Mount Longonot National Park has the privilege of playing host to the highest volcanic mountain in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. It is among the youngest volcanoes in the world, making it a hot bucket list destination in the Rift valley. Besides the breathtaking scenic beauty, Mount Longonot National Park is well known for its incredible hiking experience, especially the walk around its 7.1 KM rim. The descent into the forest within the crater offers an opportunity to see a bit of wildlife, particularly buffalo. Here are three things you should plan to do when you visit.
1. Hike Mount Longonot
Mount Longonot occupies most of the 12,850 acres of Mount Longonot National Park. The mountain is a fantastic place to hone your mountain climbing skills after doing the Fischer’s Tower at Hell’s Gate National Park. Its beautiful V-shaped valleys and ridges offer quite an adrenalin rush. The name Longonot comes from the Maasai word Oloonong’ot, which means ‘mountain of many spurs or steep ridges’. There are also opportunities for rock climbing, biking as well as bird and wildlife viewing, especially on the slopes of the crater on the west side.
2. Explore the Crater Rim
The crater’s 7.1 KM rim is a real test of endurance you can challenge yourself with. But the northern crater rim, which reaches an elevation of 2,780 M (9,121 FT) is the ultimate challenge. It is the summit of Mount Longonot. The scramble up to the rim takes about 45 minutes from the parking area. To do the rim circuit, you need to plan for an additional 2-3 hours.
3. Dare the Forest Within
If you descend into the bosom of the crater, there lies the nearly impenetrable forest. Some people say you may encounter buffalo here so exercise caution.
Mount Longonot National Park is accessible from the Nairobi-Nakuru tarmac road. If you are travelling north from Nairobi, you may opt to take the old A104 road to the Longonot railway level crossing. Turn right after the intersection and follow the track for 4 KM to the Park Gate and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) offices. You could otherwise opt to take the new A104 as far as Naivasha then turn-off and backtrack 20 KM south along the old A104 to the village. At the Railway level crossing, turn west on a road that takes you to the main park gate.
Once you reach the mountain’s base, about a kilometre away from the gate you, of course, part ways with your vehicle and make the rest of the trip to the rim on foot. Ensure you wear proper walking boots because some places are very steep, especially on your way down. Carry sufficient amounts of water as well. It can get pretty hot sometimes. I recommend at least 2 L. You will also need a light jacket for the breeze that occurs in some places at the top even when the weather is hot. A jacket will also come in handy when it rains.
Mount Longonot is an attraction I recommend you include in your South Rift safaris any time. You need to get there early though if you want to do the climb, rim walk and back. Check current rates at the KWS website before you go.