Hell's Gate National Park, at a glance

Situated just south of Lake Naivasha, Hell's Gate National Park is the only national park in Kenya that you can explore on foot.

Unlike other national parks in Kenya, there are no predators here apart from the occasional leopard sighting.

Instead, the appeal comes from the beautiful scenery formed by millions of years of geothermal activity.

The park itself was established back in 1984 and named 'Hell's Gate' due to powerful forces shaping the national park from below.

Dramatic volcanic rocky outcrops, obsidian caves, spitting geysers, rock towers, sandstone cliffs, and water gouged gorges are what make this park worth visiting.

Hell's Gate National Park is a great choice for thrill-seekers; mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking are some of the available activities. 

Zebras in Nairobi National Park

Where Does Hell's Gate National Park Fit in Your Kenyan Adventure?

Hell's Gate National Park is less than two hours from Nairobi by car along the Rift Valley escarpment and works great as a standalone adventure if you have an extra day in Nairobi or can be combined with Lake Naivasha for an overnight stay. 

Located in the South West of Kenya, Hell's Gate is also not too far from Kenya's famed Maasai Mara.

It is possible to stop here if you take the scenic route across the Rift Valley floor on your Journey to the Mara or you can fly from the Mara to lake Naivasha.

Hell's Gate National Park

Activities at Hell's Gate National Park

  • Hiking

    The unique ability to freely roam anywhere in the park on foot surrounded by zebras, giraffe and the best of Kenya's plains game in the pristine and unspoiled wilderness is hard to match.

    There are several trails in the park to choose from, a guide is required, but as experts on the park's landscape, history and wildlife, they will only enhance the experience.

    Good walking shoes, binoculars, long sleeves, light trousers, sunglasses, hat and plenty of water are a must, as the park has little shade and can get very hot (try avoiding the middle of the day, when it is hottest if you can)

    Carved by a prehistoric lake that once fed the Rift Valley, Hell's Gate Gorge cuts through the park and is one of the many highlights on the walking and cycling trail.

  • Cycling

    The cycle trail is a half-day excursion and best begun early before it gets too hot.

    Bicycles are rented from Elsa's Gate (the main gate), from which it is a mostly downhill 9 km cycle to the gorge.

    The ride is scenic, taking you through the park's biggest attractions such as the volcanic plugs, lookouts, zebra, giraffe and buffalo grazing grounds.

    Once you arrive at the gorge, you can hike down into it. Some parts of this trek are more of a scramble and involve rope climbing, and it takes about 1.5 hours in total to go through the gorge.

    You will then cycle uphill back to the main gate, all in all, it takes about five hours, and a good level of fitness is recommended.

    Alternatively, a shorter and slightly easier route is the 6 km round trip to the obsidian caves.

  • Rock Climbing

    Hell's Gate National Park is a great choice for rock climbing in Kenya, as there is a variety of places to climb within the park to suit every experience level.  

    25 m Fischer's Towers and the towering rock cliffs are the most popular. Prior experience is not required, especially for the easier climbs, but you must go with a licenced operator

    This activity combines well with the cycle to the obsidian caves and picnic lunch.

  • Olkaria Spa

    Located on the northern tip of Hell's Gate National Park, the Olkaria Geothermal Spa is a series of three geothermal pools.

    Beautiful azure blue waters heated by the earth geothermal activity, sun loungers, and restaurant makes this the perfect spot to relax and recuperate after cycling or hiking in the park.

    Between 30 and 40 degrees Celcius, only the third pool is cool enough to swim in.

Hell's Gate National Park FAQs

  • Where to stay

    Within Hell's Gate National Park, a few DIY campsites are available for those who wish to go back to basics and immerse themselves in nature.

    However, those opting for mid-range and luxury accommodation options will stay in Lake Naivasha

    Situated on the southern shores of Lake Naivasha, Sopa Lodge offers guests the ultimate luxury experience. 

    Nestled within a green acacia woodland are two-story African style rondavels containing 84 rooms. 

    The rooms on the ground floor have a sunken bath, a balcony and queen size twin beds. On the upper floor, the rooms have a king-size bed and balcony. The balconies are furnished with a table and chairs, allowing a fantastic place to unwind and watch over the wildlife.

    Surrounded by lush gardens, Camp Carnelley's has both budget and mid-range accommodation choices close to Hell's Gate and a great Lake Naivasha view (if you pitch your tent, you have the greatest possibility of securing a great view).

    The bandas sleep six and are en-suite, as do the cottages, which sleep two. The dormitories sleep eight and have shared bathroom facilities.

  • When to go

    Hell's Gate has great wildlife viewing all year round. The driest seasons are between June and February, so it is recommended visiting then. 

    If you are travelling in the wet months, March till May, be aware that rains might interfere with walking, cycling and rock climbing.

  • How to Get There

    The best way to get to Hell's Gate National Park is by road along the scenic Rift Valley escarpment.

    The Journey is 90 Km and roughly takes two hours depending on traffic, which can get quite congested on the escarpment with lorries travelling from Athi River.

    A short flight from Wilson Airport to Naivasha is possible. There are a few daily flights that take under an hour but are quite expensive.

    Your accommodation will pick you up and organise excursions in Hell's Gate National Park.

    It is also possible to connect to the Maasai Mara from here by flight if that is your next destination. 

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