Kilimanjaro National Park
The Marangu or main route is by far the most popular way up Kilimanjaro. The forest is very beautiful and Maundi Crater is worth a visit just for the flowers and scenery. There are wonderful views of Kibo and Mawenzi. It generally takes five days for the round trip:
Day 1: Marangu to Mandara Hut
Day 2: Mandara to Horombo Hut
Day 3: Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut
Day 4: Kibo Hut to Summit to Horombo Hut
Day 5: Horombo Hut to Marangu
The schedule, trails and accommodation are designed to allow visitors to acclimate. An extra day at Horombo, Mawenzi or Kibo Huts is recommended to allow even more time to get used to the altitude.
Day 1: On arrival allow 1-2 hours at the Park Headquarters at Marangu Gate for registration and payment of fees. It is recommended that you start this route in the morning, because this allows a leisurely walk to Mandara, avoiding the rain showers that sometimes fall in the afternoon. From the gate, you ascend a cleared ridge trail, formerly a vehicle track to Mandara Hut. The cleared trail is the fastest way to Mandara, but opportunities to see wildlife or enjoy the forest are limited due to the heavy foot traffic. An alternative is to ascend along the parallel forest trail and descend on the main trail. The forest trail branches off to the left, a few minutes after the gate, and follows the edge of a stream through the undergrowth. About halfway (1 1/2 hrs from the gate) you can choose to cross the stream and rejoin the main trail, or continue on the forest trail. Both trails continue on opposite sides of the stream, merging about one hour before Mandara Hut.
Day 2: From Mandara Hut the trail passes through a short stretch of forest and skirts the base of Maundi Crater, crosses a meadow and a wooded stream, then emerges into grassland. It is well worth the short detour to scramble up to the rim of Maundi Crater for a superb view of the mountain and its surroundings. The trail crosses numerous moorland ravines before ending at Horombo Hut, which is set in a rocky valley with a fine stand of giant senecios or groundsels.
Day 3: From Horombo Hut there are two trails to the Saddle. The right fork is very stony and eroded and is the most direct route to the Saddle and Mawenzi. From the Saddle (about 2 hrs from Horombo), there are trails to Mawenzi Hut (1/2hr) or Mawenzi Tarn Hut (2 1/2 hrs) and across the length of the Saddle to Kibo Hut (3 hrs). The left fork from Horombo Hut is an easier trail and emerges on the Saddle much closer to Kibo and about one kilometer from Kibo Hut.
Day 4: The trail to the summit lies directly behind Kibo Hut, to the west. It is normal to start this day's climb at 2 am or earlier. (You can see the sun rise over Mawenzi from the top of Kibo, the loose stone scree is frozen making it easier to climb, and you can get back in good time). The first part is an uneven trail which leads to the Hans Meyer Cave, a good rest point. After that, the trail makes more regular switchbacks most of the way to the top, with a last scramble over rocks to Johannes Notch and Giliman's Point. From there, the trail continues along the rim past Stella Point to Uhuru Peak. As you descend the scree from the rim back to Kibo Hut, it is tempting to run fast, but this can result in clouds of irritating dust and even unpleasant falls. The return to Horombo Hut will seem surprisingly fast compared to the ascent.
Day 5: Descend from Horombo Hut. You can easily make Mandara Hut by lunchtime, and continue to the Park gate and Marangu in the afternoon.
Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut 3-4 hrs (The forest trail is slower)
Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut 5-7 hrs
Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut 5-6 hrs
Kibo Hut to Gillman's Point 5-6 hrs
Gillman's Point to Uhuru Peak: 1-2 hrs
Mandara Hut - 2700 m. This is a group of comfortable, wooden A-frame huts. The largest cabin has a downstairs dining area and an upstairs dormitory with bunk beds and mattresses; smaller huts sleep 8 each. The total capacity is 60. Water is piped into site from springs above and flush toilets are behind the main cabin.
Horombo Hut - 3720 m. The buildings are similar to Mandara, but total capacity is 120. Water is piped from the stream behind the huts. Do not use this stream or its valley as a waste disposal area. There are platform toilets south-east of main hut, about 80 m down the slope and new flush toilets have been built within the complex of small huts.
Kibo Hut - 4700 m. This stone built block house with a small dining-room and a number of 1dormitory rooms leading off a main corridor has bunk beds and mattresses for 60 people. Water: None, so bring an adequate supply from the 'Last Water' stream above Horombo Hut. Platform toilets are behind the hut (to the southwest).
Special Thanks to Thomson Safaris and Tanzania National Parks for contributing Tanzanian information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication