Southwestern Uganda

Mount Gahinga

Gahinga means 'pile of rocks' in Rufumbira and Kinyarwanda. The smallest of the Virunga mountains is perfect for beginners, but don't underestimate this one.

Mount Gahinga (3,474 metres) is the shortest of the eight mountains in the Virunga range in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo.  As its stature implies, Gahinga means “pile of rocks” in Rufumbira and Kinyarwanda. Though it has one of the shortest trails (approximately 5 hours), it is not to be underestimated! Expect slippery rocks and some wooden ladders on the way to the top.

As well as being important for wildlife, this national park also has cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people.” Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s smallest, only 33.7 km2, yet boasts some of its richest wildlife diversity.


On this hike, you will enjoy a nice and long stretch through the bamboo forest, before starting the ascent to the summit of the mountain. You will get to scramble up several wooden ladders to get to a summit that boasts a large shallow crater swamp. Return the way you came.

Trip Highlights

  • Extensive bamboo zone – those with sharp eyes may spot the golden monkey!
  • An extinct volcano
  • 3,474 metres at the summit
  • A stunning and swampy caldera that is 180 metres wide

Get an early start and drive – or take boda bodas – to the entrance gate of Mgahinga National Park. Here are the trailheads for both Sabyinyo and Gahinga hiking! 

If you haven’t already registered, register at the office and pay the entrance fee (you can do this beforehand with UWA directly). You will then be able to request a porter (additional cost) and receive a briefing about the trail and surrounding environment. 

The trail begins in a grassy, montane forest that soon brings you to the base of the mountain, where the bamboo zone begins. The bamboo zone on Gahinga is home to the shy golden monkey and other animals, so keep an eye out above your heads!

You will steadily climb out of the bamboo zone to a hut to take a rest and eat a small snack. Make sure you’re drinking enough water!

After the bamboo zone, you continue climbing past volcanic caves and other features on the slopes of the mountain. Expect several wooden ladders to scramble up and stunning views of Kisoro below as you traverse Afro-montane vegetation.

The summit of Mount Gahinga is quite different from the surrounding mountains. At the summit, there is a large shallow crater swamp with unique sub-alpine plants like Senecio, Lobelia and Alchemilla.

Once you’ve admired the views, including nice vistas of Sabyinyo and Muhabura, return the same way you came.

Key Details

Kisoro, Uganda

Difficulty level

Trip length
5-6 hours

14.5 kilometres

Altitude gain
1,071 meters

Any, though the dry season will mean a less slippery trail!

Need to know

Entrance fees for each mountain are approximately UGX 50,000 for Ugandans and East African citizens and $75 for foreigners (including foreign residents).

Porters are an additional UGX 50,000 (subject to change, check with UWA for up-to-date rates).

Tips are not included in the entrance fees and are strongly recommended!

Make sure you carry 2-3 litres of water for the hike and adequate snacks.

We recommend wearing closed-toe hiking shoes, long pants and carrying a rain jacket.

practical details

Where to stay
Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp
Next to the park entrance
Google maps
+256 774 954 956

There are also several hotels and lodges in Kisoro.

Tour company/contact person
You book your trip directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority who will supply guides, guards and porters.

UWA at Mgahinga National Park:
Plot 13, Bunagana Road,
P.O.Box 124, Kisoro, Uganda.
Tel: +256 414 680793 / +256 392 881348

Relevant links

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