Hiking Hell’s Gate, Kenya
Hell’s Gate, Kenya
The name evokes the images of somewhere hot and deadly. An African wilderness filled with top of the food chain predators. Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya should be renamed to Heaven’s Gate. The park is more appropriate for a Disney movie. As a matter of fact, “The Lion King” setting was heavily modeled after this park. It is one of the rare parks you can camp and hike or bike down the dirt roads. This was a surprise to my Safari group when we arrived and we were offered the opportunity to hike or bike through the park. A surprising occasion since we had just come from the Maasai Mara where lions, jackals, cheetahs, and other predators roamed freely. Our group assumed that there weren’t any big predators around or hoped there weren’t any. They wouldn’t let us hike through the park if there were big predators, right?
The park seemed out of place to me as the rock formations and cliffs resembled the terrain of Zion National Park in the South West of the U.S. It was a one of a kind experience, to interact with local game and to come as close as we could on foot. The animals would be without the fear and anxiety that a vehicle brings to animals but at the same time we would be without the safety of a vehicle.
Giraffes were available for photos longer without being spooked, bores ran across the road in front of us without much fear. Zebras were closely available as we hiked through the park. The only moment of fear was when the herd of gazelle were spooked and they quickly ran off. We stopped our hike to look out in the field and in the tree line to see if we could spot the cause of the mini-stampede. We didn’t spot any predators, the gazelle quickly stopped, and our hike was back on its pace.
The park was named after a narrow break in the cliffs that was once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early man in the Rift Valley. The volcano, Mount Longonot, feeds the areas hot springs and geysers that run underneath the park and the hot springs are visible in the Hell’s Gate Gorge. The gorge can only be hiked with the help of a local guide that only cost $15 US that we split 5 ways among our group.
The entrance is narrow and is the most dangerous part of the gorge that eventually opened up and forked into two directions. One direction will take you through a narrow rocky walled portion that resembles the South West Region of the U.S. The other direction becomes larger and hot springs can be spotted along the cliffs. The trail will take you up the side of the cliff wall to a look out point with a spectacular view of the remaining gorge.
Hell’s Gate is a once in a life time hike that shouldn’t be passed up. The park is two hours away from Nairobi and should definitely be included on your itinerary if you plan on visiting Nairobi, Kenya.
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