Lions Head

Not to be missed is the breathtaking Cape Town view from the summit of Lions Head!

Rising 669m (2,195 ft) above sea level, situated between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lion's Head, known as a popular hiking spot, is playing a key part in Cape Town's skyline.

The peak offers a dramatic backdrop of the city of Cape Town and is part of the Table Mountain National Park. The proud “lion” overlooks this beautiful city and Table Bay on one side, and the scenic Atlantic Ocean coastline on the other.

On a clear day, from this distinctive shaped mountain slope, you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of Cape Town, its coastline and beaches and have many great opportunity for taking photographs, particularly of Robben Island and of the Cape Peninsula.

Almost every year, over 200 000 people climb up the Lions Head Mountain reaching the Lion’s Head summit, making it the most climbed peak in the African continent. The Lion’s Head is also among the list of the most climbed mountain peaks in the world.

Lion's Head - History

In the 17th century, the peak was named as Leeuwen Kop (Lion's Head) by the Dutch, and Signal Hill was known as Leeuwen Staart (Lion's Tail), as the shape resembles a crouching lion or a sphinx.

Geographically speaking, the “table top” of Table Mountain is of sandstone origin, while its slopes are composed of granite. Looking back in time, several millions years ago, Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head would all have been joined together, but due to erosion, they are now apart.

Lion’s Head once had lions

Thousands of years before discovered by man, Lion’s Head was the domain of animals. Our knowledge can only start with the first written records by the early European settlers and visitors to the Cape.

In the late 1600s, the big animals such as elephants, hippos, lions, hyenas and leopards were reported around Cape Town. As per the records, the last wild lion on Lion’s Head was shot in 1802 and the last leopard, in the 1820s. Although spotted very rarely, the Caracal and the rare African Wild Cat, have managed to survive.

At present, few species that can be observed are the rock agama, black girdled lizard, dassies and porcupines.

The Lion's Head Geology, flora and Fauna

The upper part of the peak consists of Table Mountain’s sandstone and the lower slopes are formed by the Cape Granite and the Malmesbury formation, which are older Precambrian rocks.

Lion’s Head is part of one of the few places in the world where one can walk through 3 different rock layers and view a fourth one down by the ocean shore that even Charles Darwin came to see on his famous journey in 1836 around the world on his ship.

As you walk up Lion’s Head, most of the plant life around falls within the Fynbos family. This essential composition supports the growth of natural fynbos vegetation which, consequently providing a home to small animals. The best known example of Fynbos is the King Protea, the national flower of South Africa.

In this particular area, there are 3 main types of vegetation endemic to the city of Cape Town and can be found nowhere else. Most of Lion's Head is covered in endangered Granite Fynbos, which fades into Peninsula Shale Renosterveld (critically endangered) on the lower slopes towards Signal Hill in the north. At the summit of Lion's Head, you can still find a tiny area of endangered Sandstone Fynbos.

Hiking Lion’s Head – Cape Town’s most popular short hike

Lion's Head offers a short but popular hike with 360 degree views of the Atlantic seaboard, the City and Table Mountain. During the day, you can view most of the city's suburbs on one side, and on the other is the Atlantic seaboard, with Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years – in the distance

People who usually do hikes can be up and down within an hour, while those in search of a leisurely stroll can take their time admiring panoramic views all along.

It is a spectacular walk to the top of the Lion’s Head and while it can be quite steep at times, the stunning views of Cape Town on the way up will keep you motivated to reach the top. As the famous tablecloth rolls down, the mountain’s mood can change significantly, adding a sense of mystery to the hike.

Along the mountainous path you will find a series of chains and ladders as support as you scramble up a particularly steep section of rocky faces. They add an element of adventure.

The best reward is the spectacular panoramic view of the City of Cape Town and Robben Island, when you reach the summit! It’s also a great way to end your day, as you enjoy the sunset from 669m above sea level.

More information:

Type of Terrain: Gravel road, Rocky single track, Steep section with chains to pull you up, ladders.

Difficulty:The majority of the walk is steep but easy going.

The last section is very steep and you need to use chains to climb up a section of boulders, which increases the difficulty of this walk.

The hike to the summit boasts spectacular views and there are routes to suit all levels of fitness

Recommendation: Be cautious they are not suitable for young children and the elderly. Walkers with children are advised to take the more child-friendly alternate route around the chains.

Full Moon Hike Up Lions Head Mountain – A popular and new tradition in Cape Town

The hour-long climb to the top is a popular Capetonian tradition during full moon. Take a walk on the wild side on a full moon’s night and climb up Lion’s Head. It is the perfect place to go on a full moon walk for panoramic views at dusk.

While this is a memorable experience, it should only be done in groups, and led by an experienced person.

Once at the top of Lion’s head, you will be surprised to see that there are a number of hikers waiting eagerly. It is the incredible opportunity to experience the best of both worlds; with the sun setting over the sea and the moon rising over the mountains.

For the walk up, as it is warm, you can wear shorts and a t-shirt, with that it is recommended that you take something warm to wear as the temperature goes down after sunset.

What to bring:a headlamp or torch, warm jersey, wear comfortable walking shoes, camera, backpack with food and drinks, and friends to enjoy the adventure with!

Other Activities

  • The summit is a popular spot for paragliding due to the thermals and the nearby beaches. It is also a popular spot for sundowners.
  • Moreover, the spot at Lion’s Head is popular for tandem flights.