Written by: Rachel from Bountiful Safaris
Barely 60km from Nairobi along the Nairobi Nakuru highway, the breathtaking view of Mount Longonot dominates the surrounding landscape. Standing at 2,776m above sea level, and an estimated 750m from the base, Mount Longonot is a young dormant volcano created during tectonic activities and volcanic eruptions that formed the great Rift Valley.
Its name is derived from the Maasai word oloonong’ot, meaning “mountains of many spurs” or “steep ridges” pertaining to the steep rim at the top.
Mount Longonot is one of those attainable destinations over a weekend from Nairobi and is achievable for a even novice hiker. There is a 3.1 km trail that runs from the park entrance up to the crater rim, which continues in a 7.2 km loop around the crater. The whole tour takes about 4–5 hours.
Here’s an account of my journey to one of Kenya’s most famous hiking destinations courtesy of Bountiful Safaris.
We set off from Nairobi at 8am stopping at a number of strategic viewpoints set up on the highway to view the splendours the Great Rift Valley. We arrived at around 9:30am and started our ascent. The hike consists of several sections with each section having a resting point where you can prepare yourself for the next part. The first part was a relatively easy and gentle ascent.
The second section was a total workout! I didn’t realise the volcano would be so steep in some places. The copious amounts of dust and scorching heat made the task more strenuous. After barely making it through this section we were close to the rim of the crater. The third section was less demanding before finally making it to the fourth section which though tough, was not as demanding as that second section.
When we finally reached the crater rim, it took my breath away – the gruelling hike was worth it! Down the massive crater floor was a sea of green vegetation, a huge contrast from the sides of the mountain which are dry and sparse with vegetation cover. The experience of standing at the lip of the crater and looking down at the bowl was simply incredible. Circumnavigating along a path less than a metre wide in some places and coming within inches of a precipitous plunge down either side of the volcano was a hair-raising experience. In addition the views of the Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha at a distance were simply majestic.
After hiking to the rim, there are a few pieces of advice I would like to share for anyone hoping to conquer Mount Longonot:
– Try and go earlier in the day to beat the heat or during June and July when the weather tends to be cooler with lots of cloud cover.
– Get a walking stick, you can buy one cheaply at the park – it will help you with balance.
– Carry plenty of water and a few snacks, you’ll need to replenish your energy along the way.
– Come prepared to get dirty, the hike up the slope is dusty, very steep and slippery at some points which will require your hands as well as your legs. The descent also involves some sliding on dusty paths.
– Hike counterclockwise around the crater to avoid the much steeper descent you will face going clockwise.
Despite some gruelling sections, climbing Mount Longonot was an exciting and invigorating experience that I would definitely recommend to any tourist visiting Kenya!
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