Lifestyle | 07 Oct 2014 | By Sun International

Best Cape Town Hiking Trail - Lions Head

Cape Town is one of those rare destinations that have a dash of the best of everything, from its enviable position at the southern tip of Africa to its bustling cosmopolitan vibe.

Add to that its cultural integrity, friendly citizens, gorgeous beaches and happening nightlife, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the world's best destinations. And with Table Mountain proudly overseeing South Africa’s most popular tourist hotspot, and countless other peaks and cliffs surrounding the City Bowl and Cape Peninsula, this is an outdoors paradise second to none. For hiking enthusiasts in particular, Cape Town is a veritable nirvana.

Even if you’re not an avid hiker and prefer a gentle stroll, there’s a trail in Cape Town to suit your pace. All you need to tackle one of Cape Town’s hiking trails is some healthy enthusiasm (and a pair of quality shoes) to discover the region’s abundant natural beauty. Beauty is, after all, the Cape’s calling card. This South African destination is nature’s bread basket, and serves up some of the world's most incredible views with a side dish of awe-inspired wonder. With so many places to hike in Cape Town, from adrenaline-fueled adventures on Chapman's Peak to classic Table Mountain hiking trails and fairylike walks through the Newlands forest, it’s almost impossible to narrow down the ultimate Mother City hike.

For first-time visitors though, a good place to start hiking the city's trails is Lions Head. This is Cape Town’s most popular hike, due in part to its easy accessibility, relatively gentle pace and the rewarding uninterrupted views from the summit across the city skyline to the beaches and harbour below. If you're staying at The Table Bay, a Cape Town hotel that has the best address in the Mother City, you’re just five minutes away from hiking Lions Head, a firm favourite Cape Town activity.

Situated between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lions Head reaches 669 metres above sea level and overlooks the city and Table Bay on one side, and the scenic Atlantic Ocean coastline on the other. The hour-long Lions Head hiking trail can be quite steep at times but is easy going. It follows a gravel road to a rocky single track and ends with chains and ladders for you to pull yourself over some of the tougher boulders.

Tip: If you’re walking with young children, take the alternative route that goes around the chain section.

Hiking to the peak of Lions Head at full moon is a Capetonian tradition, as hikers climb up to toast the sunset over the sea (and over a bottle of Western Cape wine) and watch the moon rise over the mountains, before trekking back down in the dark by flashlight or moonlight. Even though a Lions Head hike at full moon can be as packed as the V&A Waterfront in December, with crowds of friends tucking into picnic baskets full of typical Cape Town deli fare, you’ll never see the city the same way again.