Lion’s Head is one of Cape Town’s most iconic mountains. Aside from Table Mountain, it is the most recognizable part of Cape Town’s natural skyline. It towers over the city like a stoic lion, hence the name Lion’s Head. The rolling curves of Signal Hill serves as the lion’s majestic body, an image best seen from the top of Table Mountain.
Yes, Table Mountain is what Cape Town might be known for. There’s no questioning its status as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. However, for me, there was no better spot to catch the sunset than Lion’s Head. The 360-degree panoramic views of the city from the peak are incomparable.
The hike can be done in under an hour, although brief stretches of the hike require some scrambling. I ended up hiking Lion’s Head three times in my month in Cape Town. Once for sunrise, a challenging early morning workout that had little payoff as we were engulfed in clouds for the entirety of the sunrise. Once during the day, at a time when the sizzling African sun was at its peak, beating down relentlessly on us.
And once again for sunset. I had just arrived to my apartment in Table View, about thirty minutes north of Cape Town. I had already done a hike that morning and was ready to relax and wind down for the evening. My friend Gearoid, who had yet to do Lion’s Head, texted me and asked if I would be keen to do it. I quickly searched for excuses not to.
Until I saw the clouds working their magic above Table Mountain. I had never seen clouds like that in my life. Despite my heavy legs and the mission it would take to head back into town and hike back down in the dark, we went for it. There was a big risk that those clouds over Table Mountain would make their way onto Lion’s Head and shut down our adventure real quick. But no risk, no reward.
With camera in hand and an epic sunset to chase, I never felt more alive. Sore legs meant nothing anymore.
The hike winds around Lion’s Head, changing your scenery constantly. You start off seeing the City Bowl before Table Mountain dominates the scene. Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles make their debut as you wind further up the mountain. The vast ocean blends with the sky for a stretch before Signal Hill and the bay come back into view.
For the next twenty or so minutes, the view, no matter how stunning becomes less and less important as you scramble up ladders, staples, chains, and try to keep your balance on worn-out slippery tree roots. Keep your goal in mind as the view from the top is nearly indescribable.
At the top, you’ll be met with fellow hikers and sunset chasers. And before you complain about tourists, remember that you climbed this mountain for the same damn reason as everyone else. Bask in the glory of the golden hour together. Absorb the accomplishment of each person as they battle their way to the peak. There is an intense energy that is nothing short of electric, and a huge part of that is the buzz of the people that you get to share this moment with.
You may feel weary and exhausted as you reach the top but you will inevitably come back to life. This is a city that brings people to life. The howling winds, the roaring ocean, the mountains to conquer, the dying rays of the sun caressing the city one final time. At the peak of Lion’s Head, you feel alive.