Hell’s gate National park is one of the most popular places in Kenya and a greatest contributor of Kenyan tourism industry. The park is south of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, north west of Nairobi. Hell’s Gate National Park is named after a narrow break in the cliffs, once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley. The park was established in 1984 and it is one of the small national park but highly visited National parks in Kenya, it is known for its wide variety of wildlife and for its awesome scenery. This includes the Fischer’s Tower and Central Tower columns and Hell’s Gate Gorge. The Hell gate national park is also home to five geothermal power stations at Olkaria contributing power to Kenya national grid. The park is equipped with three basic campsites and includes a Maasai Cultural Center, which hold history ,behaviour and records of the Maasai tribe’s culture and traditions. The park was named for the intense geothermal activity within its boundaries, the Hell’s Gate National Park is an outstanding piece of the Great Rift Valley. 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. Hell’s Gate is an ideal venue for a day trip from Nairobi where, visitors can enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing and a natural spa.
Hell’s Gate National Park was named after a narrow break in the cliffs, once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley. It was named “Hell’s Gate” by two great explorers Fisher and Thomson in 1883.
It is believed that Mount Longonot erupted during the early 1900s and its volcanic ash can still be felt around Hell’s Gate.
Hells gate National park was officially established in 1984 and it covers an area of 68.25 square kilometres which makes it one of the smallest national parks in Kenya. The park is at 1,900 metres above sea level. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Nakuru County together with Lake Nakuru national park. It is near Lake Naivasha and approximately 90 kilometres from Nairobi by road. The park is located 14 kilometres after the turnoff from the old Nairobi-Naivasha highway, and has a warm and dry climate. Olkaria and Hobley’s, two extinct volcanoes located in the park, can be seen as well as obsidian forms from the cool molten lava. There is also the Hells Gate Gorge, lined with red cliffs which contain two volcanic plugs: Fischer’s Tower and Central Tower. Off of Central Tower is a smaller gorge which extends to the south, with a path that descends into hot springs that have rocks hot enough to cause burns, and sulfuric water.
The park is popular due to its close proximity to Nairobi and its cheaper park fees compared to other National Parks. Hiking, bicycling, motorcycling and even camping are encouraged within the park. One of only two Kenyan national parks where cycling is allowed the other being Chyulu Hills National park. Kenyan most popular newspaper The Daily Nation praised the mountain climbing in Hell’s Gate as very exciting.There are also other recommended places to visit in Naivasha such as the Joy Adamson’s Centre and boating on Lake Naivasha.
Olkaria Geothermal Station
There is the biggest geothermal power station called Olkaria Geothermal Station, the first of its kind in Africa. It was established in 1981 and generates geothermal power underneath Hell’s Gate from the area’s hot springs and geysers. Three more geothermal stations were added after 2000: Olkaria II, Olkaria III and Olkaria IV. Construction of the 140MW Olkaria V was commenced in 2017 . As of 2019, a significant part of the Hell’s Gate National Park has turned into an industrial area, with many pipelines, power plants and busy tarmac roads.
Activities to do at Hells gate national park
Hells gate National Park hosts variety of wildlife although few in number. Some of the wildlife to be seen include lions, leopards, and cheetahs. However, the park has historically been an important home for the rare lammergeyer vultures. There are over 103 species of birds in the park, including vultures, Verreaux’s eagles, augur buzzard, and swifts, Hyraxes, African buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, hyena, and baboons are also common. The park is also home to serval and small numbers of klipspringer antelope and Chandler’s mountain reedbuck.
Hiking is the main activity in Hell’s Gate national park which is very ideal for visitors looking for a perfect wild safari tour in adventure in Kenya this activity offers tourists an opportunity explore the scenic landscapes of the park.
The activity is perfect for a family Kenya safari tour which is usually done with the help of local guides who will explain the history and nature of the park. The hike starts from the Ol-Njorwa Gorge and last for about three hours.
At the northern end of the park, there is Fischer’s Tower that was named after a German explorer Dr. Gustav Fischer who was sent to find a route from Mombasa to Lake Victoria. The tall rocks stands majestically at the park and is the first natural rock to encounter, the rock is popular for rock climbing. From there rock one can be able to enjoy the scenic surrounding the gorges, the cliffs and animals.
Hells gate national park is one of the best places to do cycling, and also one of the only two parks in kenya in which cycling is permitted. Visitors can hire their bicycle at Elsa gate, it is important to get a guide to go with you as they are able to help you point in the right direction and know the places to avoid animals such as buffaloes. The guides also help to fix bike issues in case you encounter one during your cycling safari.
Park Entry fee
Citizen kshs 300 kshs 215
Resident kshs 300 kshs 215
Non residents 26 USD 17 USD
How to get to Hells gate national park
Hells gate national park is accessible via tarmac road from Nairobi approximately 90 kilometres via Naivasha Town on the Lake Road South at a junction 5km south of Naivasha.
The park can also be accessed by air through Naivasha air strip
The best time to visit Hells gate national park
The park can be visited all year round. The driest seasons between June and February is the best time to visit although the accommodation is usually fully booked during December and during the Easter holidays.
Accommodations at Hells gate national park
The park has three basic campsites,Endachata Campsite,Naiburta Campsite,Oldubai Campsite. Camping is safe in the park even though there are no guns or fencing between you and wildlife. There are also several lodges outside the park around lake Naivasha, popular among tourists for water sports, bird and game viewing in private ranches and walks along Crescent Island, Crater Lake, Sopa lodge, Sawela among others.
What to take with you
Drinking water, picnic items and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight.
Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, walking boots and guidebooks