Lion’s Head is a free-standing peak located next to Table Mountain and about two-thirds its height. This isolated peak offers exciting hiking with sensational views. Available as a sunrise or sunset hike – a truly memorable experience. Also serves as a great alternative for when Table Mountain is covered in cloud. More adventurous as well as off-the-beaten track variations available.
Grade: A+ (with B and C options)
Time: 3.5 hours round trip
Cost: R950 per person
Lion’s Head is a prominent, detached peak located next to Table Mountain and about two-thirds its height. It offers panoramic views and arguably the best elevated view of Table Mountain. There is no cable car, so we have to hike down as well. The average person completes the round trip in about 3.5 hours.
The begging question is: which should I hike, Table Mountain or Lion’s Head? Your first and foremost consideration should be the importance you attach to hiking Table Mountain. Lots of people hike Table Mountain because it’s on their bucket list, not because it necessarily offers better views or more exciting hiking. Your second and third considerations should be: am I okay hiking downhill (do you have bad knees or impaired balance); and am I okay with meeting lots of hikers along the trail (not experiencing so much nature, wilderness, peace and quiet). If conquering Table Mountain by foot does not rank high on your bucket list, and you’re okay hiking downhill and don’t have a problem with meeting hikers along the way, then opt for Lion’s Head over Table Mountain. However, if you’re thrilled by the thought of hiking up the imposing monolith soaring over Cape Town, the city’s iconic landmark and world-famous mountain, then it’s a no-brainer: go for Table Mountain (the first consideration overriding the other two).
Pros for hiking Lion’s Head: unique views of Table Mountain (on most Table Mountain hikes, the iconic Table Mountain profile is less discernible); great as a sunrise or sunset hike; not too strenuous. The drawbacks: trail can get crowded; you don’t get the sense of achievement that you get from hiking Table Mountain; minimal nature, peace and quiet; compulsory hike-down (not very enjoyable).
The hike up Lion’s Head involves some scrambling and exposure to heights – nothing extreme, but if you’re clumsy or afraid of heights, you will take strain, especially on the descent. If you’re contemplating watching the sunrise or sunset from the summit, I recommend sunrise, as sunset involves hiking down in the dark (tricky). Lion’s Head is a great Plan B hike, as it often remains cloud- and windfree, while Table Mountain gets the brunt of the elements.
Another question many people have: which of the two offers the best views? There’s no simple answer to this. The views from Lion’s Head is spectacular. But if views are the only thing that motivates you to hike, then there are Table Mountain routes that rival – and in my opinion, surpass – the views you get from Lion’ Head. Different Table Mountain routes offer different views, so you can’t compare. Platteklip Gorge, the easiest and most popular Table Mountain route, offers the least amount of views. A route like India Venster offers sensational views, arguably better than Lion’ Head.