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Hiking Kenya is a unique experience | © Jean Wandimi
Hiking Kenya is a unique experience | © Jean Wandimi

The Ultimate Hiker's Guide to Kenya

Picture of Jean Wandimi
Updated: 4 May 2017

Just like Northern Ireland, Toronto and Lithuania, Kenya has some amazing hiking trails, with varying levels of difficulty and terrain – from rocky and volcanic to steep and mountainous. To make the best of it, here’s our guide to hiking in Kenya.

Why go

Hiking offers a unique experience for people to exercise, escape life’s distractions, see and be in tune with nature. Over the past few years, Kenyans have taken a keen interest in hiking, walking and exploring. They usually travel on weekends or holidays. This upsurge of domestic travelers is evidenced by travel companies offering affordable weekend packages, like hiking and sightseeing.

From below the trees | © Wamathai Wandeto

Difficulty

Most of the trails are easy, and they include park trails and nature walks (Ngong Hills, Nairobi Arboretum, and Karura Forest) while others are hard, like the Zaina Forest Trail, Mt Elgon, and Kakamega Forest. Mt Kenya is one of the most treacherous and tiring hikes of all. This hiking trail is for seasoned trekkers, and people should have guides and equipment. What makes it hard is the terrain, the long distance, and the cold, thin air due to changes in altitude. People are always advised to exercise a few weeks before the climb so their body can handle it. The Kakamega Forest hiking trail is perfect for beginners, as it is not so rocky or winding.

Valleys in Central Province | © Wamathai Wandeto

The terrain

Kenya is such a diverse country, with many different types of terrain. Mountains and ranges tend to be steeper, while nature trails and parks tend to be flatter and more manageable. There are also craters, which are flat at the top but steep on the sides. The topography, soil, and types of plants are all factors that influence how hard a hiking spot will be. Mt Elgon has a lot of moorland and small peaks that offer stunning views. The mountain has caves, forests, and geothermal springs. Many local guides can help hikers decide on a trail and route to take.

Saturday hiking | © Jean Wandimi

Best time to go

There are different climbing seasons for different trails. However, on Mt Kenya, the climbing season is July to October. In Kenya, there are long rains from March or April to May or June, and short rains from October to November and December. People tend to avoid hiking during rainy months because the paths are slippery, and the weather cold and foggy.

Forest | © Wamathai Wandeto

Places to buy food

Supermarkets in the country include Naivas and Nakumatt, and they have many supplies. Depending on the county you are in, one can buy water and snacks in different shops. There are also many small shops and markets to buy fruit and other supplies. Most of these hiking trails often have canteens at the entrance of the area, but some of them are expensive. The best thing is to buy food before you get there.

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” #seekenya

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Routes to follow

Most of the hiking spots have marked trails, and they have more than one path to follow. There have been stories of hikers getting lost in different places in the country, and it is always advisable to have a guide. In case a person is in a new hiking ground, they should always follow a guide. In group trekking, it is essential to keep check of other team members, to ensure no one has been left behind or gotten lost. Some routes are in the forest, and people can encounter wild animals when going off track, so it is always wise to follow the guide, as they will know how to best handle the situation.

Some famous hiking spots

Mt Kenya trail has many routes, and the climb takes five to six days. The Menengai Crater is located over Nakuru Town and has a diameter of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), and is over 500 meters (1650 feet) deep. The hike is about six hours. Another popular hike is the Mt Longonot hike. This mountain is 2100 meters (6890 feet) high, and the walk takes a day. It is extremely tiring because of the steep and rocky terrain, however this is the best group hike. Kakamega Forest is an easy trail, with unique flora and fauna. The location of the forest is also ideal because people can explore different accommodation options. There are different guest houses and campsites, and people can get guides to help them out. Mt Elgon also has some peaks that are perfect for rock climbers. See this guide for more information, and our guide to the top 10 trekking trails in Kenya.

💦💦💦 #seekenya

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