the beaten track so only attempt to find it if you’re comfortable negotiating rocky terrain.

There are two ways to get there, but we recommend the longer and easier route. This involves going right up until the steel ladder but going left instead of climbing up. Go past the old broken bench and keep close to the rock face as you negotiate the terrain. Turn the corner and you’ll see Wally’s cave up ahead.

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THE FULL MOON HIKE

Ask anyone from Johannesburg about how Cape Town works and they’ll probably tell you it’s powered largely by crystals and dream-catchers.

The full moon hike up Lion’s Head sounds like an intrinsically hippie endeavour, but it’s actually just a great experience and an awesome way to view the city at night.

The route up the mountain is always bustling on a full moon which gives the mountain a festive feel. Bring a picnic, dangle your legs over the edge and look over the lights of the city twinkling in the darkness.

THE LION’S HEAD LOOP

Lion's Head Loop

Even if you don’t want to ascend to the head of the lion you can still play around in his mane.

The Lion’s Head Loop is 5.26km trail that circles the base of Lion’s Head. It’s perfect for trail running beginners as it has a gentle slope, and is also popular for evening strolls with the dogs.

HOW TO GET THERE

From the Cape Town CBD drive up Kloof Nek towards Table Mountain. At the top of Kloof Nek you’ll see Camp’s Bay ahead, Table Mountain on your left and Signal Hill on your right.

Turn right toward Signal Hill and park your car where indicated. You’ll be able to access the trail up Lion’s Head from there.

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