Nairobi, the City Under the Sun! A thriving metropolis that gives a taste of urban life in natural surroundings. The city of Nairobi is synonymous with Safari. That’s because it is the only city in the world with a national park adjacent to it. Nairobi National Park is 113sq.kms of wilderness containing endangered black rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and of course, lions. All these characteristics make Nairobi the perfect place to hike. Here is the ultimate guide to hiking in Nairobi.
Hiking within the city limits
There are many hiking destinations Nairobi. You don’t have to leave the metropolis to relax and recharge.
Nairobi National Park Safari Walk
Imagine walking above the various habitats that characterize the Nairobi National Park with a birds-eye view of the animals below? The Safari Walk delivers this in a magnificent way. It is a boardwalk that is built above the main habitats in the park. Also, it is only 1 hour away from the city.
The 2.5km boardwalk is high enough to protect you from the animals but close enough for you to see them clearly. The first habitat is a wetland where crocodiles lurk in the water. The second habitat is savanna grassland where you can spot gazelles, zebra, bongo and leopards. Lastly, the third habitat is populated by labeled indigenous plants. Overall, it takes 1 to 2 hours to complete.
The Nairobi National Park Safari Walk gives you a peek at the wonderful flora and fauna of Kenya. To enter the park, adult Kenyan citizens pay Ksh 500 while children pay Ksh 300. Residents pay Ksh 1,200 for adults and Ksh 600 for children. Non-resident adults pay Ksh 5,000, while children pay Ksh 2,500.
Located right next to the State House, Nairobi Arboretum is a day-hiker’s dream come true. The Arboretum covers 74 acres and is located 3km from the city center. The land was kept aside by the Colonial Government in 1907 to plant quick-growing exotic trees. During that time, the constructors of the Mombasa-Kampala railway had to cut down indigenous trees but this was not sustainable because such trees take a very long time to mature. As such, the park began as an effort to plant rapidly growing trees for construction. 113 years later, the Nairobi Arboretum has more than 350 different types of labeled exotic and indigenous trees. There are also more than 100 different bird species and numerous Vervet and Sykes monkeys in the trees.
Thanks to the efforts of Friends of Nairobi Arboretum (FONA), the Nairobi Arboretum has been renovated and spruced up. The walkways have been re-paved, park benches painted and there are clean public toilets. It is a great spot to hike due to its serenity. City residents often come here for relaxing walks, picnicking and romantic days out. The Arboretum forest trails are especially good for jogging. Best of all, entry into the Nairobi Arboretum is completely free for a day hike in Nairobi.
Karura Forest Reserve
If you’re after rejuvenating Nairobi hiking trails, Karura Forest Reserve is the best place to be. It is situated only 30 minutes from the city center, along Limuru Road in Karura Area, Muthaiga. Furthermore, this reserve covers 1,041ha (2,570 acres). It has lush vegetation and assorted wildlife. There are numerous well-marked hiking trails. You can even bring your bike and cycle around the reserve. If you don’t have yours at hand, there is a bike renting shack at the gate. The fee is approximately $5 for a bike so it is quite affordable.
It is best to spend at least 2 to 3 hours here so that you can enjoy a fulfilling hiking experience. Karura Forest Reserve is open from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm throughout the week. Kenyan citizens pay Ksh 100 for adults and Ksh 50 for children. Residents pay Ksh 200 for adults and Ksh 100 for children. Non-residents pay Ksh 600 for adults and Ksh 300 for children. There other fees covering various activities such as vehicle parking and picnicking in The Karura Forest Reserve.
Outside city limits
The Ngong Hills
The Ngong Hills are located 35.3 kilometers from the city via Ngong Road, an hour and a half drive away. They feature rolling green bushland where you can hike to your fill. At Ngong Hills, the hiking trail begins on the Northern side. The elevation here is 1,961m (6,400ft).
During the hike, you can explore a quaint village and view a magnificent wind farm. As you ascend, the hike brings you to some radio repeater stations. Evidently, technology and nature meld perfectly in the Ngong Hills.
The hiking trail has you ascending and descending the beautiful hills. Eventually, you arrive at the Southern section of the hills at Kona Baridi. Overall, the Ngong Hills hike takes 4 to 5 hours to complete. It is an eclectic journey through farmland, bushland and the green hills of Ngong.
If you prefer a physically challenging hike, Mt. Longonot is right up your alley. This excellent day trip location is situated 89km from Nairobi. This is a 2-hour drive. This mountain rises from the Rift Valley floor into the clouds to an elevation of 2,276m (7,500ft). It is the main attraction of Mt. Longonot National Park.
This volcano last erupted in the 1800s. Today, it is dormant and perfect for hiking. The trail begins at the park gate and ends at the summit. Along the trail, you can spot wild animals such as rock hyraxes, warthogs, and bongo in the thickets.
You can expect to take approximately 2 hours from the gate to the rim of Mt. Longonot’s crater. If you would like to extend your trip, you can hike around the crater. The 2-hour extra hike brings you closer to the park’s flora and fauna. Finally, the descent takes another 2 hours to complete. Mt. Longonot gives a taste of the Rift Valley’s grandeur close to Nairobi City.
Hell’s Gate National Park
Few other natural attractions can measure up to the beauty and grandeur of Hell’s Gate. The park is located 125.3km from Nairobi over a 3-hour drive. It brings you up close and candid with the Rift Valley. From the moment you enter this park, the imposing cliff escarpments of the Rift Valley amaze all who gaze upon them.
Inside the park, there are rock towers, dormant volcanoes, and the famous Ol Njorowa Gorge. This gorge snakes through the park over a distance of 24km. It is a perfect hiking trail. There are rock formations, hot water springs and even limestone caves along the way. Hiking this gorge takes 3 to 6 hours.
Should you fancy some time close to the wildlife, you can hike or cycle alongside zebra, giraffe, and warthogs on the Hell’s Gate savanna plains. Other wild animals in the park include buffalo, eland, Thomson’s gazelles, and mountain reedbuck. The birdlife is also fantastic with swifts, vultures, eagles, and buzzards roosting all around. A visit to Hell’s Gate National Park deserves at least a weekend to enjoy fully.
Nairobi City survival skills
If you need to visit the city center for some hiking supplies, it’s essential to have a grasp of some survival skills. Hold on to your satchel or handbag firmly and protectively. Keep your guard up at all times; even in public transport. The city has numerous pickpockets so precaution is necessary. Drivers in the city do not respect zebra crossings. Therefore, whenever the lights turn red and you’re at a crossing, use a brisk pace.
The people in Nairobi are energetic and friendly. However, avoid shaking a stranger’s hand. They may refuse to let go or use psychedelic chemicals to rob you. While it is generally a safe city, you should keep your guard up and protect yourself at all times.
There are many amazing places to hike in Nairobi City. This metropolis provides an urban experience combined with nature. The locations above are all within 1 hour of the city. You can always book a trip with us to explore these excellent locations for hiking around Nairobi!