Lion's Head is a mountain situated between Table Mountain and Signal Hill in Table Mountain National Park. It peaks at 669m above sea level and forms a spectacular backdrop to the city of Cape Town in the Western Cape. This unique mountain was called Leeuwen Kop (Lion’s Head) by the Dutch in the 17th century and Signal Hill was known as Leeuwen Staart (Lion’s Tail) as the shape of the mountain ranges resemble a crouching lion. The suburbs of the city surround the peak on almost all sides, ensuring a splendid view from the top. There are several historic graves and shrines of Malay leaders on the lower slopes of Lion’s Head and on Signal Hill.
Full moon hikes up Lions Head have been a popular excursion in Cape Town for years, but the trend is catching on so much that people from around the world are adding it to their holiday itinerary – even when their travel plans don’t quite coincide with the lunar cycle. Unless there’s some serious wind or cloud cover, every full moon (or thereabout) sees hundreds of hikers making their way to the summit of Lions Head to enjoy the magnificent 360° views over Cape Town, the Atlantic Seaboard, and Table Bay; to picnic and triumphantly toast the sinking sun; and to watch as the lights adorn the Mother City like sparkling jewels, separating the land from the endless reaches of the inky black ocean.
Lions Head on the other hand is an easy walking path that circles the mountain, which stands at a more reasonable 669m above sea level. The trail starts with a fairly steep dirt track from Signal Hill Road to the western slope, where it gently levels out and offers beautiful views over the Atlantic Seaboard.
As you wind your way around the mountain the path becomes rockier and you will find 2 routes to reach the summit: continue along the contour path or take a short cut up a series of ladders and chains. The ladders and chains are well-secured and not very long, so don’t be afraid to go up them. They are trickier to descend in the dark though, so if you’re at all nervous, rather opt for the easier contour path. You’ll still be climbing over plenty of rocks so you won’t miss out on any thrills.
Tips for Responsible Full Moon Hikes
• It takes roughly 90 minutes to hike to the summit, so make sure you have enough time to get to the top before the sun sets. Click here to find out what time the sun sets in Cape Town. • You’ll get hot hiking up and cold coming down, so pack a warm, wind-resistant top. • Pack a picnic with plenty of water and something to toast on the summit. • Bring a headlamp or torch (flashlight) per person. • Hike in a group of at least 3 people. • Take lots of photos and bring extra batteries! There are plenty of sturdy rocks that can be used as a tripod, so go crazy with your night settings. • Offer to take a group photo for other hikers – they’ll appreciate it! • Full moon hikes are not recommended for small children or the elderly. • A full moon hike up Lions Head is the best way to see Cape Town as you’ll be spoilt with fabulous views by day, sunset, and night. It is by no means irresponsible if you ensure your own safety and embrace it with an attitude of pure fun and adventure. Next full moon, why not consider joining the glowing trail of torches atop Lions Head!