These 10 best day hikes in Uganda will leave you breathless (in a good way!)

When people think of hiking in Africa, the first thing that comes to mind is Kilimanjaro. Some may have heard of Mount Kenya, perhaps Jebel Toubkal in Morocco or even Mount Stanley in the Rwenzori Mountains, that straddle the border of Uganda and DR Congo. What all these hikes have in common is that it requires multiple days of trekking. Those with limited time may have to pass on these hiking adventures.

In terms of landscape, Uganda is possibly the most diverse country on the African continent. Karamoja, in the extreme northeast, is a vast savanna plain with ancient volcanoes popping out of the landscape. Closer to Kampala you can find old-growth forests teeming with monkeys and birds. The west of Uganda has the Rwenzori Mountains, the highest mountain range in Africa while the southwest is blessed with a series of spectacular volcanoes. And all these places offer epic hikes you can do in a day, sometimes with a chance to see rare, endangered wildlife.

At Adventure Tourism Uganda we thought it was about time to make a list of the best 1-day hikes Uganda has to offer. Here we go!

Article written by Jan Bakker. All photo credits go to Jan Bakker unless mentioned otherwise.

1. Mount Sabinyo

Hike to the heart of the gorilla highlands. 

The ascent of Mount Sabinyo (3669m) is not an easy one. Sabinyo is part of a chain called the Virunga Volcanoes and is shared with Rwanda and DR Congo. These volcanoes are home to the endangered mountain gorillas. In Uganda the area is protected as the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The third summit of Sabinyo is where the three countries meet. The climb itself is strenuous with ladders to overcome the steepest parts. But, the trail goes through a fairytale landscape with deep gorges and lichen draped forests which make you forget about the hardship. And let’s be honest, where in Africa can you peer into three countries from the summit of a major mountain?

14km – 8hrs – strenuous

Arrange with Uganda Wildlife Authority

2. Mount Moroto

San Lorenzo Waterfall Hike

With 3083m, Mount Moroto is the tallest mountain in the Karamoja region. That said, you don’t always have to climb the highest peak to enjoy a great day out on the mountain. Especially when you can start your hike from your guesthouse or hotel. The trail is easy going and quickly you’ll enjoy stunning views across the town of Moroto and the vast plains of Karamoja. After a small scramble on a rocky section the hike continues across a forest and ends at a series of pools on top of the San Lorenzo Waterfall. Take a dip and cool down from the heat down below!

11km – 4hrs – easy

Arrange with Kara Tunga Tours

3. Mount Elgon

Sipi Waterfalls Hike

This hike is a strong contender for the best day hike in Uganda. From the escarpment of one of the world’s largest volcanoes by circumnavigation, Mount Elgon, a series of waterfalls drain from the lush rainforest that covers its slopes. From the sleepy village of Sipi community trails wind their way up to the thunderous first waterfall. For the brave ones who don’t mind getting a little wet you can almost step underneath the fall and feel the force of nature. The route then continues down, past the impressive second waterfall that harbors a cave behind it. This allows you to take a peek from behind the waterfall. The cherry on the cake is the final and largest waterfall that plunges 100 metres into the abyss. You can hike through the gorge below to admire one of the most stunning waterfalls in East Africa. Or for the daredevils, take the short cut and abseil right next to it!

12km – 4hrs – moderate

Arrange with Home of Friends Guesthouse

4. Rwenzori Mountains

The Kazingo Trail

The Kazingo Trail is a unique opportunity to cross the Rwenzori Mountains in a day. The hike takes you through the local communities into the thick indigenous forest of the northern part of the range. When you reach the Bwamba Pass at 2525m you may be able to see the lowland jungles of DR Congo and Semliki National Park. Optional is the ascent of Karangora, just over 3000 metres. Views from up there are dramatic and you might catch a glimpse of the Rwenzori giants in the heart of the range as well as Africa’s ninth largest lake, Lake Albert. It’s a long, wonderful descent across the fields and villages to Bundibugyo where you can find transportation to take you back to Fort Portal. 

12km – 6hrs – moderate

Arrange with Kabarole Tours

5. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

The Ivy River Trail

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. The majority of the forest is indeed rather impenetrable, but there are a few great trails that cut right across the national park. The longest hiking route is the Ivy Trail, partly running along the river Ivy. From the national park gate at Nkuringo the steep rough path drops down into the cloud forest to the Ivy valley. The going can be quite hard with overgrown and very muddy sections. Once you have reached the bridge across the river, the trail becomes much easier. Now you can actually look around you and marvel at the lush jungle habitat. And if you’re lucky, you might have an unexpected encounter with the King of the Jungle, that is the mountain gorilla! This is a one-way hike that ends at the gorilla capital of Uganda, Buhoma.

14km – 6hrs – moderate / strenuous

Arrange with Uganda Wildlife Authority

6. Mabira Forest

Welcome to the Jungle

The closest proper day hike from Kampala is in the forest reserve of Mabira. This is the jungle you imagine as a child. Monkeys and birds everywhere amidst giant old-grown trees. The National Forestry Authority created a small network of trails to make it accessible for visitors and immerse in the forest habitat. The trails can be muddy, especially during rainy season. But no matter what the weather is like, it’s a refreshing escape from the daily grind of Uganda’s bustling capital city.

7/15/22km – 2/4/7hrs – easy / moderate

Arrange with National Forestry Authority (NFA)

7. Mount Muhavura

Hiking The Guide

Fancy climbing a 4000-metre peak in a day? Mount Muhavura (translated The Guide, 4127m high) is the only 4000m+ mountain in Uganda you can do (somewhat) comfortably in a single day. Don’t be fooled, this is no doubt the hardest day hike in Uganda. The higher you go, the steeper it gets. And the thin air at high altitude near the summit will drain your energy levels. But once you’ve reached the summit you can enjoy views across the other Virunga Volcanoes stretching towards the west, the green rolling hills of Rwanda in the south and the majestic Lake Mutanda in the north. For those who want to take it a little easier, Ugandan Wildlife Authority recently built a hut to spend the night around 3000 metres.

16km – 9-10hrs – very strenuous

Arrange with Uganda Wildlife Authority

Photo credits: Jan Bakker

8. Mount Elgon

Wanale Falls Hike

This is the shortest and easiest hike in the list. And that makes it an easy yet brilliant d-tour to stretch the legs on your way to Sipi Falls or Karamoja. The trail passes through the communities that live in the shadow of the Wanale Ridge, which towers more than 1000 metres above the city of Mbale. A short slippery path zigzags across the fertile fields to the base of the beautiful Wanale Waterfall. There is an option to hike all the way to the top of Wanale Ridge, adding a couple of hours to the hike.

4km – 2hrs – easy

Arrange with Elgon Trek

Photo credits: Kamya Kassim

9. Kyambura Gorge

Chimp tracking in a Lost World

As you approach the start of the Kyambura Gorge Hike, nothing reveals the lush Lost World-esque gorge that is home to a small population of chimpanzees. It’s a crack in the Earth’s crust inside the world-famous Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda. From the dry savanna you drop down in a subterranean Eden, a sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife. The length of the hike depends on how far the chimpanzees are in the gorge and it requires the occasional bush whacking as not many people visit this hidden gem.

9km – 3hrs – moderate

Arrange with Uganda Wildlife Authority

Photo credits: Freya French

10. Rwenzori Mountains

Catch a glimpse of the Portal Peaks

The Rwenzori Mountains are wild and make Kilimanjaro look like a walk in the park. However, the approach to the first hut on the Central Circuit, Nyabitaba, is quite accessible. Yes, it’s steep at times, but the trail is generally in excellent condition. The ascent up the mountain ridge high above the Mubuku River is stunning. The forest is home to spectacular birds like the Rwenzori Turaco. You might hear the wild chimpanzees, hidden deep in the Afro Montane jungle. Once you reach the hut you can see the cathedral like Portal Peaks that rise straight up from the valley floor, reaching dazzling heights of almost 4500 metres. Those with a little extra energy can hike further up to the bamboo zone to see yet another vegetation zone. And for the very fit hiker, it’s possible to hike the Mahoma Trail the very same day and do a complete circuit.

16km – 7-8hrs – strenuous

Arrange with Rwenzori Ranges Hikers Association

Photo credits: Jan Bakker

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