Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa behind Kilimanjaro, and one of the main attractions when visiting Kenya. This Volcanic mountain stands at 5,199 meters (17,057 Feet), and is a haven for experienced trekkers and mountain climbers. Most national parks in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania are very expensive, yet unlike its neighbor to the South, Kenya does not require guides. This is a big positive when it comes to budget traveling. While it does not come cheap, it is much more affordable than some other well-known mountains in Africa.
This mountain is a high altitude mountain and extremely steep. While you can go to Mount Kenya on your own to keep some money in your pocket, it is a serious mountain and comes with serious consequences. Altitude sickness occurs here often, so acclimatization must be taken seriously. If you are not an experienced trekker, you have two options that can help you on this hike, by hiring a guide, or getting full coverage with a guide, porter, and transport. If you have the experience of hiking in high altitudes, you can do this hike entirely self-guided.
How to Get There
Mount Kenya is roughly 3 hours North of Nairobi. Take a private car, or a Matatu (350 shillings) to Naro Moru or Nanyuki depending on your route. Nanyuki is a bigger town and will be easier to arrange everything if going without a guide, yet you can still get everything done from Naro Moru. Nanyuki is the start to the popular Sirimon Route, while Naro Moru is the start to the Naro Moru route.
Where to Stay
If staying in Naro Moru, stay at Batian’s View, where the owner Fred and manager Mary are extremely helpful and can help prepare you for your climb by providing maps, helpful information about the trails, and truths about booking guides on Mount Kenya. See their website (http://batiansview.com/) for more information.
Important Guide and Booking Info
While there likely are good companies to arrange for hiking in Mount Kenya, it is also important to know the truth about booking guides for Mount Kenya. On several occasions, we and other hikers were lied to about hiking on Mount Kenya, and it is important to be careful when booking with a trekking company or a guide. We had 1 friend whom was forced to skip a night at Old Moses Camp going up Sirimon and went straight to Shipton’s Camp at 13,800 feet, a dangerous move not allowing for proper acclimatization. Make sure your guide takes safety seriously. On several occasions, guides will tell you that you cannot book a 3-day hike, so you pay for a 4-day hike, but they take you on a 3-day hike pocketing the extra $50 US per person that they will charge you. They may tell you that you cannot back country camp, you must pay extra to camp. They will try to pocket as much money as possible, when there is little truth to what is being told. The only time it is a requirement to book a guide is if you are hiking alone, as the park allows only groups of 2 or more to hike unguided.
If you choose to book guide services, try not to go through a middle man, and book directly with the guide who will accompany you on your hike. We were quoted a price of $130 US per day per person, for a 4-day hike, which covers all park fee’s, guides, porter, cook, and accommodation, so that is around the top price to pay for booking full service. To cut these costs down, just ask for a breakdown of each cost, which should be priced as follows:
• Park Entry 3-day $170 US per person OR 4-day $220 US per person depending on your route.
• Guide ~$100 US total
• Porter ~$80 US total
• Camping Fee $20 US per person at park entry
• Camping will cost additional 500 Ksh per night at hut’s OR camp free at the Ranger Stations
• Lodging costs if not camping, beds at the huts are $20 per bed per night
• Food – can range from $30 US to $60 US per person when paying them to purchase the food
• Transport – can range from $30 US to $60 US total for private car on the Sirimon Route
How to Book a Guide on a Budget
Make sure to discuss the route and the itinerary for each day. Most hikes are going to be a 3 night, 4-day hike, so be clear on exactly whether you can meet the 24-hour threshold of making this a 3-day hike. Likely, that is already the plan, so only agree to pay for the 3-day permit, not the 4-day permit. You can always pay more at the park gate when you leave if you depart later than you are expected to. Hiring a guide should cost you $80 US to $100 US for the trip. The guide can carry your food and cook your food, which can eliminate the need for a porter and cook if you are a solo hiker or group of 2.
Buy all of the food yourself to cut costs significantly. Agree to camp at Ranger Stations, which are at no additional cost to the one-time $20 US camping fee. Cutting down costs on transport can also be possible, if you are going on the Sirimon Route, you can hire a moto-taxi to take you to and from Nanyuki for the hike. On the Naro Moru Route, 2-3 miles from the park gate there are Matatu’s which can take you all the way back to Naro Moru for 70 schillings. By booking this trip the right way, it should get your costs down between $250 and $350 US per person for the entire hike.
• 3 Day entry is $170 US per person*
• 4 Day entry is $220 US per person*
• There are also 5 and 6 day permits for longer excursions
• Camping Fee $20 US per person for the entire stay
• Huts cost $20 US per bed per night, paid directly at the hut
*Please note, these 3 or 4 day entry prices are for 24 hour periods. If you enter the park on a Monday at 1PM, that means with a 3 day permit, you can leave the park on Thursday before 1PM.
Camping on Mount Kenya
If you do not have your own camping gear but want to camp, you can rent gear in Naro Moru or Nanyuki. Naro Moru has a small store called Mount Kenya Expeditions, which rents gear or get you in touch with someone that has what you need. They are located on the street behind the Chieni Supermarket. Nanyuki has several options for rentals, just ask one of the many guides in town who will approach you asking if you already have a guide.
Camping costs an additional one time $20 US per person for your entire stay, which covers all “back country camping.” This means, camping anywhere in Mount Kenya, NOT at one of the huts. If you want to camp at Met Station, McKinders, Old Moses Camp, or Shipton’s Camp, you will have to pay 5,000 schillings to camp there, giving you access to their facilities. The other option which we preferred, was to camp at the Ranger Stations, which are no cost in addition to the camping fee you paid on arrival. Ranger stations also are equipped with toilets and running water, and they were extremely friendly and helpful if you need anything. You always can backcountry camp anywhere you choose on Mount Kenya as well, just make sure to be aware of where there are water sources.
Naro Moru Route
The shortest and most direct route up to Peak Lenana, this route was once one of the most popular but has been hit by tourism due to construction of a new road from the park gate up to the highway. While it may not be the most scenic hiking up day 1 on this road, this hike can be arranged for the cheapest price, as you can connect the hike with a Matatu rather than booking a private car or taxi. It is more challenging than other routes, in particular a steep section near the vertical bog, and getting from McKinders up to Peak Lenana is extremely steep. Start from Naro Moru to get to the park gate to start your hike. Camp at the Ranger Stations next to Met Station and McKinders for your nights on the mountain.
Check out full details on the Naro Moru Route and Summit Circuit HERE.
This very scenic route is more gradual and a little longer than Naro Moru, going through a beautiful valley to the back side of Mount Kenya which comes with the best views of the mountain. It is the best hike for those who are not as experienced with high altitude mountains. Start this hike from Nanyuki, where you must get a taxi, moto-taxi, or private car to take you to the park gate to start your hike (and pick you up when you are finished). Camp at the Ranger Stations next to Old Moses camp and Shipton’s camp for your nights on the mountain.
This route begins from Chogoria town and is longer than the other common routes. The route begins 32km from the park gate, so commonly a 4×4 car hire must be arranged. From the gate you walk through a forest with lots of fauna and animals, with the possibility of seeing elephants and leopards. This hike is typically completed in 4 or 5 days, and is considered by some the most scenic of all routes up Mount Kenya.
The summit circuit is the best way to see the full beauty of Mount Kenya, but absolutely should not be attempted unless you are an experienced hiker. You can start the circuit from the summit of Peak Lenana and can come from any direction. The circuit comes with some grueling ascents and descents all while hiking at the high altitude of 14,000 feet to 16,000 feet, encircling the peaks to make this a very long but amazing day hike.
Check out full details on the Naro Moru Route and Summit Circuit HERE.
Best Beginner or Intermediate Hike – Sirimon Route
Best Hike on a Budget (Intermediate to Advanced) – Naro Moru Route
Best Overall Hike – Sirimon Route and the Summit Circuit
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Visited from 08/01/2016 to 08/06/2016.