This is the only national park in East Africa you can explore on foot 

Hell’s Gate National Park inspired The Lion King’s Pride Rock, and is one of only two places in East Africa where you can do a hiking or biking safari. 

Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya is a small but thrilling reservation. Set within Great Rift Valley, which was once a prehistoric lake, the 68-square-kilometre park is a dry, dusty and dramatic expanse of cliffs, water-gouged gorges, volcanoes and geothermal hot springs. Here, you’ll find a diverse collection of wildlife, including giraffes, zebra, antelopes, warthogs, hartebeests, buffaloes, impalas, gazelles, baboons, hyenas, jackals, rock hyraxes, buzzards, vultures and eagles, all thriving in an (almost) big-cat-free environment. Hell’s Gate National Park is also where you’ll find Pride Rock, the very real sweeping cliff made famous by Disney’s The Lion King. 

Masai Giraffe
Masai giraffe © Adobe Stock

What is Hell’s Gate National Park known for?

As the story goes, Disney’s animation team undertook a Kenya-wide research trip ahead of creating the 1994 film, and Hell’s Gate National Park was their first stop. Sadly, you won’t spot Simba (which means ‘lion’ in Swahili) here. Though lions, leopards and cheetahs have all been spotted in the past, the park is rarely visited by carnivores, making it one of only two national parks in East Africa where people can hike, join a bicycle safari, go abseiling or rockclimbing among the feather and furred residents. Some scenes from Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life were also filmed in the park, at the hidden waterfalls, gorges and cliffs. 

Fischer's Rock in Hell's Gate National Park
Fischer’s Rock © Adobe Stock

Is Hell’s Gate National Park worth visiting? 

The park is located within the Great Rift Valley, a break in the earth’s surface that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique that grows by a few millimetres each year, slowly forming a crack in the continent, making Hell’s Gate National Park something of a geological wonder. However, what sets this park apart is the abundance of un-safari-like activities you can do within it. 

  • Game watching: Both 4X4 safari game drives and bicycle safari experiences are available in the park. Travelling with a local guide is a must. 
  • Hiking: Local guides take visitors on hiking tours of the park, some are easy while others are multi-hour journeys that navigate gorges, streams, boulders and short rock cliffs. 
  • Rock climbing: Fischer’s Tower is a 25-metre rock formation credited as being the ‘real’ Pride Rock and is fantastic for climbing. 
  • Cycling tours: Hire a bike for a self-guided tour of the park, or engage the services of a local guide to take you to all the best parts of the park, removing the barriers between you and the animals. 
  • Hot springs: Visitors can take a dip in the natural thermal waters. 
Cycling with zebra in Hell's Gate National Park
Cycling in Hell’s Gate National Park © Adobe Stock

How do I get to Hell’s Gate National Park? 

To visit the park, Australians can fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya’s largest aviation facility and the busiest airport in East Africa. The park is a two-hour drive from Nairobi. Those keen to venture further afield can add Longonot and Suswa volcanoes, Nakuru National Park to see rhinos or Lake Naivasha to visit flocks of flamingoes to their itinerary, as all are located within close driving distance of Hell’s Gate National Park. 

three rock hyraxes in Kenya
Rock Hyraxes © Adobe Stock

How much does it cost to enter Hell’s Gate National Park?

Those wishing to explore Kenya’s wilderness can expect to pay from US$17 per child, and US$26 per adult, and tickets must be purchased online.  

When is the best time to visit Hell’s Gate National Park?

Kenya’s dry season runs from June to March and is the best season to explore the park, view the animals and enjoy all of the available outdoor activities. The roads become impassable at the peak of the wet season. 

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