The South Africans are serious about their sundowners; so much so they even have a word to describe cocktail toasts and picnics at sunset! One special Capetonian rite of passage is enjoying sundowners after a hike up Lion’s Head trail.
But after our recent sunrise hike up Lion’s Head we would argue they should start a trend of sun-uppers. We may be a little impartial since we like sunrises a lot (none more so than our Huayna Potosi summit sunrise in Bolivia) but how can we not be after witnessing this stunning view of Cape Town and the surrounding coastline at first light!
Lion’s Head Hike at Sunrise
It was during our recent visit to Cape Town that we had the pleasure of hiking Table Mountain’s striking neighbor plateau, Lion’s Head, with friends Piers and Nathanael (Noty).
Of course this required a very early morning start, and coming from the Stellenbosch wine region 30 minutes outside of Cape Town it meant an even earlier wake-up call than usual. We set off from the trail head around 5:30am. Despite commencing our hike in the dark, the light from the moon was so bright we quickly retired our headlamps and torches.
The first half of the trail wound us a full 360 degrees around Lion’s Head on an easy-to-follow albeit steep gravel and rock path lined with indigenous Cape Town fynbos. There were plenty of places along the way to stop and enjoy aerial views of the seaside and the twinkling lights of civilization below but we were on a mission. With the sun starting to peak over the horizon, we scurried up the path, Piers and Nathanael setting a fast pace.
At one point (not that I could identify exactly where in the dark) the path diverged into one easier and one harder stretch to the summit. We opted for the more direct (ie more difficult) path to the top which required us navigating a series of chains, ladders and metal stairs amidst a rocky boulder field.
Twenty minutes of scurrying later and we arrived at the summit to an absolutely glorious view. From the top of Lion’s Head mountain we could see all of Cape Town, Table Mountain, the Atlantic Seaboard and a windy stretch of beach called Blouberg on the other side of the bay. We were joined by several dozen other early risers who had made the trek that morning.
We staked out our own perch away from the crowds. Here we sat with feet dangling over the edge of the mountain taking in the sights before us and celebrating our completion of this Capetonian tradition. The only thing that could have made the moment more perfect were some mimosas!
All too soon it was time to make the 30-45 minute descent down to the carpark. It was only now in full daylight that we were able to see the steep and rocky path we had just ascended.
Down from the mountain after a great jumpstart to the morning, we were faced with our next challenge – finding something as equally awesome as hiking Lion’s Head to do with the rest of our day.
If You Go: Lion’s Head Hike Logistics
What: A 2-3 hour hike roundtrip to the top of Lions Head and back
Where: To get to the Lion’s Head trailhead, take Signal Hill Road at the base of Forestry Road in the direction of Camps Bay. Take the Lion’s Head/Signal Hill turn-off to a small carpark area. The trail starts a few hundred meters from there.
When: The Lion’s Head trail can be hiked during any time of year. Be aware of the rapidly changing weather patterns in Cape Town and chilly winds at the summit.
How: Although steep at times, the Lion’s Head trail is a moderate hike. Towards the top, you will encounter 15-20 minutes of boulders requiring the use of chains, metal stairs and ladders. If desired, you can avoid the chain section via a longer alternate route.
Cost: Free other than the cost to get to the trailhead