I love hiking Lion’s Head in Cape Town. I’ve hiked it alone, in big groups, in small groups, with Richard Branson (technically he just asked me for directions), for sunrise, for sunset, in the middle of the day and by the full moon. And this year for the first time I started recording my summit time on my Garmin GPS watch hoping each time to beat my own “record”. I’m still slow (there are people who run up it in a ridiculous 14-minutes) but I enjoy the challenge of racing against my own PB.
Lion’s head is easily accessible at only a 10-minute drive from Cape Town CBD off Kloof Nek Road towards Signal Hill. It’s a relatively short and easy hike with a quick ascension but a big payoff in terms of 360 degree views around Cape Town of city, mountain and sea. It a circular path that winds it self up to the top of the head of Lion. Starting on a gravel path, it then becomes more rockier with some ladders and chains until you reach the final upward rock scramble to the top. But it’s not my favourite hike in Cape Town because there are just too many people. My best hikes are those where it feels as if our group are the only people in the world surrounded by nature when I can truly escape.
On Lion’s Head there is no escape from the people (mainly tourists) and it’s become as busy as shopping mall on a Saturday. It’s seen as the quintessential Cape Town experience. People struggling slowly up or down the ladders and chains while you wait. People littering the path with plastic bottles which I feel obliged to pick up. And the worst. “Helpful” people telling me as I huff and puff my way up to the top that “I’m almost there”. Every single time. I must look like an amateur hiker and seriously unfit but I’m not a fan of unsolicited encouragement.
But I can’t really blame all of the people for being on Lion’s Head. It’s absolutely beautiful. We are all out there being active and sharing in the beauty of nature together and it’s important that we don’t take those things for granted.
- Times for Lion’s Head vary between level of fitness. It can take some people 1.5 hours and others 40 minutes up on average.
- Always wear appropriate shoes, hat, sunglasses etc. If it’s sunrise/sunset take a headlamp.
- It is advisable not to hike the route alone.
- Stay on the designated paths to avoid getting lost and adding to the erosion.
- Please do not litter or graffiti anywhere. We need to preserve our Lion for the future.
- The best time to go to avoid the crowds is mid-morning on a weekday.