Mt. Elgon is an extinct volcano that first erupted about 20 million years ago. It has the largest intact caldera in the world measuring 40 km2. It was once Africa’s highest mountain but with erosion it was reduced to its height of 4321 metres making it 4th highest in East Africa. Mt. Elgon has the largest base in the world at 3840 km2. It is also the largest solitary volcanic mountain in East Africa located in Eastern Uganda on the border with Kenya. Mount Elgon National Park covers an area of 1145 km2.
The national park was declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. The main tourist attraction is mountain hiking to the caldera with the highest peak Wagagai at 4321 metres, Sudek at 4303 metres, Koitobos at 4222 metres and Mubiyi at 4210 metres. The park is explored on foot via different routes and trailheads ranging from day walks to hikes over several days. The Sasa trail is the shortest but steepest route to the peaks taking only four days — bamboo forest and Jackson’s Pool. Sipi trail takes four to six days, starts at the forest exploration centre at Kapkwai — tutum cave. The Piswa trail is a seven day round trip starting at a village of Kapkwata — podocarpus forest. One can alternatively combine the different trails, ascending by Sipi trail and descending along Sasa trail allowing you to experience more features of the mountain.
There are local porters available to make your hike easier each carrying supplies in addition to collecting water, cooking and preparing the camp. Hikers should consider symptoms and treatment of hypothermia and other forms of altitude sickness. Above 2500 metres altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of age, fitness or previous mountain hiking experience. The most effective treatment is descent to lower altitude.
Mount Elgon National Park is home to 296 bird species and 40 species whose Ugandan range is limited to Mount Elgon and these include black collared apalis, Jackson’s francolin and moustached green tinkerbird. The wildlife is mainly found in the lower slopes but rarely seen in the forest setting; Defassa waterbuck, elephant, oribi, bushbucks, buffaloe and spotted hyena, black-and-white colobus monkey, among others.
You can reach the park from Kampala — Mbale — Kapchorwa. You can also take chartered flight from Entebbe to Soroti.
Activities in Mount Elgon National Park include: Mountain hiking, bird watching, Sipi Falls, cultural encounters, community trails, agro-tourism, scenic viewpoints, nature walks, rock climbing, caves, Nyero rock paintings, mountain biking, hot springs and sport fishing.