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Hike Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago is a prime trekking mountain in Uganda, East Africa. It is located on the Uganda and Kenya borders has the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km) making it the fourth highest mountain in Eastern Africa.
Hike Mount Elgon

Mount Elgon’s highest peak is Wagagi Peak at 4321 meters above sea level, making it the second highest peak in Uganda, after Margarita Peak of Rwenzori Mountain

It is off the beaten tourist track, less crowded than Kilimanjaro and undiscovered and has craters covering over 40km at the top of the mountain, surrounded by a series of rugged peaks. Because there are very few people that hike this mountain, one has a great chance of spotting wildlife.

It also has many waterfalls on its slopes and hot springs that one can soak in.

Mount Elgon gets its name from its Massai name of “Ol Doinyo Ilgoon” which translates to “Breast Mountain” and was also known as “Masaba” on the Ugandan side.

Mount Elgon Sipi Falls
Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago is a prime trekking mountain in Uganda, East Africa. It is located on the Uganda and Kenya borders has the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km) making it the fourth highest mountain in Eastern Africa.

It’s Flora and Fauna is beautiful and as you ascend the mountain’s slopes, you will pass through dense montane forest and mixed bamboo belts. You will then enter the fascinating heath and moorland zones containing several interesting endemic plant species such as Giant lobelia and groundsels. You will also be able to spot primates such as the Black and White Colobus Monkey, Blue Monkey, and a variety of fascinating bird species, including Golden Winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Ross’s and Hartlaubs Turacos, Black and White Casqued and Crowned Hornbills, the endangered Lammergeier and the Jackson’s Francolin which is found nowhere else in Uganda. On a lucky day, you can also see buffalo, duiker, hyena or even the elusive leopard.

Mount Elgon has the following five peaks;
Wagagai (4,321 meters); Uganda.
Sudek (4,302 meters); Kenya/Uganda border
Koitobos (4,222 meters); Kenya
Mubiyi (4,211 meters); Uganda
Masaba (4,161 meters); Uganda

What to do in Mount Elgon

Trekking Trailheads and Routes
Trekking and hiking are one of the major activities in Mount Elgon. One can trek the two main trailheads which are also starting points and lead to the mountain’s peaks. Salsa Trail which is also Buddukiro trailhead is the most easily accessible from Mbale town and is the most direct route to the peaks. It passes through the Park’s largest area of bamboo forest. However it is also a steep and rugged climb of over 1600m on the first day. For a gentler climb (660m on Day 1) you may choose to ascend via Pisa trail, Kapkwata trailhead. Along this route you can explore a vast Podocarpus forest, and it is an excellent place for wildlife viewing.

The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes 4-5 days to complete. You are encouraged to discuss options with an Information Clerk at the Male, Budadiri or Kapkwata Visitors’ Centers.

Day Hikes in Mount Elgon
The Forest Exploration Centre has three day trails ranging between 3km and 7 km. With this trail, expect to experience Mt. Elgon’s unique plants and wildlife in a short time. A fourth trail has recently been opened to reach the enormous Tutum Cave, 11 km from the centre which also passes through a range of vegetation types and offers opportunities to see wildlife like the Black and White Colobus Monkeys and countless birds of this area.

Bird Watching in Mount Elgon
Mount Elgon is great for travelers interested in Bird watching, and during the hikes one should look out for the feathered beauties of this area. The secondary forest and thick scrub along the Chebonet River near camp is home to birds like the African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catchers, Chin-spot Batis, Mackinon’s Fiscal, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes and Baglafecht Weaver among others

What to do Outside the Park

Sipi Falls trails on Mount Elgon
Sipi Trail on Mount Elgon

Hike to the Sipi Falls
Visitors can go for guided walks to the Sipi Falls. The beautiful Falls are located 66 km from Mbale, en-route to the Forest Exploration Centre and Kapkwata. There are different hikes to different Sipi falls, which pass through local villages. Guides are available to go with you on a 1.5 hour walk to the Forest Exploration Centre.

Rock Climbing
There are seven rock climbing routes that are open at Nagudi rock, half-way between Mbale and Budadiri. The routes are bolted, however climbers must bring their own rock-climbing equipment. Each rock climber makes payment to the local Parish treasurer. More information and directions are available at the MENP Visitor’s Centre office in Mbale.

Different routes to Mount Elgon on the Uganda Side.

The Sasa River Route is one of the best routes to take up to the mountain. It offers a great opportunity to see wildlife that include monkeys, duikers among others. It also offers side trips to waterfalls, hot springs, the crater floor and other summits. 6 Days are recommended for this route

The Pisawa Route is also another route used a lot from Kapwata. It is longer and less steep than the Sasa River Route. Round trip distance is 49km and seven days are recommended for this route

The Sipi Route is a recent route from Sipi Falls and can make a fine loop with the Sasa River Route. Round trip distance to this route is 56km and four to six days are recommended for the hikers

The Suam Trail is still inactive and once it is opened up for tourism, we will include it on our hiking itineraries.

ACCOMMODATION
Basic accommodation is available inside the Park at the Kapkwata Rest House and the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai. You need to make arrangements before through the MENP Visitors’ office in Mbale. They do not accommodate large numbers of visitors. Kitchen services are available, but visitors should bring their own food supplies or provide money to buy food on arrival.

The Forest Exploration Centre also conducts a four-day environmental program for school groups of up to 30 students which allow children to experience a living forest ecosystem while learning the importance of conservation. It has dormitory – style rooms and bathing facilities with running water.

WHAT TO BRING

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Warm clothes
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Sturdy hiking shoes
  • Flashlight
  • Water bottle
  • Rain gear
  • First aid kit
  • Cooking equipment
  • Enough food supplies.

Time Needed for Climb
The climb can be completed in 3 long or 4 shorter days. Five days or more are recommended in order to visit the hot springs and crater, in addition to the summit.

Best Time to Climb
Best time for trekking Mount Elgon is during the dry season. However, even in the wetter months trekking is manageable. No technical climbing equipping or skills are required, and all major peaks are accessible to hikers.

There are two dry seasons

  • Mid December through March
  • June and July

Camping
You can camp near Budadiri, but the hotel is cheap.The normal campsites on the mountain are Sasa River and Mude Cave camps. No camping is allowed in the crater. There are no usable huts on the mountain at this time.

How to get to Mount Elgon while in Uganda
To get to the trailhead, make your way by bus to Tororo and then Mbale. From Mbale catch a “matatu” (mini-bus) to Budadiri. This is the trailhead. There are hotels is Mbale and one in Budadiri.

Gorilla Link Tours will arrange everything for the climb (permits, porters, and a guide) in the national park service station in Budadiri.

Recommended trekking itineraries to Mount Elgon

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