Hiking one of the Hardest Destinations in Kenya: Elephant Hill

Hiking one of the Hardest Destinations in Kenya: Elephant Hill

Located 100 km from Nairobi, at the South-end of the Aberdares in Nyandarua county is Elephant Hill. The word ‘hill’ may ease your pressure a bit as you may feel this is an easy hike. Yet that’s not the case. Elephant Hill is considered one of the toughest hiking destinations in Kenya. One of the reasons it is regarded as a hill is because it is next to Mount Kinangop, which is taller and more steep than Elephant Hill. 

Elephant Hill is 3500 meters above sea level, making it higher than Longonot, which is 2,776 meters. The hike begins at the Njabini forest in Nyandarua. When you arrive, your guide will advise you to do some stretches before you begin the trek. From the gate to the start of the mountain trek, you will have to walk about 2.5 to 3 km. 

Elephant Hill is brutal, especially if you are an unfit person who only walks when heading to a shop. This hike requires mental resilience and a bit of physical exercise before taking on the challenge. Now, a lady from Ukambani managed to hike the hill easily without breaking a sweat. So I don’t know if tribe genetics is a factor (Not a tribalist, I admired her resilience, by the way). But from my experience, as I neared the peak, my heartbeat became louder than the wind or any sound outside me. Unfortunately, I did not make it to the summit. 

I knew I was in trouble when I walked the first 2.5 km to the start of the mountain (which took about two hours). At this point, I wished I had planned for a trip to Mombasa instead of hiking this ‘hill.’ The trail has several checkpoints, the first being a bamboo forest. It was a breathtaking view of lush-green bamboo stretching out to the sky. This checkpoint was muddy and steep. You have no option but to keep climbing because of the muddy landscape. Next was the point of despair (3000 meters above sea level). At this stage, one lady yelled out, saying that the last time she felt such pain was during labor when giving birth to her firstborn. I found her remarks funny. But this statement gives you a clue into how treacherous Elephant Hill is to the untrained hiker. 

After the point of despair, you’ll enter into a unique ecological zone that’s full of rocks and mountain fauna. The air is thin at this level, and some people get altitude sickness. But the scenery was beyond description. It tended to drizzle in this zone, and there was no hint of the sun. Still, the thick clouds and stunted trees amidst the rocks and carpet grass were treasures. The next checkpoint was the tail. At this point, I had made my resolve to quit. I figured if this was the tail and my body was already shutting down, how would I ever get to the summit? 

From the tail point, you can see Mt. Longonot, Olkaria Geothermal, Nakuru town, and other popular sites. The summit is about two hours from the tail. All my teammates wore gloves and heavy jackets because it was foggy. I was at peace seeing the summit from afar. I listened to my body, knowing one more step meant passing out. 

Lessons learned from the hike:

  • If you plan to hike Elephant Hill, you must be physically and mentally prepared. It would help if you avoided carbonated drinks such as soda as they make you more thirsty. Just carry water, an apple, glucose, and some snacks. 
  • Carry some clothes to change after the hike. You will slip a lot, and some parts of the terrain are muddy. You can find yourself submerged in mud up to your waist. 
  • Carry your hiking gear. They sell bamboo sticks in the park for walking. I found them more helpful than the modern walking gear. 
  • The weather can be extremely cold, with fog and drizzling most of the time. So be prepared for that. 
  • Stretch after the hike so your muscles won’t be too sore the next day. 
  • Wear comfortable hiking boots. For the love of God, don’t do rubbers or those fancy sports shoes that are better for taking Instagram photos. 

Hiking Elephant Hill 

It took about eight hours of trekking from the starting point to the summit. However, we were in a team, so some people took longer to reach the summit, meaning we spent 10 hours max. I went on this trip during the covid19 lockdown. Most travel agents call it a day trip, but arriving home at midnight, especially with the lockdown restrictions, was annoying. 

Some journalists call Elephant Hill a torturous paradise. Trip-advisor reviews of the hike state that you require an elephant-sized spirit to pull it off. From what I experienced, the rumors are true. But aside from the struggle of hiking Elephant Hill, the scenery was worth it. 

At the tip of the summit, you will spot the ruins of a plane that crashed in 2018, and 10 people were left dead. The bodies were carried down the hill by the locals. But the ruins of the aircraft remain on the summit. This scene is a startling reminder of the dance involving life and death. It was a glaring reminder of the fragility of life. 

Overall, Elephant Hill was a great hiking experience. Most travel companies charge between 3500 to 4k for this trip. I paid about Kes.3600, including lunch, water, glucose, and entrance fees. As hinted earlier, it is a day trip. If you love hiking and plan to hike Mt.Kilimanjaro or Mt. Kenya, you should start with elephant hill. 

Do you enjoy hiking? Kindly share your experience in the comments section. I would love to hear from you. 

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Gideon Bett

    Exactly how i felt, but going up was much easier, coming down felt like the worst experience i have ever had.

  2. Caroline Njeri

    I’m glad you can relate, Gideon. But for me, going up was hard, coming down was easy.

  3. Kelvin Muthomi

    travelling and hiking is good for mental health

  4. Shukrani Maina

    I would like to try hiking there

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