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Capetown's best hike: Lion's Head

Capetown is one of my favorite cities in the world. One of the reasons is its natural beauty with stunning geological formations like Table Mountain and Lion's Head. This blogpost is about Capetown's best hike: The Lion's Head.

Lion's Head in Capetown, South Africa, during sunset
Golden hour facing Lion's Head seen from Camps Bay

Lion's Head is an iconic part of Capetown's backdrop. It is at 669 metres above sea level and its peak forms a dramatic spike. The suburbs of the city surround the peak and Signal Hill on almost all sides, but strict management by city authorities has kept development of housing off the higher ground. The famous Cape Malay community in the Bo-Kaap quarter is really close to Lion's Head. With the Dutch the peak was known as Leeuwen Kop (Lion's Head) and Signal Hill (the base of Lion's head) was known as the Lion's Tail. Lion's Head is spectacularly faced towards the Atlantic seaboard and famous to climb, especially for sunrise or sunset. You will need about an hour the reach the top. You can either spiral up with a few steep climbs at the end or take the ladders in the upper third for a shortcut. The hike is normally quite crowded and you should wear proper footwear, but the good 4 km are so worth it! Make sure to check The Inside Guide on everything you need to know before hiking Lion's Head.

Hiking up Lion's Head

Table Mountain, Capetown's city bowl and Signal Hit seen from Lion's Head before sunset
Stunning views of Capetown and the peak of Lion's Head throwing a shadow before sunset

When you reach Kloof Nek from the city bowl you make a sharp right turn fo Lion's Head and Signal Hill. There is plenty of parking to the right sight. They way starts with a really wide gravel and spirals up to the top getting narrower. The beauty of Lion's Head is that you have stunning viewpoints in all directions when circling up: You see the city bowl, Table Mountain, the 12 Apostels, the Atlantic, Signal Hill and the harbour. You can't ask for more views when in the mother city.

On top of Lion's Head

Panorama on top of Lion's Head, Capetown
A 360° view over Capetown with the Atlantic, Signal Hill, the city bowl, Table Mountain and the 12 Apostels from atop Lion's Head

Hiking down Lion's Head

Going down normally should be less than an hour. Especially when you leave after sunset it gets dark and you have already inhaled the views. Nevertheless, it is a special time for us photographers when the city bowl gets lighted up. When I left last time in March 2020 it was the night after the first full moon and I took the opportunity to get some long expousure frames from the base. It is also nice to get some shots of Lion's Heads top with hikers with torch lights going up or down. You can see that in one of the pictures above.

Table Mountain, Capetown city bowl and Signal hill seen from Lion's Head during dusk
A clearly visible and illuminated Kloof Nek Road meandering between Lion's Head and Table Mountain

Pipe Track - A popular and easy hike from the Lion's Head area towards the Atlantic

It took us three visits to Capetown to hike the Pipe Track for the first time. It is a great and moderate hike starting from Kloof Nek Parking between Lion's Head and Table Mountain. The hike is neither steep nor strenuous and will take you about twi hours each way. You can walk along the coast of the Atlantic from Clifton all the way to Bakoven. You have the 12 Apostels to your left and the ocean with its nice beaches to your right. Best time of day to hike is the time before sunset since you are in a 90 degree angle towards the setting sun. After starting with a single rocky path the track joins a jeep track later on. Pipe Track was set up by the end of the 19th century to lay pipelines carrying water from the Table Mountain reservoirs to Capetown. It was later on used as a hiking trail. You will see the elevated and partly buried pipes during your walk. The route is very green and packed with fynbos, proteas and the respective wildlife. If you are interested in hiking for yourself - which I highly recommend - make sure to also check this hike review.

Lion's Head seen from Pipe Track, Capetown
Pipe Track follows the old water pipelines from the Table Mountain reservoirs along the Atlantic

Lion's Head: Capetown's iconic peak

Conclusion

Every visitor should  hike Lion's Head at least once when in Capetown. It is so iconic to the mother city's silhouette and its lifestyle. What was your favorite Lion's Head experience? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Make sure to also check my Table Mountain blogpost which is also a must see. And if you enjoy this content you could also visit my South Africa gallery.

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