Hiking Trails to Mount Kenya

Climbing Mount Kenya

Hiking Routes at the Mount Kenya National Park.  Image Courtesy

Seven Hiking Trail on Mount Kenya: Kamweti Trail, Naro Moru Trail, Burguret Trail, Sirimon Trail, Theemwe Trail, Marania & Chogoria Trail

1. Kamweti Trail to Mount Kenya

The excursion up Kamweti Route commences at Castle Forest Lodge, located about 22 kms from Kerugoya Town. Conquering the Kamweti Route is fairly challenging, largely because it is on the windward side of the mountain that is often marked by a rough underfoot, dense forests, muddy after rains, no huts and a forest trail used more by animals than humans.  The popular Sirimon and Chogoria routes are mostly dry owing to the rain-shadow of Mount Kenya. At Mackinder’s Camp, the Kamweti Routes meets up all other routes for the final climb to conquer Point Lenana.  Having arrived at Mackinder’s, where several circuits branch off from, you might be in luck to join other parties heading to Point Lenana. That is to say, up to this point the Kamweti Track is in the back of beyond. This secluded route takes on average 5 to 7 days (round-trip). It is also, by far, the longest trail up to Point Lenana and it aligns up with Nyamindi West River. That said, it has some pleasing waterfalls along the way, most notably of Kamweti Falls. Mountain Rock gives shrewd insights about the Kamweti Route.

2. Naro Moru Trail to Mount Kenya

Naro Moru trail, maintained by Kenya Wildlife Service and Mountain Club of Kenya, is the most direct access to the higher parts of Mount Kenya. The trail commences at Naro Moru Gate, nearby Naru Moru Police Station, on a pathway which leads through farms to the Forest Station. It follows the Naro Moru River and ends in a clearing at 10,000 feet. If climbing from Naro Moru River Lodge, the path leads to their Met Station Lodge at 10,000 ft. From here, a well marked path continues up the through moorland and vertical bog on a narrow path that goes past the ridge overlooking the Teleki Valley, to Kwarwill’s Hut at 13,500 ft.  From here it’s a sharp trail to Top Hut (15,700 ft.). The distance from the end of the clearing to Top Hut is 9 kms. From Top Hut, the walk goes through Firmin Hut to Lenana. Although the highest levels on the mountain to which a vehicle can penetrate are reached on the Sirimon Track, Naro Moru Route provides the quickest route to Point Lenana. It takes on average just three days (round-trip).

3. Burguret Trail to Mount Kenya

The less travelled wilderness Buruget Route to Point Lenana, descending on the Sirimon or Chogoria trail, is the least hiked of the seven trails, only favoured by parties ascending the mountain with pack-animals. Originally a wild trail, it was the adventuresome mettle of the famed Italian prisoner of war and writer Felice Benuzzi, going-up and descending via Chogoria Route, who first put in under the limelight. Felice’s epic escape in 1943 and his ascend to Mount Kenya using the Burguret Route, aiming to put the Italian Flag on the summit, is detailed in exotic detail in his captivating book “No Picnic on Mount Kenya“. The Buruget Route commences on the west side of Mount Kenya near Mountain Rock Lodge, recognized as the company which revived treks on this route. It also provides a restful base to acclimatize and prepare. Burguret Route extends about 30 kms and takes on average 6 days (round-trip). It is not motorable above Gathiuru Forest Station (15 kms away). From here, the ascent goes through the Bamboo Forest to Giant Bamboo Camp, through the pencil cedar forest to the Highland Base, Shipton’s Camp, Old Moses and Top Hut, before aiming for Point Lenana.

4. Sirimon Trail to Mount Kenya

There are seven public entrances into Mount Kenya National Park: Naro Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria Gates on the east, northeast and west side being the most popular. Sirimon trail 28 kms from Nanyuki Town launches at Sirimon Gate 2600 ms (8530 feet) ASL and is about 25 kms in length to Lenana Peak. This is the most popular starting-point and perhaps the most scenic trail, which is also fairly navigable as it passes on the leeward (drier) side of Mount Kenya. Old Moses Camp, Liki North Camp, Shiptons Camp are the main camps along this route. Once through the gate, it’s a wondrous walk through the moorlands and gallery forests to Old Moses Camp at 3300 ms and the first overnight stop. It takes about 3-4 hrs, gaining in elevation 680 ms, on a moderate gradient. Day 2, leaving Old Moses Camp, the trail returns to the moorlands with switchbacks in alpine heath, past the splendid Mackinders Valley, before reaching Shiptons Camp at 4200 ms, the second night’s stop. Day 2 is long days climb of 14 kms covered in about 7 hours and gaining 900 ms in altitude. Although subject to preference, Day 3 is traditionally a rest day at Shiptons Camp and a useful way to acclimatize and inspirit the beauty of the mountain before the push to Point Lenana. Day 4 kicks-off early, at 3:00 am, on a 3-hours hike to Point Lenana at 4985 ms. The route goes up a steep frozen scree and past Hall Tarn. Mount Kenya Bandas are the layover on Day 4 on the descent. Day 5 is an easy 10 kms descent via Chogoria Route to Chogoria Town on the east-side of Mount Kenya.

5. Theemwe Trail to Mount Kenya

Commencing at Chuguu in Murungurune of South Imenti, Theemwe trail up Mount Kenya is one of the most recent and easiest routes to Point Lenana. At the forest edge, just a 100 ms from the tarmac road, is the first campsite where hikers can layover for the night before ascending the Mount Kenya. The camp has a viewpoint to see all the three peaks early in the morning when the sky is clear with no mist. 5 kms from the camp climbers go past the Theemwe Camp and Lodge which serves as a useful base for those not aiming to climb Mount Kenya to Point Lenana. Of interest for those staying at Theemwe Camp is a visit to the picturesque Makobo Waterfall. The next camp to be reached is the Iraru Camp at the foot of Ithangune Hill. About 2km from Iraru Camp, in stupefying view, is the spellbinding Giant Billiard Table Mountains, sometimes known as Kiringo. Further along River Mutonga is crossed on the approach to Mugi Hills at 3657 ms before reaching the junction splitting Theemwe and Chogoria Trails.

6. Marania Trail to Mount Kenya

Marania Route to Mount Kenya commencing at the Marania Forest Station in Ntirimiti of Kibirichia Location takes on average four days round-trip to Point Lenana. Some sites of interest along Marania Route include Mbaru Crater, Solo Camp (which is located 8-10 hours hike from Marania Gate), Rugushu Stream near Solo Camp and Major’s Camp (about 10 hours hike from Solo Camp). The hike from Major’s Camp to Point Lenana is relatively short and accomplished in three hours. Other highlights include Minto’s Camp reached on the return back from the Major’s Camp on one of two ways to descent the mountain. Marania trail passes through Mount Kenya Forest up to the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership (KESAL) and to the moorland of thick shrubs and glades. Past the moorland, the three peaks – Batian, Nelion and Lenana – are clearly visible.

7. Chogoria Trail to Mount Kenya

Most hikers aiming to hike Chogoria trail make Chogoria Town 58 kms north of Embu and 41 kms south of Meru along B6 Road their starting-off place. The Chogoria Route leaves Mutindua Village above Chogoria Town (to the east of the mountain) and follows a ridge north of the Nithi River to the Urumandi Hut (10,100 ft.) at the forest edge. It continues along a well-marked path along the north ridge of the Gorges Valley to Hall Tarns and finally traverses the eastern and southern slopes of Point Lenana to reach Top Hut. It was the traditional trail up the mountain in the 1920’s, and is still used occasionally by hikers who require the assistance of Meru porters. Its drawback is its length, for the ascent to Top Hut requires three days. Chogoria Route stretches out for 30 kms from Chogoria Gate to Point Lenana on the eastern side of Mount Kenya and it is the longest route to Point Lenana, and perhaps the most difficult of the seven trails. For all the difficulties of using it, hikers are rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime views including Lake Ellis, the Temple, Lake Michaelson, Hall Tarns, the Giant Billiard Table, Ithaguni Hills, Nithi Falls, Vivienne Falls and Mugi Hill. It has spectacular cliffs too. Chogoria has been vouched for as the most scenic route to Point Lenana. From Chogoria Gate it takes on average 5 days, round-trip. Most hikers on arrival at Chogoria Gate opt to drive up through the Bamboo Forests to Mount Kenya Bandas and the first stopover. This shortens the trip down to 4 days. Day 2 takes on the 17 kms stretch to River Nithi Camp over a wide forest track with plenty of wildlife to sights en route. The popular Urumandi Hut near Nithi Falls is no longer in service. From here hikers can scout Nithi Falls, Lake Ellis or Mugi Hills. From Nithi Camp it is 5 hrs to Minto’s and the jumping-off camp to Point Lenana. The pre-dawn final push for Point Lenana begins around 3 am and take about 3-hours, arriving just in time for sunrise. The descent goes through Shimpton, Mackinder’s Valley to Judmiere’s Camp and the last layover.

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