Beyond Kilimanjaro: 3 Little-Known African Parks With Epic Trekking

African treks

Rising almost 20,000 feet high, Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest hikable mountain and a dream trek for anyone who loves a challenge.

What makes this African destination so enticing for hikers is that you don’t have to be a climber – no ropes or pulleys are needed. This place is remote, yet accessible. And with 35,000 trekkers tackling Mount Kilimanjaro every year, some decent hotels and outfitters have popped up around the mountain to meet the demands of tourists.

But this isn’t the only epic trek in Africa. Far from it. If you’d like to tackle a few mountains that offer a comparable challenge to Mount Kilimanjaro, but have a fraction of the crowds, give these three other national parks a look.

Mount Kenya National Park, Kenya

Mount Kenya in a mood

Mount Kenya Photo: Earth Explorer CC

At 17,000 feet, the sky-scrapping, snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya is the second-tallest summit in Africa (after Kilimanjaro). This national park is also a fairly popular draw for both technical climbers and trekkers.

These jagged peaks are home to 11 glaciers and the entire park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are eight walking routes in total, but the Chogoria, Naro Moru and Sirimon are the most popular. In fact, if you want to tromp along any of the other five trails you’ll need to get the OK from the Kenya Wildlife Service first. It takes about 4-5 days to climb and ascend most of these routes.

Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.

Simien Mountains National Park Photo: A. Davey CC

Home to incredibly rare creatures like the Simien fox and Gekada baboon, the rugged terrain of Simien Mountains National Park was formed by massive erosion that took place over millions of years. Steep valleys and sharp precipices make up the achingly beautiful landscape of this national park.

The ecology of this place really makes it unique. Sheer cliffs and a cool climate have allowed endangered species to thrive here. The incredibly curved horns of the Walya ibex — probably the top draw for tourists — the Bearded Vulture and a mountain goat found no where else in the world top the list of animals trekkers may find in the park. Unfortunately, quick population declines put Simien Mountains National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1996.

There are a number of towering summits in this park, but the tallest is Ras Daschen that rises a dizzying 14,900 feet. Trekkers will find a variety of routes to choose from, with most hikes lasting 3-6 days. The most sought-after trails are Chennek Camp to Ras Daschen (9-10 days), Debark to Chennek Camp (6 days) and Debark to Simien Mountain National Park (3-4 days). Parks staff must accompany you on all treks.

Arusha National Park, Tanzania

 Mount Meru, Tanzania

Mount Meru photo: Woodlouse CC

Think of it as Kilimanjaro’s Mini Me. Arusha National Park is home to Mount Meru, a 15,000-foot-high volcano that offers challenging terrain and unforgettable views. This mountain is sometimes used by trekkers to get used to the altitude before tackling Kilimanjaro, which is located just 43 miles away. But you certainly won’t find any crowds here.

The volcanic, wasteland-like terrain of Mount Meru makes it a fascinating place to trek through. There’s really only one official route on Mount Meru: the Momella Route. This trek usually takes 3-4 days. And to reach Meru Summit, you’ll trudge along the rim of the volcanic crater before being rewarded with breath-snatching views.

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About the author

Dustin Walker

Dustin Walker is a journalist, travel copywriter and editor/owner of Slick and Twisted Trails. Follow him on Twitter @dustinjaywalker


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