About Hell’s Gate National Park
Named for the intense geothermal activity within its boundaries, the Hell’s Gate National Park is a remarkable quarter of the Great Rift Valley. The park has spectacular sceneries. They include the towering cliffs, water-gouged gorges, stark rock towers and scrub clad volcanoes. It is one of the most atmospheric Parks in Africa. Hell’s Gate is an ideal venue for a day trip from Nairobi. In addition to the bio-diversity that includes raptors, visitors can enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing and a natural spa.
Hell’s Gate covers an area of 68.25 square km and is situated in the environs of Lake Naivasha about 90 km from Nairobi. The park is 14 km after the turnoff from the old Nairobi-Naivasha highway. It is characterized by diverse topography and geological scenery. It is an important home of the lammergeyer (The Bearded Vulture).
The main attraction of Hell’s Gate is its dramatic scenery. The name refers to the steep-sided valley running through the park. The dormant volcanos dorminate volcanic landscape and several ancient lava plugs sticking out from the valley floor.
You can cycle to your heart’s content past grazing zebras, giraffes, impalas and buffaloes. Also spot rock hyraxes as they clamber up inclines and chase dust clouds as they swirl in the wind. And if the pedaling isn’t enough exercise, hike the gorge or climb Fischer’s Tower.
wildlife and Birds of Hells Gate National Park
While Hell’s Gate National Park isn’t a wildlife destination, the diversity in the park is still impressive and worth seeing. Predators can be found in the park but are very rare, which is why you can explore the land on foot or bicycle. If you’re extremely lucky you may spot a cheetah, but you are more likely to see many different types of antelopes. Curious hyraxes are also commonly seen sunbathing on warm rocks.
Hell’s Gate is not a big wildlife safari destination. Of the Big Five, only buffalo are seen, while leopard are around but seldom encountered. Giraffe, zebra, eland, hartebeest and Thomson’s gazelle are common. Olive baboons are often seen perched on the cliffs while a good spotter might pick up a pair of klipspringers. Less common is the Chanler’s mountain reedbuck, which can be found grazing on the grassy slopes. Bird species sighted among the cliffs and flying around the park include: vultures, verreaux’s eagle, augurs buzzard among others.
Best time to visit Hell’s Gate
Due to the relatively high altitude, the climate is mild throughout the year. Daytime temperatures are pleasant in the mid to upper twenties, while it cools off at night. The short rains aren’t as pronounced as in other places in Kenya.
The best time to visit Hell’s Gate National Park is from June to February when there is little to no rain. Wildlife viewing is fairly consistent all year round, but heavy rainfall may disrupt park activities during the wettest months (March to May).
The dry season is from June to October and consists of pleasant, warm days followed by cold nights. Daytime temperatures average between 72-77˚F (22-25˚C). Nights and mornings are quite cold with an average temperature of 48˚F (9˚C). This is the best time for walking, hiking and cycling in the park as there is little rainfall. You will spot Animals gathering at water sources during this time.
The wet season is from November to May and consists of ‘short rains’ (November – December), a dry period (January – February) and then the ‘long rains’ (March – May). The days are warm averaging 77˚F (25˚) while nights and mornings are still quite cold so remember to pack warm clothes. March, April and May are the wettest months with frequent afternoon rain showers. The scenery of the park is better during the wet season as the vegetation is more lush and green with flowers. This is also the best time for bird watching as migratory species can be found.
Attractions in Hell’s Gate National Park
With spectacular scenery including the towering cliffs, Hell’s Gate is indeed one of the most atmospheric Parks in Africa.
- Hell’s Gorge: The gorge that runs through the heart of the park is a wide, deep valley hemmed in by sheer, rusty-hued rock walls. Marking its eastern entrance is Fischer’s Tower, a 25m-high volcanic column which can be climbed with a guide.
- Hobley’s Volcano: The remains of a volcanic eruption inside Hell’s gate national park, with big holes emitting steam from underground. It is also home to mountain reed bucks and was named after a British colonial administrator, Charles William Hobley.
- Hell’s Kitchen: A field in Hell’s gate national park with red/brown coloured rocks and steam emanating from the ground therefore making it seem like a massive kitchen. Most of the steam comes from water super heated by far below the surface.
- Mervyn Carnelley Raptor Hide: A camouflaged viewing station inside Hell’s gate national park, with a one way window. It allows the viewer to get close to some of the park’s raptors, whether for photography or otherwise.
- Central Tower: A volcanic plug or rock tower near the southern border of Hell’s gate national park. It is called “Embarta” a Maasai name for the horse, and is much larger than Fischer’s tower. It is a popular rock climbing destination.
- Olkaria Geothermal Spa: The Geothermal Spa offers a bouquet of adventure, spice comfort, luxury, and true Africa hospitality. Whether you are seeking a business venue, adventure or that elusive African getaway we will cater for your need. The setting of the Geothermal Spa ensures that you have a memorable visit.
- Ol Jorowa Gorge: It is one of the most popular sites in Hell’s gate national park and a hiking destination. Ol Jorowa Gorge is known for its picturesque vertical walls, with patterns made from water gouged volcanic rocks. It is about 1 ½ km in length. It was used as a filming for movies such as the Tomb Raider and Cradle of Life.
What to pack
You will need to pack clothes for both warm and cool weather as it can get quite warm during the day and cold at night. Try to pack neutral, earthy toned clothes and avoid bright colours. Carry essential items such as a hat, sun screen, toiletries, closed shoes, torch, batteries, insect repellent, binoculars and camera.
For more details on what to pack see our General travel information page.
How to get to Hell’s Gate National Park
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
The Naivasha air strip is the closest to Hell’s Gate.