One of the mountains you can see from 26 on First is Lion’s Head. It’s the tall conical shaped prominence sitting in the shadow of Table Mountain. The naming of Lion’s Head goes back to the 17th Century when the Dutch called it Leeuwen Kop. It doesn’t take long for you to see why. When viewed from a little north of the city, the combination of Lion’s Head and Signal Hill appears as a lion in a crouching pose.
Being 669m above sea level, it makes for a perfect, relatively short mountain hike that will be well rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views. It’s helpful that you can drive the first about 200m of the climb, which only leaves you with an hour and a half long hike to the top. One of the most popular options for climbing Lion’s Head is to do it at full moon.
First go along to this website to find out when it will be full moon and the time the moon will be rising. Obviously you want a clear night with as little wind as possible. Summertime is the best time to climb Lion’s Head at full moon as the sun sets later, affording you more time to walk while it is still light. Check the sunset time and leave early enough to give yourself a couple of hours to do the walk up.
There are some important rules about hiking the mountains around Cape Town. Never go alone. There is safety in numbers. If you are visiting and don’t know the area, make sure you go with someone who does. Every single year, people get lost on the mountain ranges surrounding our city. It’s best to pay a qualified tour guide to maximise your safety.
You need a good pair of walking shoes (no slip-slops or open sandals). Take with you a windbreaker – the higher you go the cooler it gets and you’ll be coming down after dark so you need something warm to wear. Ensure you have water to drink and a little picnic food for the top. Do not take alcohol. Getting down the mountain in the dark is a challenge enough. In your backpack, have your camera and perhaps binoculars. For this exciting night excursion, you may want to put on some insect repellent before leaving. Don’t forget to take a torch for the return trip!
Climbing Lion’s Head requires a moderate degree of fitness. Teenagers will be able to manage it, children under 12 would probably struggle. It begins with a gravel road. As you ascend, you’ll notice an area on the left that is popular with hang-gliders. The dirt track winds around the mountain, so you have this every changing vista of city, mountain and seascapes. That in itself is worth the walk. The way to the top soon becomes a single path and then changes again and you are faced with a couple of options. One is to continue on the path, which takes a little longer as it ascends steeply towards the top. The other is to make use of chains which are in place for you to pull yourself up a ledge. This is the shorter route, but not advisable for use at night. On your return trip, you definitely want to stick to the path. It’s best for the Full Moon walk to go both up and down by the path.
The full moon climbs up Lion’s Head are hugely popular with the locals. Expect dozens of people joining you. The atmosphere at the top has a friendly community vibe, the views are spectacular and altogether it will add a massive WOW factor to your holiday. You’ll see Cape Town as many others haven’t – bathed in the glow of the full moon 669m above the ocean.