Skip to Content

Lion’s Head hike in Cape Town – a 2023 hiking guide

The Lion’s Head hike is one of the top things to do in Cape Town. Lion’s Head Mountain is a part of the Table Mountain National Park. Its peak is at 669 m above sea level. Hiking up the mountain can be challenging but the views from the top are well worth the effort. From Lion’s Head, you get some of the best views of the city and its surroundings. Even if you don’t climb all the way to the top you still get fantastic views along the trail. 

Alya on the edge of the cliff with the stunning view of Cape Town
Alya on the top of Lion’s Head enjoying the view of Camps Bay

Lion’s Head guided hikes and tours

If you’re a solo traveler joining a guided group tour might be a good option especially if you want to do the Lion’s Head hike at sunset or sunrise.

How difficult is the Lion’s Head hike?

Lion’s Head is one of the most popular hikes in Cape Town. It’s a moderate/difficult route due to the steep incline from the start. The difficulty depends on the route you choose and on your level of fitness. If you just walk around the mountain it’s not too difficult. Some parts of the trail are quite challenging. The last kilometer (the chain route) is the most difficult part with climbing up over the rocks, metal ladders, and chains. For a fit person, it won’t be a problem, but if you’re not in good shape, it might be exhausting.

If you like the Lion’s Head hike you might enjoy the Platteklip Gorge trail or the more challenging India Venster route, one of the best Table Mountain hiking trails.

If you’re scared of heights I’d suggest doing a circular route without going to the top of Lion’s Head. Climbing down might be a bit scary for you.

Alya on a rocky path climbing up Lion's Head
The most challenging last part of the hike to the top of Lion’s Head involves climbing over the rocks and ladders

How much does it cost?

The good news is that the Lion’s Head hike is free. There is no entrance fee. Parking at Lion’s Head is free as well. Your only expense is transportation to Lion’s Head and back. 

How long is the Lion’s Head hike?

The return hike up Lion’s Head on the main path is 5,3 km/3,2 mi with a 400-meter ascent and a subsequent descent. Depending on your fitness level it can take between 1h30min. and 2h.30min. to hike up and down Lion’s Head. 

Where does the trail start?

The start of the trail is at the Lion’s Head hike parking lot on Signal Hill Road. The end of the trail is the top of Lions Head Mountain. 

Alya on a massive rocky cliff enjoying the sea view n the Lion's Head hike
Alya sitting on the edge of a cliff on Lion’s Head hike

Travel insurance for your Cape Town trip

Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more. Since 2002, World Nomads have been protecting, connecting and inspiring independent travelers. They offer simple and flexible travel insurance and safety advice to help you travel confidently.
A sign of the hiking route on Lion's Head hike
The official sign on the Lion’s Head hike

What is the scenery like?

Lion’s Head offers some of the best views of Cape Town and the surrounding area. It’s definitely a must-include in your Cape Town itinerary. On a clear day from Lion’s Head summit and along the trail, you can see pretty much the entire city of Cape Town and its surroundings. The main highlights are Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles, Camps Bay, Clifton Beaches, City Bowl, V&A Waterfront, Sea Point, Robben Island, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Peninsula, Blouberg Beach, seaport, and many other city attractions.

Lion’s Head hike – the main routes

There are two hiking routes to Lion’s Head both starting at the parking spot on Signal Hill Road; the first one (footpath) goes right towards Signal Hill, and the second one (gravel road, the standards route) goes left. Both routes merge 1 km before the peak. There is another split just before reaching the top; one route is more challenging but shorter, it involves chains and ladders, and the other route (the recommended trail) is longer with going up over the rocks. You can combine both routes; go up using ladders and down over the rocks. All routes and splits are well-maintained and marked. 

Lion’s Head trail – the linear route

  • Distance – 5,3 km return
  • Walking time – 1h30min. up and down, plus 30min.-1h. for taking photos, watching the sunset, etc. The walk might take longer if there are many people.
  • Elevation gain – 387 m
  • Terrain – gravel road, wooden stairs, rocks, ladders, and chains.
A trail map of the Lion's Head hike
A route map of the Lion’s Head hike, the standard route

It’s the most popular Lion’s Head hiking trail and the recommended route to follow for solo hikers. It starts at the parking lot on Signal Hill Road. Most people use it to hike up and down. It’s a spiral route on a steep gravel trail with a significant incline right from the start. The route goes around the mountain offering great views of Cape Town and the coastline. This route has the best views of Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles, and Camps Bay. It starts on the gravel road continues up the stairs and finishes with a rocky path and ladders. The first half of the trail is a steep ascent on a dirt road. The second part involves a bit of climbing regardless of which route you choose.

Elevation profile of Lions Head return hike
The elevation profile of Lion’s Head hike
Beautiful view of Table Mountain and Camps Bay from Lion's Head trail
Fantastic panoramic view of Table Mountain, Camps Bay, and the Cape Peninsula on Lion’s Head hike

Lion’s Head trail – the circular route

  • Distance – 6 km
  • Walking time – 2 hours up and down
  • Elevation gain – 400 m
  • Terrain – footpath, gravel road, big rocks, ladders, chains
A map with a circular hiking route up Lion's Head
The route map of the Lion’s Head circular hike

This is our favorite Lion’s Head hiking route as you get to walk up and down different ways and get the ultimate 360° panoramic views of Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula. It’s a longer route. The trail starts at Lion’s Head parking. It can be done clock or counterclockwise. We prefer a counter-clock because the gravel road is easier to go down than the rocky path. The same with climbing to the top, it’s easier to go up using ladders and chains and go down over the rocks.  This route has the best views of Lion’s Head Peak, Signal Hill, and Sea Point. You can go up and down the same way without going around the mountain.

The profile showing ascents and descents on the circular route up Lion's Head
The elevation profile of the circular hiking route
Alya sitting on a boulder with Lion's Head peak behind
A view of Lion’s Head Peak from the circular route

You can do the circular hike without climbing to the top of Lion’s Head.

  • Distance – 4 km
  • Walking time – 1 hour
  • Elevation gain – 280 m
  • Terrain – footpath, gravel road

It’s an easier alternative for those who don’t want to climb over the rocks or ladders all the way to the top. It’s a suitable option for hikers with children or dogs. The route gives you an opportunity to observe Cape Town and its surroundings, enjoy a nice walk, and take some great photos without sweating and panting. It’s pretty much the same route as the circular hike the only difference is that you walk around Lion’s Head without going to the top. The hike can be walked either way clockwise or counterclockwise. 

Beautiful view of Signal Hill and Sea Point from Lion's Head hike
The view over Signal Hill and Sea Point from the circular route up Lion’s Head

The Signal Hill hike

If climbing Lion’s Head Mountain is not too appealing for you there is an easier alternative. You can enjoy the city views and watch the sunset from the top of Signal Hill. It’s a nearby hill that is very easy to access by car. You can drive all the way to the viewpoint, with no walking or climbing involved. The views from Signal Hill are very similar to those from Lion’s Head. 

The drive to Signal Hill is the same way as to Lion’s Head but instead of parking your car at the head of the hiking trail, you keep driving. There is a parking spot on the top of Signal Hill but it’s often very full you might have to turn around and park your car along the road. On the top, you’ll find a big yellow frame for taking photos with Table Mountain in the background, toilet facilities, and a coffee truck. 

A lower hiking trail next to the parking spot on Lion's Head mountain
The view of Table Mountain from a hiking trail at Lion’s Head parking spot

Lion’s Head to Signal Hill hike

It’s possible to hike from Lion’s Head to Signal Hill. 

  • Distance – 5,4 km return
  • Walking time –  1 hour
  • Elevation gain – 50 m
  • Terrain – footpath

The easiest Lion’s Head hike with hardly any ups or downs. You can start at Lion’s Head parking and walk to the top of Signal Hill or another way round. Though you don’t go up the mountain you still get amazing views of Cape Town’s city centre, Table Mountain, Robben Island, Waterfront, Sea Point, and Lion’s Head.

There used to be another route past Wally’s Cave but it’s currently closed due to undergoing terrain rehabilitation. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to access Wally’s Cave.

If you enjoy the outdoors and nature you might enjoy hiking at Cape Point National Park, there are several day trails that offer breathtaking views and opportunities to spot some animals.

You can combine hiking with paragliding. Paragliding is possible from both Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. It’s a fantastic experience to glide slowly above Cape Town enjoying the beautiful views and landing on the beach at Sea Point. Don’t worry if you park your car at Lion’s Head the return transfer is included. Sunset is again the best time for paragliding. It’s highly recommended to book paragliding in advance.

A hiking trail from Lion's Head to Signal Hill
The view on the footpath from Lion’s Head to Signal Hill

When is the best time to hike Lion’s Head?

For me, the views from the top of the mountain at sunset are the most impressive. Lion’s Head is one of the best sunset hikes in Cape Town. You can see the sun slowly descending into the Atlantic Ocean painting the sea and the coast with golden color, the best light for photos. Just make sure it’s not overcast or too cloudy before you go. Watching the sunset from the top of Lion’s Head is one of the most romantic things to do in Cape Town. It’s definitely something to include in your South Africa honeymoon itinerary.

For obvious reasons, sunset is the most popular time to do the Lion’s Head hike. You have to be at the starting point a couple of hours before to find a parking spot, make it to the top (there is usually a queue at the rope and ladder part of the climb), and find a good spot for taking photos. 

Sunrise is another good time to hike up Lion’s Head. There are usually fewer people going up at sunrise than at sunset. It’ll be faster to get to the top. On the other hand in summer you’ll have to get up really early to make it in time for the sunrise. Check sunset/sunrise time in Cape Town before heading to Lion’s Head.

Full Moon is a very popular time for hiking up Lion’s Head. On clear nights hundreds of people head to the top to observe the full Moon and enjoy the views of the night city. Check Moon phases and find the best time to see the full moon.

In the afternoon the light is not the best for taking photos and in summer it gets extremely hot but the views from the top are still spectacular.

Before starting the hike always check the weather forecast. If it’s very windy or rainy it’s better to postpone the hike.

Stingy Nomads standing next to the sign marking the top of Lion's Head in Cape Town
Stingy Nomads on the top of Lion’s Head

How to get to the trailhead?

By public transport

You can use one of MyCity buses to get to Lion’s Head; routes 106 and 107 go there. Get off at Kloof Nek Road, it’s at the bottom of Lion’s Head from there it’s about 600 m to the trailhead. To use MyCity buses you have to buy a MyConnect card, which costs ZAR 35/US$2 and can be purchased at any MyCiTi station kiosk and load some money on it. An average trip within the city will cost you less than US$1. 

Unfortunately, the Cape Town Sightseeing bus doesn’t stop at Lion’s Head. The nearest stop is Table Mountain Cable Car station, which is about 2 km away from the Lion’s Head trailhead. Using the hop-on-hop-off bus to explore Cape Town is still a good option for you if you’re not planning to rent a car. You can get a 1 or 2-day pass and tour around the city getting off at any attraction. With one pass you get access to 4 different routes. The 2-day ticket includes the sunset bus, the boat cruise, and 2 walking tours as well.

Driving

Renting a car is the best way to explore Cape Town. If you rent a small car it won’t be expensive especially if you’re a couple of people sharing it. If you’re not a very confident driver (especially considering that we drive on the left side of the road) you can use Uber, many locals and tourists use it every day including us. It works well but sometimes in peak hours, you might have to wait for a ride.

With a tour

It might be the best option for solo travelers especially if you choose a hiking tour that includes transportation. You get picked up and dropped off at your hotel in Cape Town, walk with an experienced guide who can show you the best photo spots on Lion’s Head, and enjoy the nice company.

View of Table Mountain and Cape Town from Lion's Head
Table Mountain from the top of Lion’s Head hike, one of the best views in Cape Town

Lion’s Head parking lot

Parking near the trailhead might be tricky, especially in prime times such as the sunset or for the Full Moon hike. 

  1. The best and the closest option is Lion’s Head Hike Parking which is right where the trail starts.
  2. If there is no space at the parking lot, look for spots along Signal Hill Road here, and there you can see gravel sidewalks where you can park.
  3. There is “a secret spot” on Signal Hill Road between Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, a right turn to the gravel road, about 2 km away from the trailhead.
  4. We often park our car at Kloof Nek Parking, it’s a dedicated parking area just on the right from Lion’s Head on the way to Table Mountain. There are always places available and it’s not far to walk to the trailhead, about 700 m. 
  5. There is a parking spot on the top of Signal Hill, which is about 2,6 km from the Lion’s Head hike trailhead. Unfortunately, this parking area is often full.
Route indicators on Lion's Head in Cape Town
Lion’s Head Hike parking lot

Safety tips for hiking Lion’s Head

Overall it’s not dangerous to hike Lion’s Head if you take precautions. 

In summer it gets scorching hot there is no shade along the trail and no place to get water once you start hiking. Always bring enough water with you, at least 1L per person, use sun protection, and wear a hat or a cap. 

For safety reasons for solo hikers, it’s advised to follow the main route on the gravel road.

If you are a group of people and hike during the day, you can choose any of the main routes if you hike after sunset hours, stick to the main gravel route up Lion’s Head. 

Don’t go hiking at night time unless it’s a full moon night when there will be a lot of people on the mountain.

If you go alone rather use the main most popular trail. If you’re not very comfortable with doing a sunset or sunrise hike on your own you can always join a guided tour.

What to pack for the hike?

Disclosure: Stingy Nomads take part in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. When you buy something recommended in this post, we may get an affiliate commission — but it never affects your price or what we pick.

  • A small backpack to put water, a camera, snacks, etc.
  • Running shoes/sneakers, you don’t need hiking shoes for Lion’s Head but walking in flip-flops won’t work either.
  • Jacket/hoodie if coming for sunset/sunrise it gets chilly and windy up there.
  • Water bottle, make sure to bring enough water with you there is no place to get water along the hike.
  • Cap, there is no shade on the mountain if you hike in the afternoon it gets very hot.
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen 
  • GoPro HERO10, video footage, and some wide-angle panoramic photos in this post were taken with our GoPro.

Places to stay

Please follow and like us:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

mia

Monday 21st of December 2020

Thank you. Very useful.

Stingy Nomads

Monday 21st of December 2020

Hi, Mia! Thank you for the comment! Cheers

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.