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I have been pushing the thought of hiking Mount Longonot to the back of my mind, next to bungee jumping and climbing Mount Kenya, for years now. My hiking mates refer to Mount Longonot as a tough mountain that tests the resilience of any hiker.

Mount Longonot is about half of Mount Kenya; Longonot stands at 2770m while Mount Kenya is about 5100m. That’s why I have been testing my tenacity elsewhere, on hills like William Hill.

Hiking to 2700m on Mount Longonot

On this bright, warm, Saturday morning, it’s time to see the Great Rift Valley from the rim of Mount Longonot. I am apprehensive from the start of our 6:45 a.m. bus ride out of Nairobi to Mount Longonot. I hope to see Mount Longonot from a distance, to know how much damage it will leave on my hiking spirit and glutes.

We stop at the Great Rift Valley Viewpoint, a spot to erase the rushed city life, and ignite an adventure seeker’s flame.

About an hour or so later, our adventure bus winds through Mai Mahiu Town towards a high arched entrance to Mount Longonot National Park. I see the mountain; it sits in the park. It’s green in colour with rugged ridges that look like erosion gullies from its rim to its foot. It beckons us for a nerve-racking adventure up, around and down its stratovolcano.

The view of Mount Longonot from a seat in a bus.
Look at that mound I am about to explore.

I rush to the washroom, in the parking lot, just outside the park’s entrance. It’s clean. I need to get some energy drinks too, I think as I walk to the canteen. The mini shop and canteen have everything a hiker might forget to carry. There are walking sticks too, at KSh50.

Is Mount Longonot an Active Volcano?

Mount Longonot hasn’t erupted since 1863, so there’s no worry about sudden volcanic action as I waddle and writhe up the winding trails.

We warm up inside the national park’s gate. It’s a busy Saturday morning. There are school children, teenagers, young adults, even a group of men probably on a church outing. The crowd is 95% domestic; it seems Kenyans are the majority of tourists now.

Just look at the awe-inspiring Mount Longonot from the park’s entrance.

At the foot of the hill, the ascent is easy, with a clear blue sky inviting us farther. Suddenly, the terrain changes and there is a series of concrete steps (man-made stairway) winding up the mountain towards the first resting point.

This stairway feels like I am going up to the eighth floor of a building. The laughter and bubbly conversations die suddenly. With so many hikers, from different parts of the country hiking along, the mood is jovial and lively. It doesn’t matter which group you have come with as we all enjoy the scenery and the strenuous ascent.

View of hills around Mount Longonot.
As the altitude rises, the view gets better. This is what you see from the concrete steps.

Mount Longonot Resting Points

At the first resting point, a traditionally-themed hut welcomes tired hikers who don’t want to proceed. For us, our ascent continues. The view clears as we go higher.

The Great Rift Valley.
The Great Rift Valley flaunts its beauty.
As far as my eyes can see.
The Great Rift Valley.
It looks deserted but so peaceful. I would trade life in the city for this.

The second resting point is at the rim of the crater. That’s where everyone short of breath ends the hike. The rim of the mountain is breathtaking.

Mount Longonot rim.
The rim is the second resting point.

For us, we go farther to Kilele Ngamia. The trail is narrow, and it’s a dusty path with gravel and fine dust.

Climbing Mount Longonot.
Onward we tread; thirsty throats, numb feet, happy souls.
Kilele Peak Mount Longonot.
View of Kilele Ngamia, the peak of Mount Longonot.
Mount Longonot rim.
Closer to the peak, this is the other side of the rim as you get closer to Kilele Ngamia.

Mount Longonot’s Summit

The last few metres to Kilele Ngamia feel like we are ants climbing a camel’s neck. Hence, my body is battered: my glutes are in pain, my cardio blames me for all the fast food I’ve had since Christmas, and my respiratory organs are on overtime. I can’t feel my feet. Nevertheless, all of that pain clears when I take the last steps to the summit. We can see Lake Naivasha. It looks like a puddle in the sprawling rift valley.

 A panorama of Mount Longonot crater as you hike towards Kilele Ngamia.
A panorama of Mount Longonot crater as you hike towards Kilele Ngamia.
Mount Longonot summit sign.
When you see this sign, you’ve made it to the peak, before then, continue panting.
View from Mount Longonot
Can you see that pool of water? It’s not a mirage; that is Lake Naivasha. You see it while hiking towards Kilele Ngamia (anti-clockwise), or when descending from Kilele Ngamia (clockwise).

Down the Mountain

As the descent begins, we dip our feet into fine dust and raise the worst kind of man-made dust storms. We come across hikers who did the clockwise trip around the rim, and I wish I can tell them about the exhausting descent awaiting them from Kilele Ngamia. However, my feet have all my attention now; they wobble as I tuck my right foot first into the dust and grab shoots and stems with my left hand.

Interestingly, somebody cracks a joke about skidding to the bus, but I don’t laugh. I always laugh, but today I won’t because this mountain has caused some tragedies, and I want to get back down alive. The descent is a strange dance. We go up, we skid, we go up, and we skid. I don’t know what kind of song this strange mountain wants us to sing.

In conclusion, it takes us about two hours to go around the rim from the second resting point. I am elated as I look back at the mountain that looks like a mound of green ridged dung behind me. I smile as I limp to the park’s entrance. It might have made my knees wobble, but I made it to the rim and around it in record time.

Difficulty: High

What to Carry to Mount Longonot

  • Identification documents (an I.D, passport or a Resident Card)
  • Water
  • Energy drinks
  • A change of clothes
  • Snacks
  • A sun hat
  • A camera
  • A pair of binoculars

What you need to Know before Hiking Mount Longonot

  • Mount Longonot is a dusty mountain. Hence, the dust is so thick you might come back down looking like a ghost. If you have issues with your respiratory system, Mount Longonot is not your kind of adventure.
  • Get a guide. This mountain has several trails to the top, and you’ll probably find a dozen or more groups hiking Mount Longonot, but some trails have a dead end. Get someone to guide you up to Kilele Ngamia.
  • Leave excess snacks, excess clothing, and excess anything in your car.
  • Carry at least two litres of water. You need enough water to last you up and down the mountain.
  • If you haven’t been exercising, Mount Longonot shouldn’t be your first hike. You might make it to the crater, but don’t dare your cardio system by going around the crater.
  • The sun will be on your back all day long, keeping you company and dehydrating you senseless.
  • Start your hike before 10 a.m., so you can go around the crater before the sun wakes up.
  • There are two stops as you go up. If your system begs you to quit at the first stop, obey.
  • On a lighter note, there’s a guy who sells watermelons at the second stop. KSh100 inclusive of transport, PAYE, V.A.T, Income TAX…  The guy knows how to make money out of panting hikers.

Mount Longonot Hike Fees

This park is under the Kenya Wildlife Service.  Group hike packages of local tour operators range from KSh2,000 to KSh2,500 for Kenyan citizens. However, you can visit Mount Longonot alone.

Mount Longonot Park Entry Fees

Fees at the gate are

  • KSh300 (adult), KSh215 (child) –  Kenyan citizen
  • KSh600 (adult), KSh300 (child) – resident
  • USD26 (adult), USD17 (child) – non- resident

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