Eastern Uganda

Mount Elgon – Wagagai Peak

Before the peak of Mount Elgon collapsed and eroded, it was the highest mountain in Africa. Today, it offers the largest mountain caldera in the world, and spectacular flora and fauna.

There are approximately three different routes on Mount Elgon. The fastest and steepest trail to Wagagai Peak is the Sasa trail, which is detailed in the trail description below. Mount Elgon is straddled on the border between Uganda and Kenya, and a cross-border hike is possible (contact Uganda Wildlife Authority to arrange this).

Description

Mount Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in Africa and an ideal starting point for anyone who is new to hiking and mountaineering.

The 3-day Sasa trail takes you to Wagagai Peak (4,321 asl) 

Trip Highlights

  • 3-day trek to the third highest peak in Uganda (4,321 asl)
  • The largest mountain caldera in the world
  • Significant cultural site for the Sabiny and Gisu tribes

Pre-hike: Arrive in Budadiri

You need to arrive in Budadiri Village the day before you start the hike. We recommend staying somewhere close to the park gate to make it easier to get to the UWA office to register and pay (credit cards are accepted). You can also organise for a chef and porters, as those are not included in your mountain fees. Your daily mountain fees will include two armed rangers for the duration of your trip. 

Day 1: Park gate to Mude Cave Camp (3,500 m)

Wake up early and organise for boda bodas, the road is not sufficient for cars to pass, to take you to the trailhead at Bumasola Village (1,770 m). The trail starts with a walk through the surrounding farms and village up to the perimeter of the national park. Already sweating, you reach the park and look up at the intimidating Mudange cliffs (2,290 m) also known as the “Wall of Death”. Be aware that while the climb has metal stairs, landslides have taken out some of them and those sections can be very slippery.

After scaling the cliffs, you have an easy walk through the regenerating forest zone to Sasa River Camp (2,900 m). You will stop here for a quick lunch or snack, before continuing up into the pure mountain forest. This area is beautiful and used to be a paradise for buffalo, elephants and big cats, but they have migrated to the Kenyan side that was made into a wildlife refuge much earlier than the Ugandan side. However, you will still meet a host of monkeys. After a few tough inclines, you will get to the Sasa Patrol Hut (3,300 m) where you will register with the ranger before you continue into the heathland zone. This part of the trek, which takes you to the incline to the caldera, is full of stunning giant lobelia, everlasting flowers and several species of lichen.

Reach Mude Cave Camp (3,500 m) which offers one of the most spectacular sunsets/sunrise spots in Uganda. Pitch your tent for the night. Be warned, despite good temperatures during the day, nights at Mude Cave can be frosty. Pack accordingly!

Day 2: Mude Cave Camp to Wagagai Peak (4,321 m) then return to Sasa River Camp

Wake up before sunrise, shake the cold out of your bones and get on the trail heading for the summit. Leave your tent and heavy pack here, you will come back to pick it up later in the day.

Today, you will pass through the alpine zone to reach the lip of the largest mountain caldera in the world.

You will pass a junction (left takes you to hot springs, but you will continue straight) before reaching Jackson’s Pool (4,050 m). Here you can take a snack break and admire Jackson’s Table, a geological formation, and Jackson’s Peak (4,165 m). Beware: the wind will continue to pick up speed as you reach the summit. Pass around Jackson’s Peak and traverse the ridge of the caldera heading east towards Wagagai Peak. On the way, you will have spectacular views of the massive caldera, where you can see various lakes and the Suam gorge. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Kenya in the distance. Scramble up the rocky ridge to reach the summit. Wagagai Peak (4,321 m) is not your traditional summit, but rather the highest point of the calderas ridge. Take your celebratory photos and a well-deserved snack with the sign!

Turn around and retrace your steps back to Jackson’s Pool. If you want to make a detour, there is an option to summit Jackson’s Peak by crossing the ridge and scramble up the rocky side of the peak. Ask your guide if you want to include this lesser travelled path!

Continue all the way down to Mude Cave camp, where you will have lunch. Pack up your stuff and continue down to Sasa River camp where you will fall asleep to the sound of the river rushing by. 

Day 3: Sasa River Camp back to the trailhead

Take your time getting up and packing up your stuff. Have a hearty breakfast and begin the steep descent back down to Bumasola. Keep in mind that the descent is quite steep and heavy on the knees. Despite the short distance, you should take your time to avoid falling.

Reach the trailhead where you will part with your porters and chefs (remember to tip them!). Continue by boda boda back to UWA’s Budadiri office. Receive the diploma certifying that you have summited Wagagai Peak! 

Celebrate with a hot shower and a cold drink!

Key Details

Location
Mbale, Uganda

Difficulty level
Intermediate

Trip length
3 days

Distance
45 kilometres

Altitude gain
2,550 m

Season
Best in dry season
Dec – Feb, June – July

Need to know

Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness, is always a concern above 4,000 m. Above that altitude, the air becomes noticeably thinner meaning there is less oxygen for your brain.

Elgon is arguably the coldest mountain in Uganda. Please pack accordingly.

practical details

Where to stay
Rosie’s Last Chance
Google Map
+256 (0) 772 623206

Contact person
Juma Chebet
+256 (0) 787 767 402

Relevant links

Similar works

Mount Kadam

Karamoja

Mount Sabyinyo

Southwestern Uganda

Rwenzori: Margherita Peak

Western Uganda