A Guide To Hell’s Gate National Park
Hells Gate National Park is south of lake Naivasha, north-west of Nairobi. The park is accessible by road from Nairobi (90km) through Naivasha on the lake road south at a junction five kilometers south of Naivasha. It can also be reached by air though the Naivasha airstrip.
Despite its name, the 68km square is an ideal family getaway from Nairobi or a stop-over en-route to Lake Nakuru or the Masai Mara. Hells Gate National Park is famous for natural hot geysers and as an eagle and vulture breeding ground. The major attractions are game viewing, raptors resting on cliffs, spectacular gorge walk, hot springs, scenic landscape and the geothermal power station.
Hells Gate National Park, which comprises a savannah ecosystem, harbours a wide variety of wildlife. The animal species include lions, leopards and cheetahs. There are more than 100 species of birds in the park, including vultures, Verreaux’s eagle, augur buzzard and swifts. The African buffalo, zebra, eland, Thomson’s gazelle and baboons are also common. The park is also home to klipspringer antelope and Chanter’s mountain reedbuck.
Hells Gate National Park does not operate on the smart-card system. Entry is by cash only – Kenya shilling or the US dollar. For accommodation, the park has no facilities, but this is available in Naivasha town and on the Moi South Lake Road. But camping facilities are available: Oldubai campsite (on the cliff top south of Fischer’s Tower), Nairburta and Endchata campsites (across the gorge on the northern cliffs). Activities at the park including hiking, camping, rock climbing, biking, bird watching and wildlife viewing.
Facts About Hell’s Gate National Park
Altitude: 1,560-2,187 m above sea level.
Area: 68 sq km.
Location: Nakuru District, Rift Valley Province.
Distance from Nairobi: 100 km north-west of Nairobi.
Opened: February 1984.
Climate: January-March hot and dry. April-June hot and wet. July-October very warm and dry. November and December warm and wet.
Vegetation: Mainly grassland and shrub (dominated by Leleshwa and several varieties of acacia).
Wildlife: Eland, buffalo, lion, giraffe, zebra, leopard, impala, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, klipspringer, hyrax and mountain reedbuck.
Birds: More than 100 species of birds have been recorded including numerous rare birds.
Prehistory: Hell’s Gate is believed to be the outlet of a prehistoric freshwater lake, which once stretched all the way to Nakuru, and on whose shores a number of early human communities are believed to have lived.
Special interest: Hell’s Gate National Park has been designated a World Heritage Site and enjoys global protection as one of the most unique natural sites on earth.
Roads: The roads of the main Park circuit are accessible all year round with 2WD. 4WD is required to tour some of the less travelled circuits.
Visitor note: There is a KWS (official custodians of the Kenya National Parks & Reserves) retail outlet at Elsa Gate where you can obtain water, maps of the Park and a wide range of gifts and souvenirs.
Activities: rock climbing, mountain biking, trail hiking, bird watching, walking and nature trails.
What to Do at Hells Gate National Park
Game Drives at Hells Gate National Park
While your game drive here in Hell’s Gate may be a little sedate compared to some of Kenya’s Big Five national parks, it is really wonderfully liberating to be able to leave your vehicle whenever you like to snap that perfect photo or stretch your legs. The best time to set off to see the game is early morning and late afternoon, but there is always something to see whatever time of day you go. The animals are remarkably habituated to vehicles and barely take any notice of visitors, which allows you to get really up close.
Rock climbing: Fischer’s Tower
You don’t need much, if any, rock-climbing experience to scale Fischer’s Tower, the main attraction in Hell’s Gate National Park. Simply pitch up, pay a very modest fee, and the obliging climbing guide will fit you up with ropes, shoes and the other tricks of the trade. And then he/she will teach you how to climb this 25m-high jagged volcanic plug.
All that remains of an ancient volcano, the rock is named after the German explorer, Gustav Fischer, who passed this way in 1883. According to local Maasai tradition, the rock is the petrified figure of a chief’s daughter who turned around against the dictates of tradition to take one last look at her home before leaving to be married.
Be warned, however, while making the climb, you are likely to come face to face with the elephant’s closest relative – the diminutive and very inquisitive rock hyrax, a colony of which have made the rock their home. Hell’s Gate National Park is 100km north of Nairobi and immediately adjacent to Lake Naivasha.
Cycling at Hells Gate National Park
Cycling is probably the most rewarding way to make your way through Hell’s Gate National Park. Bicycles can be hired at the park and cycling will give you the opportunity to get really close to the very relaxed wildlife. You can get all the information you need regarding the various cycling trails, including a park map, from the visitors Information kiosk at the main Elsa gate.
Bird Watching at Hells Gate National Park
Birders will have a great time at Hell’s Gate! Numerous species of birds have made this picturesque park their home including some rather unusual ones such as the Maasai Ostrich, and a good compliment of raptors including Verreaux’s Eagle, and the Lammergeyer.
Hiking at Hells Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate is a very popular hiking destination, and it’s close proximity to Nairobi (about 2 hours by road) make it ideal for weekend breaks from the city. The Buffalo Circuit is a well-marked trail that starts near the main Elsa gate and rambles over the hills for about 14km before re-joining the main valley. There are excellent views and usually plenty of wildlife to see along the way.
At the southern end of the main Hell’s Gate gorge, close to the Central Tower, another walk descends into the Lower Gorge (Ol Njorowa)(Parts of this route can be quite dangerous particularly after rain when the rocks are slippery, and we recommend you hire a guide). The approximately 2 hour walk through the gorge is amazing and in places the water-eroded walls are so close together at the top that they almost block out your view of the sky! You will come across hot and cold waterfalls, hot water springs and very beautifully coloured rock striations and formations.
What To See in Hells Gate National Park
- Spectacular scenery including the towering cliffs, water-gouged gorges, stark rock towers, scrub clad volcanoes and belching plumes of geothermal steam make it one of the most atmospheric Parks in Africa.
- Wildlife viewing
- Raptor nesting in cliffs
- Hot springs
- The Olkaria Geothermal Station
- The Mervyn Carnelley Raptor Hide
- Tourist circuits, nature trails
- Health spa
How to get to Hells Gate National Park
- By Road: This park is accessible via tarmac road from Nairobi (90kms) via Naivasha Town on the Lake Road South at a junction 5km south of Naivasha
- By Air: Naivasha air strip
A Map to Hells Gate National Park
Accommodation And Campsites at Hells Gate National Park
- Endachata Campsite
- Naiburta Campsite
- Oldubai Campsite
Hells Gate National Park fees
- Adults KSH: 350
- Child KSH: 250
- Adults KSH: 700
- Child KSH: 350
Non – Resident
- Adults USD:30
- Child USD: 20
Best Time to Visit
As a park not so dependent on game for its fame, Hell’s Gate National Park is popular throughout the year.
Hells Gate National Park Contacts
Attraction Type: Wildlife, Adventure, Wildlife
Category: National Park, Mountain Climbing, Birding Site
Region: South Rift
City / Town: Naivasha
Road / Street: Moi South Road
Telephone: 254 20 243 3037 254 788 925952
Watch a tour video of the Hells Gate National Park
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