Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the true Kenyan landscape.
On 17th December 2017, I stood at the peak of the 7th Ngong Hill. I witnessed the majestic beauty of the Great Rift Valley dropping over 4,000 feet below, breathed in the cleanest air in my life, and watched the sunset.
Ngong Hills, situated 25 Kilometers from Nairobi CBD, is one of the most stunning hiking trails in Kenya. I don’t recall much of my first Ngong Hills hike in 2008 but the craving to hike has always stirred in my heart.
This is my experience with Ngong Hills and what you need to know before you decide to hike the 7 hills.
What do you need?
- Sunscreen – Please don’t skip this. Your skin will feel the burn if you do.
- Warm, Layered Clothing – It can get very cold, windy and hot too
- Closed, comfortable shoes with a strong grip
- 2 – 3 Liters of drinking water & dry snacks
- Hat – The sun can be scorching
- Good company and excitement.
- Mobile money (M-Pesa) and Cash.
- Camera – capture the moments
How do you get to Ngong Hills?
There are 2 main ways to get to Ngong Hills – via public and private means.
For Public means: Take a matatu No. 111 at Railways opposite Memorial to drop you off at Ngong town, 2 Kilometers from the Forest reserve gate. Here’s a pin. The fare is usually between Ksh. 80 – 100 ($0.80 – $1) dependent on peak times.
Once you reach Ngong town, you can either walk or take a motorbike/boda boda. It costs between Ksh. 75 – 100 ($0.75 – $1) and takes an average of 10 minutes. Feel free to negotiate with the riders and also, ask them for their mobile number so they can ferry you after the hike.
For Private means: Use Ngong road and drive past Dagoretti Corner, Karen, and Ngong Town until Ngong Police station. Here’s a pin
Update 2020: You can now use ride-hailing apps such as Uber, Safe Boda, Litte, InDriver among others. They have options for a cab, motorbike/Boda Boda, and vans. It is easier to either take a cab to the Forest Reserve gate or take public means until Ngong town and use Boda Boda to get to the gate.
What is the entrance fee?
Hiking hours are from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. The entry to Ngong Hills Forest, per person, is Kshs. 200 for Kenyans, Kshs. 400 for Residents and Kshs. 600 for Foreigners. At the time of this article, You could only pay via mobile money, M-Pesa.
For more Ngong hills entry prices, see below.
Do you need a guide to hike Ngong Hills?
If you are not familiar with Ngong Hills or you are hiking solo, it is advisable to get a guide. There are Kenya Forest Service guards stationed at the gate to help you navigate the terrains and protect you. They charge Kshs. 1,500/$15 for Kenyan citizens and Kshs. 2,000/$20 for foreigners.
If you choose to go without a guide, go with a mixed group of friends. I did not use a guide as I was hiking with a friend who was very familiar with Ngong Hills.
The Ngong Hills Trail!
The climb typically takes 4 – 5 hours depending on your fitness level. It starts off as a dirt road that stretches past the Kengen generator site and residential homes to pave way for the giant white windmills scattered across the hillside.
The view of the undulating hills on the horizon sits as real as a painting or a High-res picture. We took a moment here to take in the fresh air and lots of pictures!
Stamina is tested on the 3rd hill with its rocky steep and slippery rocks. On the upside, it is a shorter climb than the first two hills. Your shoes will need to have a strong grip to conquer this hill and the 4th hill. The 4th hill is sloppy and windy. If you’re not careful, your hat and scarfs can be easily blown away. I learnt this the hard way ☹. My cap flew away.
On the descent of the 4th hill, you will see the exotic and indigenous trees like sandalwood among others. If you’re lucky, you may get to see a variety of animals such as buffaloes, porcupines, and wild pigs. …And yes, the hills get easier from here.
On the ascent to the 5th and 6th hill, you will hear the tinkling of bells at a distance. This is from the locally grazed bulls and cows. They are not violent in any way and generally move out of the way.
The 7th hill is the climax! All that hiking and tiredness melt away as you gaze upon the unmatched scenic views of the Rift Valley floor.
There are two ways to climb down – Kona Baridi which leads to Kiserian or back down the 7 hills to Ngong town. The hiking hours come to a close at 5:00 pm for safety purposes so be sure to be on time. One of our new hiking friends were almost arrested for staying past 5:00 pm.
The hike is suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced. It offers a good starting point for stamina to hike Mt. Kenya or Mt. Kilimanjaro. You can do this with a small or large group of friends.
A shoestring budget need not deter you. My friend and I hiked Ngong hills on a budget of as little as Kes. 700/$7. My friend and I spent Kes. 675 ($6.75) per person inclusive of entrance fees, snacks, water, boda-boda rides to and from the Ngong Hills forest reserve gate, and public transport fare to and from Nairobi CBD.
Where to eat in Ngong Hills:
At Ngong Hills, you can choose to eat at Kompass hotel which offers authentic Kenyan food, snacks, and drinks. As you wait for your meal or after, you can choose to play archery or do ziplining
Courtesy: Kompass Hotel, Ngong Hills
If you leave via the Kiserian route, Kona Baridi, you can choose to go into town and check out local restaurants such as Olepolos. Their nyama choma is to die for!
If you leave via the Ngong route, you can check out local eateries/ butcheries scattered across. There are also fast-food joints such as Pizza Inn, Creamy Inn, and Chicken Inn at Milele mall.
If you have a penchant for street food, there are vendors across the streets where you can buy smokies, mayai kachumbari (the best ever!) and other cool stuff. Take the necessary precautions as you would eating anywhere else with street food.
Other Activities other than Hiking:
If you don’t want to hike or you want to supplement the experience, there are tons of activities you can do at Ngong Hills. You can check out the sites below for more;
- Kompass, Ngong Hills: They offer various activities like zip lining, paintballing, camping, archery and high ropes among others.
- PEC Nature Camp: They have tons of activities such as climbing a tower, picnic, camping, high ropes, ziplining, biking, bird watching among others.
That’s just about it! If you have hiked Ngong Hills, I’d love to know how your experience was. If there’s a cool activity you’ve done at Ngong Hills, let me know so I can include it as well to enrich someone else’s experience 😊