Hiking in Volcanoes National Park located in Musanze district, Northern Province has been developed for visitors who want to experience the tropical and bamboo forested dormant volcanic mountain scenery, its wildlife and the Virunga massifs.
Hiking tours are led by expert Rwandan Development Board guides who will help you to explore the beautiful Virunga volcanoes. They include Mt. Bisoke, Mt. Muhabura, and Mt. Karisimbi, at 4,507 meters above sea level, the highest peak in Rwanda and of all 8 chains of Virunga volcanoes. Other volcanoes including active Mt. Nyiragongo can be hiked on a safari to eastern DRC while 3 volcanoes are found in Mgahinga gorilla national park southwestern Uganda.
Like gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes, Hiking can be done all year round. Visitors have the least chance of rainfall in the month of December to February and June to July. Conditions tend to become damp during the rainy season; trails often go through humid and cloud forest.
Extraordinarily, hikers go through the trails of the critically endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit the park’s biologically diverse ecosystems. Definitely many visitors come to Rwanda for mountain gorilla trekking. As much as you try to concentrate on hiking the volcanoes, seeing the world’s giant apes remains a once in a life time wildlife experience.
It’s possible to combine hiking with mountain gorilla trekking safari as well as golden monkey tracking while in volcanoes national park. Golden monkeys are famous primates known for their astonishingly bright golden fur with black linings which stay at higher bamboo slopes.
Hiking permits can be obtained in Kigali city at the Rwandan Development Board offices. You can also pay for the permits on arrival at Kinigi, the main visitor center in Volcanoes National Park. You’re welcomed to Rwanda by the traditional cultural dancers who earn a living from tourism.
At Kinigi, hiking preparations are made early morning including meeting guides for briefing, arranging hiking equipment, hiring porters. Thereafter transfer via local village plantations to the base of volcanoes where hiking begins.
Mount Karisimbi 4,507 meters above sea level
Looking for a challenge, then hike to the summit of Mt. Karisimbi 4,507m the highest peak in Rwanda offers the ultimate tropical volcano hiking experience. The two day hiking spans from overnight camping to hiking the next morning through montane forests, bamboo and giant lobelias to the huge caldera on top. When you begin the hike from the foot of Mt. Bisoke, you go through saddle valleys.
The first day; hiking starts at 09am but hikers should arrive at Kinigi early for more preparation and hiring of porters. A base camp is set up for overnight, sleep under the starts, wake up on breathtaking sunrise. The final ascent is steep climaxing to the summit caldera. On a clear day, views of Virunga on both sides of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC are spectacular.
No special technical equipment is required but it takes commitment than day hikes on Bisoke and Muhabura volcanoes. Up the mountain its very cold, be self sufficient and pack sleeping bags, hiking boots, small backpack, food and drinking water bottle, sweaters, rain jackets, pocket knife, bandages, sun screen, hat, torch, insect repellant and binoculars to observe animals.
Mount Muhabura 4,127 meters above sea level
Mt. Muhabura is shared by Uganda and it’s the second tallest in Rwanda. Unlike Bisoke and Karisimbi, this volcano usually has dry trails and vegetation of giant heathers and alpine meadows to the Crater Lake on the summit. After 4 to 6 hours of hiking you eventually reach the Rwanda/Uganda border signpost in the afro-montane belt.
Relax a bit and enjoy your picnic lunch. Spend an hour looking over the valley enjoying views of Blue roofed Nyagahinga market, the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. Your guide shall distinguish for you the furthest Lake of Bunyonyi and kisoro town in the Kigezi highlands of southwestern Uganda.
Mount Bisoke 3,711 meters above sea level
It’s easy to enjoy hiking Mt. Bisoke for just a day. It takes 4-5 hours to achieve the top and 2 -3 hours of descending depending on the pace of hikers.
Before reaching the top, at 2,970 meters, there is the grave site of the famous gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey along with two gorilla graves. Birds and reptile species can be spotted along this trail.
Hiking further, you’ll experience bamboo and alpine vegetation to the top and then descent into the beautiful summit crater Lake Ngezi.
The summit is always covered with fog and terrain can challenge. You should be prepared with hiking basics. Carry Rain jackets, hiking boots, packed food and enough drinking water.