Lion’s Head is one of the things that makes Cape Town such a brilliant city to live in – a moderate hike with incredible views, right in the middle of things.
You can go for a morning hike and follow it up with an ocean dip in Sea Point or Camps Bay. Or do sundowners and grab a beer in the City Centre! And I really can’t talk up the views enough. It’s stunning all the way up, but from the summit, you have 360° views over almost all of Cape Town and the far-stretching ocean.
I’ve put together all the basics and need to knows, hiking tips, trail details and recommendations for sundowners!
Difficulty: Moderate, with a challenging final 20 minutes
Distance: 5.5km (3,41 miles)
Height: 669 meters (0,41 miles)
Average time: 2 hours
Start point: Lions Head parking lot, Signal Hill Road
Child-friendly: Yes, children can manage this hike – but they may struggle to clamber up the boulders towards the summit
Dog-friendly: Yes – but as this is part of Table Mountain National Park, dog walkers are required to have a Level 1 My Activity Permit
Hiking tips for Lions Head
- Bring lots of water – there are no water points on the hike, and the last 15-20 minutes are strenuous. You’ll want to chug some water!
- Wear hiking shoes if you want to do the summit – much of this hike is a casual ascent, but the last push is rocky with loose stones, so closed shoes with good grip are best
- If you’re afraid of heights, be aware that ascending to the summit includes sheer drops and sharp uphills, and you’ll be using chains and ladders
- Lions Head can get windy, so bring something warm if you want to spend a while relaxing at the top
- Stop and smell the flowers! Lions Head has some truly beautiful indigenous plants
Lions Head hiking trail
Lions Head has two main trails – the most popular one starting at the parking lot, and another on Signal Hill. Since these two join up, I’ll just explore the first one!
The first third of the hike is a simple dirt track going gradually uphill. The path is wide here so this section is great for casual chats with your hiking group. After a while, steps are added and it gets a bit steeper, but remains pretty wide.
It’s the last third or so of the hike that things start to get challenging. The path narrows and gets steep, with huge boulders to clamber up. It’s steep enough that some sections are more climbing than hiking. But ladders and sturdy chains are set into the rocks to help you up!
This is also the section where a queue can form because the trail narrows and gets a bit more daunting. My best recommendation is to be patient and take a few pics if you get bored. You certainly don’t run out of beauty to admire, and your legs will appreciate the rest.
Reaching the top
The blessed top of the trail! Shaky legs and big smiles, you made it. The top of this hill is a relatively small flat section, with large boulders scattered around. You can usually find a private area if you look for it, and you can circle the top and get amazing views (and photos) of Signal Hill, Sea point, CBD, and Table Mountain, Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles.
You’ll also be able to find someone happy to take some photos of you or your group – there should be lots of enthusiastic people, and nowhere to run with your phone!
Sunset on Lion’s Head
Lions Head is the tourist’s favourite sunset spot in Cape Town, and a local favourite too! And its popularity means it’s also very safe, as you’ll be doing the whole route with many others, even on weekdays.
If you want to watch the sunset from the summit (you do – those 360° views!), I recommend you start your hike an hour earlier. This will give you more than enough time to make the trek up without stress, and you’ll be able to watch the sun dip past the horizon – and fit a few golden hour photos in first.
Watching the sunset from the top of Lions Head means you’ll be walking at least part of the way down in the dark. This is safe as long as there are others with you. You’ll want to get down the top third of the trail while there’s still some light, but the rest you can do by the lights of the city. Some people bring head torches along, but most do just fine without!
If you somehow find yourself alone on the famous Lion for sundowners, I do recommend starting to walk down before the sun sets. Muggings are not unheard of here, and the risks go up in the dark.
Further resources for Cape Town hikers
That’s all you need to know about hiking up beautiful Lion’s Head! If you’re interested in exploring some more trails in Cape Town, check out my favourites below.