Embarking on the adventure of hiking Mount Muhabura volcano in Uganda is an opportunity to experience the remarkable Virunga Massif. With its peak soaring to an impressive elevation of 13,450 feet (4,127 meters) above sea level, conquering Mount Muhabura is no small feat. This extinct volcano stands out as the steepest among the eight volcanoes in the region, ranking as the second highest mountain in Rwanda and the third highest among the Virunga Mountains. Mount Mikeno in the Democratic Republic of Congo holds the distinction of being the second highest at 14,560 feet (4,437 meters), while Mount Karisimbi takes the crown as the highest, towering at 14,790 feet (4,507 meters). Remarkably, Mount Muhabura lies on the easternmost edge of the Virunga Volcanoes and straddles the borders of two countries and their respective national parks: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Climbing Mount Muhabura presents a more strenuous challenge compared to Mount Karisimbi due to its steeper incline. Nevertheless, it offers the prospect of a single-day hike, making it an enticing option for adventurers seeking a thrilling experience. What sets Mount Muhabura apart is the breathtaking panoramic view it rewards hikers with at its summit. From this vantage point, tourists can feast their eyes on the awe-inspiring sight of neighboring volcanoes and the Twin Lakes of Ruhondo and Burera. Additionally, the unique feature of Mount Muhabura is its Crater Lake, nestled right next to the summit. The surrounding vegetation differs from other parts of the Volcanoes National Park, characterized by its drier landscape. Notably, Mount Muhabura is connected to Mount Gahinga by a wide saddle to the west, adorned with a Crater Lake that spans approximately 40 meters.
The name “Muhabura” holds significance, with “Kinyarwanda” translating to “sentinel,” as its distinct outline is visible from various parts of Rwanda. In the Rukiga language of Uganda, “Muhabura” signifies “the guide.”
Travelers can secure permits for the Mount Muhabura hike in advance, although it is not always essential, and they can also obtain them on the day of the hike. A noteworthy aspect of Mount Muhabura is that it can be approached from both the Ugandan and Rwandan sides. The duration of the hike typically spans between 5 to 6 hours, contingent on the hiking pace and the fitness level of participants.
Hiking Mount Muhabura necessitates careful preparation and a certain level of physical fitness. Prior to commencing the hike, hikers should ensure they have the appropriate gear and supplies. These essentials include a packed lunch, snacks, drinking water, hiking boots, long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, and a walking stick for support on the slopes, among other items. Hikers should then proceed to the Park headquarters at Ntebeko visitors center, where a pre-hiking briefing awaits them at 7:00 am. During this briefing, participants receive valuable insights into the mountain’s formation and history, hiking guidelines, expectations for the journey, tips for managing injuries, and a preview of what lies ahead as they ascend to higher elevations.
Following the briefing, hikers are transported to the trailhead, located at the base of the volcano. Throughout the hike, armed rangers accompany the group to ensure their safety in the event of encounters with wild animals such as elephants and buffaloes, which may be deterred by firing warning shots. The hike unfolds in two stages, each marked by a hut. The first stop occurs at an elevation of 3,116 meters (10,223 feet) above sea level, while the second is at 3,855 meters (12,648 feet) above sea level. The ultimate goal is to reach the peak, situated at 4,127 meters (13,450 feet) above sea level. Reaching the summit of Mount Muhabura is a noteworthy achievement, as some hikers opt to conclude their journey at the first or second hut. The peak offers a chilly and misty environment, yet the exhilaration of the ascent may tempt hikers to take a dip in the Crater Lake.
For nature enthusiasts, hiking in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park complements the mountain adventure, as the region boasts a hilly terrain that makes hiking an integral part of the experience. Guided nature walks are available, complete with armed escorts to accompany visitors and showcase the area’s breathtaking scenery and diverse tourism attractions.
Before embarking on your Mount Muhabura hiking adventure, it is crucial to ensure you have all the necessary gear and supplies. These items should be on your checklist:
The remainder of the essentials listed above should also be considered based on factors such as the weather, hike difficulty, duration, and proximity to assistance. This comprehensive checklist is tailored for backcountry day hikes where self-sufficiency is vital for your well-being. While it includes more items than you may need for shorter treks in developed areas like city parks, you can adapt it to your requirements for such trips.