Visiting Signal Hill, the Lion’s Rump

Next to Lion’s Head, Signal Hill is Cape Town’s most iconic hill. Which is perfect, as it forms the rump of the Lion! It’s a local favourite for good reason – you can see all of Cape Town’s landmarks from here, and crossing from one side of the hill to another takes you through a surprising variety of native fynbos. It’s also the site of the Noon Gun, one of our city’s oldest living traditions!

While it’s relatively small, you can do a lot on Signal Hill, from paragliding and picnicking to hiking and trail running. And my favourite thing about it – Signal Hill is central and easily accessible so that even on a long work day, you could end it off watching the sunset here, or make a short weekend trip of it.

Signal Hill sunset

Signal Hill is such a brilliant place to watch the sunset in Cape Town. Because the hill has 360° views over the city and the ocean, you get to take in all of Cape Town in the golden and pink light, and then turn around and watch as the sun slowly dips past the horizon. I find it a really special spot, and it tends to be a lot quieter than Lion’s Head (although it’s certainly in competition for best sundowner spot with Kloof Corner).

This is also a great sunset spot simply because you don’t need to do any actual hiking. Just a little stroll along indigenous plant-lined trails, and you’re there.

What to do on Signal Hill

What, you ask, can you actually do on Signal Hill? You’d be surprised! Since it’s central Cape Town’s flattest and most accessible hill, we’re making good use of it.

Noon Gun

Signal Hill’s Noon Gun is a historic time signal originally aimed at alerting ships in the bay when the clock strikes 12 pm. This would help them check their marine chronometers to establish their position according to celestial navigation. It was established in 1836, and is actually the reason this was called Signal Hill. So, quite a historic spot! \

The gun still goes off every day at 12 pm. You can hear it throughout much of the city, but you can also visit Lion Battery on Signal Hill and watch it go off! Unfortunately, it’s temporarily closed, but it’ll be letting Capetonians know when it’s lunchtime again soon.

Picnics and rest spots

My first date with my now-husband was actually a picnic on Signal Hill! Coming from Oudtshoorn, I had never actually been here before, and it was a perfect introduction to what is now a real favourite of mine. There are so many spots on this hill with brilliant views. Pick a side, and you’ll be watching over Sea Point and the paragliders, or the city bowl, the Waterfront, and Table Mountain.

There are benches dotting the trails here, so if you keep walking you’ll find one! There are also large rocks that you can spread a picnic blanket on and admire the views. It’s a really lovely, easy place to have a cheap date that feels special. You could bring a simple flask of tea and some homemade rusks, or a whole spread.

Paragliding

paragliding off signal hill

Signal Hill paragliding is actually one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist activities – and for very good reason. My husband and I went paragliding as an anniversary adventure when we were still dating, and it was spectacular!

It’s tandem paragliding, so you’ll be perfectly safe, while you look out over Sea Point and Lion’s Head, and fly close to the hill itself. Very cool. I see paragliders every day from my apartment, and you can always hear them whooping.

Trail running and hiking

hiking with your dog

Signal Hill has some fantastic little paths for trail running and hiking. We regularly hike up the trail from Upper Rhine Rd in Sea Point, and then run back down — there’s a fantastic amount of variation in the route, going from flat sandy sections to gravelly rock and shifting again to large slabs of rock you can launch yourself off of. It’s beginner-friendly too (I’m an absolute beginner!) so I’d definitely recommend it if you want to try your hand at trail running.

The hilltop is also crisscrossed by trails, so you can take an easy stroll with no elevation. You can also hike or run from Signal Hill directly onto Lion’s Head if you’re up for more of a challenge.

Mountain biking

This hill has a surprising number of mountain biking routes, some of which you share with hikers. They’re challenging and rocky, with some loose gravel. The routes range from intermediate to expert — except for The Big Easy, a beginner singletrack! You can check out Signal Hill’s biking trails and their difficulty ratings here.

Native plant-spotting

view of table mountain from signal hill in spring

This is something you’ll do while hiking or picnicking here, but it’s worth a mention on its own. Particularly if you’re visiting in spring, be sure to take your time to stop and smell the fynbos. There are many delicate little flowers and hardy shrubs growing on this city hill, and it’s an ever-changing scene throughout the year. Just be sure not to pick the plants. Many plants are indigenous to this single spot in the whole world, and need to be carefully protected from harm!

Visit Signal Hill

I hope you’re convinced that Signal Hill is well worth a visit! Whether you’re keen for some exercise in nature, a romantic date with a view, or some adventure sports, it’s got more to offer than meets the eye.

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