Hiking Mount Elgon


Hiking Mount Elgon; With an area coverage of 494 square miles, Mount Elgon National Park hosts the famous Mount Elgon from which it derived its name. This extinct volcano is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features and is believed to have first erupted around 24 million years ago. Mount Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m. However, millennia of erosion have reduced its height to 4,321m, relegating it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the continent. Regarding the national park’s establishment, Uganda’s section was elevated from a forest reserve into a national park in 1992.

hiking Mount Elgon

The structure of the mountain

At 4,000km², Mt. Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border, it is also the oldest and largest solitary volcanic mountain in East Africa. Its vast form, 80km in diameter, rises over 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer respite from the hot tables below, with the higher altitudes providing a refuge for various flora and fauna.

The inhabitant tribes of the mountain

Mount Elgon is home to two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny, and the marginalised Ndorobos, who were forced to dwell deep within the forest of Benet.

Interestingly, the Bagisu, also known as the Bamasaba, consider Mount Elgon to embody their founding father, Masaba, and thus refer to the mountain by this name.

The largest caldera in the world

Did you know that Mount Elgon has the largest caldera in the world? This spectacular feature is 60 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide. Furthermore, this particular caldera resulted from magma getting drained from the bottom leading to the collapse of the cone.

Scientists believe that at a certain point in time, Mount Elgon was the highest mountain in Africa. However, this changed due to millions of years of erosion that reduced its height substantially.

Having the largest caldera in the world makes Mountain Elgon a remarkable tourist attraction as researchers, scientists, and tourists from all over the world go there to explore this extraordinary feature.

A UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve

Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. The higher slopes are protected by the national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive transboundary conservation area declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.

The thrilling hiking experience

A climb on Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains: the ultimate goal of reaching the top of Mt. Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.

Climbing Mount Elgon

Hiking Mount Elgon
Hiking Mount Elgon

Many tourists prefer climbing Mount Elgon to Mountain Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori mountains because it is more affordable, less straining and comfortable even at the summit.

More importantly, the thrill of climbing Mount Elgon is not reaching the Wagagai peak but rather the experience of descending from the mountain to spot the largest caldera on the planet.

Also, the activity takes 4 to 6 days, depending on the trail one uses. While hiking Mount Elgon, there are three main starting points: the Sasa Trail, Pisa Trail and Sipi Trail.

Hiking levels

  • Budadiri to Sasa River camp (1250 – 2900m)
  • Sasa River Camp to Mude Caves Camp (2900 – 3500m)
  • Mude Caves Camp (3500m) to Wagagai (4,321m) and back to Mude Caves Camp
  • Mude Caves camp to Kajere Camp (3,500 – 3,383m)
  • Kajere Camp to Sipi (3,383 – 1,795m)


The slopes of Mount Elgon are covered with various types of vegetation (depending on the altitude), supported by fertile soils. Some vegetation includes; montane forests in the lower areas, bamboo forests on the higher grounds and alpine moorlands as you move towards the summit.


Like all the other national parks in Uganda, Mount Elgon National Park has various wildlife. For instance, over 400 plant and 143 bird species have been recorded.

Another amazing fact about this national park is that half of Uganda’s butterfly species are found there, including the endangered Maathai’s Longlegs dragonfly, which was discovered in 2000.

Additionally, the lower slopes of the mountains support a variety of mammals like black-and-white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, buffaloes, elephants, red-tailed monkeys, spotted hyenas, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck, bushbucks and smaller antelopes.

How can I get to Mount Elgon National Park?

By road

The distance between Kampala city and Mount Elgon National Park is about 230km. It takes 4 to 5 hours to reach Mbale town from Kampala through the villages of Jinja and Iganga.

Also, the journey by road offers a golden chance to stop and see amazing places. Like the source of the River Nile and Mabira forest. From Mbale town, one proceeds to the park offices outside the city. Or head straight to the nearest mountain climbing starting point in Budadiri. Visitors can hire a car or use public means to get to the park, but arranging your travel with us will be more convenient.

By air

Alternatively, you can book a chartered flight from Entebbe International Airport to Soroti Airfield near Mount Elgon. You will then travel by road from the airfield for about one hour before reaching Mbale town or Kapchorwa.

Other attractions in the park

Bird watching;

Bird watching in the Mount Elgon National Park involves spotting bird species that may not be found elsewhere.

There are several places where visitors can view birds, for instance, the thick shrubs, the Cheptui Falls, and the Forest Exploration Center in Kapwai.

Additionally, the national park hosts bird species such as the African Blue Fly-catchers, African Goshawk, Baglafecht Weaver, Black and White Casqued, Chin-spot Batis and the Baglafecht Weaver and others. Hiking Mount Elgon, In Uganda, the endangered Jackson’s Francolin and Lammergeyer are only found in Mount Elgon national park.

Exploration of the Mount Elgon caves;

This is one of the interesting activities you could do on your visit to Mount Elgon National Park. Moreover, the three most visited caves are Chepnyali, Mackingeny and Kitum. These caves attract park mammals like elephants and antelopes that come to lick salt from the cave walls. That said, you could be able to view these animals as well.

Besides those caves, other ancient caves, like those in Budadiri, have paintings from thousands of years ago. For instance, the Khauka and Kapkwai caves in Wanale are a favourite for visitors due to their structure and numerous bats that provide manure from their droppings.

The local people and their domestic animals also used these caves as shelter.

The Nyero Rock Painting Caves outside Mbale town are also worth a visit. These caves were used to shelter the first humans to roam the earth. They left their mark with amazing paintings depicting the kind of lives they lived thousands of years ago.

Forest and Nature Walks;

Due to the heavy rains and fertile soils in Mount Elgon National Park, thick forests and other vegetation are continuously growing, giving a fulfilling touch to nature walks. Visitors can see countless birds, wildlife, and dense montane forest during mountain climbing or visits to the caves.

Game drives and wildlife viewing;

This national park is a perfect destination for wildlife viewing. Moreover, game drives are arranged to give tourists the best wildlife viewing experience. While on a game drive, you can look out for animals like the hyena, leopard and duiker. Several primates are also in the park, such as the blue, vervet, colobus, and others.


The park and its surroundings are suitable for camping. The park authorities set up camping bases along the mountain climbing trails for those hiking to the top. However, camping is not allowed near the caldera itself.

Moreover, visitors interested in camping must carry their camping gear and necessities.

Visiting Sipi Falls: The rivers that flow from the top of the mountain pass through Falls cliffs forming the beautiful Sipi falls. It is important to note that these are the most attractive waterfalls in the area.

Other activities include rock climbing, visits to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Matheniko Wildlife, spiritual, community and cultural encounters, sport fishing, mountain biking, abseiling, Bugisu Arabica coffee tour, and visiting the Abayudaya Jews.

Accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park

Several accommodation facilities are available for visitors to Mount Elgon National Park. Some of them include;

Kapkwai Forest Cottages

These cottages are located at the entrance of Mount Elgon National Park. Furthermore, they were initially designed for students who used to visit forest exploration centres.

However, they are currently open to tourists. The facility has four simple cottages and four tents, accommodating only a few residents per day. Additionally, food and drinks can be purchased from the nearby canteen.

Mbale Resort Hotel

This is a luxury hotel located 2 kilometres away from Mbale town centre and near Mount Elgon. At this hotel, visitors can be abundantly rewarded with stunning views of Wanale Hill and Mount Elgon.

Moreover, the hotel has gorgeous gardens with palm trees and a large parking space. Also, there are other services/amenities such as a restaurant, a large swimming pool, a bar, a gym and a Sauna.

Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa

This Italian-owned hotel is 2 kilometres from the town centre along the Masaba road.

Additionally, there are thirty self-contained rooms with quality bedding and a bathroom. The hotel also has a large garden, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, a pool table, a spa, conference rooms and a small golf field.

Kayegi Hotel

This is a mid-range hotel that is found along Masaba Road. In addition, the services offered are affordable and of high quality, making them outstanding.

At the hotel, there are twenty-five self-contained resident rooms which are surrounded by beautiful gardens. Also, there are conference rooms, a bar, a restaurant, a large parking place and free wireless internet.

Others include Mount Elgon View Hotel, Noah’s Ark Hotel, Masha Hotel, and Sipi River Lodge.

COVID-19 and Ebola travel guidelines

COVID-19 and Ebola are no longer a threat to tourists. However, we encourage you to follow all the necessary travel guidelines to ensure that you are safe and healthy during your safari with us. One of our major priorities is to provide the best possible safety and comfort during your tour, so please rest assured that you will be in safe hands.

Some travel guidelines include wearing and carrying sufficient surgical masks, moving with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, taking a PCR test and several others.


Visiting Mount Elgon National Park and having a mountain climbing adventure will provide an excellent safari experience for you and your loved ones. Make your safari booking with us today, and let us turn your travel dreams into a memorable reality!