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Challenging My Vertigo At Lion’s Head

With our time in South Africa coming to a close, we were looking for an activity to finish our trip on a high, and hiking the dizzy heights of Lion’s Head was sure fire way to do just this!

On our last day in Cape Town, Adam and I agreed we’d head off on one last hike. This smaller section of Table Mountain has been named as such, due to the mountain resembling the shape of Lion. Perhaps you need a bird’s eye view to verify this though!

I’d had a little Google beforehand and read some other blog posts about the hike, but nothing quite prepared me for this. The 360-degree views over the city, out to Robben Island, and also along the Pacific coastline were simply stunning.

Opening Hours & Costs

There are no gates at the start of the pathway, and there is no fee, despite being part of the National Park – which understandably makes this a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

Sunrise and sunset hikes are favoured by many, however we heard the route can sometimes be targeted by gangs during low light. Having now hiked the route myself, I wouldn’t recommend hiking in lowlight due to the nature of the pathways, and the sheer rock faces. If you choose to, then ensure you have a good head torch to guide you along the way, and always hike with others.

Know Before You Go

There may not be an entrance fee or any staff around, but don’t forget this is still part of Table Mountain National Park. Don’t ruin it for others by leaving rubbish behind, or purposely damaging anything. Whatever you take with you (water bottles and snacks), should most definitely leave with you! 

Getting There

Make your way up to the car park via Signal Hill Road, where you’ll find plenty of allocated spaces as well as street parking, plus there were no annoying “parking guys”. The small entrance is clearly displayed with a barrier and two National Park signs. Other than a Cafe Vida coffee van, there isn’t anything else up there so come prepared!

What To Bring 

As mentioned, there are no facilities at the entrance of the hike, so pack wisely. Bring plenty of water, as even on milder days you will most certainly need it.

Closed shoes are a must. Preferably some kind of hiking or trail shoe if possible. The first part of the hike is fairly flat (but very steep), but once the rocks come into play, you’ll be clambering left right and centre to make your way upwards.

There is little shade along the route, so take a hat or cover your head if you burn easily. And of course, if the sun is out, then pack some sunscreen.

How Long Will It Take?

Allow a good 90 minutes to 2 hours to get up to the peak, with a further 45 minutes to an hour to descend back down. Everyone’s level of fitness will vary, as will the number of other people hiking at the same time as you. Both these will factor into your overall time, but play it safe and allow three hours for a round trip, including time to stop and take photos.

What To Expect

The path essentially follows a route that spirals around the Lion’s Head peak. This means you are guaranteed a 360-degree view of the entire city, including views over Camps Bay, the CBD, the waterfront, the Pacific coastline, and even as far out as Robben Island.

Other than the obvious stunning views, you should expect a range of surfaces to hike over. From sandy paths, to rocky boulders, and even some ladders, pull up staples, and support chains to help guide you along the steep sections of the rocks.

There are a lot of sheer cliffs edges and narrow paths throughout, and you’ll be climbing at some height. If you have a big issue with heights, then you might also want to reconsider this – or just not look down!

Follow The Route 

As with all the South African National Parks, you’ll be hiking at your own risk and will be liable should you have an accident. Always hike with at least one other person, and don’t be the stupid individual to venture off the beaten track!!

The first section of the path is wide and sandy, yet very steep. There are a few benches along this section where you can stop for a rest. Enjoy the views, take some photos, and grab a drink before you continue onwards.

You’ll soon come across a natural looking set of steps made from tree trunks. Here you’ll begin your first slow climb. This section of the route is easy to follow and easy to hop from one step to another. Enjoy it whilst it’s easy!

As the route begins to twist around the rocks, you’ll notice the path begins to narrow. The path also gets a lot closer to the edge of the mountain, so I would suggest you pop your camera, phone, and water bottle into your bag. This will enable you to keep your hands free to support you on the rocks if required. From this point on, take your time and don’t rush. We saw loads of runners along the route (THEY WERE INSANE), so let anyone like them pass you by.

Continue along and you’ll hike up to the first steel ladder that has been put in place to help climbers reach the next section of the path. Hopefully there won’t be too many people there to hold you up. It wasn’t busy when we visited, and everyone was good enough to alternate between letting a few of us up, before a few others came down, and so on.

Keep an eye out for the South African Rock Dassies hiding in the mountain creases! We stopped for a drink where the path widened slightly, and noticed a small family of Dassies running around. These furry rodent like creatures are native to South Africa, and can be found all over Table Mountain! Photo credit to Adam for this one. He can’t resist a wildlife moment!

Reaching The Summit

The next section splits into two pathways. You can either use the steel staples and chains to hoist yourself up some very steep rocks directly in front of you, otherwise there is an alternative route to follow. This pathway winds round the back of Lion’s Head, takes a little longer (maybe 15 minutes), but is much easier. Keep an eye out for this sign otherwise you might miss the turning point.

Both routes will meet again, before the pathway pretty much disappears and you have to fend for yourself. You’ll notice people will spread out as they find their own way up (and down) at this section. Follow what looks like a safe route, look out for wider rocks to climb up, and slightly jagged rocks to heave yourself up with.

Once you’ve passed this point, you’ll be on the home run to the summit, which you’ll be able to see right in front of you. If you’ve made it this far, then well bloody done! The very last section involves one final ladder to climb, a lot of scrambling, a lot of navigating rocks, and my suggestion, a bare minimum of looking down!

This section in the photo above was as far as I went. That very final climb was a little bit too much for me. The narrow path became busier, my jelly legs began to set in, and I had a slight freak out! But that’s cool. I did pretty well considering I don’t actually like heights! This was still an amazing spot to view the city from, and kudos to anyone else who got this far. If you made it to the actual summit, then you are a better man than me!

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