Hells Gate National Park gets its name from a narrow gap in the cliffs that was once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley
Hells Gate National Park is a small national park in Kenya, located south of Lake Naivasha about 100 kilometers, northwest of Nairobi. Established in 1984, the park has an area of 68.25 square kilometers and is known for its magnificent wildlife and scenic beauty. Hells Gate National Park gets its name from a narrow gap in the cliffs that was once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley.
Hells Gate National Park is close to two volcanoes, Longonot and Suswa, which make excellent day hikes. It’s also close to Nakuru National Park, where you can see rhinos that you wouldn’t see at Hells Gate, as well as Lake Naivasha, where you can go boat riding and enjoy the pink strips of flamingo flocks. Hells Gate is a dry, dusty, dramatic, but infinitely peaceful Kenyan park with large animals. The park is safe to explore by bicycle or on foot and is one of only two Kenyan national parks where tourists can explore the park on foot.
Despite its small size, Hells Gate National Park is an adventurer’s paradise; with excellent hiking and cycling trails as well as the chance to get your adrenaline pumping with abseiling or rock climbing. Hells Gate National Park is an ideal Kenya safari destination for a Kenya day trip excursion, camping stopover, or picnic spot outside of Nairobi.
Once a prehistoric lake, the park is now notable for its unique landscape and the diverse wildlife that calls this small park home including giraffes, hartebeests, and buffaloes. Hells Gate National Park also features several small waterfalls, both cold and hot, as well as stunning, multi-colored rock strata and formations. You might even recognize some of the locations as they’ve been featured in productions such as Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, and inspired others such as The Lion King.
Because large carnivores are uncommon, you can cycle past grazing zebras, giraffes, impalas, and buffaloes, spot rock hyraxes as they clamber up the incline, and chase dust clouds as they swirl in the wind.
Hells Gate National Park lies 100km/62 mi northwest of Nairobi and 18km/11 mi west of Naivasha. The two-hour drive from Nairobi is an adventure in and of itself, especially with the breathtaking views of the Great Rift Valley from Escarpment Road. During WWII, Italian prisoners of war built the road, and the tiny church they built is worth a visit. Hells Gate can be accessed via two main gates: the Elsa Gate and the Olkaria Gate.
There are also daily flights to the Loldia airfield on the western side of Naivasha. Nairobi is easily accessible because it is one of the continent’s busiest transportation hubs. International aircraft land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), located 15 kilometers/9 miles southeast of Nairobi. Naivasha serves as an ideal stopover between Nairobi and the Masai Mara. The distance between Naivasha to the Masai Mara is 170km/105 mi, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
Hells Gate National Park is a popular Kenya safari destination with a variety of tourist activities including; hiking, rock climbing, biking, game viewing, guided safari walks, and a variety of picnic areas, among others;
Hells Gate National Park is home to a variety of animals, making it ideal for game viewing, especially early in the morning. You will enjoy game viewing on safari game drives where you will be able to see buffaloes, giraffes, elands, hartebeests, impalas, Thompson’s gazelles, zebras, and large rodents, as well as vultures, Verreaux’s eagles, and many other birds during your game-viewing experience here. Except for one of the big five, “the African buffaloes,” the park does not any large mammals and predators, which makes it ideal to explore on foot and simply bicycles. However, for self-guided game drives, you must bring an armed guide with you.
This is one of the most fascinating tourist activities in Hells Gate National Park. Hiking is done with the assistance of local guides, and you can take a walking tour inside the park while they explain the park’s history and nature. Hiking in Hells Gate National Park begins at OI-Njorwa Gorge, which is currently closed to the public due to flash floods that caused a tragedy and loss of lives.
We recommend that travelers always check the weather before departing for hiking tours in the park. Flash floods occur mostly during the rainy season. The hikes here last about three hours and they provide an excellent opportunity to explore the park’s scenic landscape and diverse wildlife. Hiking tours in Hells Gate are best done during the dry seasons when there is no risk of flash flooding. Unlike other parks, the park has fewer dangerous wild animals, making it an excellent Kenya hiking destination.
In the year 1883, there was a prominent German explorer named Dr. Fisher who came up with the idea of translating the Masaai word “Enemeneng”. He is commemorated by a tall rock within the park, which is a popular safari location for rock climbers in Kenya.
Fischer’s tower is the most interesting natural rock that visitors to Hells Gate National Park should not miss seeing. This 25-meter-tall rock offers spectacular views of the park’s scenic landscapes and wildlife as well as the surrounding sites.
Cycling is an amazing and popular experience in Hells Gate because it allows you to ride through an open environment while marveling at clear views of grazing zebras, giraffes, and other wildlife as well as the incredible panorama of the park. Because there are no carnivores in the park, it is one of the best places to enjoy a biking tour in the wild. Travelers who enjoy cycling in the wilderness will find this to be one of the best places to do so, with bikes available for hire at the Elsa gate. Before you go on a ride, make sure you’re comfortable with it.
It is recommended that you hire a guide to accompany you because they can point you in the right direction/ride trails and assist you in repairing your bike if you break down along the way. The most interesting cycling route in Hells Gate National Park is the gorge road, which circles the Ranger’s post. This route takes you downhill on the way out and uphill on the way back, so make sure your legs are physically fit for the uphill as you will need to push through it. You can rent a bicycle for a fee ranging from KSH. 1,000 to 1,500, depending on whom you hire the bike from.
Hells Gate National Park is rewarding with its stunning hot springs where you can enjoy swimming and the gainful sights of a small waterfall in the gorge.
Hells Gate National Park is surrounded by the Maasai communities which can be explored while on a Kenya safari. You will have an opportunity to have an insight into the traditions and lifestyle of these fascinating African cultures. Moreover, you can also hire a local guide to take you on a hike through the Ol Njorowa Gorge. The trek is tough but is also suitable for inexperienced hikers. Expect hiking through ford streams, boulders, and short rock cliffs, with vistas that are well worth it.
Picnic areas in Hells Gate National Park are available near the ranger station. When you arrive, you must be extremely cautious with your packed lunch because there are monkeys on site, and because they are an active species, they may end up stealing your meal. If you need to unwind, there is a cool resting area at the bottom of Fischer’s tower where you can enjoy your picnic lunch.
The best time to visit Hells Gate National Park is during the dry season from June through March, when no rainfall and the general game is viewing as well as other outdoor activities in the park are at their prime. However, Hells Gate National Park is good for tourism all year; but the wet season tends to make game viewing difficult, as the roads and trails are impassable.
There are no established accommodations in Hells Gate National Park as the safari destination is majorly visited for day trips. However, there are three camping areas where travelers can fall asleep to the eerie sound of a hyena’s cackle and wake up early for a sunrise game drive: these include Endachata, Naiburta, and Olduvai.
If you need a little more infrastructure, there are safari camps and lodges situated around lake Naivasha. One of them is Camp Carnelly’s which is a 15-minute drive from the park’s entrance. You can camp along the shores of Lake Naivasha or stay in a cabin tucked among fever trees. In any case, unwind at Lazy Bones with a gin and tonic while you feast on one of their inventive samosas. Fisherman’s Camp, right next door, on the other hand, has similar amenities—and excellent brick oven pizza.
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