Photograph by Heiko Meyer, laif/Redux
Table Mountain National Park, South Africa
Best for: A thrill with a view close to a major city
Distance: 2.5 miles round-trip
Cape Town may be the most beautiful city on the planet—it’s tucked at the foot of the sheer cliffs of Table Mountain, blessed with a Mediterranean climate and world-class surfing, and perched on the austral tip of Africa. One of the best ways to enjoy the place is to hike from the streets of town to the summit of Lion’s Head, a prominent sandstone bluff that soars straight up out of the city. Though it’s a separate tower from the main mass of the larger Table Mountain, Lion’s Head was once connected to it; erosion has left the 2,195-foot block standing separate as a prominent sentinel over the city.
Lion’s Head is for the most part a scenic, if a bit strenuous (it climbs 2,000 vertical feet in just over a mile), hike … until the end. To reach the summit block, a series of chains, metal rungs, and ladders scales the vertical rock that makes up the prominent, bare top. It’s not difficult—but you would not want to fall. Beyond the adrenaline rush, take some leisurely time to enjoy the place, too. The lush vegetation here is Fynbos, the Afrikaans word for the endemic flora, scrub bush, and wildflowers you will only find here (rooibos tea comes from some of these plants). And on the best days, a soft sea breeze gives you some relief from the huffing and puffing of the hike. It’s a local tradition to climb Lion’s Head during a full moon, when the thrill-and-chill factor goes up and, at the top, the pale light reflects off the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Table Bay on the other with the lights of Cape Town spread out under your feet.
Thrill Factor: Plenty of people do this hike every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Only attempt the rungs and chains to the top of Lion’s Head if you are comfortable with exposure and your skills—the only protection is hanging on to the metal. Hikers have died here. The chains were upgraded in 2012, however, making for a safer, but still risky, method of ascent.
Take It Easy: There is actually an easier, alternate path around the chains to the top of Lion’s Head—less of a thrill, but much safer (especially if you are on a full moon hike).
courtesy of: http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/adventure