​Overview – Hell’s Gate NP

Anthony Ham
Expert
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Kenya.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Anthony is the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

A small park near Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate National Park contains a variety of plains animals but lacks most flagship species: you wouldn’t come here for the wildlife. The appeal lies more in the scenery with its impressive sandstone cliffs and volcanic outcrops. These provide the backdrop to some brilliant activities including rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking.

Best Time To Go June to February (Little rain)
High Season The park is rarely busy
Size 68km² / 26mi²
Altitude 1,683-2,185m / 5,522-7,169ft

Pros & Cons

  • Great day trip from Lake Naivasha
  • Stunning volcanic scenery
  • Unguided walking and cycling are permitted, and there’s great climbing
  • Plenty of accommodations in nearby Naivasha
  • The park rarely gets busy
  • Most major safari animals are absent
  • There is only a small game-drive circuit

Hell’s Gate NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Wildlife

Hell’s Gate is not a big wildlife safari destination. There are leopards around, but you’re extremely unlikely to spot them. Buffalo, giraffe, zebra, eland, Coke’s 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 Chanler’s mountain reedbuck, which can be found grazing on the grassy slopes.

Scenery

Hell’s Gate’s main attraction is its dramatic scenery. The park’s name refers to the steep-sided valley running through the park, and its red-ochre cliffs look like they’re on fire when struck by the rising and setting sun. Dormant volcanoes dominate the landscape, with several ancient lava plugs rising from the valley floor. The views of Mt Longonot from the Buffalo Circuit, in the south of the park, are superb.

Activities

For once, it’s not about the wildlife. Hell’s Gate National Park is one of few Kenyan parks where you can get down from your vehicle and explore. The best activities are hiking (including scrambling through the rocks and river of Lower Gorge), cycling, mountain biking and rock climbing.

Weather & Climate

The climate at Hell’s Gate is similar to other places near the equator in that temperatures are fairly consistent year-round. What makes it unusual is its altitude, which is high enough to lend a distinct coolness to the air, particularly at night. The Dry season (June to October) sees plenty of blue-sky days, while the Wet season (November to May) trades the sunshine for afternoon showers.

Best Time To Visit

Except for during the Christmas season, Hell’s Gate gets relatively few visitors, so you don’t have to factor that into the timing of your visit. The Dry season (June to October) is the best time to go wildlife watching, as the park’s animals are easier to observe in the thinned-out bush. The wetter months, on the other hand, reward you with nesting birds of prey, and the vegetation is in full bloom.

Want To Visit Hell’s Gate NP?

50 Hell’s Gate Safaris

Hell’s Gate NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen  –  
South Africa ZA

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

Cycling between animals – an experience not to be missed
3/5

This scenic little park with its impressive cliffs makes for a nice daytrip from Naivasha. Although there are plenty of herbivores around, it doesn’t really compete with some of the more popular parks in Kenya. Aside from some buffalo,...

Full Review

Latest User Review
Frank Kroeze  –  
Netherlands NL
Reviewed: Apr 13, 2024
4/5

Overall good, but not extremely spectacular to be honest. Don't fall in the trap of paying additional for the Masai experience, not worth it.

Full Review