Being a self-proclaimed “Capetonian” pro, I often tell people I meet that the hike up Lion’s Head is much more enjoyable than the routes up Table Mountain. And for many reasons.
Table Mountain is one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and deservingly so. This 1,085m mountain with a relatively flat summit earned its name from the spillage of clouds that cover the top like a tablecloth. It truly is a world wonder.
Directly neighboring Table Mountain is another smaller, more precious mountain called Lion’s Head which stands at about 669m, much shorter than it’s counterpart. Lion’s Head has a unique spiral shape leading up to the apex of the mountain which resembles the shape of a lion laying down. It took me awhile to see it.
Lion’s Head lives in the shadow of the ever prominent Table Mountain, but I actually prefer it over its more popular neighbor.
Unlike most routes leading up Table Mountain, the singular path spiraling up to Lion’s Head is completely out in the open. You literally circle up with the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town, and Table Mountain always in view. To see the clouds blanketing Table in such a close encounter is simply stunning.
To get to the base, or the start of the hike, simply take a taxi or a cheaper Uber there. That’s it. It’s impossible to get lost as there is only one route that leads up. No entry fees either. It’s completely free as of this post.
The hike itself is straightforward, but it’s the last twenty minutes or so that I would consider the fun part. You literally have to start using your hands to climb up steady boulders and crevices, along with ladders and chain-links to pull yourself up. You may hear people say that it was difficult, but these are the same tourists who would probably consider botanical gardens and art museums a crazy good time. The joy of climbing overwhelmed any difficulty I may have had. It takes about an hour to reach the top, depending on your pace. Though I guarantee you’ll be stopping a bunch to take photos, which is a must!
Myself along with a few other backpackers made the climb around 4pm, to give us enough time to relax at the top and enjoy a few beers for the sunset. No, there aren’t any beerstands there. Instead, I filled up a dry bag with ice and cans of South Africa’s best brews and carried it up. Easy as pie. Many people also brought snacks and food to the top. Just make sure you take everything you brought up, back down with you as there are no bins for rubbish,
While you are up there, every side of the top offers alluring panoramas and magazine-worthy shots. Feel free to explore everywhere!
You MUST stay for the sunset!
But, don’t stay too long, especially without flashlights to guide your way back down. There is an alternate route to bypass all the climbing bits, that leads you back to the spiraling path downward, back to the start of the hike.
The walk up to Lion’s Head didn’t take nearly as long as it did for Table Mountain, the route is more open, and is much easier on the legs when walking back down as opposed to the many rocky steps on Table. Although Table does have the cable car option.
Also with Table Mountain, sometimes you just never know when there’s an incoming cloud cover to totally block your view from everything. Like this…
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