Mountain Hiking

The Pearl of Africa offers fantastic trekking opportunities to make your hiking and trekking trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

While on a combined hiking and wildlife safari, you will be up close and personal with the greatest wildlife and primates.

Mt. Rwenzori, the fourth highest mountain in Africa, has peaks adorned with permanent glaciers. It provides an incredible array of snow-capped peaks right next to the equator.

Mt Elgon, found on the opposite side, bordering Kenya, provide fantastic scenery and is rich with culture, dense forests and bamboo belts. It’s volcano is extinct with an enormous crater, surrounded by several jagged peaks. You will have opportunity to explore ancient caves and zip past spectacular cliffs, with streams cascading, creating dramatic waterfalls.

Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains or the “Mountains of the Moon” as they are commonly referred to are found along the Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo border.

Rwenzori is the highest peak in Uganda and the fourth highest in Africa. Rwenzori is known primarily for its challenging hiking among East African Mountains. Rwenzori is not volcanic in origin, but it rises directly from the Rift Valley floor.

Mt. Stanley/ Margherita has permanently snowcapped peaks which often melt into rivers flowing to the lowland areas such as River Nyamwamba and River Mubuku at the base of the mountain. The Rwenzori’s support an array of rare and endemic wildlife, tropical rain forests, 177 bird species, with several being Albertine Rift endemics, beautiful waterfalls, stunning glaciers, rivers, and lakes.

Mountain Rwenzori is one of Africa’s top hiking destinations. With five spectacular high peaks, the trails are not crowded, and the beautiful high-altitude forests make for an awe-inspiring experience for the mountain climbers.

The mountain is rich in different ecosystems. The vegetation cover changes with the gain in altitude, it’s like walking through different realms of the same universe.

Travelers follow different trail depending on their fitness level and the endpoint:

  • Central Circuit- Longest trail- 8 days to Margherita.
  • Muhoma Loop- easier trail- 3 days.
  • Chimpanzee Trail- 1 day.
  • Kilembe Trail- 1 day

Margherita Peak is the highest peak among the 6 snowcapped peaks.

  • Margherita Peak at 5109m ASL
  • Alexandra peak at 5083m ASL
  • Albert peak at 5087m ASL
  • Mt. Speak at 4889m ASL
  • Mt. Baker at 4843m ASL
  • Mt. Gess at 4797m ASL
  • Mt. Emin at 4791m ASL
  • Mt. Luigi de Savio at 4626m ASL

A Rwenzori Mountain Hike

The trek starts at Nyakalengija trailhead (1600 metres) where you will be briefed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) prior to commencing the trek. The trek will take you past Bakonjo homesteads dwarfed by steep foothills and banana plantations. Then follow the trail along the Mubuku River to then cross the Mahoma River before steadily climbing through Podocarpus Forest and overnight Nyabitaba Hut (2650 meters).

On the second day, you follow a small trail dropping down through the forest to the Kurt Shafer Bridge, just below the convergence of the Bujuku and Mubuku Rivers. The forest turns into a bamboo zone where the trail is moss covered and slippery. A zone of the giant heather, groundsel and lobelia vegetation emerges at the Nyamileju rock shelter before traversing to the hut. You will overnight at John Matte Hut (3350 meters).

You will hike through the trail that crashes down to cross the Bujuku River and enters home to giant lobelias, the Lower Bigo Bog. You will cross the bog to the Upper Bog before continuing to Lake Bujuku where views of the highest mountain can be seen. You will overnight at Bujuku Hut (3900 meters).

After Bujuku, you climb the boggy trail up the slopes west of the lake, passing through the paranormal gully and then ascend to the Scott Elliott Pass (4372 meters). A metal ladder takes you on an extremely steep section after which the trail branches; Elena Hut is on the right, and heads to Mt. Stanley over a steep rocky trail, the left leads to the Scott Elliot Pass and down to Lake Kitandara. You will overnight at Elena Hut (4541 meters).

For those who do not wish to climb the peak, you can choose a more restful day walking from Elena Hut (4541 meters) to Lake Kitandara (4023 meters). For those who wish to climb up, but also depending on altitude sickness, visibility and climbing ability you will climb a further three hours to Margherita peak (5109 meters) and later down to Kitandara Hut. You will trek to the Elena glacier before going to the Stanley Plateau. You will climb to the highest point of the Rwenzori, the Margherita summit. You will then return down to the Scott Elliot pass, with magical views of the Bujuku Lake and Mt. Speke at a distance and then continue down to Lake Kitandara and overnight at Kitandara Hut (4027 meters).

You will climb from the base of Mt. Baker to the Fresh Field Pass (4280 meters) on the south side of the mountain. You can view the Congo to the west, Mt. Stanley to the north from there. The boggy trail will continue downwards, passing the rock shelter at Bujangalo. You will overnight at Guy Yeoman Hut (3262 meters).

The trail to Nyabitaba Hut can be very slippery and muddy underfoot. Overnight Nyakalengija trailhead (1600 meters).

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Mount Elgon

Mountain Elgon, named by the Maasai, Elgonyi, lies in eastern Uganda on the border with Kenya at 4321m, with its highest peak Wagagai situated on the Ugandan side. It was once the highest peak but soil erosion reduced it and is now the 8th highest peak in Africa and the 4th in East Africa. Suam and Turkwel rivers tap the swamps on the caldera’s uneven floor. The vegetation starts with moorland zone, containing tree heaths, lobelias and giant groundsels that extends down to 3,050 m, where it is succeeded by bamboo forest then by temperate deciduous forest found below 2,550 m. The western slopes is occupied by Bantu-speaking Gishu who are cultivators of coffee, bananas, millet, and maize.

Apart from climbing Mt. Elgon, one can enjoy the fascinating wildlife along the slopes, varied vegetation, water pools, falls, caves, community walks and breath taking scenery.

There are two major trails to the peak;

  • Sasa trail or Budadiri trailhead which is accessible from Mbale, is the more direct to the peaks and goes through the bamboo forest.
  • Piswa trail which is easier to hike than Sasa trail.

A Mount Elgon hike may include both trails with the climb starting by ascending via the Sasa trail and then descend via the Piswa trail. This journey starts from Budadiri to the trail that leads to Sasa River Camp which may take approximately 2 hours. Climb to Sasa Patrol Hut for approximately two hours then take a one hour climb to Mude Cave campsite.

You may continue on a two-hour climb up to Jackson’s summit 4,192 m, if you are a strong hiker. You then proceed to climb to Wagagai Peak (4,321 m). This takes approximately 4 hours. After some rest, return to Mude Cave for an overnight, then descend to the Caldera and hot springs and camp at the Hunter’s Cave. The trail then heads to Piswa Patrol Hut. From there, connect to Kamnarkut and later trek to Kapchorwa taking about about 5-6 hours. You can also explorer the communities, visit the Sipi Falls or conduct a coffee tour.

The Sipi Falls

The Sipi Falls is arguably the most beautiful waterfalls, it’s a set of three stunning waterfalls (85m, 75m, and 100m) situated along the foothills of Mountain Elgon. The falls originate from the hot springs at the summit of Mount Elgon in the border of Uganda and Kenya.

Mountains Of Karamoja

This mountain is a less strenuous, off the beaten track, climb which includes cultural encounters and breathtaking views.

Karamoja plateau is defined by a string of volcanic mountains starting from;

  • Mount Moroto (3,083m)
  • Mount Kadam(3,063m)
  • Mount Morungole (2,749m)

Mount Napak (2,538m).

Mt Moroto

This is the highest mountain at 3,083m in the Karamoja region with numerous peaks. The hike includes gigantic views over the endless plains of the valley from which the green majestic mountain ridges arise. You will explore this magical paradise with bright and clear milky way.

Mt Kadam

This is the second highest, volcanic mountain of the Karamoja region with the highest peak at 3,063 meters. Located just north of Mount Elgon near the east border of Karamoja. It was first climbed by Sailesh Kadam.

It is home to many surrounding agricultural tribes living in small settlements including Pokot, Karamojong, Gishu, Tepeth, Sebei, and the Kadama. You will enjoy front row seats of the sunset and sunrise and explore a high-altitude rain forest.

Mt Napak

This is Karamoja’s third highest mountain at 2,538m, known for its steepness and lush vegetation, it is said to be the toughest mountain to climb.

Due to its unique location within the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, you will see breathtaking views of the Karamoja planes.

The Karamojong and Iteso people live at the fertile foot of the mountain because the steepness of the mountain makes it unfavorable for people to live on it.

Mt Morogule

Mount Morungole, also known as Ikland standing at 2750 meters is located in the northern hills of Karamoja overlooking the vast Kidepo and Narus plains of the park. The unique, small tribe of Uganda called the Ik live here. The hike could take you a full day from 7 am to 5 pm where you will find stunningly beautiful breathtaking scenery the higher your climb.

The mountain is also crossed by the Kidepo and Narus rivers. You may visit the traditional beekeepers to experience how they extract the honey from the community-owned bee hives.

Narus Valley

Narus means muddy ground or soggy place in Karamojong language. The natural terrain is defined by magnificent hills gently rolling towards the north setting of the Narus valley. The valley soils are sandy and water does not easily seep through thus retaining it and creating a permanent oasis for the Karamoja people who depend on it as a watering spot for their large herds of livestock.

The valley starts from Mt Morungole and traverses the Kidepo Valley National Park plains onto South Sudan.

The vegetation cover provides a perfect beautiful African savanna with grasslands (guinea grass, thatching grass as dominant species), thorny acacias, sausage trees, desert dates and other tree species scattered in all corners.

The valley has a clear track such as Katurum track that is ideal to spot lions, elephants, zebras, kudus, elephants, Uganda kob, Oryx, caracal, Bat-eared fox, hyenas ,Cheetahs, giraffe, bushbucks, Jackson hartebeest, oribi, bush pig, side-striped jackals, warthogs, Reedbucks, waterbucks, Klipspringer, buffalo, the dikdik, and many more. The Narus Dam and watering hole attracts animals to quench their thirst in the hot scorching sun.

Namamukweny Valley

Namamukweny valley means a place with no birds, though the meaning of the word is not true. Some of the bird species found here are Green hood hoopoe, white crested turaco, Abyssinian roller, Eastern paradise whydah among others. The valley can be accessed on foot or by car when in Kidepo.

Would you like to go mountain hiking in Uganda?