Hiking the Ngong Hills - A Mini Guide and Photo Diary // FrameAmbition
A lot of finger-crossing goes into a hike on the Ngong Hills just outside of Nairobi city. Whatever the weather is like in Nairobae, it’s 5x that on the hills. Also no rain is ideal but does that mean it’ll be clear so you can see the very views you’re climbing 7 hills for? We don’t know.
Last week some friends and I decided to go for it after I pointed out the hills to them from a terrace where we were drinking gin & tonics at on Mombasa Road.
what: a range of 7 hills (if you do the whole thing). Some people go to the peak near the middle and back down to the start too.
where: approx.. an hour Southwest of Nairobi. Most people start at Ngong Police Station
difficulty level: moderate inclines with a couple of short tough ascends that shouldn’t take you longer than 2-3 minutes to come up.
how high: peak is at 2760m above sea level. Nairobi is pretty high already though, at 1795m.
time: completing the entire hike takes 4-5 hours, depending on fitness levels
If you follow my Instagram you’ll see me do quite a few of the cool things in the name of showing friends and friends of friends around when they’re visiting Nairobi. This time the lucky two were friends of friends in Uganda/Kenya from Germany. Almost nobody who’s in Kenya for a holiday stays longer than 48 hours so when they were sent my way I had to show them the real. (side note: comment what Nairobi questions you have or what you’d like to see more of!)
On meeting them I took them to Captain’s Terrace for a Sunday afternoon-evening chill party vibe overlooking the National Park with the hills on the horizon. I pointed them out and told the guys that you could hike the whole way and they were sold. We checked the weather and my work schedule for the week, settled on a day and off we went against the city traffic on a Thursday morning.
Getting to the Ngong Hills to Hike
The Ngong Hills are about an hour outside of Nairobi city and quite easily accessible with public and private transport.
We chose to start on the Ngong entry point, you can also go to the other end and start hiking at the Kona Baridi entry point which takes a little more time to get to from Nairobi. More info on both here.
The three of us split fare for an Uber which took us from Kileleshwa (not far from CBD and Westlands) to the Ngong Kenya Forest Service post (close to Ngong Police Station). Luckily for us our Uber driver actually lived in Ngong Town so he knew exactly where to drop us off to pay the entrance fee and start the hike.
Uber cost on the day (against traffic): 1100 KES/-
You can get on a bus to Ngong town from the Railways terminus in the CBD (111 for Ngong town, 112 for Kona Baridi). You can either walk from the stop or take a boda boda to either entry point.
Hiking Fees at Ngong Hills
This may come as a surprise to non-Kenyans but at pretty much every national park and a lot of museums and cultural sites, there are citizen/resident entry prices and non-resident entry prices. Sometimes East African citizens get to pay less too, bu it all depends on the individual site.
Entry to Ngong Hills Forest cost 200/- per citizen/resident adult and 600/- per non-resident adult at the time of writing. You can pay in cash or in M-pesa - like many of these entry points, there may be a card machine but there’s no guarantee that it’ll always be working.
What You Need for a Ngong Hills Hike
Take lots of water, obviously. I also recommend dry snacks - we quite overdid it and had cereal bars, cookies, nuts and crisps. Remember you have to carry this with/on you, and that includes any packaging and rubbish!
Chances are you’ll work up a sweat, especially at the bigger hills but you’ll be brought right back down with some of the cold winds at the peaks, particularly at the windfarm. Layered clothing is key.
Do You Need A Guide/Guard?
I’ll be honest, I’m still on the fence about this one.
Kenya Forest Service have armed guards available to escort hikers on the trail, at a cost of 1500/ to hike to the peak and back, 2000/ to do the whole hike, and 3000/ to do the whole thing and return to your starting point. The KFS website says it’s up to you but that stray wild animals are a possible (but rare) risk, and the same with thieves.
We got a guide. I was for it, only because it was a weekday which meant fewer hikers, thus fewer witnesses or helping hands should anything go wrong.
On top of it being a random quiet day, it was just little me and two white guys, who as tough as they looked, are still going to be perceived to be rich by the average Kenyan - and more so to a thief. So the ranger at the start of the hike actually insisted on us going with an armed guard even though the guys felt safe.
I’d say 5 people or more will probably be fine, maybe fewer if it’s a weekend or holiday so more people are also hiking. Otherwise, especially if you haven’t been on the trail before, maybe just take the precaution.