Elgon is a 4,321m high extinct volcano which in prehistoric times stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Although the mountain straddles the Kenya border, its loftiest peak, Waragai, lies within Uganda and is best ascended from the Uganda side. Elgon is an important watershed, and its slopes support a rich variety of altitudinal vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the other-worldly giant lobelia and groundsel plants.
Spectacular scenery is the main attraction for hikers on this oft-neglected and relatively undemanding mountain, but there is also a variety of forest monkeys and small antelope, along with elephant and buffalo. A checklist topping 300 birds includes many species not recorded elsewhere in Uganda. Other attractions include ancient cave paintings close to the trailhead at Budadiri, and spectacular caves and hot springs within the crater.
Size: 1,121 sq km.
Location: Near Mbale on the eastern border with Kenya.
Getting there: Mbale lies 3-4 hours from Kampala along a good tar road. The railhead at Budadiri, 20km from Mbale, is accessible by public transport.
Activities: Day walks from Budadiri or within the Mount Elgon Forest Exploration Centre; hikes of four days or longer traverse the peaks. Well worth visiting is the lovely Sipi Falls.
When to visit: The lower slopes are fine throughout the year. The drier months (June- August, December- March) are best for hiking.
Where to stay: Up-market lodges at Sipi Falls. Midrange hotels in Mbale and Kapchorwa. Budget lodging at Sipi Falls, Mbale and Budadiri. Within the park UWA cottages and camping only.