Hiking up Lion’s head (half way)

The Lion’s head is one of the landmarks of Cape Town, besides the unavoidable Table Mountain.

It’s also supposed to be a relatively easy hike, and again one of the things you just have to do when visiting Cape Town.

While my friends went on to Sandy Bay beach for another day in the sun, I decided to walk up the Lion’s head and enjoy some 360 degree view of Cape Town.

I started relatively early a quarter to 11, and on a clouded day, which made the hike up easier.

While it peaks at 669 meters above sea level, I did not have to walk all the way up.

I took an Uber to the parking lot where the two tracks start, one being a steeper hike, one an easier way to walk around.


I progressed pretty easily, and soon arrived at the site where the para-gliders jump off, to sail down slowly.

On that day though, no para-gliders were to be seen. Maybe the weather conditions or winds were not in favor, and so the site lay barren.

At that point, you have a great view of Table mountain and the 12 Apostles along the coast.

I could even see as far as Sandy Bay beach, or at least the Mountain behind it – ans also saw the shipwreck that had crashed on the coast some two decades ago.

The path is still pretty broad and not that steep, and I took some moments to enjoy the view – and take a ton of pictures.

Underneath me was Camps Bay and the four Clifton beaches, the Atlantic Seaboard, Green Point and the stadium.

A unique nature

Its not only the views that are interesting. The geology and fauna of the mountain stand out, too.

The upper part of the Lion’s Head peak consists of the same thin layers of Table Mountain sandstone.

Lion’s Head is covered indifferent types of fynbos, which is vegetation indigenous to the Cape and can be found nowhere else.

Fear of heights

The path gets narrower and a bit steeper, with more and more steps hammered out of the rock formations, winding its way up.

I could overlook Signal Hill – the ‘tail’ of the Lion, so to speak – and the city underneath with the center and Bo-Kaap, Tamboerskloof and the main parts of Cape Town.

There were quite many tourists underway, and I let many of them past me, as the path got steeper and steeper.

At one point, luckily, I paused and looked back.

I had come up pretty far, and I realized that my fear of heights started to kick in.

I can climb it all up, without much of a problem. The problem will be coming down, when I have to look down and see the narrow ledge that I am navigating along the rock.

I know at one point panic will overtake me…


I also heard that further up there were ladders to climb up… and so I pondered: was it worth it going all the way up and enjoying the view, but risking that I’d panic and would not manage to go down?

And then having lots of people in my back waiting for me to slowly crawl back…?

I decided, I’d seen enough. Sure it’s nice to go to the top, get the 360 views and overcome the fear of heights, maybe. But, in the end… why?

I have no idea how people do it. And apparently the full moon hike is very popular. I wonder how many die, trying.

I slowly walked back down.

Wally’s Cave

This time, I was watching out for a little overgrown pathway on the side.

It is supposed to lead to Wally’s cave, a cave in the wall of the rock, with a supposedly great view of Table Mountain.

It is named after Wally, a guy who ran up the mountain every day for years, to this cave.

Sure enough, I found the little overgrown path and decided to walk up. Steps reassured me, and the whole thing did not look too steep.

I managed to get up to a big rock, and paused. Fantastic views. But from there, no more steps but a pretty unsecured path through the rocks.


I saw a family climb down the remaining steep path.

We talked a bit, and apparently Wally’s cave was just around the corner, but some 50 meters up in the mountain.

Again, same problem. I took a break, and then went down again, the first meters more or less sliding down on my pants in the dirt. I just can’t stand up, look and make my way down…

So, yeah, I hiked on the Lion’s head, but I didn’t go all the way.

Still, it was a nice little excursion, and I had some great views over the mountains and the city.

If you like hiking but feel that Table Mountain might be too much, this is a great alternative.

Even if you only make it up half way!