Mountain Elgon is an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago. With the largest surface area of any extinct Volcano in the world (50km by 80km), Mount Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in East Africa, with the second highest peak in Uganda (Wagagai peak, 4321 m). It contains the largest intact caldera, a collapsed crater covering over 40kms at the top of the mountain, surrounded by a series of rugged peaks. While ascending Mount Elgon’s enchanting slopes you will meet four-distinct forest types: the lush montane forest where you will find the Elgon peak, mixed bamboo belt, the fascinating heath and spectacular moorland hyrachs which contain stands of some of the most rare endemic plant species, like the giant lobelia elgonensis and dotted clusters of peculiar groundsels which are unique in Africa. You will also encounter the dense shrubs and brilliant wild everlasting flowers that will add to your Mount Elgon adventure. Bird lovers will enjoy about 300 bird species including the endangered lammergeyers, the rare Jackson’s francolin, guinea fowls, sunbirds and turacos among others. A number of primates inhabit the mountain, other animals include bushbuck, antelope, civet, and wildcat and the elusive leopard roam below. Bush duiker, hyena, jackal, rock hyrax, buffalo and elephant rove between the forest and the moorland. Many of these animals visit Mount Elgon’s bat filled caves for their valuable mineral deposits.
There are three main trailheads or starting points that lead to the mountain’s peaks. You may choose to begin your ascent from Budadiri (Sasa trailhead), forest exploration center-Kapkwai (Sipi trailhead) or Kapkwata (Piswa trailhead). Sasa trail is accessible from Mbale and is the most direct route to the peaks though steep with rugged climb of over 1600m on the first day. It passes through the park’s largest area of bamboo forest. Sipi trail offers the spectacular Tutum cave hidden within extensive forest, while Piswa trail is renowned for the towering Podpcarpus forest, an excellent place for wildlife viewing. In contrast, Sipi and Piswa trails start at much higher elevations with a longer more gradual climbs to the peaks. After visiting the peaks you can either return using the same trails or descend via a different route. Each trail/route has camping stages with a nearby water source, as well as tent pads and latrines. The park is developing a trekker’s hut at Mude cave on Sasa trail. Mount Elgon National Park Uganda also engages in cross boarder tourism with Mount Elgon Park-Kenya, hand over of visitors to either team takes place at the Hot Springs. The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes about 5 days to complete. All visitors are encouraged to discuss options with an information clerk at the Mbale, Budadiri, Kapwakai or Kapkwata visitor’s centers. The best times to visit are during the drier seasons from June to august and march to December.