Mount Elgon National Park is located in eastern Uganda, near the Kenyan border. Mountain Elgon has a total area of 1,279 sq. km and is divided between Uganda and Kenya.

The Ugandan portion of the park spans up to 1,110 sq. km, while the Kenyan portion is approximately 169 sq. km. The Kenyan portion was gazetted in 1968, while the Ugandan portion was gazetted in 1992. Mount Elgon National Park has an extinct shield volcano found inside the park inspired the park’s name. This extinct volcano has one of Uganda’s oldest physical characteristics, having evolved around 24 million years ago. Mountain Elgon was once Africa’s highest peak, towering over Kilimanjaro’s current height of 5,895 meters. It’s believed that some natural physical factors like erosion have reduced its height to its current 4,321 meters above sea level, making it the fourth-highest peak in East Africa and the eighth-highest on the African continent.

Mountain Elgon’s Crater Calder has collapsed over an area of more than 50km, making it the largest and most famous natural crater that borders a variety of rocky peaks. Mt Elgon’s slopes and neighboring regions are inhabited by mainly two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny, with the marginalized Ndorobos forced to live deep within the Benet forest. The Bagisu, also known as the Ba Masaba, regard Mount Elgon as the embodiment of their founding father Masaba, and refer to it as such.

A hike to Mt Elgon’s abandoned moorlands reveals a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains; the ultimate goal of reaching the summit of Mt Elgon is not just the final ascent to the 4321m wagagai peak, but also the descent into the vast 40km caldera, The gazetted area around it, the so-called Mt. Elgon National Park has a variety of attractions including plants and animals.

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A Geological Marvel of Mount Elgon

Mount Elgon, with its highest point named “Wagagai,” reaches an elevation of 4,321 meters (14,177 feet), firmly establishing its place as the 17th highest peak in Africa. Rising 3,070 meters (10,070 feet) above the surrounding plains, this massive shield volcano boasts a diameter of 80 kilometers (50 miles). Its sheer size offers respite from the hot plains below and provides a haven for diverse flora and fauna. While the exact date of its earliest volcanic activity remains uncertain, geologists estimate that Mount Elgon is at least 24 million years old, making it the oldest extinct volcano in East Africa. The mountain’s Maasai name, Elgonyi, lends an air of mystique to its grandeur, deepening our fascination with this geological marvel.

Physical Features and Peaks of mt elgon

The magnificence of Mount Elgon reveals itself through its breathtaking physical features. The mountain consists of five major peaks, each adding its unique charm to the landscape. Wagagai, the highest point, proudly stands at 4,321 meters and resides entirely within Uganda. Sudek, located on the Kenya/Uganda border, reaches an impressive altitude of 4,302 meters Koitobos, a flat-topped basalt column in Kenya, and stands at 4,222 meters while Mubiyi in Uganda reaches 4,211 meters. Finally, Masaba, also located in Uganda, captivates visitors at an elevation of 4,161 meters.

Among Mount Elgon’s notable features is its caldera, one of the largest intact calderas in the world. Encompassing over 40 square kilometers, this collapsed crater offers a glimpse into the mountain’s volcanic history. As we explore further, we encounter the warm springs by the Suam River, a natural marvel that adds to the allure of the mountain. The Endebess Bluff, rising to 2,563 meters (8,409 feet), provides a stunning viewpoint, allowing us to appreciate the vast expanse of the surrounding landscape.

Additionally, the Ngwarisha, Makingeny, Chepnyalil, and Kitum caves await our discovery. Of particular interest is Kitum Cave, stretching over 60 meters (200 feet) wide and penetrating 200 meters (660 feet) into the mountain. The cave holds salt deposits and is frequented by wild elephants who use their tusks to gouge the walls and expose the salt, a unique spectacle that highlights the remarkable coexistence of wildlife and nature.

Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain Elgon National Park features cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, calderas, hot springs, and mountain peaks, among other things. The most popular areas are four explorable vast caves where frequent night visitors like elephants and buffaloes come to connect the natural sword found on the curve walls. The tumor cave, which has overhanging crystalline walls, is 200 meters deep into Mountain Elgon’s side.


Mount Elgon National Park is home to a variety of small antelopes, duikers, and forest monkeys such as the black and white colobus, blue monkeys, and red-tailed monkeys, which were previously thought to be locally extinct. Other animals found on the mountain’s lower slopes include elephants, buffaloes, leopards, and hyenas.

The park also has over 200 bird species, with ejections possible from the eastern bronze nerve to the pigeon and the endangered la Magaya due to their limited range. In 2005, an endangered dragonfly named Wangari Mathai was discovered here and named after Nobel Prize Winner Wangari Mathai. Mountain Elgon has been reported to have half of Uganda’s butterfly species, as well as Fauna and Flora.



The Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai is about 13 kilometers from Sipi town and serves as a school or educational center as well as a trailhead for climbers using the Sipi trail to the caldera. Three circuits ranging from 3 to 7 kilometers in length run through the surrounding regenerating forest, where visitors can visit caves, waterfalls, escarpments, and viewpoints, as well as observe birds and primates. Hartlaub’s Turaco, Lemon Dove, Dusky-Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Thick-billed Honey guide, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Mountain Yellow Warbler, and Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon are among the birds seen here.

Mountains and Caves

The highest peaks of Mount Elgon are formed by high points surrounding a jagged rim enclosing one of the world’s largest calderas, which is 40km long and 8km wide. Wagagi (4,321m) is the highest peak, followed by Sudek (4,303m), Koitobos (4,222m), and Mubiyi (4,210m).

The Caldera was formed when magma was drained from the chamber. It collapsed into a depression-like shape when it could no longer support the overlying volcanic cone. Hot springs can be found at the beginning of the deep Suam Gorge in the caldera’s eastern corner. The sheer weight of the water in the caldera cut two stream beds out of the weak volcanic ash and agglomerate walls in the northwest, forming Simu Gorge.

The caves on Mt Elgon’s slopes were formed by moving lava when the mountain was formed many years ago. The Kapkwai cave and Khauka cave on Wanale Ridge are the most accessible. The caves were used as shelter by the hikers and are now used as campsites.

Water falls

Mountain Rivers cascade over massive cliffs on Mt Elgon’s northern and western sides, forming some of the most beautiful waterfalls. Among these are the three stunning falls known as the Sipi Falls. These are just outside the park, and a hike to all of them is a rewarding experience. The highest of the falls cascades over a 100-meter cliff, followed by Ngasire at 87 meters and Simba at 69 meters. There are more waterfalls in Wanale, Bulago, Chebonet, and Sisyi.

Cultural Significance and Tribes

The cultural richness of the region can be experienced through traditional ceremonies, music, dance, and engaging with the local communities. Their warmth and hospitality welcome visitors, offering a glimpse into their way of life and a chance to learn from their ancient traditions. Renowned as the Bamasaba, the Bagisu tribe holds a deep-rooted belief that Mount Elgon embodies the essence and presence of their ancestral figure, Masaba. It is through this sacred connection that they affectionately refer to the mountain by the name of their revered founding father. For the Bagisu people, Mount Elgon is more than just a geographical landmark; it is a spiritual manifestation, a living testament to their cultural heritage and a testament to the significance of their ancestral lineage.

Wanale and the Ridges

Nkokenjeru Ridge is a distinct forest finger that extends from Mount Elgon’s National Park  main massif. It is located at an elevation of 2,347 meters and covers a 25-kilometer-long tongue of lava that flowed out of the volcano’s side after the cone collapsed, blocking the main vent. Nkokenjeru Ridge culminates in the magnificent Wanale Cliffs, which tower above Mbale Town and are home to the seasonal Nabuyonga and Namatyo Waterfalls. A trail at the ridge’s western end leads to Khauka Cave, which contains petrified wood. This ridge also provides landing areas for those interested in paragliding over Mbale.

This ridge also provides landing areas for those interested in paragliding over Mbale. The Nabuyonga Trail is a 5-kilometer loop that features birding, fauna, and flora. Viewpoints offer panoramic views of Mbale, Lakes Kyoga, Bisina, and Salisbara, as well as the rugged mountains of the Karamoja region. On a clear day, you can see Wagagai peak and even parts of western Kenya. Local folklore claims that throwing a stone into the Nabuyonga stream will result in a thunderstorm before you leave.

Climbing in Mount Elgon National Park and Trails & Activities

Mountain Elgon National Park is well-known for its mountain climbing and challenging nature walks/hikes. Climbing Mountain Elgon allows you to see the mountain’s peak, a massive caldera, caves, gorges, cliffs, hot springs, plateaus, and waterfalls. Mountain Elgon National Park is home to a variety of large mammals, small mammals, and primates that can be seen while mountain climbing. Tourists usually climb Mount Elgon via the Sasa Trail, which passes through the small village of Budadiri in Sironko Valley and leads to the peak of Wagagai.

Sasa Trail

Sasa Trail is the most hard Trail but also the shortcut to making it to Waggagai Peak 4321m in just a 4 day Mt Elgon Hike trip. This is is the first route that was used by explorers. Sasa Trail begins in Budadiri town at an altitude of 1,250 meters above sea level. Day-1 is involving a tough ascent to about 1,650m until  the forest until you approach Mudangi Cliffs that are accessed using a ladder provided by UWA. The next step involves walking through a bamboo forest. Day-2 is characterized by a steady walk reaching Wagagai on Day-3.

Piswa Trail

A less tiring choice to the Sasa Trail. This is longer and involves 48km in 6 days. This trail starts for Kapkwata village at an altitude of 2,180m. Piswa trail is known for for its magnificent views of the Karamoja Plains in Uganda and you can add an extra day to explore the hot springs in the mountains.

Sipi Trail

Sipi Trail is the longest Mount Elgon National Park Trail with 56km and takes around 7 days to complete a round hike. Sipi Trail starts at Kapkwai Exploration Centre just near the beautiful Sipi Falls. Taking the Sipi Trail means you will have a chance to see the  which is famous for its ancient cave paintings.

Day Hikes

The Uganda Government in partnership with the Forest Exploration cetre opened 3 short trails for those who have no experience in hiking or just don’t  have enough time to explore mount Elgon’s longer trails. These trails have about 3 to 7 km and they are done in one day. They are perfect combinations for those who come in the region to see the sipi falls or on their stopover to Karamoja and Kidepo valley National Park

Mountain Biking

The Uganda Wildlife Authority first introduced mountain biking to Mountain Elgon National Park in 2012. This is best done on a cool day and takes 2 to 3 hours per session. It begins at the Sipi trading center and ends at Chema Hill in Kapchorwa.

Bird Watching

Bird watching in Mountain Elgon National Park allows you to see a variety of bird species that are only found here. The park is home to over 200 birds, which can be seen from a variety of locations including the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Center, Cheptui Falls, and others. Lueders Bush-Shrikes, White-Chinned Prinia, Cinnamon Bee Eater, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Blue Flycatcher, Tacazze Sunbird, Black Kite, African Goshawk, Baglafecht Weaver, and many more are among these birds.

Rock Climbing

Mountain Elgon National Park provides rock climbing opportunities outside of the park at Sipi Falls. Rock climbing requires the climber to be physically fit, and it can be difficult at times. Climbing equipment is available at the Sipi Falls Tourist Guide Association, where visitors can climb 20 to 40 meters.

What to pack on a Mount Elgon Climbing tour

Wondering what to pack or to wear for a comfortable mount Elgon  trekking? Hiking mount Elgon  is easy but sometimes what people wear during the experience can also make their trekking a nightmare.  Here is What shouldn’t miss on your packing list.

  • Garden gloves
  • Rain jacket
  • Sun glasses
  • Waterproof pants
  • Light hiking boots
  • Warm sleeping bag

Cost of mount Elgon trekking / climbing

Mountain Elgon park admission costs are 35 USD for non-resident foreigners, 25 USD for resident foreigners, and 15,000 UGX for East African passport holders per person per day. While climbing fees for the mount Elgon National Park  are 50 USD per person per day for both foreign non-residents and foreign residents, and 50,000UGX for East African natives. Here is the cost of the packages inclusive of transfers from Kampala or Entebbe Airport

Accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park

Sipi River Lodge

Our favourite luxury hotel is located in the slopes of Mount Elgon. This resort offers breathtaking views of Mt. Elgon National Park. Sipi has four Waterfall Cottages for travellers looking for peaceful accommodation: The bandas combine elegance with native construction traditions. The bandas’ round walls and realistically made thatched roofing allow them to blend in with the surroundings.

Kapkwai Lodge

This inexpensive lodging, located at the entrance to Mount Elgon Nature Reserve, was initially created as a home for students visiting the lush forest. The lodging is functional but nice, with four cottages and four stationed tents to select from. After a full day of exercise, you may refuel at the on-site canteen, which sells food and drinks.

Kapkwai Lodge is situated on a cliff 1785 feet above sea level, with a panoramic view of Sipi Falls as well as the Hills. Bandas, Single, Twin, and Triple Rooms, Group Cottages, and Basic Rooms are available at our Lodge. Each accommodation has been meticulously built with the best view of Sipi Falls and the Valley in mind, in order to provide our visitors with the maximum comfort and a unique experience during their stay at Rafiki Lodge Sipi.

How to get to Mount Elgon National Park

By Road

Mount Elgon National Park is about 250 kilometers from Kampala by road. The drive from Kampala takes 5 to 6 hours, passing through Jinja, Mbale, and Kapchorwa before arriving at Mountain Elgon National Park.

The road from Mbale to the park is very dusty, but don’t worry, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Mountain Elgon and the scenery around the park.

By Air

Another option for getting to Mountain Elgon National Park is to take a direct flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajansi Airfield to Kisumu Airport, which is operated by Aerolink Uganda Limited or Bar Aviation. The flight, which is only 1 hour and 15 minutes long, must be booked before the actual day of the flight. It’s a 50-minute drive from Kisumu airport to the park. Flights from Kenya to Kisumu airport are also possible.

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