Central Circuit, Rwenzori Range
Round-Trip: 38 miles, 6 to 7 days
When to Go: December to March, the “dry” season. Go with guides and porters; they know the way and are not expensive.
When approaching high-altitude glaciers, you don’t often hear locals say, “There are elephants here.” But everything about the Ruwenzori Range, Ptolemy’s legendary Mountains of the Moon, is unexpected. Looming on the Uganda-Congo border, these peaks make up the highest range in Africa, rising to 16,765 feet at the Margherita summit of Mount Stanley. (Kilimanjaro and Kenya are taller, but they aren’t ranges.) You’ll hike three days through two 14,000-foot passes and mind-bending forests of giant groundsel and giant lobelias to get to the Bujuku Hut, base camp for those wanting to climb Mount Speke. Hike one more day to Elena Hut, base camp for those who want to climb the glaciers, and try for the summit of Mount Stanley for its unique views of the Congo Basin. Two more trail days take you over Scott Elliot Pass, the highest on the circuit at 14,344 feet, and back to the starting point for your eventual return to Kampala.
Insider Tip: Bring a pair of indestructible camp shoes impervious to moisture, such as Crocs. The circuit can be a muddy mess. Walking in the creek beds often makes for the best progress. It is essential to be able to change into something dry and reasonably comfortable for your feet at day’s end.