Rising from the heart of the Mount Longonot National Park, which was established primarily to protect and safeguard this national asset, Mount Longonot forms a dominant feature of the Lake Naivasha landscape in the south western corner of Kenya. The name Longonot is derived from the Masai word “oloongonot” which refers to the shape of the rim and means "Mountain of Many Spurs".
The distinct rim of the volcano encloses a large and heavily-forested caldera which is in turn home to many varieties of wildlife and is a veritable paradise for raptors.
Mount Longonot, which is believed to have erupted as recently as 1860, and as such is considered to be a “young” dormant volcano. There is still considerable geothermal activity going on below the surface, evidenced by the presence of hissing steam fissures here and there along the rim of the volcano. Like the neighbouring Hell’s Gate National Park, Mount Longonot’s geothermal energy is soon to be harnessed to provide power for Kenya’s national grid.
The proximity of Mount Longonot National Park to Nairobi (about 2 hour by road - depending on traffic) makes this park a perfect weekend destination for nature-lovers, and it can even be visited and explored on a day-trip from the nation’s capital. It would also be a good spot to stop-over for some energetic activities en-route to the Masai Mara National Park.
Wet your appetite for a visit to the Rift Valley! Have a look at some sensational Kenya safaris featuring the Lake Naivasha/Mount Longonot area here:
Mount Longonot National Park is all about getting back to nature and experiencing one of the most unusual hiking destinations in Kenya. The most prominent activities in the park are:
In close proximity to Mount Longonot National Park you can enjoy the following attractions:
Hell’s Gate National Park
Mount Longonot is one of the only hiking destinations in Kenya where you have the rare opportunity to hike up to an awesome viewpoint on the rim of a volcano, in just an hour or two (depending on your fitness levels). Starting from the park gate, there is a 3.1km trail up to the crater rim. Now, although 3.1km sounds like a piece of cake to any seasoned hiker, Mount Longonot is here to challenge your perceptions! Here you will be climbing almost vertically up the steep and rocky side of a volcano! It is a gruelling hike, and you do need to be reasonably fit to accomplish it, but the view from the rim and the sense of achievement make all the effort worthwhile.
Once you reach the rim you have the option of walking all along the circumference of the caldera, which is a further 7,2km, and will give you amazing views all the way around. Regular hikers suggest that you set off in a counter-clockwise direction for the best views and a better ascent to the peak. The entire loop of 13km to and from the gate should take you around 4 to 5 hours, allowing for necessary rest stops.
Some intrepid hikers have ventured into the caldera; you will need to get permission from the park ranger and will certainly need a guide if you plan to follow in their footsteps, as this part of the trail is not well marked and could be quite dangerous. It is planned to establish a campsite inside the crater, but currently you would need permission to do so on your own.
Top Tips for hiking Mount Longonot:
Set out as early as possible – the heat can be punishing at midday. The park opens at 6am.
Bring enough drinking water – at least 2lt per person (and snacks!)
Wear a hat and sunscreen
Stout hiking boots are essential – the terrain in very steep and eroded in places – a hiking pole is also useful and can be hired.
Take it slowly to begin with – the first part of the trail is deceptively easy and you could wear yourself out before you reach the really steep sections if you set off at a cracking pace.
Rock climbing is possible on the walls of the crater. Enquire at the park gate.
Cycling is allowed on the circuit road towards the volcanic lava flow – about 2km. Bikes are available for hire.
Although there is a fair selection of wildlife inside the Mount Longonot National Park you should consider wildlife encounters as a bonus rather than a certainty! Most of the animals live down in the dense forest inside the crater, and are quite shy. Birdlife is abundant, and there are many raptors to be seen from the rim of the volcano, including Verreaux’s Eagle, and the Lammergeier.
The views from the rim of the volcano are dramatic! From your elevated perch you will get a perfect birds-eye view over a large section of the amazing southern Rift Valley, all the way to Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains in the distance. Beautiful Lake Naivasha will also be beckoning, as will Hell’s Gate National Park, both of which you can visit when you leave Mount Longonot.
You may be fortunate to see a selection of wildlife on your way up to the rim, and those who venture into the forested crater should also be on the lookout for:
Antelope – several species
Leopard – very elusive, but tracks have been spotted inside the park
A good selection of Rift Valley birds may be spotted including a host of raptors which can be viewed catching the thermals over the crater. Look out for Verreaux’s Eagle and Lammergeier in particular.
Look out for geothermal steam escaping from several fissures around the crater rim, a reminder of the energy trapped beneath your feet.
There is no accommodation inside the park, with the exception of the Olongoonot Campsite, which is situated just inside the park gates, along the access road to the crater. The campsite provides just the basics – place to pitch a tent, a toilet and running water. You will have to bring everything you need with you.
At Lake Naivasha there are several choices of accommodation. Two of the most popular are:
If you need a little luxury after a day of hiking up Mount Longonot, you will enjoy returning home to Enashipai Lodge. The lodge offers a range of accommodation options from comfortable rooms to suites and even self-catering cottages for families or groups of friends. There is a pool, fitness centre, tennis court and a choice of dining options. The resort offers boat trips on Lake Naivasha, as well as organised excursions to Mount Longonot and Hell’s Gate National Park.
Sopa Lodge is perfectly positioned on the shores of Lake Naivasha, in an extensive tree-lined garden that attracts hundreds of birds, as well as a resident Giraffe and herd of Waterbuck. The cottage-style rooms all have private terraces overlooking the garden and the lake. Enjoy a refreshing swim in one of the two outdoor pools or treat yourself to a relaxing massage to ease those aching legs after your hike.
Click here to read more about these lodges and other accommodation near Mount Longonot: Accommodation near Lake Naivasha/Mount Longonot.
If you are ready to get back to nature and hike one of the most interesting and challenging trails in Kenya, Mount Longonot National Park is waiting to welcome you. Feel the exhilaration that comes from standing on the rim of a real volcano, as the stunning scenery of the African Rift Valley unfolds beneath your feet. Come to Mount Longonot with Africa Point and make it all happen!
Read what other adventurers have to say about Mount Longonot on our blog: Awesome Things To Do While In Kenya