The first time we went to Hell’s Gate we hiked the Central Tower Gorge, the most adventurous part of the gorge. It took about two hours and was awesome. However, we didn’t have time or energy to do much of the main gorge, Ol Njorowa. This time, we hit that main part.
We knew it would take four hours, much longer than the Central Tower Gorge, but that it would be easier. We also knew to take a guide with us. Even though the hike was easier, we figured there might be some tricky parts, and indeed there were.
Getting into the gorge is tricky as is the first kilometer or so of it. Then there are stretches of easy hiking. There are also some areas that requires some finesse, for example the aptly named Point of No Return. Having the guide was essential, especially since we hit an area that we couldn’t pass so we had to take a detour.
The guide was also able to tell us a lot about the gorge. We learned how much it changes with each heavy rain. We learned a lot about the wildlife in the area and the various plants we saw. We also learned more about the really sad incident a few years back when seven people died in the Central Gorge. You can scroll down to the end if you want to read about that.*
The overall route we took went like this:
We started with the tricky entryway. Then came some easy hiking where we saw some hot springs coming out of the rock. Next we had some trickier parts that lead to The Point of No Return.
Then came Hell’s Showers. It was hard to capture, but there way a lot of warm spray and it did feel like walking through a light shower.
Next up, some narrow but not too hard hiking that lead to the point where we couldn’t pass.
Then we took the detour, which was really lovely. It was some steep climbing but the views were breathtaking.
We then made our way back down and did some easy hiking through the gorge. That was the area where animals are able to make their way down to the gorge. I feel that area was the backdrop for the scene in The Lion King when Simba’s father is trampled to death by the wildebeest.
We went all the way to Pride Rock—which is not the rock that I had previously thought.
From there we went to see some really hot springs known as Hell’s Kitchen. (It’s just a touch different from Hell’s Kitchen in New York.) Here is some video of the steam, sulphur, and hot water at the Kitchen.
Then we took a short rest and hiked back. It was a long hike and hard at parts but totally worth it. We really enjoyed it. As with last time, we couldn’t take as many photos. It’s not DSLR-friendly. I did have an old iPhone handy though. So, between the two, I got the shots that I could. To really see it, you’ll have to go for yourself.
We did strap a GoPro onto J. and in my next post, I’ll share that video. That will give you some more perspective for sure!
If you do go to Hell’s Gate
It’s worth repeating the tips I gave in my prior post as they apply to hiking the main gorge as well (plus two more):
- Bring water and food.
- Sip your water slowly. There are no bathrooms or places to easily tuck away. Use the toilets at the main gate or ranger station before you start your hike.
- Go in the morning before the day gets too hot. It’s cooler in the gorge, but it still gets hot.
- Wear hiking boots, trail shoes, or sneakers.
- Leave your nice rings and watches at home—you’ll scratch them up otherwise.
- Wear comfortable clothes that you can move around in.
- If you bring a camera, be sure to have a backpack you can tuck it into.
- Backpacks in general are the best option in terms of bags/storage.
- Sip your water slowly on the hike.
- Go to the bathroom right before you start the hike, even if you think you don’t have to. It’s four hours (or more) before you’ll see another bathroom.
Numbers nine and ten are related. Four hours of lots of sipping to prevent dehydration add up in your bladder. I was fine for the hike but I was happy to see a bathroom when we got back to the ranger station.
*Apparently the group consisted of 58 people. They took only one guide. At one point the guide told them that the weather was changing and that it was going to rain and they would need to head back. The group did not listen.
The rain fell and caused a flash flood. The guide and various other guides were able to rush in and save 51 of the group. The seven they couldn’t save were washed far down the gorge—the water was that deep and the current that strong.
Moral of the story:
- Don’t go during heavy rains
- Take a guide
- Listen to your guide
- This tragedy, and many others, could have been avoided by using common sense