Trekking Rwanda’s wilderness

Rwanda is known as the ‘land of a thousand hills’, and with that title comes a lot of trekking options.

While gorilla trekking is the biggest draw card for visitors to Rwanda, there are many other treks and hikes around the country that are guaranteed to feed your wild side.

Due to the country’s mountainous landscape, there are plenty of hikes ranging in difficulty that all feature some of the region’s most epic views. Get out those hiking boots and get ready to hit Rwanda’s many trails.

Here are some of the top trekking and hiking options in Rwanda.

Volcanoes National Park

Photo Credit: Kate Webster

There is more to Volcanoes National Park than the Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys that you can track here.  There is also Hiking and Volcano Climbing, the visit to ancient and magical forests, Caves, Lakes and more.

The possibilities are endless here for the outdoor enthusiast, it is simply a great place for those that want to do something off of the beaten tourist path.

Gorilla Trekking

Most people visit Rwanda to trek the rare mountain gorillas. The overall length of your hike to the mountain gorillas is unpredictable depending on how far the gorillas have moved being wild animals. It may take as little as 30 minutes to find your gorilla family and as long as five to seven hours. The forest is verdant, humid and somehow light and there are no discernible trekking paths. The terrain is full of hills and steep volcano slopes where you will be required to pull yourself up steep grades by grasping onto branches, plant roots, bushes and more. You will be with a group no larger than 8 and will have a guide and trackers. It is advised to hire a porter at the park gate, which costs between USD$15 to USD$20 depending on what he is going to carry. A gorilla trekking permit costs USD$1500.

Mount Bisoke Volcano Hike

This is a very scenic hike taking approximately 4 hours to ascend to the top of this volcano, which has a spectacular crater lake and then 2 hours descending down to the starting point. Experienced hikers can get to the top of this mountain in a matter of 3 hours or even less and return to the base in about an hour. On the day of hiking, hikers converge at the park headquarters at Kinigi at 7:00 am to attend to a briefing and are assigned a park ranger. The park rangers are usually natives of the Volcanoes national park vicinity and thus very knowledgeable about mountain adventures. At 8:00 am the adventure begins.

Nyungwe National Park

Photo Credit: Kate Webster

Many people come to Rwanda, trekking to see the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National park and then miss the magnificent Nyungwe Forest with its variety of primates, plants, birds, and tropical trees. Nyungwe National Park is a hiker’s paradise with some 13 hiking trails over 130 kilometres through the forest. Tracks range from easy to difficult, taking just 4 hours up to 3-day long hikes.

Chimpanzee Trekking

Chimpanzee trekking starts in the morning and takes a good 4 hours and more. Therefore, you need to be prepared. Carry a day pack with a couple of litres of water and dress appropriately in long trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, a rain jacket, hiking boots and a hat. The chimps in Nyungwe Forest have been and are being habituated, which means that they are used to human beings.

Ngabwe Trail

This is 4.7 kilometres and takes 3 hours to be completed and is a moderate hike in difficulty. You will find the trail taking you through different vegetation zones even though it’s a short trail. It can also be extended to be 8 hours long and would then include the Kitabi tea plantation. And along the trail, you may sight the colobus monkeys, L’Hoest silver monkeys, chimpanzees as well as the Mangabey.

Bigugu Trail

This 7km trail is somehow difficult, with steep slippery sections, taking about 6 hours to complete. This trail goes up towards the highest point in the park which is Bigugu peak which is about 2950m in elevation. This is an excellent trail for the birders where one can see the red-collared mountain babbler.

Igishigishigi Trail

Possibly the most popular trail, since it also includes the canopy forest walkway, this hike departs from the Uwinka reception area of the park. The trail is about 2.4 km and takes 5 hours to be completed including the canopy walk. You will be up in the tree tops and view the primates, birds, and butterflies in their habitat. This is an amazing hike that you shouldn’t miss.

Kamiranzovu Marsh Trail

This trail is inside of the caldera-like depression and it’s a large swamp that forms a vital watershed within the park. The trail is moderate difficulty and is 6 km long and takes 3 hours to be completed. Along this trail, you will find lots of orchids in the rainy season and this season starts in October to November and then April and May each year. This trail is rich in botanical and is good for swamp-associated birds like the Grauer’s Rush warbler.

Isumo waterfall Trail

Also a popular trail, this hike is 10.6km long and is moderately difficult, taking around 4 hours to complete. First, you go through a tea plantation and then through the patches of forest where you can view many species of monkeys. On the way to the waterfall, you will also move through the tree ferns which require an imposing eye as often you will view the Ruwenzori Turaco bird. This is also one of the exciting trails of Nyungwe Forest, with the waterfall a spectacular reward after a tough hike.

Mt. Karisimbi Trek

Photo Credit: Visit Rwanda

Lying between the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mt. Karisimbi is Rwanda’s tallest volcano. At over 4,500 metres, Karisimbi takes two days to hike, so trekkers can stay in rustic cabins midway up the mountain. The days of trekking will be rewarded with unbelievable views of both Rwanda and Congo.

Twin lakes Trek

Photo Credit: Visit Rwanda

The twin lakes are Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo. The views of these lakes from Virunga Lodge are some of the best in the country. This hike is moderate and takes a few hours to hike up the trail, enjoying Rwanda’s spectacular countryside, before coming face to face with one of the most gorgeous lakeside views in East Africa.

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Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself but the world around her. This has inspired Kate to translate those moments and share them through her storytelling. A dedicated David Attenborough and Jane Goodall fan, Kate has delved into the world of wildlife and conservation travel to bring awareness.