Mount Elgon National Park is located on the western side of Kenya along the border of Uganda where it shares sister protection with Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park under the same name. The Kenyan national park encompasses an area of 494 square miles (1,179 sq km).
Mount Elgon is the pinnacle attraction within the park reaching a summit of 14,177 feet (4,321 m). It is believed to be the oldest extinct volcano in East Africa. Sitting atop the plateau, the mountain rises 10,070 feet (3,070 m) from base to summit.
Mount Elgon is 50 miles (80 km) in diameter and features five separate peaks. The highest point is the Wagagai peak. In descending order, the remaining peaks include: Sudek 14,114 feet (4,302 m), Koitobos 13,852 feet (4,222 m), Mubiyi 13,816 feet (4,211 m), and Masaba 13,652 feet (4,161 m).
The highest and two lowest peaks are actually located in Uganda with the second highest being right on the border and shared between Kenya and Uganda. Koitobos is the third highest peak and the only one solely in Kenya.
The Elgon caldera is one of the largest intact calderas in the world rivaling the Tanzania neighbor Ngorogoro Crater caldera which holds the title as the world’s largest. The slopes of the mountain feature diverse vegetation including montane forest, moorland, and tundra.
Although the park is fairly small, it features diverse habitats which include savannah, montane forest, woodland, and alpine moorlands noted earlier. During the months of June and July, Mount Elgon National Park is renowned with locals for its abundance of wildflowers that blanket across the moorlands. Orchids are one of the flowering highlights.
The landscape of the park includes cliffs, waterfalls, caves, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and of course with Mount Elgon mountain summits. Four of the caves can be explored with Kitum cave descending 656 feet (200 m) into the side of Mount Elgon. The hot springs which reach temperatures of 118 °F (48 °C) can be seen in the volcano’s crater.
Elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, antelope, duiker, giant forest hog, bushpig, and the beautiful black and white colobus monkeys are some of the more commonly seen wildlife species. Leopard, hyena and the African wild cat are predator species that visitors can hope to see.
Although it is not as popular for birdwatching as Lake Nakuru National Park, there are still 144 species of birds within the park for bird lovers to keep their eyes open.
The lookout at Endebess Bluff provides visitors with a stunning panoramic view of the landscape which includes sights of gorges, mesas, rivers, and more. This is a two hike to reach but worth the effort.
Mount Elgon is a massive volcanic mountain with many highlights that include the summit and accompanying views, the hot springs in the volcano crater, and the varied vegetation. Hiking up the mountain is an exhilarating experience that gives travelers a great chance to experience nature outside the car which is not possible in most other Kenyan national parks.
Most people who come to Africa anticipate mountains and wildlife, so the Kitum and other caves make for an out-of-the-box highlight.
Mount Elgon National Park Trails:
Mount Elgon National Park is one of the few parks in Kenya that allow hiking or trekking. Wildlife is present but poses little danger. Hikers are still advised to pay attention to their surroundings and respect animals as the wildlife that they are.
This trail takes about 2 hours to reach the lookout point from the trailhead that starts along the road.
Hikers can take the more adventurous trek up Mount Elgon to the Kenyan Koitoboss Peak.
Kitum Cave travels 656 feet (200 m) inside Mount Elgon. Visitors can hike into the cave and explore the inside of this renowned mountain.
Mount Elgon Highlights
- Mount Elgon
- Kitum cave
- Endebess Bluff
- Discover Africa, Mount Elgon National Park, https://www.discoverafrica.com/safaris/mount-elgon/, retrieved December 2019.
- Focus East Africa Tours, Mount Elgon National Park Kenya, https://www.focuseastafricatours.com/attractions-in-kenya/mount-elgon-national-park-kenya/, retrieved December 2019.
- Kenya Wildlife Service, Mount Elgon National Park, http://www.kws.go.ke/content/mount-elgon-national-park, retrieved December 2019.
- Lonely Planet, Mt Elgon National Park, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/kenya/mt-elgon-national-park , retrieved December 2019.
- Rough Guides, Mount Elgon National Park Travel Guide, https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/africa/kenya/western-kenya/mount-elgon-national-park/ , retrieved December 2019.
- William, J.G., National Parks of East Africa, HarperCollins Publisher, 1995