Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail

The Rwenzori Central Circuit is the most popular Trail on Mount Rwenzori, Africa’s third-highest Peak. Known for providing breathtaking views and several natural habitats, the trail follows the route of the 1906 Expedition by the Duke of Abruzzi. He was the first Italian believed to have summited the Rwenzori Mountains Range. At least 50% of all mountaineers and most seasoned climbers choose the Rwenzori Circuit Trail hence making it the most popular and involves exploring it in a clockwise direction. Known as the oldest of the trails, it is explored by numerous hikers interested in reaching the Margherita Peak (5109 meters above sea level) on Mount Stanley. 

It is the traditional trail

This Trail is also known as the “traditional route”, given it was the first to be established on Mount Rwenzori and approaches the summit from the Eastern side. With a trailhead/starting point at Mihunga, this moderately difficult trail involves transversing past Nyabitaba, Bujuku Valley until the Margherita Peak.

Trekkers who take the Central Circuit Trail pass some well-known Mount Rwenzori landmarks while en route and these include the Scott Elliot Pass, the breathtaking Kitandara Lakes, Fresh Field Pass, and Mubuku Valley among others. Therefore, there is an opportunity to wander up and down a series of Valleys and moss-covered rocks hence making the climb a bit more challenging. However, expect some of the most unbeaten views on the Mountain.

Management of the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail

The Rwenzori Mountaineering Services is in charge of managing the most popular and scenic Trail of Mount Rwenzori – the Central Circuit Trail. Native Africa Tours partners with this locally-owned Company to provide memorable experiences exploring the mystical UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are searching for the quintessential Mount Rwenzori experience, it is impossible to ignore this Trail.

Accommodation options/Huts along the Rwenzori Circuit Trail

The Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail is the most popular, yet very tough with deep mud in several places. However, the trail is well-maintained with Huts and climbers that make visitors’ hiking experiences memorable. The Huts, which were constructed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority are scattered across the slopes with basic Camping facilities. These accommodation options include Nyabitaba Hut at 2651 meters above sea level, John Matte Hut at 3505 meters above sea level, Bujuku Hut at 3962 meters above sea level, Elena Hut at 4541 meters above sea level, Kitandara Hut at 4430 meters above sea level, and Guy Yeoman Hut at 3261 meters above sea level.

How many days does it take to climb Mount Rwenzori using the Central Circuit Trail?

Native Africa Tours offers the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail as part of a 9-day trip, which involves 7 days on the mountain. Usually, the first and last nights are spent in Kasese Town. The starting and end point for this Trail is Nyakalengija (at 1615 meters above sea level), which is also the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services Offices.

Day 1

The first day of our 9-day Mount Rwenzori hiking safari is for transferring from Entebbe/Kampala to Kasese Town overnight. The Journey lasts between six and seven hours, and visitors have an option of using the Fort Portal (shorter) or Mbarara route (longer option).

A short drive from Kasese to Nyakalengija brings trekkers to the Rwenzori Central Circuit trailhead (at 1615 meters), which is the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services office. This is on the second day and involves registration, briefing, checking, and renting climbing equipment, as well as meeting with Rangers and Porters.

Choose your pace as you begin hiking up through the farmland, winding up the demarcated Park boundary beyond which you will see a dense rainforest along River Mubuku. The hike continues with the crossing of the River Mahoma tributary, followed by a long and steep ascent into a marge ridge. This is where hikers are ushered to Nyabitaba Hut at 2651 meters above sea level.

Day 2

The second day is a day of merry-making for nature lovers and birders because blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and Rwenzori Turaco are common at this point. After a cup of coffee/tea, the hike continues on the third day of the Rwenzori hiking safari via the Central Circuit Trail. Hikers are advised to take their time while going down through a dense forest to the Kurt Shafer Bridge. This area is just below the confluence of Rivers Mubuku and Bujuku. You will make your way through a Bamboo forest, as well as a long and exhausting stretch of moss-covered rock. Get treated to magnificent views of Speke and Stanley peaks while leaving the Nyamuleju Rock shelter. Later, pass through a zone of groundsel, giant heather, and lobelia. Overnight is at the John Matte Hut.

Day 4 and 5

Day four is another challenging day that involves dropping down to cross River Bujuku and entering the lower Bigo Bog (home to Giant Lobelias). Hold your breath and be prepared for the possibility of jumping tussocks and finally crossing without sampling some of the freezing ooze below the feet. The scenery is indescribable from Lake Bujuku, and this is the area where Mount Baker and Stanley become clear to the south and west respectively. Overnight at Bujuku Hut

The fifth day is longer and even tougher with lots of acclimatization as you ascend higher and sleep low. Take the acclimatization ascent through the steep slopes west of Lake Bujuku and the verdant forest of groundsel gully. Make a turn to the right, up to Elena Hut and Mount Stanley. Take the steep trail by passing over huge boulders before turning again (left) to take the Scott-Elliot pass until Kitandara Lake which is quite below. For those who have energy and wish to continue to the peak, great views await but if you wish to stop, the option is also available.  

Day 6

Continue to acclimatize on the sixth day while letting your body adjust to the high altitudes, extremely cold temperatures, and fog. Start hiking at around 2:00 am, using your headlamps to lead the way steadily up to the highest peak (Margherita on Mount Stanley). Thanks to the altitude, hiking is slow, and will need extra clothing for warmth. After 4-5 hours (depending on the weather and pace of hiking), you will be celebrating your achievement.

After celebrating with photos on Margherita Peak, descend for 2-3 hours to Elena Hut. A lunch break at Elena Hut and prepare to descend to the Scott-Elliot pass at 4372 meters above sea level. Go through the Alpine zone, an area of sparse vegetation and huge boulders, past Kitandara Lakes, and finally at Kitandara Camp where you will spend the night.  

Day 7

On the seventh day, you will continue your trek and arrive at your final Camp- Guy Yeoman Hut. This descent provides the possibility of scrambling up the headwall. Leave the base of Mount Baker and continue along Mount Rwenzori’s southern side to the Fresh Field pass at 4282 meters above sea level. Interestingly, it is possible to start viewing Congo in the west and Stanley in the North. Take on the long high Alpine moss and continue to descend through the steep rocky trails and rocks shelter at Bujongolo. This is known as the base Camp for the Duke of Abruzzi’s historical expedition in 1906. The night will be spent at Guy Yeoman Hut.

Make the final descent through a forest to Nyakalengija, the base Camp. This is on the eighth day and starts with descending the stunning cliffs of Kichuchu, a point where the muddy path crosses River Mubuku twice. Expect to go through a bamboo forest before going downwards to Nyabitaba, marking the end of the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail. The walk from Nyabitaba Camp to Nyakalengija will take between 7 and 8 hours. You can enjoy lunch and bid farewell to the mountain crew before leaving Mount Rwenzori. Overnight in Kasese, and on the next day drive back to Kampala/Entebbe. 

The Best time of the year to explore the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail

The Rwenzori Mountains can be summited all year round. But the dry months (June to September and December to February) are widely regarded as the best time of the year for exploring the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail. During these months, the weather is most stable, starts to warm up and the harsh conditions experienced during wet months begin to subside.

Conclusively, the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail is one of the unmissable ways of summiting the Mountains of the Moon.  The trail provides the opportunity to see remarkable wildlife and bird species. The Trail goes through beautiful Lakes like Kitandara and Bujuku, as well as sights of glaciers, Plateaus, and Valleys. Talk to a travel specialist to plan your dream Rwenzori mountaineering trip via the Central Circuit Trail.

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