Lion’s Head Trail
In Cape Town
Moderate to hard trail; Suitable for children, unless they are scared of heights
If you do only one hike in Cape Town, this should be it. The views from the top of the 669-metre peak - across to the cable stations and the front face of Table Mountain, Green Point and the World Cup stadium, over the city bowl and the glorious beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay, down the Twelve Apostles and to Robben Island - are breathtaking, so it’s an incredibly rewarding outing.
Tradition dictates that this be done as a full-moon walk – but it has become so popular that you can expect long queues if you opt to follow the crowd.
Although the route is well marked and obvious, there is a steep rock face to be negotiated so it’s definitely not for the vertiginous. There is no shade on the route, so go early or late, particularly in the heat of summer.
A gravel road, closed by a chain, leads from the obvious parking area on Signal Hill Road, initially climbing steeply through wonderful fynbos and stands of Silver Trees. This is this is one of only three places on Table Mountain where these trees grow naturally and they look striking against a blue sky.
The trail continues round, taking in views of Camps Bay and down the Twelve Apostles and you’ll often see paragliders launching from a take-off point where the road ends.
You are now above Clifton and the views get better and better as you continue spiralling up. Stay right at the fork and continue up; the trail now contours around the northern then eastern side of the peak to a ladder, and some handrail chains, then on to a marker board below a steep rock band.
You now have a choice. You can scramble up through the rock band with the aid of two chains, which is straightforward if a bit scary, or, following the signs for the “recommended route”, traverse to the left and scramble up the south ridge.
The routes converge at some pine trees just below the base of the summit ridge. After 20 minutes of easy but airy scrambling, and another ladder, you’ll be on the top enjoying a 360-degree view. To descend, retrace your steps.