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It’s the oldest and largest Volcano in Uganda with the largest volcanic base in the world. Mountain Elgon is now a dormant Volcano since it last erupted more than 24 million years ago. Mountain Elgon has the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km). Mt. Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in Eastern Africa, with the second-highest peak in Uganda (Wagagi Peak – 4321 metres).

Mountain Elgon National Park protects more than 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 heritage site.

Mountain Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.

Mountain Elgon consists of five major Peaks:

Wagagai (4,321 metres (14,177 ft)), in Uganda

Sudek (4,302 metres (14,114 ft)) on the Kenya/Uganda border

Koitobos (4,222 metres (13,852 ft)), a flat-topped basalt column in Kenya

Mubiyi (4,211 metres (13,816 ft)) in Uganda

Masaba (4,161 metres (13,652 ft)) in Uganda. The five peaks stand higher on Mountain Elgon.

Flora and Fauna on Mountain Elgon

As you slope down the mountain, you will find dense montane forest and mixed bamboo belts teeming with birdlife. You will then enter the fascinating heath and moorland zones containing several interesting endemic plant species such as Giant lobelia and groundsels.

Such dense montane forest keeps a variety of primates like Black and White Colobus Monkey, Blue Monkey, and hundreds of fascinating bird species, including Golden Winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Ross’s and Hartlaubs Turacos, Black and White Casqued and Crowned Hornbills, the endangered Lammergeier and the Jackson’s Francolin which is found nowhere else in Uganda. Lucky visitors can also see forest buffalo, forest duiker, forest hyena or even the elusive leopard.

The best times to visit are during the drier seasons from June to August and December to March. However, even in the wetter months trekking is manageable. No technical climbing equipping or skills are required, and all major peaks are accessible to hikers.

Tourist Activities in Mount Elgon National Park

A lot of tourist activities are done within the Mount Elgon National Park and others outside:

Birding on mountain Elgon

Expect to see a variety of bird species like African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catchers, Chin-spot Batis, Mackinon’s Fiscal, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes and Baglafecht Weaver.

Mountain Climbing

There are two main trailheads and the most easily accessible from Mbale and is the most direct route to the peaks. It passes through the Park’s largest area of bamboo forest. However it is also a steep and rugged climb of over 1600m on the first day. For a more gentle climb ( 660m first day ) you may choose to ascend via Pisa trail ( Kapkwata trailhead ). The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes 4-5 days to complete. All visitors are encouraged to discuss options with an Information Clerk at the Male, Budadiri or Kapkwata Visitors’ Centres.

Camping on Mountain Elgon

There are five basic campsites which are situated at strategic points along the trekking circuit. No camping is allowed within the caldera. Mountain Elgon National Park camping is primitive as its wise to carry your camping gear OR you can hire from the Park office in Mbale.

Day hikes

The Forest Exploration Centre has three day trails ranging between 3 and 7 km. These trails offer an excellent opportunity to experience the Mountain. Elgon’s unique plants and wildlife in shorter time period. A fourth trail has recently been opened to reach the enormous Tutum Cave, 11 km from the centre. This trail also passes through a range of vegetation types and offers opportunities to see wildlife such as Black and White Colobus Monkeys and a variety of birds.

Attraction outside Mountain Elgon National Park

Forest Exploration Centre and Kapkwata. Several trails in the area allow for intriguing day hikes through friendly local villages and beautiful farming country. Pleasant campsites and lodge facilities, including meal services and hot showers are available at Crow’s Nest located just before the Sipi trading centre. More expensive accommodation is available at the Sipi Falls Resort. Please enquire about guides to escort you on the gradual 1.5 hour walk to the Forest Exploration Centre. Seven rock-climbing routes are open at Nagudi rock, half-way between Mbale and Budadiri. The routes are bolted, but climbers must bring their own rock-climbing equipment. Each climber pays to the local Parish treasurer. More information and directions are available at the MENP Visitor’s Centre office in Mbale.

Guides Porters and Rangers Escorts

When you hire a local guides and porters from the community, you are directly supporting the community. Most of the local guides are certified after serious training from natural/ cultural histories, emergency first aid and communication.

Porters will assist you by carrying up to 18 kg of your gear as well as preparing meals, setting up/taking down your camp, and collecting your water. Fees are set at Ush 8,000 (guide) and Ush 7,000 (porter) per stage. The wages cover the guide or porter’s park visitation fee and the cost of sufficient food and supplies. Make sure to ask to see a guide’s license before hiring. For additional safety reasons, a Park ranger escort must be hired when visiting the calderas or ascending the peaks. You will meet your ranger escort at Sasa or Piswa patrol hut where you must present your park receipt before proceeding upwards.

The packing list

Below is the guideline for the equipments required on Mt. Elgon tour:

Tents, sleeping bags, warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy hiking shoes, flashlight, water bottle, rain gear, first aid kit, cooking equipment, sufficient food supplies.


Simple accommodation facilities are available inside the Park at the Kapkwata Rest House and the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai. Prior arrangements through the Mountain Elgon National Park Visitors’ office in Mbale are necessary as these facilities do not accommodate large numbers of visitors. Kitchen services are available, but visitors should bring their own food supplies or provide money to buy food on arrival. It has dormitory – style rooms and bathing facilities with running water.