Friday, March 1, 2013

Lion's Head Full Moon Hike

Lion's Head is a prominent peak near the city.  It is part of Table Mountain National Park, but it is a distinct mountain from Table Mountain itself.  The peak is at 670 meters (about 2200 ft), lower than Table Mountain (3600 ft) and higher than Signal Hill (350m = 1200 ft).

It doesn't look much like a lion's head, but it is a catchy name.  The majority of the trail is wide open, with low-lying vegetation on the first 75% of the mountain and rocky terrain near the top.

View of city from lower part of Lion’s Head trail 

Around the first bend is a stunning view of Camp’s Bay

The Twelve Apostles, above Camp’s Bay

Sea Point, where some fellow hikers were staying

View of Signal Hill, V&A Waterfront and downtown

Sunset over the Western Cape

We're not sure about the elevation gain.  The grade was a little steeper than most of the hikers were expecting.  But with this youthful and fit group, no one had any problem in getting to the top.

Tom (blue), Matteo (orange) and other volunteers

The hike gets more challenging near the top

It's a monthly tradition in Cape Town to hike to the top of Lion's Head when the moon is full.  John went with a group of 30 - 40 Project Abroad Volunteers, but there were many other locals and foreigners on the mountain.  There were about 400 - 500 people at the top at dusk, and ~ 1000 people on the mountain at any given time.  John met a few other Americans on the trail, notable because there is only one other American volunteer out of the 100+ with Projects Abroad.  But that's a good thing for cultural diversity.

We started the hike around 6:30 PM.  The sun set at 7:30 PM, just before we got to the top.  The 360-degree panorama at the top was amazing, even better than Table Mountain in some ways.

View from the top at twilight

Full orange moon starts to rise at dusk

Nobody in our immediate group brought any refreshments other than water.  Several Cape Town locals brought beer to celebrate the lunar grandeur.  And some 20-year old Dutch boys brought some other recreational plant matter that is more typically consumed in cafes in Amsterdam.  We're sure it was only for medicinal purposes.

It’s a pretty big party scene at the top

Three or four Projects Abroad volunteers camped overnight at the summit, intending to get up at 5 AM the next day to go sky diving nearby.  The second part never happened. It's probably just as well.

The moon and lights get brighter as the sky grows darker

We hiked back down around 9 PM in the pitch dark, navigating our way by flashlights, called torches in South Africa.  We took an alternate route that skipped the trail section that requires metal rope and rungs.  Luckily, our regular driver Tyrin was waiting at the bottom to drive us home.  We hadn't been sure!


  1. That’s a really great view from Lion’s Head! It must be breathtaking to see such an amazing sight from up there. I hope that I’ll be able to hike there soon as well. It looks like a great and adventurous experience!

    Jordan Hood

  2. Did anyone moon the moon? Did Matte admire his own butt as well?