The Best Places to Cycle Around Nairobi
Riders during the Mount Kenya Epik Cycling Challenge in Laikipia, Kenya | © Make it Kenya/Flickr
Cycling might not be the most obvious mode of transport for getting around Africa, but why not take things at a leisurely pace and get on your bike.
If you are looking for an escape from the city’s frenetic pace then Nairobi, East Africa’s safari capital, hosts a growing cycling community. Here are some excellent spots to cycle in and around the city.
The Ngong Hills
The Ngong Hills are located to the south-west of Nairobi, nestled along the Great Rift Valley. The word ‘Ngong’ translates to ‘knuckles’ in the Maasai language, referring to the four stand-alone hill peaks along the ridge. From these hills, The Nairobi National Park is visible to the east, the city of Nairobi to the north, and the expanse of the Great Rift Valley to the West. Glorious cycling trails run through the Kibiku Forest, along the Ngong Hills ridge and to the windmills at the top, with the latter being a more technical route. Just 25 minutes’ drive from the city, Ngong Hills has many dirt roads, tarmac roads, a few single tracks, moderate climbs and accessible trails, and is a perfect experience for a keen cyclist.
Hell’s Gate National Park
Situated 90km north-west of Nairobi, Hell’s Gate National Park is well worth the three-hour drive. The park earned its name from the intense geothermal activity that occurs within its boundaries, and covers almost a quarter of the Great Rift Valley region. There are bikes for hire at the gate, so get ready to test your fitness level on the trails that cover 15 to 40kms and feature gorgeous water-eroded gorges, towering cliffs, majestic rock formations, dormant volcanoes and the occasional appearance from local wildlife. Hell’s Gate is great for full-day cycle safaris from Nairobi because of its biodiversity; hikers and cyclists can enjoy everything from rock climbing to taking a dip in the natural geothermal spa. On the buffalo cycling circuit (named after the ferocious herbivores that roam parts of the park), visitors get a peek of the stunning Lake Naivasha below, and both Mount Longonot and Mount Suswa to the east.
The Tea and Coffee Farms of Kiambu and Tigoni
About 30km north of the city, the tea and coffee farms of Kiambu and Tigoni are truly breathtaking with their distinct change of pace, climate, and stunning scenery. They also have some of the most adventurous cycling trails in Kenya. Depending on your cycling ability and confidence level, there are tarmac roads, single tracks and jeep tracks to choose from. Cyclists would need to speak with the farm owners beforehand to get permission to ride through the trails, but there are also public roads cutting through brilliantly green valleys. Be prepared for steep climbs and downhills for most of your cycling adventure here. You just might find yourself at 2,000m looking down at Mount Longonot’s peak and Nairobi’s skyscrapers on the horizon on a clear day.
The Oloolua Nature Trail
The 5km Oloolua Nature Trail can be found in the upmarket suburb of Karen, where 250 hectares of the indigenous tropical dry Oloolua forest stands. The forest is also home to the Institute of Primate Research run by The National Museums of Kenya. The Oloolua Nature Trail was carved out from part of the forest to provide an oasis for city residents looking for somewhere to walk their dogs, take a short hike, jog, or just have a relaxed picnic. Organised groups also visit to learn about environmental conservation through guided tours in the forest. The trail ambles through thick forest vines and undergrowth below giant indigenous trees and bushes. In some places it follows the course of the Mbagathi River that cuts through the forest.
Karura Forest is Nairobi’s most frequented cycling destination, and with good reason. It offers a clean, quiet and well-maintained cycling trail, away from the concrete jungle and the hustle and bustle of the main highways. Additionally, cyclists can choose from a range of designated trails suitable for different cycling abilities, starting with simpler 5km loops to more technical 15km paths with steep ascents and single tracks. Karura Forest is great for leisure cyclists and families looking for a brief stint on the saddle, but is also challenging enough for the hardcore cyclist who wants to break a sweat and claim the trails. There are bikes available for hire, and in case you need a break you can spice up your cycling experience by checking out the Mau Mau Caves – where Kenyan freedom fighters hid from colonialists before independence – or explore the waterfall and reconnect with nature.
These recommendations were updated on April 8, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.