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Every so often, we have the privilege of an in-depth look somewhere we have not yet been.
If you have ever wanted to visit Uganda, you will likely want to explore as much as possible.
Lauren, this month’s correspondent from Uganda Live and Travel has given us a full guide to the best hiking in Uganda.
Below she outlines the best regions to hike as well as the top 5 hikes in Uganda.
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Best Hiking In Uganda
-by Lauren from Uganda Live and Travel
Next door to the famed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Uganda is home to rich elevated landscapes of its own. As a landlocked country, volcanoes and mountain ranges along its borders create some of the best hiking opportunities you could ask for. Whether you are a novice or skilled hiker, there is something for you in Uganda.
Regions to Hike in Uganda
For a country the size of the state of Oregon, in the United States, the variety of landscapes and environments in Uganda is astounding. Here are some of the best regions to hike in Uganda:
1. Western Uganda
Rolling hills, lush forests, and snow capped mountains are probably not what comes to mind when thinking about Africa. The landscape in western Uganda makes for magical photos, and even better hiking.
The western region has some of the most developed tourism opportunities outside of safaris. If you plan to visit Uganda, consider adding destinations like Fort Portal, Kasese, Kibale, and Kabale, in western Uganda to your itinerary.
2. Eastern Uganda
Although eastern Uganda’s claim to fame is the source of the Nile River, there are a number of hiking opportunities in the region as well. Eastern Uganda shares a mountainous border with Kenya, as well as UNESCO biosphere reserve.
You will enjoy the best of hot plains and diverse flora and fauna while in this region. Head to Budadiri near Mbale, or Kapchorwa for the best hiking in eastern Uganda.
3. Northern Uganda
Northern Uganda is relatively flat, though there are mountains in the remote Karamoja region as well as along the other northern borders with South Sudan. Hiking these mountains in the north provide remarkable views of the savannahs.
The remote nature of these hiking locations also means that you are not likely to see any other traffic. Check out Nakapiripirit, Moroto, Kidepo, and areas on the outskirts of the cities Gulu and Arua for the best hiking in Northern Uganda.
The 5 Best Hikes in Uganda
1. Rwenzori Mountains
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rwenzori Mountains are a world class hiking destination in Uganda. Also known as “Mountains of the Moon” because of the permanent snow-capped tops, the Rwenzoris are one of the last tropical glaciers in the world. You’ll want to plan your hiking trip to Uganda soon if you plan to see these incredible mountains because climate change could cause total deglaciation by 2040.
Shared by The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there are a number of different mountains in the Rwenzoris that you can hike in Uganda. The most popular are Mt. Baker (4,843 meters), Mt. Speke (4,890 meters), and Mt. Stanley (5,109 meters). Reaching Margherita peak on Mt. Stanley will put you at the third highest peak in Africa.
2. Mt. Sabinyo
If being in two places at once sounds cool, how about three? At 3,669 meters, the summit of Mt. Sabinyo serves as a border point for Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC.
Mt. Sabinyo is the most challenging hike in the Virunga Mountain Range. After entering Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you will make your ascent. Parts of the mountain are quite steep, so wooden ladders have been nailed to the rocks to assist your climb. Truthfully, this hike is not for the faint of heart as the ladders can become slippery through mist and rain.
The views from the top of Mt. Sabinyo are worth any shard of fear you may have. At the summit you have the opportunity to see Lake Kivu in Rwanda and DRC, and well as Lake Bunyonyi and the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda.
3. Mt. Elgon
Mt. Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain. Today this extinct volcano currently sits at 4,321 meters. Mt. Elgon forms a natural border between Uganda and Kenya, and the two countries share the responsibility of protecting the UNESCO recognized biosphere reserve.
There are a few different trails that wrap around Mt. Elgon. Each trail has varying difficulty, completion length, and sightseeing opportunities around this massive mountain. Of the major peaks on Mt. Elgon, three are on the Ugandan side, including the highest peak Wagagai (4,321 meters). One peak lies entirely in Kenya, and one, Sudek (4,302 meters), shares the Uganda-Kenya border.
While planning your hiking route for Mt. Elgon, you can arrange with the Uganda Wildlife Authority for a transboundary hike with the Kenyan Wildlife Services.
4. Sipi Falls
If you’re not ready to take on one of Uganda’s mountains, or you’re looking for an activity to fill an afternoon, check out Sipi Falls. Located on the lower slopes of Mt. Elgon, Sipi Falls is a series of three impressive waterfalls.
You can opt to hike to one or all three falls on your trip. The first waterfall is reached after walking through a small community and banana plantations. Upon reaching the falls you will find it difficult to hear as the water crashes down and is forced into an underground tunnel.
The second waterfall may be the most magical of the three. After scaling down the opening of a cave, you can enjoy standing under the ice cold falls surrounded by a forested canopy. The third falls can be viewed from many of the hotels in the area, so you have the option to hike down to the top of the waterfall or admire from afar.
5. Mt. Kadam
Near Nakapiripirit, which is about a 7 hour drive from the capital of Kampala, Mt. Kadam is one of the least developed hiking sites in Uganda. You will need to self-cater for your entire trip.
If you are looking for a quick hike and a wild camping experience, this might be one of the best hiking options for you. To reach the 3,063 metre summit, you will hike through lush fields and do some simple rock climbing.
There is no need to bring special gear or ropes for this hike. It is recommended to hire a porter if you plan to hike Mt. Kadam because it is remote and the trail crosses through some communities. You will also need help locating the water source and possibly cooking while camping on the mountain.
Tips For Hiking in Uganda
Best Time of Year To Hike in Uganda
The best time of year to hike in Uganda is the dry season. This will give you the best chance of having less muddy trails and milder temperatures. Hikers planning to tackle taller mountains like Mt. Sabinyo, Mt. Elgon, and the Rwenzoris should still be prepared for all types of weather.
The dry season in Uganda falls between December to February and June to August. December to February is the longest and warmest of the two periods, though temperature is relative to the region in which you will be hiking.
What To Pack For Uganda Hiking
You’ll want to be sure to pack all of your favorite hiking gear along for your trip to Uganda. You can try to scrounge the second-hand markets or pay double for imported products at a shopping mall, but you don’t want to test your luck, especially if you’re taking on something like the Rwenzoris.
Some essential gear you will need regardless of which hike you do in Uganda: day pack (obviously filled with your favorite snacks), water bottle, hiking boots (preferably waterproof), thick socks, sunscreen and hat, and long pants. You could opt for wearing a long sleeve or layers on your hike. Bringing a raincoat is also encouraged if you are hiking in the mountains.
For those who will do multi day hikes, you should plan to carry a tent and sleeping gear.
Additionally, if you are planning for multi day treks, power will be limited, or non-existent. Make sure to carry a headlamp in your day pack. You should also consider packing a power bank for your hike in Uganda. This will ensure your phone battery stays charged through all of your picture taking while hiking.
If you are heading to the Rwenzoris, especially in an attempt to summit Margherita Peak, you will want to pack waterproof gear and warm clothes, including a jacket and gloves. You may even consider packing or buying a pair of gumboots in Uganda for walking through the bogs.
Where To Stay In Uganda
There are accommodation options for every budget while hiking in Uganda.
If you are on a very small budget, then staying at the Uganda Wildlife (UWA) sites near the different attractions is your best bet. Many of the UWA options also offer camping, which will bring your costs down more, though you will likely have to cater for your own food and drinks, and amenities will be minimal.
Additionally, there are a lot of guest houses and hotels both near the attractions and in the nearest towns/cities. If you choose this option, you will just need to take local transportation or have your tour company drop you at your starting point for hiking.
When you arrive in Uganda, you will likely stay in Entebbe, where the airport is located, or in the capital of Kampala. This will depend on where you plan to hike in Uganda, but staying overnight in these cities will help you to connect to your final destination. Again, there are options for every budget in both of these cities. You can opt to stay in dorm style backpackers, guest houses, or top tier hotels.
Wild Camping (or safari or some other suggestion)
Wild camping is possible in Uganda, but you will have to organize it with your tour company or the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). In Uganda all of the national parks and attractions are overseen by UWA, and you will need to have a ranger or porter (if hiking) with you at all times when doing any activity.
Most mountain hikes in Uganda are multi day treks. You will either camp or stay in UWA run cabins along the trail. If you’re still itching to spend time in the wild, consider heading to the nearest national park.
For those hiking in the southwest, we highly recommend gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, another UNESCO World Heritage site in Uganda. You can also check out Queen Elizabeth National Park, or Lake Bunyonyi for those looking to relax after a difficult climb.
Depending on where you are hiking in northern and eastern Uganda, you can get a glimpse of the Karamoja region. This area of Uganda is home to Kidepo Valley National Park, the most remote area of the country. Without a doubt it is the best park for safaris and the only park with zebras and cheetahs in Uganda.
How To Get Around Uganda
It’s not recommended to self drive in Uganda your first time visiting. This leaves you with the option of public transportation or hiring a tour company. Your decision will probably come down to either wanting an “authentic” travel experience and spending as little money as possible, or wanting to not stress about bus schedules, boda bodas (the local motorcycles), and keeping track of all your gear.
Conclusion: Best Hiking in Uganda
Uganda is unlike any other hiking destination in Africa. From rocky mountains overlooking savannah grasslands to rainforest jungles and glaciers, Uganda offers some of the best hiking opportunities on the continent.
Novice and advanced hikers alike should make their way to Uganda to experience first hand the beauty and Pearl of Africa.
For more tips on visiting this amazing African gem, from where to stay to what to wear in Uganda, go to Uganda Live and Travel.
Lauren is a not-so-Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, teacher, gender and global health enthusiast, and writer at ugandaliveandtravel.com