Top 10 Kenya Hiking Trails

An A To Z Guide To Help You Find The Best Trails For Hiking In Kenya

Over the recent years, there has been a surge in the number of hikers hitting the Kenya hiking trails, and with good reason: Kenya is home to spectacular hiking trails—from beautiful open moorland trails to steep rocky summits. Hikers in Kenya are spoilt for choice, with different routes available for all competency levels. 

Whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or a more arduous trek, there is always an option for you. This guide is for new hikers looking to try or discover new trails—and even veteran hikers revisiting their favorite spots. It highlights multiple hiking trails only a few hours away from the city.

“The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot.”

Werner Herzog

With the many Kenya hiking trails available, it can be a little hard to decide where to start. Below are some of the top ten hiking trails near Nairobi.

Beginner-Friendly Trails For Hiking In Kenya Near Nairobi

#1 William Hill – A child-friendly option for hiking near Nairobi

Forming a part of the Kikuyu escarpment, William Hill is located about 75 Km North West of Nairobi. The hill stands at approximately 2300m above sea level and makes for a moderate, beginner-friendly, child-friendly hiking trail near Nairobi. Most of the trail is on a relatively flat dirt road, with only a small, steep rocky scramble up escarpment as the hike ends.

The William Hill hiking trail traditionally starts at the old Italian Church along the Mai Mahiu highway, with an initial 10km trek along a dusty murram road, before taking a steep 3km ascent up the Kikuyu escarpment. The climb, though slightly steep, is rewarding with sweeping views of the Great Rift Valley, Mt. Longonot, Kijabe Forest and Hills, and Mt. Margaret.

#2 Ngong Hills — The default choice for most Nairobi hiking groups

Another popular Kenya hiking trail near Nairobi, Ngong Hills, is located approximately 30km from the capital. With a gradual incline and mostly grassland terrain, it is a relatively easy hike and a suitable choice for beginners—and virtually anyone looking for a gentle walk.

Offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountain ranges, the trail has several incredible viewpoints. The hike up Ngong Hills starts at the northern foot of the hills and traverses the whole range to the southern end at “Kona Baridi.”

The hike covering all seven hills takes 4-6 hours, depending on one’s pace and fitness level. A windproof jacket is a must-have when attempting this Nairobi hiking trail, as the Ngong Hills is notorious for cold, strong winds.

#3 Kilimambogo — One of the best family hiking trails near Nairobi

Located off the Thika-Garissa Highway in the Oldonyo Sabuk National Park and rising to an elevation of 2,145m above sea level, the Kilimambogo hike is an excellent choice for any beginner hiker looking for a gentle climb.

The starting point is at the entrance gate of Ol-Donyo Sabuk National Park. Two major paths can be used for hiking Kilimambogo: one is a 9km open road that simply winds up the mountain, while the other is a 6km footpath that cuts through the forest. The hike to the summit takes approximately two to three hours.

Moderate Trails For Hiking In Kenya Near Nairobi

#4 Kijabe Hills — A moderate one-way trail  for hiking near Nairobi

The Kijabe Hills are located North West of Nairobi and are part of the Kikuyu Escarpment—just like William Hill. Although there are several trails to get to the top of the three Kijabe Hills, the most popular trail amongst Nairobi hiking groups starts at the AIC Kijabe Hospital.

The trail starts with an initial walk along the railway line before cutting briefly through thick forest vegetation to get to the caves and hot springs. Next comes a short, steep hike to the top of the three Kijabe Hills to reach a maximum elevation of 2,688m above sea level. This Kijabe Hills trail is a one-way hike that is not only challenging but also a good test of endurance.

#5 Mt. Longonot — Another favorite Kenya hiking trail for hiking in Kenya near Nairobi

Rising to an elevation of 2,776 meters above sea level, this extinct volcano located southeast of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift valley is a popular spot for Nairobi hiking groups. The Mount Longonot hike is moderately challenging but perfectly achievable for those with moderate fitness.

The 3.1km trail up the mountain from the gate to the rim of the crater takes forty-five minutes to two hours, depending on one’s pace. Once you reach the edge, you can either descend or add some 7.2km to your hike by going all the way around the crater. A trek around the rim typically takes two to three hours. The entire Mt. Longonot hike takes 4-6 hours on average.

The Mount Longonot hike presents a good challenge for everyone—kids, beginners, and advanced hikers alike. It is one of the most popular Kenya hiking trails around Nairobi.

Like Mount Longonot, Mt. Suswa and Sleeping Warrior hikes are great options for hiking in Kenya within the Great Rift Valley. To get the most out of a Mount Suswa hike, consider going on a camping trip, so you have ample time to roam around the massive crater and explore the caves and baboon parliament.

As for the Sleeping Warrior & Ugali Hills hike, the two are located near Lake Elmentaita. The trek starts with a short stroll on the shore. If you intend to hit this trail, do your best to start the hike early in the morning before the sun burns too hot. And definitely don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and sunhat!

#6 Rurimeria — The badass Kenya hiking trail everyone is talking about

If you’re looking for a challenge, Rurimeria should be on your list. A favorite among experienced hikers and rising to 3,860m above sea level, Rurimeria is the third-highest peak of the Aberdare Range. It is generally considered one of the most challenging day hiking trails near Nairobi.

The Rurimeria trail features a series of 4 distinct ridges (three false summits), with the first being the toughest due to its steepness. Past the third false summit, the trail gives way to a relatively flat boggy section and finally transitions to a dramatic steep climb to the summit. To summit Rurimeria, you need to be in good physical shape and have the appropriate gear for this hike—waterproof boots and good rain gear.

If you are only getting started with challenging Kenya hiking trails, don’t let the steep trails discourage you from attempting to tame this beast. Every step when hiking in Kenya promises lovely landscape views of nature at its best—this is precisely the case at Rurimeria.

#7 Elephant Hill — The notorious, little Aberdare brat 

Elephant Hill is a popular choice for hikers looking to conquer more challenging terrain or acclimatize to higher altitudes. The 9km Elephant Hill hike trail starts at the Njabini Forest Station gate and ends at the summit, at an elevation of 3,658m above sea level.

The first few kilometers are on a fair incline through a planted forest. The trail becomes steeper and muddier as it continues through the bamboo forest past the “point of despair” before leveling out for a bit past “the tail.” 

The Elephant Hill summit guarantees unbeatable views across the Aberdare range, including Mt. Kinangop peak, Sasumwa Dam and Ndakaini Dam. At a moderate pace, the Elephant Hill hike takes about 7-10 hours.

#8 Table Mountain — A short, sweet affair

Table Mountain is the fourth-highest peak in the Aberdare Range after Satima, Kinangop, and Rurimeria. Nairobi hikers know Table Mountain for its maddening steepness that will likely leave you questioning every choice that led you to the trailhead.

The 6.2km trail starts at Mikeu, taking you through an initial gentle trek along the forest line. The trail then takes a plunge down to a river crossing. Next comes a shockingly steep, near-vertical ascent for a kilometer to connect with the old trail. Past here is another brief gentle trek, another brief steep climb, and then onto the final gentle hike through the moorland. The trail ends at the Table Mountain peak, at an elevation of 3,792m above sea level.

Waterproof hiking boots with a good grip are a must-have during the rainy season; the steep descent is always muddy and slippery when it rains. The moorland is also boggy, so bring your leg gaiters with you.

#9 Seven Ponds — The one Kenya hiking trail you will love and hate in equal measure!

The Seven Ponds trail is located between Table Mountain and Rurimeria. The Seven Ponds trail is a hikers’ paradise for any lover of steep trails. If you’re looking for a challenge or are prepping for high-altitude hikes like Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro, then this trail is definitely worth checking out for altitude and endurance training.

The Seven Ponds trail is approximately 5.5km each way. The trail starts near Mikeu center and ends at 3,831m above sea level at the seven natural ponds in the northern Nyandarua moorland.

Expect some dramatic steepness that is characteristic of all Aberdares trails but with an excellent reward of exhilarating views across seven ponds in the Northern Nyandarua moorland. And, certainly enjoy views of Mt. Satima and Mt. Kipipiri on your climb!

#10 Mt. Kinangop — The mother of them all 

Rising to an elevation of 3,906m above sea level, the Mount Kinangop hike is notoriously strenuous. The Kinangop peak is the second-highest in the Aberdare Range. It delivers a challenging hike, covering 14km each way. The hike takes about 7-10 hours on average but can take as many as 14 hours for slower hikers.

Hiker points at the rocky outcrop that makes the Kinangop peak. Climbing to the very top of Mt. Kinangop peak is a treacherous affair, with the risk of fatal falls being significantly high. | Photo Credits: Robert On Trails

Other Kenya hiking trails near Nairobi

Mt. Satima, the highest peak of the Aberdare Range, and Mount Kipipiri, the smallest peak flanked by the main Aberdare Range, are other spectacular, somewhat difficult Kenya hiking trails near Nairobi worth checking out.

Both the Mt. Satima trails, Wandare and Dragon’s Teeth, make for a gentle, scenic hike. The relative ease also makes the Satima hike a good choice for altitude acclimatization. The Kipipiri trail, on the other hand, is a long, 17.5km one-way affair; that’s what makes it no mean feat!

How To Prepare For Hiking In Kenya

1. Clothing – Proper clothing is a make-or-break factor in any hiking expedition. Most trails have highly unpredictable weather. On Kenya hiking trails such as Mt. Longonot, William Hill, and Mt. Suswa, which are much hotter, dress light and carry a baseball cap or a sunhat. For the other hiking trails near Nairobi that are known for colder, wet weather, be sure to pack your warmer hiking clothes — the fleece jacketspuffer jackets, and warm hats — or at the very least, pack your rain gear in case of sudden showers. 

No matter the trail, always carry your rain gear: a rain jacket or rain poncho will do just fine. For extra protection against debris and mud, have a pair of waterproof leg gaiters—and definitely bring your waterproof hiking boots to the high-altitude hikes!

2. Footwear – For a comfortable and stress-free hiking experience, always ensure you have the appropriate footwear for the trail. Some trails, like Elephant Hill, are primarily wet, muddy, and boggy, while others, like Mt. Longonot, are rockier and dusty. Feel free to rock your sneakers on the friendly trails.

Hiking boots are versatile, as they can be used on any trail. At the very least, ensure your boots are waterproof and have a good grip.

3. Supplies – One of the essential supplies you require, regardless of your trail choice, is water. Be sure to have 2-3 liters of water for your hike. Carrying your water in a hydration pack is more convenient and easier to access during the trek.

Always carry enough snacks to keep your energy levels in check. Natural sugars and carbs such as dates, raisins, cranberries, nuts, and fruits are perfect options.

For trails that experience hotter weather, be sure to carry some sunscreen—sunburns are not fun!

4. Planning the hike – When choosing the most appropriate hiking trail, you can opt to join one of the many Nairobi hiking groups or go on to organize a self-sponsored hike. Should you go for the latter, be sure to procure the services of local guides and pay applicable park fees to the park authorities. You may need to, additionally, procure the services of armed security in some parks.

5. Gear and layering

Layering is a skill a hiker on any trail must master. By dressing in layers, you can quickly respond to your environment, adding or subtracting layers as you get colder or hotter during the hike.

• Base Layer – The base layer is closest to your skin and wicks moisture away from your skin. Most times, your thermal wear is your base layer.

• Mid-Layer – The mid-layer insulating layer retains the body heat you generate. This could be your quick-dry T-shirt, fleece jacket, puffer jacket, or quick-dry pants.

• Shell/Outer Layer – The shell protects you from the elements like wind and rain and includes a windproof jacket, a raincoat/ rain poncho, waterproof gaiters, and rain pants.

So, where will you be headed next? I hope you find this guide helpful as you set your eyes on the next Kenya hiking trails. As you embark on whatever course you choose, may you conquer yourself—and may you Unlock Your Mountain!

— Posted in collaboration with Wairimu Njuguna. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. —

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