Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park Uganda

Elgon is a 4,321m high extinct volcano that in prehistoric times stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Although the mountain straddles the Kenya border, its loftiest peak Wagagai lies within Uganda and is best ascended from the Uganda side. Elgon is an important watershed, and its slopes support a rich variety of altitudinal vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the otherworldly giant lobelia and groundsel plants. Spectacular scenery is the main attraction for hikers on this oft-neglected and relatively undemanding mountain, but there is also a variety of forest monkeys and small antelopes along with elephants and buffalos. A checklist topping 300 birds includes many species not recorded anywhere in Uganda. Other attractions include ancient cave paintings close to the trailhead at Budadiri, and spectacular caves and hot springs within the crater.

Size of Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park is a national park 140 kilometers (87 mi) northeast of Lake Victoria the Park covers an area of 1,279 square kilometers (494 sq mi) and is bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda the Ugandan part of the park covers 1,110 km2 (430 sq mi) while the Kenyan part covers 169 km2 (65 sq mi). The Kenyan part of the park was gazetted in 1968, the Ugandan part in 1992.

Location of Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park—located in eastern Uganda—covers an area of 1,279 square kilometers and is bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda. It became a national park in the 1990s and is also a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and an important source of water for the Lake Victoria Basin. Together with the fauna and flora, including elephants that mine salt in the caves, the park has a variety of scenery including cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and mountain peaks.

How to get to Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon national park is accessible from Kampala via Jinja and Mbale and by air from Entebbe international airport to Soroti airstrip and then take a road trip of about 100 km to the park headquarters.

By road

The distance between Kampala city and Mount Elgon National Park is about 230km. The roads are well paved and made of tarmac but traffic jam is a problem on the Kampala – Jinja highway. It takes between 4 to 5 hours to reach Mbale town from Kampala through the towns of Jinja and Iganga. The journey by road offers opportunities to stop and see amazing places like the source of the river Nile and the Mabira forest. From Mbale town, one needs to drive to the park offices outside the town or head straight to the nearest mountain climbing starting point in Budadiri.

By Air

For visitors who don’t like long road journeys, there is an option to book a chartered flight from Entebbe international airport to Soroti airfield near Mount Elgon. From the airfield, one would need to travel by road for about one hour before reaching the Mbale town of Kapchorwa.

Things to do in Mount Elgon National Park

The park is active for hiking activities and those that love hiking will have some awesome hikes and the birdlife is also incredible as you can sight some rear birds in the forest walk.

Hiking the Wagagai peak

Hiking Mount Elgon is probably the major thing that will inspire your trip there. Whether you love hiking or ‘don’t care for it’, hiking Elgon is a very pleasant experience that bonds you with the mountain and all the nature around you.

There are many hiking trails to choose from that provide a range of sightseeing marvels along the way. They include the following;

The Sasa trail which is considered the most easily accessible route gives you a chance to marvel at the vast bamboo forest, right through Jackson’s pool on to Wagagai Peak. On the first day, you are able to cover 1600m.

The Piswa trail from Kapkwai is a bit of a longer route. You can take this if it was a joining trip from Kidepo National Park in the North. On this trail’s first day, you are able to cover about 700m and a chance to explore the vast Podocarpus forests rich with a range of bird and wildlife species.

The Sipi trail route starts just a few kilometers from Sipi Falls and gives you a chance to pass through the Tatum Cave. As you hike higher, it gives you a view of the surrounding forest and the various waterfalls.

To reach the peak (Wagagai), all trails take from 5 to 8 days of hiking and rest. All you have to carry is your necessary gear. Porters can be availed assist in carrying heavier bags.

Nature walks and forest visits

The 7km (four-hour) mountain bamboo trail to Kapkwai Cave passes through tropical and bamboo forests. Along the trail are many primates, birds, and rare trees such as Elgon teak and Elgon olive. The 5km walk to the Chebonet Falls and 3km walk to the Kapkwai caves follow the ridge view trail. There is also an 11km hike to the Tutum Cave, with the option of camping overnight beside the cave.

In Wanale, a visit to Khauka Cave takes three to four hours. Alternatively, you can go to the viewpoint through the Nabuyoga loop where you can see Jackson’s Summit and Wagagai peak.

In Budadiri, short day hikes are available covering the Mudagi Cliffs, Sasa River Camp, and Drigana lower falls. These are great for bird watching, nature walks, and overnight camping.

Bird watching

Mount Elgon is said to be a home of over 300 birds including some of the Afrotropical highland biome species like the Moorland Francolins, Alpine Chat, and Mustached Tinkerbirds. Other bird species include Black Collared Apalis, Black-shouldered Kite, Tacazze, the African Goshawk, White Chinned Prinia, Cinnamon Bee Eater, and Chinspot Batis among others.

For bird-watching enthusiasts, this is great news. Even if you aren’t really into birds, you will discover species of birds that you [probably] didn’t know existed or can’t see anywhere else.

Mountain Biking

The Uganda Wildlife Authority opened up trails in 2012 for Mount Elgon Mountain biking.

The rocky and rugged terrains of the rising trails make for a very thrilling mountain biking experience. The altitude and vegetation changes bring you into a rare closeness with nature – all while doing your favorite activity of biking.

It goes without saying that you will be treating yourself to breathtaking views of everything (flora and fauna) around you.

Camping safaris

Camping might not be very exciting for most people. They prefer 4 sturdy walls and a door which is logical. Camping on top of a volcano is definitely thrilling for everyone.

The largest volcanic caldera in the world sits on top of Mount Elgon. Camping on the Elgon caldera is definitely extraordinary and worth bragging about. At the top, you will encounter various volcanic features such as hot springs, geysers, etc.

Your camping gear can be carried by a porter for a fee such that you don’t tire out and miss out on the experience. All this is arranged in advance by our safari experts.

Day walks from Budadiri or within the mountain Elgon forest exploration Centre, hikes of four days or longer traverses the peaks. Well worth visiting is the lovely Sipi Falls.

When to visit Mount Elgon National Park

Though the area can receive heavy rains during the rainy season from March-May and from September to November, The lower slopes are fine throughout the year. The drier months (June-August, December to March) are best for hiking.

Where to stay in Mount Elgon National Park

There are no places to stay at the park headquarters except camping facilities for people to camp at the national park offices

However travelers can stay at the spectacular Sipi falls that has quite a good selection of lodges ranging from Budget, mid-range, and upmarket accommodation

Sipi river lodge

Set within the grounds of a unique restored former residence, Sipi River Lodge consists of the main house and seven detached accommodations for our guests, each individually designed with a thoughtful perspective on the backdrop of Kapsurur Falls.

​Within this picturesque setting, you will experience intimate fireside dining, a comfortable reading lounge, an airy veranda, and a bar stocked with beers, wines, and a fine selection of single malt whisky.

​Sipi River Lodge’s location in the foothills of Mount Elgon, famous for three spectacular waterfalls, is home to an incredible number of bird species, some of the best Arabica coffee in the world, and magical sunsets. Join us for afternoon tea and cake after a beautiful waterfall hike and refuel with our hearty home-style meals that celebrate the local produce.

Rafiki lodge

Rafiki Lodge Sipi consists of Family Cottages, Bandas, and Basic Rooms accommodations for our guests, each individually designed with a thoughtful perspective view of Sipi Falls.

Within this picturesque setting, you will experience intimate fireside dining, a comfortable reading lounge, an airy veranda, and a bar stocked with beers, wines, and a fine selection of single malt whisky.

Rafiki Lodge Sipi located on the cliff, with a view of Sipi falls, is home to an incredible number of bird species, some of the best Arabica coffee in the world, and magical sunsets. Join us for a beautiful waterfall hike, Bird Watching, Cultural Tours, Sunset/Sunrise Walk, Abseiling, Cave Adventure, and Coffee Tours.


Wagagai peak hikes
Forest and nature walks
Bird watching
Sipi falls hikes
Mountain Biking
Camping adventures


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