Hiking up Lions Head is one of the top things to do if you visit Cape Town. It offers everything from incredible peaceful views to holding onto chains for dear life! And let's not forget the challenges you will face on the way up and down. I take the hike to the top and document everyhting - as seen below.
So lets start from the beginning.
Shorts - Gear check done.
Capetonians are known for being super chilled and I’ve often seen people going up with just a pair of shorts…literally just that.. no shoes, no top…no water - so that is one option.
If this is not really your style, then this is what I suggest you take with you and what was used on this trip
- Trail shoes - it can get quite slippery up there. Salomon Sense Pro
- GoPro - GoPro 3 Black Edition with the Frame (unless the weather looks dodgy then take the water housing)
- Camel Back - Karrimore
- Lightweight jacket - Salomon
- GPS watch to track your route and watch your heart rate go through the roof - Suunto Ambit 2
- Mobile Charging - I took with a PowerTraveller Extreme so I could charge my GoPro as I knew I would be using it a lot for this hike.
- Snacks, fruit, water, coffee flask if you are going up early in the morning.
- Headlamp if you are going early morning or planning on coming down after sunset
- Small plastic bag to put your rubbish in as there are no rubbish bins on the mountain…obviously
- Basic hiking first aid is never a bad idea
Now that you are all geared up - where do you start hiking?
Pretty much…well exactly…over here. This is the most common route to start and is very easy for first timers to find there way up to the top.
Once you have parked you will start walking up the gravel road going around the left side of the mountain. I always find this part takes me by surprise as its a lot steeper than I expect and gets my heart rate going pretty fast! Get your GoPro out soon because as you get around the corner the amazing views are already going to start!
At the top of the gravel road, you’ll be relieved to find it levels out a bit and turns into some awesome single track. This is where you reach the 1km mark and as look up it's hard to believe you have about 1km left to get to the top!
As you come around to Cape Town side again you’ll get a ladder and a small section of chains.. just a taste of what is to come. Remember those chains because on your way down you’ll wonder what the point of those ones are compared to what you just went through!
Now you get 2 options…Straight up to The Chains (awesome) - or left to the ‘Other Way’ (less awesome) . On this day I went up the queue at the chains was too long so I figured I would take it on my way down rather. That is the only down side of the chains is you can only really go one at a time and it can get queued up with people coming down and up at the same time.
So left it was for me. Don't forget to just stop and look out over the incredible place you are in! Keep to the trail and you’ll eventually meet up with the guys coming up from the chains. After a bit of a slippery path over the roots of the tree and you’ll be looking up at the the ridge of the mountain This is where you will be heading up to the top. Anyone with a fear of heights is usually feeling it by now and is often as far as it goes for them.
Another ladder,some rock hopping, getting pretty close to the edge and you’ll be up at the top in no time.
Well done you have made it! Best thing to do at the top is just chill and enjoy the 360 views of Cape Town and the surroundings. Look for some rocks that stick out over the edge take out your GoPole and take some photos. It really is stunning up there!
For someone who is averagely fit it should take them about 45min - 1hr get to the top. Look at your watch and enjoy being up at 655m above sea level, and be slightly shocked that it was only 2.1km!
On my way down I headed for the chains this time and there were less people. There are signs on the way down showing the 2 different ways down again and just follow the ones that say ‘Caution’ . Chains are really easy to use and its a cool way for a beginner hiker to feel like a proper rock climber. If you aren’t terribly scared of heights you’ll have no issues.
From there its nice to take a jog back down to the bottom. On your way down you’ll meet people seriously out of breath and asking how much further to the top and “Did you make it?”
You’ll prob also see AJ Calitz walking up in Jeans and a tshirt as this is literally a walk in the park for him.
I seriously recommend this hike to anyone visiting (or living in ) Cape Town. It takes you out of the City even though you are still so close. Its a real quick escape into nature and that view from the top is nothing short of incredible.
Full Moon Hike
Once a month they have full moon hikes up Lions Head. It's something great to plan if you are in Cape Town during the full moon. 100s of people will head up with cooler bags, blankets, and acoustic guitars and chill up at the top to watch the sunset, and the moonrise.
Basic hiking rules apply when hiking lions head. Don’t hike alone.Stick to the trail. Most accidents on Lions Head happen when people leave the trail. Be courteous, and let people pass you if needed. Keep your trash on you until you get back to the bin at the parking. Check the weather before you go and dress/pack accordingly. Go out there an enjoy the awesome hike!
Here is my route recorded from the Suunto Ambit 2. It’s always cool to check out your stats when you are done. It’s probably going to be your slowest 4km ever, but most awesome that’s for sure!