Hiking Mount Karismbi : Mount Karisimbi is the highest of the volcanoes found within the Virunga ranges of mountains. It is the eleventh highest in Africa. This inactive volcano is found in the Volcanoes National Park and along the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rising up to 4,507 meters, Mount is surrounded by other neighboring volcanoes like Mikeno, Nyiragongo and Bisoke. The mountain gets its name Karisimbi (Kinyarwanda for “White Shell”) from the snow that usually covers the top during the dry season. Karisimbi has a caldera Branca and two craters in the summit with the largest being Mutango.

Mount Karisimbi Hike

Visitors to the Volcanoes national park in Rwanda usually combine Gorilla trekking with a Karisimbi mountain hike. Climbing mount Karisimbi can be a strenuous but special experience. Because of its location within the Volcanoes National Park, hikers should expect to come across several bird species, see golden monkeys or mountain gorillas (occasionally). There is even the possibility of visiting the grave of Dian Fossey, a famous primatologist who studied mountain gorillas extensively.

The trail and path towards the summit of Karisimbi contains great landscape, volcanic features, dense forest and vegetation, which are beautiful to behold. However, the hike may involve navigating through thick jungle, steep slopes and muddy trails in the rainy season. It’s for this reason that hiking Mount Karisimbi is best done during the drier periods between December to March and June to early October.

One needs to be in good shape, have the endurance and stamina that is required to navigate through steep and difficult sections of the mountain slopes. This is especially important if you are hiking in a group. You would not want to keep your fellow hikers waiting for you. Hikers also need to prepare mentally for the high altitude conditions which can be distressing and hence a cause for slowing one down.

Mount Karisimbi Hiking is best organized by local Tour Operator. They help to secure the permits; organize tents, meals and other hiking equipment. Extra Porters are available for hire at a cost of about $20. These extra porters can help carry heavy cameras, tents and other hiking equipment.

Hiking Mount Karismbi
Mount Karisimbi Hiking safari

Mount Karisimbi Hiking is usually completed in 2 days. Hikers need to first go to the park headquarters to register and be briefed by the park Warden and Guides. After the briefing, hikers are driven to the starting point, which is located at the foot of Mount Bisoke. Ascending to the summit lasts 7 hours at most but hikers often stop mid-way (at an altitude of 3,700 meters) for the night. A camp is set where dinner is prepared as everyone takes a rest in preparation for the final climb the nest day. After enduring the cold night and having early morning breakfast, Hikers should be fresh and ready to get to the summit. This final push takes only 1 hour but is the most challenging. That is because the section from the camp to the summit is steeper and more difficult to navigate – especially if there is thick mud, strong winds and fog that reduces visibility.

Once at the summit, the scenery is spectacular and beautiful to behold. Hikers should have great views of the Muhabura volcano, the Nyamulagira volcano, Nyiragongo, the great forests/vegetation within the Virunga ranges and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After getting enough of the great views, Hikers should get ready for a 6 hour descent back to the starting point and then to the park office. You might also be interested in our article about Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. You can also read about how to hike Mount Kilimanjaro.

Packing List and Tips for Hiking Mount Karisimbi

  • The Volcanoes National Park provides Guides and Rangers to help with navigating through the different trails but hikers should come with:-
  • Good hiking shoes, a sweater/warm clothing, a waterproof heavy jacket, a hat and walking stick.
  • A tent for camping overnight if they are not using the services of a Tour Company.
  • A sleeping bag if they did not book their hike with a local company.
  • Packed food for the overnight stay before reaching the summit. Tour Operators can arrange this.
  • Porters to help carry your backpack, tents, cameras and other equipment. A Tour Company can help with arranging all this.

Karisimbi Hiking Permits

Hiking permits for Karisimbi are usually acquired from the park headquarters, the Rwanda Development Board or a reliable Tour Operator. It is possible to acquire the permit on the day of the hike but we recommend that you book in advance just to make sure the activity is not sold out.

Mount Karisimbi Permits cost $400 per person. Focus East Africa Tours can help you arrange the entire tour by providing transportation, booking accommodation, arranging for porters/hiking equipment and securing hiking permits. We highly recommend hiking the top of this volcano alongside gorilla tracking for those with great endurance and stamina.


book a gorilla trip