Hiking Mt Longonot Kenya: Super First-timer Tips

Image of Hiking mt longonot kenya

With a couple of my friends, I went hiking Mt Longonot Kenya on Thursday, 12th August 2021.

For them, it was the first time. For me, this was the fourth time.

Why four times? You might ask.

First, I was raised here. My home is just a few kilometers from this national park. While I was not actually born here, I grew up here for pretty much of my childhood.

Secondly, I also attended both primary and high (or is it secondary?) school here. During both courses, we hiked Mt. Longonot a few times.

But this time …

I am older, a little tired and too soft around the belly. So yes, the experience was definitely very different.

Very difficult. And very worth it.

And now … on to the specifics of my Longonot hike:

Mt Longonot Overview

This mountain is a stratovolcano. It is located inside Mount Longonot National Park.

It is estimated that the last time it erupted was in the early 1860s.

It is located 80KM from Nairobi.

By car, this should take you about 1 hour 50 minutes and it is one of the most spectacular drives. Be careful though when using the Kamandura-Maai Mahiu Road because of the heavy commercial vehicle traffic.

Located in the South Easterly direction of Lake Naivasha, you will be mesmerized by the view in the distance.

Mount Longonot Trail distance and difficulty rating

The most popular trail to the top of the mountain is The Scramble Trail. I hiked this one.

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This is me, wanting to give up

It is easy at some points, but at others, it is quite challenging. The Kenya Wildlife Service that runs this park has installed concrete stairs in some of the toughest parts.

The altitude of Mount Longonot right where the Scramble Trail emerges at the top is 2776 meters. So you can see what an elevation gain this is!

About the trail difficulty rating, I would classify this as difficult.

Mt Longonot Hike Distance

Since this is a loop trail, when you get to the top, you will find a well-beaten trail that goes around the rim of the crater. Collectively, the entire trail from the gate of Mt Longonot National Park and back (to the gate) is 13.5KM.

Because this is a dusty, steep and waterless trail to the top, most of the older folk just get to the top of the rim to see the stunning crater, but opt to go back.

The crater diameter is 7.2KM. I would suggest only healthy folk should go around the crate because whew! It is quite a walk.

As you go around the crater, you will get to the highest point of this mountain. It is called Ngamia Peak, probably named so because it looks like the hump of a camel. Ngamia is the Swahili word for camel.

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Kilele Ngamia – the highest peak on Mt Longonot

My team and I were not able to go around the rim, but at least we got to Ngamia Peak. We had left Nairobi in good time, but we were held up in traffic near Maai Mahiu, where a semi had overturned.

How much does it cost to climb Mount Longonot?

There are two price classifications here. Adult citizens pay KSH250 per head ($2.5) and you can hire a hiking stick (probably made from the indigenous leleshwa tree) at KSH50 ($0.4).

Foreigners will pay $26 for adults and $17 for kids. I was not charged any parking fee for my car. But I understand tour operators might pay a small parking fee.

There is a shop at the park entrance where you can buy water, soda, biscuits and other snacks.

The park attendants (under KWS) are a nonchalant lot who may seem a bit bored, but I guess that is because they have seen too much of this mountain already hahaaa.

What to take on your Mount Longonot National Park Hike

First, this trail is super hot and dusty.

What to wear

Wear proper hiking clothes that can take the heat and the dust well.

Don’t wear jeans

I would recommend that you wear hiking pants and avoid jeans because they can get a bit rough around the crotch area once you start sweating. And you will sweat gallons!

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Dennis and Shem at the first resting point

Thick soled shoes are better

Good hiking shoes with proper foot support, thick soles are better because some parts of the trail will be rocky/gravelly and you do not want your feet to feel the rocks.

Don’t do rubber shoes with smooth soles because the steep parts of the trail will challenge you properly. Boots or shoes with deep treads are much better.

Jackets, glasses and hat

A hiking jacket is not so important, although the breeze blowing from inside the crater (at least that is where it seemed to be blowing from to me) can be super cold for some folks, but very refreshing all the same.

A hat is definite and sunglasses. I did not wear glasses because I did my hike on 12 August 2021, and luckily, the cold season was still on.

A cotton or other natural fiber shirt is a no-no. It will absorb sweat and will not evaporate it quickly enough. Get a fast-dry material t-shirt.

Food, water and drinks

Take a lot of water with you. You will need it.

I took two liters with me, but a day after the hike, I was feeling as if my throat was cracked. This was from the dust and the dehydration.

You will not be allowed to hike with regular disposable plastic water bottles because some folks litter the trail.

A good initiative I must say. If you do not have a reusable water bottle, you can buy one at the small shop at the park entrance.

Carry biscuits and candy for energy, fruits or your favorite snack. I would say it is best to avoid alcohol because tipsy is one state you want to avoid on the most challenging parts of this trail.

If soda is your thing, get a few packs from the shop. When you are done drinking on the trail, carry the trash with you until you come across a bin, there are a few on the trail resting points.

If you would like to carry packed food, more power to you.

Toilet needs

At the resting points, there are pit latrines. Just hold it for a bit longer, will you Charlie? Lol!

Hiking Traffic

If you are like me and you want a solitary hike, you know, to reminisce about life, go during a weekday. Weekends can be pretty packed with people and the trail is a bit too narrow at some points.

I did my hike on a Thursday and it was pretty much solitary. But we would meet guys coming down and on the way down, we met others going up.

Be polite, toss a quick greeting or a word of encouragement especially if you are coming down and you meet folks going up.

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With Shem (Dark shirt), me in red and Dennis (white) resting on the trail

Funny how all the white people I met coming down threw a happy jambo my way, good luck and so on.

Real friendly I say. One woman was super friendly, she even stopped to chat for a minute or two.

Best time to hike Mount Longonot

The Mount Longonot National Park is open from 6.00AM to 6.00PM.

If you want to do the crater rim hike, I would suggest that you be at the gate by latest 8.00AM. You want to get to the top before the sun gets too hot!

Any time of the year is good to hike Mt Longonot, except perhaps the rainy season. You really don’t wanna be caught in the rain on the steep parts of this trail.

The rainy season starts in mid March around this area and stretches well into May. Such is not a good time for hiking unless the weather forecast gives you a rain-free day.

Are there animals on Mount Longonot?

More precisely, people ask: Are there animals in Longonot crater?

A couple of hundred meters from where the trail begins, you will see a herd of zebras and antelopes grazing together. They are real pretty and curious.

I mean the zebras might raise their heads and stare at you, but don’t worry about them. These buggers are beautiful and completely harmless.

Predators? It would depend on the time of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of an occasional lion, leopards and definitely, there are hyenas.

Cape buffalo, hartebeest are also available. However, note that this is a pretty big park and most of these animals keep away from the people-used trails. I wouldn’t mind too much about animals.

You might come across an occasional snake. We did see one, a baby snake, super slim and small, so the mom must have been around somewhere, right?

There are hundreds of bird species in and outside the crater. You will want to bring your binoculars and camera.

Vegetation

Hiking Mt Longonot Kenya, you will be treated to a mix-pot of different wildflowers and vegetation.

Leleshwa shrub, from which the prominent Kileleshwa Estate in Nairobi gets its name, is the most prominent vegetation.

It does very well in super dry places with low nutrient soils. Giraffes, plains zebras, antelopes, buffalo and other herbivores love it.

When I was a kid, we used to chew tender leleshwa shoots to calm tummy aches and it used to work. But don’t go eating them, eh?

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Mount Longonot Flora also consists of a wide variety of acacia trees. Savannah grass and an occasional high tree (indigenous variety) is also available.

The vegetation is pretty dense in some spots. Kudos KWS!!! You guys have done an excellent job keeping the local folk from destroying the vegetation for charcoal and firewood. Keep it up!

Do you need a guide for Mount Longonot?

Not for me, I don’t.

However, foreign hikers might need a guide, you know, feels more secure with a person who knows their way around the crater or who knows what to do if you come across a lone buffalo.

They are dangerous when alone, but pretty OK when in a herd.

So yes, if you need a guide, you can hire one (KWS-approved and registered) for a small fee at the gate. Good for creating employment for local folks too.

Conclusion

That is just about it my good friends regarding hiking Mt Longonot Kenya.

For a recapture, this mountain/national park is in Kenya, a 2-hour drive from Nairobi City.

You have also seen some of the Mount Longonot National Park Flora and Fauna.

Is there anything I might have left out? Let me know in the comments section.

Is it worth it? Yep… 100%. And that crater view… is something that you don’t forget easily.

Stay around. Imma be on my next adventure soon.

Shout out to my parents! They live 20 minutes drive away from Mount Longonot Park, so we called on them for free lunch. Hard economy, no?

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Dusty, hungry and as tired as donkeys is how we came back down

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