Kilembe Hiking Trail

The Kilembe Hiking Trail (also referred to as the Southern Circuit) is one of the best routes on Mount Rwenzori, Africa’s third-highest peak. Walked by relatively few people, this Trail rewards climbers with nearly 180 degrees of breathtaking scenery including the secluded and rarely explored southern slopes.

Established in 2009, the Kilembe Hiking Trail is considered the longest and most challenging Mount Rwenzori route, with extra days for summiting Margherita Peak (5109 meters above sea level). While hikers rarely use it, this Trail offers one of the highest summit success rates hence it is highly recommended. The Kilembe Hiking Trail was opened as the alternative trail for Mount Rwenzori Hiking safaris, much as Professor Scott Elliott first used it in 1895, who by the way didn’t make it to Margherita.

The Management

Currently, under the management of Rwenzori Trekking Services, the Kilembe Hiking trail approaches Mount Rwenzori from the south. It begins with a scenic drive from Kasese (where most visitors spend overnights) to Kilembe (starting point) at 1450 meters above sea level. From there, the first day is spent transversing the steep scenic mountain forest to Kalalama Camp at 3147 meters above sea level. The trail then heads through the steep bamboo-mimulopsis from Kalalama Camp to Mutinda Camp at 4688 meters above sea level. Our Ultimate Mount Rwenzori Hiking tours include the Kilembe Hiking Trail for a group climb or private climb.

The scenery is rewarding

The Kilembe Hiking Trail is one of the most stunning and thrilling of the three main established Rwenzori Hiking Trails. This may sound surprising for many first-time hikers but it might be the most beautiful trail of all, as you will discover.

Along the trail, hikers see all of the different vegetation zones and ecosystems that Mount Rwenzori has to offer, including breathtaking peaks, spectacular Lakes, and glaciers. Expect to navigate through the Alpine vegetation zone that is comprised of exceptional plant species such as Giant Lobelias.

How long is the Kilembe Hiking Trail?

The Kilembe Hiking Trail is over 78.6 kilometers long.

How difficult is Hiking the Kilembe Trail?

No one should convince you that there is an easy Rwenzori Hiking Trail because sincerely speaking, no Rwenzori climb is easy. Generally, the Kilembe Hiking Trail is one of the quite challenging climbs because it requires extra days to summit the Margherita peak. It has a fantastic “climb high” and a “sleep low” chance hence is the Rwenzori Hiking Trail with one of the highest summit success rates. Let’s just say that with the perfect Rwenzori planning, any enthusiastic climber can take on Africa’s third-highest peak.

The long time (extra days) spent summiting Rwenzori’s highest peak means visitors on hiking tours have a great chance of acclimatization to the high elevations.

How many days is the Kilembe Hiking Trail?

The Kilembe Hiking Trail can be completed in a minimum of seven days, but we recommend the 9-day itinerary. This extra day allows visitors to drive from Kampala/or Entebbe to Kasese/Kilembe for the start of the climbing tour. Additionally, hiking Mount Rwenzori is not a race. Especially with this Hiking Trail, the whole idea is to take your time summiting Margherita Pea and soaking in everything the beautiful mountain has to offer. In our experience of organizing Mount Rwenzori hiking expeditions, we can say that the majority of the climbers who had the right Rwenzori planning completed the Kilembe Hiking Trail route with no real challenges.

How busy is the Kilembe Hiking Trail?

Kilembe Hiking Trail is surprisingly the least frequented of the Rwenzori Hiking Trail, hence the reason it is known as the “alternative route” to conquering the snow-capped peaks of this Mountain. The Trail goes through the secluded southern slopes of the mountain. Hikers get the chance to relish remote slopes and spend overnights in seldom-used camps. This therefore makes it the ideal option for hikers yearning for a quieter and more relaxed Mount Rwenzori Hike.

Accommodation – Where to stay?

Kilembe Hiking Trail only provides camping accommodations. If you conquer Mount Rwenzori with Native Africa Tours all your camping equipment will be provided. The tent, sleeping bag, Pillow/s, and the sleeping mat/s. The Camps along this Trail include Sine Camp at 2600 meters above sea level, Mutinda Camp at 3585 meters above sea level, Bugata Camp at 4050 meters above sea level, Margherita Camp at 4475 meters above sea level, Hunwicks Camp at 4005 meters above sea level, and Kiharo Camp at 3450 meters above sea level.

What is the Success Rate of Hiking Mount Rwenzori along the Kilembe Trail?

The success rate for the 8-day Mount Rwenzori Hike with Kilembe Trail by Native Africa. Tours in partnership with Rwenzori Trekking Services is between 95% and 99%.

How Much Does It Cost to Hike Mount Rwenzori on the Kilembe Trail?

Native Africa Tours visitors can take on Mount Rwenzori along the Kilembe Hiking Trail as a 9-day private or group adventure. This trip will cost between $1800 and $2000 per person (based on double occupancy) in 2024. The fee includes eight days on the mountain and one day in Kasese. The cost of the Kilembe Hiking Trail will include guide service, the mandatory $35 per person Uganda Wildlife Authority entrance fee, porters, food, Camping, and Camping equipment.

A detailed 9-day Kilembe Hiking Trail itinerary

Hikers approach Mount Rwenzori from the south when climbing with the Kilembe Hiking Trail. Before the climbing can begin, you leave Kasese Town and take a 20-minute drive to Kilembe. From Kilembe Village (at 1450 meters above sea level), go through the mountain slopes where you will spot wild orchids, beautiful butterflies, and primates (especially blue monkeys) and arrive at your first camp (Sine) at 2596 meters above sea level. Physically fit hikers can continue to Kalalama Camp at 3134 meters.

From Sine Camp, hikers cross the steep Bamboo-Mimulopsis zone known for having high steps. Enjoy the beautiful forest while ascending 551 meters altitude and a distance of 1.8 kilometers to Kalalama Camp. Pass through the mossy river, and cross small streams and moss-covered waterfalls. Hikers can also ascend Mutinda lookout while enjoying views of Kasese Town and Lake George. Overnight on this day is at Mutinda Camp at 3582 meters above sea level.

Day 4 to 6

On the Fourth day head to Bugata Camp (4100 meters) while crossing Mutinda Valley, through a tussock grass. Here, flowers, and giant lobelias are common until the wide Namusangi Valley at 3840 meters above sea level.

Leave Bugata Camp on the fifth day by trekking to Hunwicks Camp via Bamwanjarra Pass at 4450 meters. This is the day you begin enjoying breathtaking views of the 3 main Rwenzori peaks and go down the Valley to an area with lush moss, lobelia, and groundsel. Lots of birds especially the malachite sunbirds are common.

Next, you cross the Valley floor to Lake Kitandara on the sixth day while enjoying views of deep waters as well as breathtaking vegetation. Ascend Scott Elliott’s pass to Margherita Camp at 4485 meters above sea level. Your guide will introduce you to the area where the Duke of Abruzzi passed while climbing Margherita Peak in 1906.

Day 7 and 8

An early start on the 7th day (2:00 am), with the hope of starting the Mount Stanley hike at 2:30 am. Given the drastic change in weather, hikers ought to get to Margherita Peak by 10:00 am. Having enjoyed photography at Africa’s third highest peak, start descending to Hunwicks Camp at 3874 meters above sea level.

The eighth day is for further descent from Hunwicks Camo to Kiharo Camp, which is about 11 kilometers/4-7 hours. On the last day of the 9-day Mount Rwenzori Hike with Kilembe Trail go to the Park gate which is about 16 kilometers away. This is followed by the drive back to Kampala or Entebbe.

In conclusion, the Kilembe Hiking Trail is an alternative hiking route for Mount Rwenzori climbing which provides hikers the opportunity to go through off-the-beaten-track paths that were once used by legendary explorers such as the Duke of Abruzzi and others.

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