Five minutes into hiking Mount Longonot and I could feel my heart beating violently against my chest. It was both too early and too late to turn back now. Too early because, well, we were just 5 minutes into our hike. And too late because I had spent the past week boasting to Mark about my spectacular hiking and endurance skills.
An hour later, we arrived at the rim of the inactive stratovolcano. We took in the remarkable views, celebrated and congratulated each other for making it to the top. Then I turned to our group, sighed in relief and said ‘You know, some people actually hike around the crater!’
‘We are “Some People”‘ they responded. And so, it began again…
The Beginning …
A few days to the new year, Mark suggested that we joined our friends, Julie and Cody to go hike Mount Longonot. I want to say that I immediately screamed for joy at the opportunity to trudge around a dormant volcano for hours but I’d be lying.
The truth is that I was a little intimidated to hike alongside these avid hikers. First, there was Mark, who spent five months hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, goes running and rides his bike to work daily. Then there was Julie and Cody, who have hiked Kilimanjaro, among other trails. I didn’t want to be the one, who at best, slowed the team down and at worst, collapsed along the way.
I pride myself in being able to walk long distances. I also used to tell myself that I loved hiking. In Nigeria, I embraced every opportunity to do so, leading me to hike Idanre Hills, Oke-Ado, Erin Ijesha Waterfalls and a few other trails. But I had never done anything quite like Mount Longonot.
How far is Mount Longonot from Nairobi?
After a bit of convincing, from Mark and a few experiences I had read from other people’s reviews of the climb, I was all set to join the team. We set out at 7:30 am for our drive to the Lake Naivasha region where Mount Longonot is located. It was not a drive for the faint-hearted but Mark handled it like a true expert! I was very impressed.
We arrived at Mount Longonot Gate at about 9:30 am after making a stop to drop off Blue and another to admire the views of the Great Rift Valley. Depending on when you leave Nairobi, the journey could be a little shorter than two hours.
Hiking Mount Longonot, Kenya
By 10:40 am, we began the hike and as I said by 10:45, I was nearly ready to give up! I had read that hiking this volcano was tough but I didn’t expect it to get rough in the first few minutes. A few minutes later, we spotted some zebras and gazelles grazing in the distance. More than being excited to see these animals, I was grateful for a chance to catch my breath.
The hike got harder and harder and I kept reminding myself about the trip advisor review I read from a 50-year-old who described herself as ‘unfit’. If she could get to the top, then so could I!
So I trudged on. As we got higher, my breaths became more stable but now my physical strength was dwindling. I set my sight to the hut atop the hill. “Almost there”, I kept telling myself. “Almost there”.
After an hour, we got to the rim of the crater. We took in the gorgeous views, excited to have made it thus far, grateful to be in that moment. But our hike was far from over…
It took another hour to get to the actual summit and I couldn’t have been prouder for sticking it out. They say the best view comes after the hardest climb and Mount Longonot proves every bit of this statement to be true by offering us incredible views of its steep ridges from where it derives its name, the crater floor and Lake Naivasha.
After we had rested a bit, we began our descent. This was supposedly going to be much easier than the ascent but it proved to be just as difficult for me. I expected the descent to be an easy walk down but it was far from that. Many parts of the trail were slippery, causing Mark to break my fall several times and surprisingly, there were still lots of climbing to do.
How long does it take to climb Mount Longonot?
When I saw the hut from the faux summit, my heart leapt for joy! The 3-hour circuit around the crater was done and I could now look forward to returning to the gate. By this time, my toes were hurting badly in my shoes, leaving me in excruciating pain for the final descent. Eventually, I had to take them off.
Altogether, it took 5 hours to hike Mount Longonot. This time could be much shorter if you are like the runners we met on the trail.
Final thoughts, Tips & Information…
Do you need a guide for Mount Longonot?
We hiked Mount Longonot without a guide and except you’re really interested in learning about the history of the volcano, rock types, flora and fauna, I’d say you don’t need one. The paths to take are obvious, and there’s no risk of losing your way.
I would say though, that if you’re not an avid hiker, it helps to hike with company. So if you’re taking a solo trip to Mount Longonot, getting a guide to accompany you might be a good idea.
Mount Longonot Entrance Fees and Opening Hours
The Mount Longonot National Park operates between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm daily. Kenyan Citizens and Resident Adults pay an entrance fee of 250 ksh (~$2.50) while children pay 200 ksh. Non-Resident Adults pay $20 while children pay $15.
What to Pack for Your Trip
The hike is long and moderately difficult, so be sure to pack light. You will need water (carry a reusable bottle with you as plastic bottles are not allowed within the National Park) and energy-inducing fruits or snacks. It is also important to pack according to the weather conditions. A hat and sunscreen are essential for warmer temperatures and a raincoat may come in handy depending on the time you visit.
Mount Longonot was a challenging hike that I feel very happy to have completed. It was also my first ever hike with Mark and I’m glad that this is another thing we can both do together. While I didn’t necessarily feel great throughout, I’m so glad I did it and dare I say, I am looking forward to another epic hike in Kenya soon! Since I already signed up for a tour with Winnie of Justrioba.com, ‘soon’ is just around the corner. Wish me luck!