Hiking Table Mountain Vs. Lion’s Head in South Africa

The walking and hiking trail options in Cape Town are virtually endless, from Table Mountain to Lion’s Head to Signal Hill. If you’re thinking of doing a hike in the course of your visit, but can’t decide between hiking Table Mountain or joining the locals for a Lion’s Head sunrise or sunset.  Hey, it’s Vanessa, and I just returned from South Africa, below are a few tips that will hopefully help you make the right choice.

Lion’s Head is one of Cape Town’s most popular mountains to climb. Unlike Table Mountain, the top cannot be reached by cable car. While it isn’t a particularly strenuous hike, the climb to the top can be steep, with the use of chains at the end to help you ascend. So, if you have knee-problems, or bad balance, hiking down will be tough.  And you might rather want to hike Table Mountain, where you can descend via cable car. Many people find the descent more challenging, especially when the terrain involves scrambling over loose rock and the exposure to heights, so while you might hike up without problem, bear in mind that reaching the summit is only the halfway mark: hiking down could be more challenging.

However, once you reach the summit, you’ll find the most astounding views. Speaking of views, yes, the views from Lion’s Head are amazing, even though the peak rises only two-thirds the height of Table Mountain.  So it’s hard playing off the different views between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.  The main difference, really, is that Lion’s Head offers a superb angle onto Cape Town’s famous landmark (Table Mountain) – something you can’t get when hiking Table Mountain itself. But, Table Mountain hiking routes offer other unique angles onto the “Table” that you can’t get from Lion’s Head.

There are two other factors will determine your choice between hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. The first, your aversion to crowds. Lion’s Head has become exceptionally popular among locals, much more so on weekends; so if you enjoy the peace and quiet in nature, and you don’t like encountering many others on the trail, then it is best go for Table Mountain as Table Mountain has numerous trails to the top.

One of the most popular is Platteklip Gorge, a pretty hike with a straight, steep ascent. The trail starts close to the cableway station at the base of the mountain and is clearly marked all the way up.

Secondly, take a moment to consider how important it is to you to hike Table Mountain. Has it been on your bucket list for months, or maybe even years? If not, then maybe hike Lion’s Head and then take the cableway up and down Table Mountain? Or if you’re a keen hiker, then do what I did and hike them both!  Alternatively, if you’re after something a little less challenging, Signal Hill might be the option for you.  Finally, if you are still unsure, or want to optimize the experience, make use of a guide. We have a bunch that we love and could certainly recommend.

Pro Tip:  Whether you pick Table Mountain or Lions Head, I would recommend hiking them during the week if possible, when there are less locals so they will be less crowded. As well as not hiking during the peak of the day when the weather is at its hottest.

I would LOVE to chat to you about your next trip to South Africa or hiking adventure, please feel free to email me at vmassey@africaendeavours or call me on (888) 267-0933. Cheers!