Mount Elgon National Park
Travel to Mount Elgon National Park – Volcano Trek & Spectacular Scenery
Mt. Elgon is a 4,321m high extinct volcano which in prehistoric times stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Although the mountain straddles the Kenya border, its loftiest peak, Wagagai, lies within Uganda and is best ascended from the Uganda side. Spectacular scenery is the main attraction for hikers on this often-overlooked and relatively undemanding mountain, but there is also a variety of forest monkeys and small antelope, along with elephant and buffalo.
Two million years ago, after its last major eruption, the top of Mt. Elgon collapsed, creating one of the largest calderas in the world. The caldera resembles a large ‘bowl’, 8 km in diameter, surrounded by a ring of rugged peaks. The collapsed crater covers approximately 40 sq km with hot springs inside and shallow ‘crater’ lakes throughout. Elgon is an important watershed, and its slopes support a rich variety of altitudinal vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the other-worldly giant lobelia and groundsel plants.
Spectacular volcanic scenery is the main attraction for this park (best appreciated on foot). Elgon’s other attractions include ancient cave paintings close to the trailhead at Budadiri, and spectacular caves and hot springs within the crater. A checklist topping 300 birds includes many species not recorded elsewhere in Uganda. Sipi Falls in the foothills of the mountain is regarded as one of the most beautiful and romantic waterfalls in the country.
Activities in Mount Elgon National Park
Trekking to the top of Mt. Elgon will take you through four distinct vegetation zones. The lush Montane Forest, occurring between 2,000 and 2,500m, along with the Mixed Bamboo zone (2,400-3,000m) contains the largest biodiversity on the mountain. Dense scrub and brilliant wildflowers characterise the Heath Zone (3,000-3,500m). Higher up the mountain at 3,500-4,231m, you will find the highest number of endemic plant species including clusters of peculiar so-called big game plants-giant fleshy herbs such as lobelias and groundsels that can reach up to 6m in height.
There are few mammals to be seen here, but occasionally Chanler’s mountain reedbucks can be spotted near the caldera rim. There are several species of raptors to be seen, most impressive of which is the lammergeyer. The drier months (June to August, December to March) are best for hiking.
The Forest Exploration Centre provides a variety of magnificent walking trails to explore the area.
Mt. Elgon is located near Mbale town on the eastern border with Kenya, some 3-4 hours from Kampala (approx. 280 km) along a good tar road. The trailhead at Budadiri, 20 km from Mbale, is accessible by public transport if without private transfers.
- Experience absolutely spectacular scenery on a Mount Elgon trek – from cliffs and caves to gorges and waterfalls
- Search for wildlife – monkeys, leopard, elephant, buffalo, sitatonga and duiker can all be found in the park
- Visit Sipi Falls in the foothills of the volcano – one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Uganda