Mount Elgon, found at the border of Uganda and Kenya, makes up the park. Mount Elgon is the largest volcanic base in the world. It is also the oldest and largest volcanic mountain in East Africa. The mountain stands as the 4th highest peak in East Africa and the 8th on the continent standing at a height of 4,321m. Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago. With the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km ), Mount Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in Eastern Africa, with the second-highest peak in Uganda (Wagagi Peak – 4321 metres ). Mt. Elgon contains crater covering over 40 kms at the top of the mountain, surrounded by a series of rugged peaks. Mount Elgon National Park is a national park 140 km North East of Lake Victoria. The park covers an area of 1279 km² and is by the border of Kenya and Uganda.

The mountain is home to two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny. The Bagisu, also known as the Bamasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba and refer to the mountain by this name.

Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer.  The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. It covers an expansive area of approximately 1,279 square kilometers

In 1929, the British colonial government declared the area surrounding Mount Elgon as a Forest Reserve and in 1992, the national park was established. In 2005, Mount Elgon National Park, was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Mount Elgon in Uganda

About Mount Elgon

Located on Uganda’s border with Kenya is Mountain Elgon. this mountain was named after the “Elgonyi tribe”, that long ago lived within the large caves on the mountain’s  south side. The mountain was locally referred to as “Ol Doinyo Ilgoon” (meaning Breast Mountain) by the local Maasai people in Kenya while the Ugandans referred to it as the “Masaba”. Although Mountain Elgon stands as an extinct volcano today, over 20 million years back is when this mountain first erupted and it is supposed that remained active for another 14 million years.

The mountain occupies the widest surface area than any other extinct Volcano in the whole world covering an expanse of 50 by 80 kilometers. The Mountain is the 4th highest mountain in the whole of  East Africa, and the 2nd highest peak in Uganda; the Wagagai peak at 4321 meters coming after Mountain Rwenzori’s Margarita peak. Mt Elgon holds one of the biggest intact calderas, which is a collapsed crater that covers an expanse of more than 40 kilometers at the peak of the mountain. This caldera is encircled by several rugged peaks plus several tiny crater lakes as well as hot springs that where formed as a result of Pleistocene glacial activity.

Mountain Elgon comprise of 5 major peaks and these include: the Wagagai peak at a height of 4,321m, the Sudek peak at a height of 4,302m / 14,140 feet in Kenya, the flat topped Koitobos peak at a height of 4,222m / 13,248 feet in Kenya, the Mubiyi peak at a height of 4,211m / 13,816 feet and the Masaba peak at a height of 4,161m / 13,650 feet.

The mountain being one of the largest in Africa covers an expanse of  1145 sq km and its  slopes supports a wide diversity of vegetation varying from the Montana forest, the high moorland on the lower slopes  inhabited by elephants plus so much more. Similar to many other east African large mountains in east Africa, Mt. Elgon was formed as a result of vigorous volcanic eruption coupled with tectonic activity which formed the Great Rift Valley of east African.

Other than the intact caldera, its stunning scenery is another major attraction which has attracted a number of hikers, with additional rewards of forest monkeys plus antelopes. In addition to the commonly seen monkeys like aside the blue monkeys  and the white & black  colobus monkeys, hikers will also see several elephants, bush pigs, duikers, sitatunga and buffaloes.

For the less experienced hikers, the mountain offers a number of attractive prospects, among which are the beautiful Sipi waterfalls located not far away from the surfaced road plus a diversity of vegetation not to forget the large banana plantations as well as the very hospitable local residents living in the small villages on the lower mountain slopes.

Things to Do in Mount Elgon National Park

Not often included in most Uganda safaris, Mount Elgon National Park is worthy visiting if you are looking to explore the Pearl of Africa in depth. Here are some of the most popular adventure activities to do during your visit;

Nature Walks: leisurely walks through the park’s forests, accompanied by experienced guides provide opportunities to explore the park’s diverse flora and fauna up close, including unique plant species and small mammals.

Cultural Experiences: Engaging with the local communities, particularly the Bagisu and Sabiny tribes helps you learn about their customs and traditions while you witness traditional ceremonies, visit villages, and interact with community members to gain insights into their way of life.

Hiking and Trekking: There are several trails of varying difficulty that cater to different fitness levels and the most popular route is the Sasa Trail, which takes you through bamboo forests and offers views of the mountain.

Relaxation: The park’s calm environment and fresh air make it a good place for one to take a break from the daily routine with some exercises like Yoga.

Climbing to The Peak Waggagai: Using the sasa trail, one can take about 5 days to cover the distance of about 34 kilometers. The ultimate goal on reaching the top of Mt. Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.

Sipi falls experience: The Sipi falls is a series of three waterfalls found at the foothills of Mountain Elgon just at the edge of Mount Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border. Here one can go for abseiling, mountain biking.


By Road: From Entebbe or Kampala, you can hire a private vehicle, take a taxi, or use public transportation to travel to Mbale. The journey by road takes approximately 4-5 hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.

From Mbale to the Park: you can hire a local taxi or arrange for a tour operator or guide to take you to the park. The park entrance gate is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Mbale town.

Best Time to Visit Mount Elgon National Park

The dry seasons are preferable because they are associated with dry tracks that easy accessibility to the park and nature walks. The wet season is dangerous because of the volcanic nature of the soils that are easily washed away.

Hiking the mountain: and The major Routes:

The best way to experience this beautiful mountain is by taking part in any of the hikes offered on this mount. Mt Elgon has 3 major trailheads call them starting points which lead to the mountain summit.  You may choose to start your hike from Budadiri – the Sasa trailhead, for from the Forest Exploration Center – Kapkwai – the Sipi trailhead, alternatively from the Kapkwata – Piswa trailhead. The Sasa trail is can be accessed from the town of Mbale and this is actually the most direct trail to the summit though the steep rugged sloped to an altitude of 1600 meters on the very first day. The trail goes through the large bamboo forested area of park.

The Sipi Falls trail presents the stunning Tutum cave well hidden in the far-reaching forest, whereas the Piswa trail is well-known for its very high Podpcarpus forest which is a perfect destination for bird watching and animals viewing. On the contrary, the Sipi as well as the Piswa trails begin at a higher altitude with longer more steady climbs to the summit.

On reaching the summit, you may choose to descend using the very same trails or return through a different trail. Each trail has camping sites with an adjacent water source, plus tent pads as well as latrines. So overnight accommodation is offered in tents and fortunately the park is establishing a hut for trekkers at Mude cave along the Sasa trail.

Where to Stay

If you are looking to Mount Elgon Trekking, here are some of the places where you can stay during your visit;

Kapkwai Forest Cottages: Located within the park, Kapkwai Forest Cottages offer cozy and Eco-friendly accommodation with comfortable rooms with en-suite bathrooms, solar-powered lighting, and hot water showers.

Sipi River Lodge: Sipi River Lodge is located near Mount Elgon National Park and provides stunning views of the mountain. The lodge offers various types of accommodations, including cottages, bandas (thatched huts), and camping facilities with an on-site restaurant serving delicious meals, a bar, and organize activities such as hiking and cultural visits.

Mbale Resort Hotel: This is in Mbale town, which is the gateway to Mount Elgon National Park. It is a larger accommodation option with a range of amenities offering spacious rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and other facilities for a comfortable stay.

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