The park has the largest surface area of any extinct Volcano in the world (50km by 80km), Mountain Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in East Africa, with the second highest peak in Uganda (Wagagai peak, 4321 m) second to Margharita peak of the Rwenzori Mountains . Mt Elgon contains the largest intact caldera, a collapsed crater covering over 40kms at the top of the mountain, surrounded by a series of rugged peaks.
While ascending Mount Elgon’s enchanting slopes you will meet four-distinct forest types: the lush montane forest where you will find the Elgon peak, mixed bamboo belt, the fascinating heath and spectacular moorland hyrachs which contain stands of some of the most rare endemic plant species, like the giant lobelia elgonensis and dotted clusters of peculiar groundsels which are unique in Africa.
You will also encounter the dense shrubs and brilliant wild everlasting flowers that will add to your Mount Elgon adventure. Some rare plants are found on the mountain, including, Carduus afromontanus, hoehnelii, Echinops, Ardisiandra wettsteinii
Mt. Elgon consists of five major peaks
Mubiyi (4,211m or 13,816 ft)
Masaba (4,161m or 13,650 ft)
Wagagai (4,321m), being in Uganda.
Sudek (4,302m or 14,140ft) in Kenya
Koitobos (4,222m or 13,248 ft), a flat topped basalt column (Kenya Side)
3-4 hours from Kampala to Mbale (along Kampala – Jinja Road). The trailhead at Budadiri is only 20km from Mbale and is accessible by public transport.
Camping and lodges
Basic campsites and lodges are located at strategic points along the trekking circuit. Like sipi resort, Moses’ camp on the side of Budadiri. Visitors are required to respect park regulations by camping only at designated campsites. Camping equipment must be carried by the campers.
ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES IN MT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Visiting Mt. Elgon National Park presents an exciting setting for extended hikes, interesting and unique flora and fauna, magnificent waterfalls, enormous caves, scenic peaks, gorges and hot springs which bubble up at 480°C. The best times to visit are during the drier seasons from June to August and December to March. No technical climbing equipment or skills are required, as all major peaks are accessible.
Trekking: Trail Heads and Routes
There are three main trailheads (starting points) that lead to the mountain’s peaks. You may choose to begin your ascent from Budadiri (Sasa trailhead), Forest Exploration Centre-Kapkwai (Sipi trailhead) or Kapkwata (Piswa trailhead). Sasa trail is easily accessible from Mbale and is the most direct route to the peaks though steep with rugged climb of over 1600m on the first day. It passes through the Park’s largest area of bamboo forest. Sipi trail offers the spectacular Tutum cave hidden within extensive forest, while Piswa trail is renowned for the towering podocarpus forest, an excellent place for wildlife viewing. In contrast, Sipi and Piswa trails start at much higher elevations with a longer more gradual climb to the peaks. After visiting the peaks you can either return using the same trails or descend via a different route. Each trail/route has camping stages with a nearby water source, as well as tent pads and latrines. The park is developing a trekker’s hut at Mude cave on Sasa trail. Mt. Elgon National Park (Uganda) also engages in cross border tourism with Mt. Elgon National Park – Kenya (KWS). Handover of visitors to either team (Uganda and Kenya) takes place at the hot springs.
The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes about 5 days to complete. All visitors are encouraged to discuss options with an Information Clerk at the Mbale, Budadiri, Kapkwai or Kapkata Visitor’s Centers.
There are two different day hike areas that allow you to explore Mt. Elgon’s diverse montane forest. The popular forest exploration center trail loop site can make one enjoy the cool mist at Chebonet falls, Kapkwai cave, the talking tree and a spectacular viewpoint, which lies just beyond. A long ‘arm’ of Mt. Elgon bears the Wanale trails loop site. It has vertical cliffs of ridge and several cascading waterfalls that make a very scenic drive. Look for petrified wood in the Khauka caves as you enjoy splendid panoramic view over the plains of Eastern Uganda. These two day hike areas have short walk trails ranging between 3km and 11km that offer an excellent opportunity to experience Mt. Elgon’s unique plants and wildlife in a short time period. Jungle walking shoes and rain gear are recommended in addition to extra cells for your torch if you plan to explore the caves.
Bird lovers will enjoy over 300 bird species including the endangered lammergeiers, the rare Jackson’s francolin, guinea fowls, sunbirds and turacos among others.
A number of primates find refuge on this mountain, other animals found in this park include bushbucks, antelopes, civets, wildcats and the elusive leopards roam freely below the mountain. Bush duiker, hyena, jackal, rock hyrax, buffalo and elephant rove between the forest and the moorland. Many of these animals visit Mount Elgon’s bat filled caves for their valuable mineral deposits.
The Bagisu and the Sabiny are the two ethnic tribes around the mountain. They practice subsistence farming and conduct circumcision ceremonies every even year to prepare young men/ women for challenges of adulthood. The two communities have made agreements with the park for sustainable harvest of traditional forest products. Let’s Go Travel organizes the cultural tour to these communities during even years to witness the circumcision.
Nine basic campsites are located at strategic points along the trekking circuit. Visitors are required to respect park regulations by camping only at designated campsites. Camping equipment must be carried by the campers.
Flora and Fauna
While ascending Mt. Elgon’s enchanting slopes you will meet four-distinct forest types: the lush montane forest where you will find the Elgon peak, mixed bamboo belt, the fascinating heath and the spectacular moorland hyrachs which contain stands of some of the most rare and endemic plant species, like the giant Lobelia elgonenesis and dotted clusters of peculiar groundsels, which are unique to Africa. You will also encounter the dense shrubs and brilliant wild Everlasting flowers that will add to your Mt. Elgon adventure! Bird lovers will enjoy about 300 bird species including the endangered lammergeiers, the rare Jackson’s francolin, guinea fowls, sun birds and turacos among others.A number of primates inhabit the mountain. Other animals include bush buck, antelope, civet, wildcat and the elusive leopard roam below. Bush duiker, hyena, jackal, rock hyrax, buffalo and elephant rove between the forest and the moorland. Many of these animals visit Mt. Elgon’s bat filled caves for their valuable mineral deposits.
Ranger Guides and Porters
A trained ranger guide is required on all trekking excursions to show you the way and enrich your journey by interpreting the environment and ensuring your safety. Local porters make your trip even easier by carrying up to 18kg of supplies, in addition to collecting water, cooking and preparing the camp. Trained ranger guides and local porters are available at each trail head.