Mount Kenya has several route options, including the Naro Moru route, the Sirimon Route, the Chogoria Route, and the Summit Circuit once up at the peaks. The Chogoria Route is the longest but may be the prettiest of all. The Sirimon is the most common and gives you a good balance of a gradual ascent and beautiful valleys with stunning mountain views. The Naro Moru route is the shortest and most direct route. If one were to ask me if they should choose only one route, I would suggest the Sirimon Route. However, if one is on a very small budget, and you want to hike Mount Kenya on as little expense as possible, Naro Moru is your best route. Because it is the shortest, you will have no difficulty completing this in the 3-day window. You also can get a Matatu (70 Schillings) from Naro Moru to the end of the road, which brings you 2-3 miles from the park gate.
Day 1 – Naro Moru Hike up Mount Kenya
What used to be a very common route, Naro Moru is now less popular due to the construction of a road from the park gate up to Met Station. We were there during construction, and it is not the most beautiful route. Day 1 is hiking on the road with construction vehicles driving past us. With that said, this route has some benefits. It is the shortest, which can ensure you can do this route in 3 days. It is not necessary to hire a taxi, you can get a Matatu from town to the end of the road, 3 miles from the park gate. Begin your hike from here. Hike on the road for 3 miles to the park gate, followed by 6 miles up to Met Station. Met Station is your stop for the first night, at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) it is great for acclimatization. You can camp out at the Ranger Station across from Met Station for free, and enjoy any last decent weather before the cold hits you higher up the mountain.
Start by hiking up from Met Station to McKinders, the high camp sitting at 14,200 feet (4,328 meters). You will ascend on a steep path for the first mile before finally hitting a trail. Once you hit the trail you will have another half mile or so before you enter the vertical bog.
The vertical bog is a steep section that often has the clouds rolling in and can be very damp and muddy. The ground similar to a bog that sinks beneath your feet. There is a lot of erosion in this section and many paths, so be sure to look for the trail markers. Climb straight up to not get lost. At the top of the bog, the trail flattens out some and its an easy hike the remainder of the way up to McKinders. If you are going to stay at the Ranger Station, continue your hike 5 minutes past McKinders.
The final ascent up the hike follows with several options for your third day. Most who do this hike wake up and leave between 2am and 3am and climb up to Point Lenana for sunrise. This is no easy task, and where a guide would come in handy. The path to Lenana is right next to the ranger station, where you wrap around the valley beneath several large peaks and icebergs. You will reach the gravel section that is an extremely steep ascent and at times can be very hard to spot this zig zag trail up the mountain face.
This is the hardest part of the entire hike, and the steepest section we encountered at Mount Kenya. Once you reach the top of the gravel section, you need to head over the first peak to get to Top Hut, which sits at the base of Point Lenana. From here, it is a 30-minute climb to the summit with the help of bolted in chains. After sunset, you now have several options. You can either come back down the same Naro Moru route and begin your descent down the mountain. Another option is to descend down the Sirimon Route. Your last option is to go on the Summit Circuit encircling the peaks, back to McKinders.
The summit circuit joined together with a sunrise summit up to Point Lenana is no easy task. It should only be done by expert hikers and will come with hours of continuous climbs and descents all between 14,000 and 16,000 feet elevation. With that said, it will give you a full perspective and the best views of Mount Kenya, an unforgettable experience on this beautiful mountain. We came up the Naro Moru route, but the circuit can be done from either side. Personally, I enjoyed our route on the circuit and believe it is easiest to follow the trail, but you can always do this in reverse from our route. From Peak Lenana, continue down the Sirimon Route. During the steep descent, you will see Shipton’s Camp way beneath you in the valley. Do not proceed to here. Further up from Shipton’s Camp to your left, you will see a white shack (and possibly some tents) that used to be Kami Hut. It now is just a small shack. Veer left off the path to Shipton’s and head to Kami Hut, where there is a small path through gravel and rock boulders. Kami Hut has freshwater so you can fill up any needs on water here.
Just passed Kami Hut is a steep incline of small gravel rocks of light color similar to that of sand. This is where you will take the trail up to the ridgeline. From here you can see Oblong Tarn beneath you on the other side. Descend down to the tarn, where the trail then follows the edge of the lake to the other side, where you will have another steep ascent. Zig zag your way up to the top. From here, you can easily see the trail, where you have a smaller descent and the trail hugs the mountains to your left, with a small ascent. Once you are passed this section, the rock has changed drastically to dark damp rocks covered in moss and algae, very different from the other side of the mountain. Continue hugging the mountain, where you will see Emerald Tarn to your right several hundred meters below. Keep going and the path will take you right beside and in the middle of Two Tarn. The first of which, the path will lead you to the left of the Tarn, and the second, the path will lead you to the right of the Tarn. After the second Tarn, the path splits, and continue on the left trail. From here you can take this trail for a long distance and then descend down to McKinders from high above, or you can zig zag your way immediately down by following the cairns to American Camp. From here there is a flat trail further into the valley where you will meet the trail at the Ranger Station, followed by McKinders.
Check out the full guide to Hiking Mount Kenya on a Budget
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