Hell’s Gate: the Kingdom of the Lion King opens its doors to you

Nestled in the Rift Valley in Kenya, hides a unique and inspiring place. Enter Hell’s Gate National Park.

Summary

  • Open the gates to the Park of Hell
  • Hell’s Gate National Park: the secret location of Disney studios
  • Explore Hell’s Gate National Park
  • – Trails and volcanic monuments
  • – Wild animals on the loose
  • – A spa
  • – The Gorges of Ol Nijorwa
  • Go to Hell’s Gates National Park
  • – How?
  • – When?
  • – At what price?
  • The other treasures of the Rift region
  • – Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru
  • – The volcanoes of Mont Longonot and Menengaï
  • Good to know

The plain is flooded with sunlight. The sky blazes. The dry grass bends gently in the wind. The red earth flies in a small gust. The trees look only like timid shoots in the arid vastness. The stretches of water are rare and shimmering. Here, the savannah landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see.

No, you’re not dreaming. You are at the heart of Africa and its symbolic lands. Specifically, at Hell’s Gate National Park, Kenya. Maybe you even felt catapulted into The Lion King? To tell the truth, nothing surprising. This African valley knew how to conquer and inspire the creators of the mythical cartoon. Ready for the adventure? We reveal the essentials for visiting Hell’s Gate National Park.

Can you hear the music of Hakuna Matata resounding in the distance? But if ! Listen carefully and follow us into this marvelous universe where life is not a concern…philosoooophy!

Open the gates to the Park of Hell

Literally, we call this pearl of Kenya: The National Park of the Gates of Hell. True, this name is not very welcoming. However, believe us, this place is a still preserved jewel, which has a lot to offer to the souls of adventurers and lovers of unspoiled nature.

Sixty-nine square kilometers is the size of this volcanic National Park located in Kenya. It borders Lake Naivasha.

Where does this ominous name come from? Many things!

In reality, this valley consists of fractured cliffs. The cuts are gigantic and so deep that they recall the pits of Hell. In addition, two huge cliffs of blushing rocks come out of the ground. A perfect allegory of the gates of Hell. This spectacular geological phenomenon is breathtaking. Finally, according to history, volcanic eruptions destroyed part of the territory, formerly Maasai. These people associating fire with Hell, the National Park becomes Hell’s Gate.

In any case, you have understood that the Hell’s Gate National Park promises you an extraordinary stay.

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Hell’s Gate National Park: the secret location of Disney studios

Warthog in the Gates of Hell park in Kenya

Photo credit: Flickr / Pablo Necochea

The rocky landscape is home to two dormant volcanoes, Olkaria and Hobley’s, as well as lush and unique wildlife. At the bend of a hiking trail, you can even reach hot springs and tropical forests. Among the endemic animals populating the park, no feline. This means that you can visit Hell’s Gate National Park on foot or by bike. This particularity is very appreciated, because the majority of Kenyan parks can only be visited in 4×4.

Nevertheless, the rarity of felines did not prevent Hell’s Gate National Park from being the star of Disney studios. In terms of landscapes, it is indeed this place that fueled the imagination of the designers of The Lion King. The spectacular sets inspired the famous rock where Simba proudly roars…

Explore Hell’s Gate National Park

Trails and volcanic monuments

longonot volcano crater kenya

Photo credit: Flickr /Michał Huniewicz

Hell’s Gate National Park offers a special panorama where faults, volcanoes, rocky towers and canyons stand out in the landscape.

Among the flagship hikes (on foot or by bike): the volcanic loops. Do not miss, in particular, the Buffalo circuit, a loop of fifteen kilometers through the high cliffs, in search of animals and with the backdrop of Mount Longonot. Less physical and shorter, the Twiga Loop is nonetheless fabulous.
Opting for a tour of the park by bike is interesting if you want to see as much as possible. The dusty paths are sometimes incredible, but it’s a practical way to swallow the terminals and explore all the splendor of the fauna and flora.

During your walks, stop for a moment at the Fisher’s Tower: a twenty-five meter high volcanic needle that rises in lookout. Visiting Hell’s Gate National Park, if you are not afraid of heights, even allows you to discover your climbing skills. For the more courageous or curious, climb the Fisher’s Tower! The instructors are there, don’t panic. Clinging to the top of this basalt promontory, the view is splendid. The baboons will have plenty of time to laugh at your hesitant movements!

Wild animals on the loose

wild zebras

Photo credit: Facebook / Hell’s Gate National Park

It’s the most incredible experience you can have in Hell’s Gate National Park!
Hike on foot and come across, free and wild, herds of zebras, gazelles or buffaloes. Look up, a few shy baboons play in the trees while giraffes browse the leaves. Raise your head a little higher, thousands of birds roam the sparkling sky.
These walks invite deep contemplation and it is impossible to come out without a thousand stars in your eyes.
We told you, carnivorous predators are very rare inside the national park. But for once, good for you!
Of course, you will sometimes have to arm yourself with patience and discretion to have the privilege of these shows.

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A spa resort

geyser with flamingos in hells gate national park in kenya

Photo credit : Wikimedia Commons

As you enter Hell’s Gate National Park, you discover an exceptional volcanic landscape. Do you know that includes intense underground life? The National Park is therefore an ideal place to admire the geysers and experience the natural hot water baths.

Ol Katia is a thermal power plant established in 1981. In its spas, relax your aching muscles or simply enjoy a good moment of rest. The water naturally comes close to 60 degrees and would even have healing properties thanks to the thousands of minerals contained in it. The spa even generates electricity thanks to geysers and hot springs! Yes, Hell’s Gate National Park is one of a kind!

Ol Nijorwa Gorge

ol nijorwa gorges in kenya

Photo credit: Flickr / Nina R

Smooth or ridged, steep, sandy, slippery and physical, the Gorges of Ol Nijorwa are breathtaking natural formations.

A walk, about two hours long, allows you to explore them. If the hike is not easy, it is grandiose and rather fun! Your guide lends you a hand to walk on a few edges and shows you the best stone to put your foot on. The rhythm is irregular and from time to time acrobatic. Sometimes even, the streams having dug the volcanic stone seem to have been diverted: the path becomes smaller. But to trudge through such a feat of nature, like an antelope in the Lion King, is priceless!

This timeless labyrinth sometimes leads you to encounter a natural hot spring, revealing the intense underground activity of the national park.

Do you know that even Lara Croft has walked these narrow, entwined gorges? Failing to roar and move a mane, ready to survey Hell’s Gate National Park in Tomb Raider mode?

Go to Hell’s Gates National Park

When ?

If the Ol Nijorwa gorges stifle the sunlight, you will be easily, and almost all year round, in the sun! The Rift Valley is generally spared by the long scorching months.

Prefer to visit Hell’s Gates National Park in the months of June to October: the temperature fluctuates around twenty/twenty-five degrees, without precipitation. Before and after, rainy episodes are present. Pay particular attention to the months of April and May: the heart of the monsoon.

At what price ?

How much does it cost to enter Hell’s Gate National Park? As a tourist, your right of way costs around thirty euros.

If you hire a guide, the price is around twenty euros a day.

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Many “all inclusive” excursions are organized by agencies in Nairobi. The price depends on the package and the time spent on site. On average, count between thirty-five and one hundred and seventy euros per trip.

The other treasures of the Rift region

Naivasha and Nakuru lakes

I will grow up

Photo credit: Flickr/Adam Lane

Yes, the creators of Simba must have had a blast during their scouting!

Visiting Hell’s Gate National Park offers many opportunities for activities quite close. Among them, a stroll near lakes lost in the African savannah.

Naivasha and Nakuru are enchanting lakes, haloed with pink bands, which are absolutely worth the detour if you stay several days in the Rift Valley. These ribbons are actually hundreds of flamingos shining in the sun. You have the option of taking a boat trip on Lake Naivaisha. Both lakes are also a paradise for bird lovers. You can take a day from Nairobi to visit either.

The volcanoes of Mount Longonot and Menengai

volcan hits au kenya

Photo credit: Flickr / Henri Bergius

During an excursion in the national park of Mont Logonot, you can hike on a volcano. Certainly asleep, but it is still very impressive! Especially when you arrive at the edge of the crater, which seemed a few hours rather lost in the clouds…

Not far away, the Menengai crater is the largest in the country. Its lava flows in the Black Sea are still clearly visible despite the vegetation which has regained its rights. The ascent is done on foot or by car. According to legend, the jets of steam gushing from the bottom of the crater carry the souls of Maasai warriors to paradise.

Good to know

  • Be very careful of the sudden surges of water that sometimes flood the interior of the Rift. Several people die there each year;
  • Entrance to the park is not free. In November 2021, you had to allow yourself an entry fee of 26$;
  • You can hire a local guide;
  • Bike safaris are a very popular activity. Do not hesitate to rent a bike;
  • The only rule of conduct here is to respect the local flora and fauna. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to come across the famous Timon and Pumba at a bend in the path?

hiking in kenya among zebras

Photo credit: Piqsels.com interior of the rift in kenya hells gate national park

Photo credit: Flickr / Nao Lizuka

Maasai tribe

Photo credit: Flickr / Rita Willaert zebras in the rift in kenya

Photo via Good Free Photos

vegetation in Hell's Gate National Park

Photo credit: Flickr / Francois

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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