Fairend Safaris

Hiking and Mountaineering in Uganda

Uganda is not well known when it comes to mountaineering compared to the neighboring countries like Tanzania and Kenya. Despite having a snow-capped mountain there are few travelers who visit Mountain Rwenzori for hiking. It is located in the Southwest part of the country in Kasese district. The pearl of Africa is one of the few places in the world where you can have a wide range of activities for a holiday. Most safaris range from wildlife safaris to gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, mountaineering, and birding. The country has great places for hiking and mountaineering.

Where to go for Mountaineering in Uganda

Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains also known as Mountains of the Moon offer a mystical challenge. It became a national park in 1991, a World Heritage Site in 1994, and a Ramsar site in 2008.This place is one of the world’s most technical mountains to hike with the highest peak at 5109 meters. Travelers use at least 7 days to get to the summit margherita using either the central circuit or the southern circuit.

Getting to the peak is not easy so if you are not an experienced hiker you can opt for other places to enjoy this activity. The mountain has unique vegetation composition with luxuriant vegetation on the lower slopes, snow, and ice on the upper levels. This allows hikers to enjoy other activities during their hike like animal viewing and birding. The best time to hike the Rwenzori Mountains is during the dry months of December to February and June to August.

Mountain Elgon

Mountain Elgon boasts as the world’s most excellent surface area of any extinct volcano. It is located on the Kenyan-Ugandan border and is named after Mount Elgon. An extinct shield volcano that erupted more than 24 million years ago. On the lower slopes of Mountain Elgon, there are animals which include Elephants, buffalo, and antelopes that call this place home. There are hiking routes that are open all year and do not require any special climbing equipment or technical experience.

The hiking routes on Mount Elgon are less crowded than any other hiking trails in East Africa and these include;

Sipi Trail

The Sipi trail is the longest trail at 56 kilometers and takes about 4-6 days to complete. It starts at the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre which is a few kilometers from Sipi Falls. There are opened three shorter paths ranging from 3 to 7 kilometers for inexperienced hikers.

Piswa Trail

The Piswa trail is gentler and one covers about 49 kilometers to finish the hike which takes approximately 7 days. The trail begins at an elevation of 2,190 meters near the settlement of Kapkwata on the mountain’s north flank. It is well-known for its breathtaking views of the Karamoja Plains in Uganda and the Nandi Hills in Kenya

Sasa Trail

The Sasa trail is the shortest but most challenging trail and it takes about four days to complete. This is the original route up Mount Elgon’s peak Wagagai which stands at 4,321 meters above sea level. The path begins at an elevation of 1,250 meters in the town of Budadiri then there is a 1,650m rise that enters the jungle. It leads to the Mudangi Cliffs which are reached via ladders then proceed to a 2.5-hour trek.It goes through a beautiful bamboo forest then finally to Wagagai

Virunga Mountains in Mgahinga National Park

The Virunga Mountains are a chain of extinct volcanoes that form part of a larger nature reserve that extends into Rwanda and DRC. These volcanoes are Mount Sabinyo, Mount Karisimbi, Muhabura, Bisoke  Mikeno, Nyiragongo, Gahinga, and Nyamuragira.

Mount Sabinyo

Mount Sabinyo stands at 12,037 feet and serves as a boundary for the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC. It is one of the most difficult volcanoes to hike in the virunga ranges. Hiking Sabinyo is currently only possible from Uganda because the other two countries have rocky peaks. Mountain gorillas, elephants, buffaloes, and other forest antelopes live on the mountain slopes. These can be seen by travelers during the hike.

Mount Gahinga

Mount Gahinga is the smallest of volcanoes found in the Virunga Mountain ranges. This extinct volcano is 3,474 meters tall and is located between Uganda and Rwanda. It is located between Mt. Muhabura and Mt. Sabinyo and has a 180m wide caldera. The mountain slopes are largely covered in bamboo and sub-alpine flora. Primates such as mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, Vervet monkeys, baboons, and black and white Colobus monkeys thrive on the bamboo in this section of the mountain.

Mount Muhabura

Mount Muhabura also known as Muhavura stands at 4,127 metres and is the hardest of the volcanoes in the Virunga Ranges to climb. However, it is not the tallest but it is exceedingly steep, and the hike must be completed in one day. To reach the summit and return safely, one must be mentally prepared and physically capable. Hiking this volcano is possible in both Uganda and Rwanda. There are three resting points while climbing Mount Muhabura the first at 3,116 meters above sea level, the second at 3855 meters, and the final one at the summit at 4,127 meters.

Mountain Moroto

Mountain Moroto is an ancient extinct volcano in the Karamoja region and is the most easily accessible destination for viewing some of the northeastern bird species. The mountain is a scenic landscape to some, but also home to around 40,000 Tepeth people. They are possibly the region’s earliest inhabitants of Karamoja and they live on Mount Moroto’s hills. Hiking this mountain is not common due to unending conflicts in this region but it is possible to hike there. If you make the journey up, you’ll be rewarded with cave paintings, waterfalls, and a variety of bird species.

What is the best time for hiking in Uganda?

The best time of year to hike in Uganda is the dry season. This will give you the best chance of having less muddy trails and milder temperatures. When hiking taller mountains like Mt. Sabinyo, Mt. Elgon, and the Rwenzoris one should be prepared for all types of weather as it changes from time to time.

The dry seasons are between December to February and June to August. December to February is the longest and warmest of the two periods, though the temperature is relative to the region in which you will be hiking.

What to pack for  hiking in Uganda

Some of the essentials to carry for a hike are:

  • Hiking boots that have a great grip and should be waterproof. These will enable you to make hiking easier since the terrain is steep.
  • A hat and sunglasses since dry seasons are sunny and hot
  • Snacks, and bottled water to keep you hydrated and energised
  • A headlamp or torch
  • Camera and extra batteries to capture the moments.
  • A tent or sleeping gear
  • Warm clothing and jackets especially if you hike to the top peaks of Rwenzori.
  • Sunsreen and a first aid kit.