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The Northern Circuit Route

The Northern Circuit is the longest route on Kilimanjaro. Approaching from the west, it starts at Londorossi Gate and climbs for two days through the rainforest and moorlands until it reaches the Shira Plateau and continues to the Shira ridge. The trail brings the group clockwise around the summit, hitting Moir Hut, Buffalo Camp, and School Hut in the process. From here the summit push is made, after which climbers descend along the Mweka Route.


This route is a favorite of many people because it brings climbers to the less traveled northern region of the park. Because it is also the longest route, the Northern Circuit also enables climbers to acclimatize for more time, thus enhancing the experience and improving one’s chance of successfully summitting. 

Northern Circuit Itinerary (9-Day Option) 

DAY 1 – Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa

Habitat: Rainforest

Hiking Time:  3-4 hours

Distance: 6 km | 4 miles

Elevation: 7,750 ft to 9,500 ft

Londorossi Gate is remote, taking about 4.5 hours to arrive from Arusha. Once climbers arrive here, they will process with the national park service and prepare to step off for the first leg of their adventure. This trail begins in the rainforest and proceeds to the first camp. Climbers generally arrive with daylight to spare. and conduct our first medical checks.

DAY 2 – Mti Mkubwa to Shira 1 Camp

Habitat: Moorlands

Hiking Time: 5-6 hours

Distance: 8 km | 5 miles

Elevation: 9,500 ft to 11,500 ft

On the morning of Day 2, we continue through the rainforest and climb into the beginning of the moorlands. Here the trees drop away, giving space to grasses and progressively smaller plants. On a clear day, as we climb the Shira Ridge, we will be rewarded with a view of Kibo Peak as we progress towards Shira Camp 1.


DAY 3 – Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp

Habitat: Moorlands

Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Distance: 7 km | 4 miles

Elevation: 11,500 ft to 12,500 ft


Day 3 transits along the Shira Plateau, crossing the moorland towards Shira Camp 2. These highland pastures are full of flora and fauna unique to this area of the world. This is a relatively easy day that is great for acclimatization and building upon the previous two days' success.

DAY 4 –  Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Moir Hut

Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 2-4 hours

Distance: 7 km | 4 miles

Elevation: 12,500 ft to 15,200 ft

Lava Tower to Moir Hut

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 2-3 hours

Distance: 7 km | 4 miles

Elevation: 15,200 ft to 13,600 ft


Today is a scenic climb that brings us along a Southeast ridgeline until we encounter the Lava Tower. The Lava Tower is formed primarily of black obsidian glass, a valuable material used throughout the world from the beginning of time to fashion cutting instruments of all kinds. Rising more than 300 feet above the terrain it is a beautiful site to see. Today the group climbs from 12,500 to over 15,000 before descending again. This further enhances acclimatization for everyone. The day ends at Moir Hut where we will have a chance to acclimatize further through a series of short off-shoot climbs found in the nearby Lent Hills.


DAY 5 –  Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 5-7 hours

Distance: 12 km | 7 miles

Elevation: 13,600 ft to 13,200 ft

On Day 5 we hike from Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp. On clear days you can expect amazing views of the savannah that stretches from Kilimanjaro into Kenya in the north. Today the climb begins somewhat steep as we ascend the Lent Hills. From here the trail leads us back across a field of rocks as we approach Buffalo Camp.


DAY 6 – Buffalo Camp to Third Cave

Habitat: Moorlands 

Hiking Time: 5-7 hours

Distance: 8 km | 5 miles

Elevation: 13,200 ft to 12,700 ft


On Day 6 you will notice the terrain beginning to change with the altitude. Plants decrease significantly in size and animals are far less common. This is truly the wild side of Kilimanjaro. The remoteness of the region lends to its beauty of the region and the lack of other people enhances a sense of reaching the “edge of the earth.” We will continue up and down through this region for several hours before descending to the camp at Third Cave. 

DAY 7 –  Third Cave to School Hut

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Elevation: 12,700 ft to 15,600 ft

On Day 7 we reach the Saddle, a low point in the ridge that separates Kibo and Mawenzi. Today is a short day that sees the group camping at School Hut, where we will rest early in preparation for the summit push that will begin around midnight. 

DAY 8 – School Hut to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

School Hut to Uhuru Peak

Habitat: Arctic

Hiking Time: 6-8 hours

Distance: 6 km | 4 miles

Elevation: 15,600 ft to 19,341 ft

Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Habitat: Rainforest

Hiking Time: 4-6 hours

Distance: 12 km | 7 miles

Elevation: 19,341 ft to 10,000 ft


As with most of the other routes on Kilimanjaro, the summit push starts before midnight. This is considered the most demanding portion of the entire adventure! Expect extreme conditions and listen closely to the guide’s advice, as once this portion begins there is no turning back!


Dress more warmly than you would expect, and take extra clothing with you, just in case. Climbers should be prepared to sit comfortably in truly arctic conditions. After hiking for several hours and conquering countless switchbacks and no small amount of slippery scree, we will arrive at Gilman’s Point to watch the sunrise from 18,600 feet. This is a spectacular view and makes all the pain worth the effort. After a brief break, we will continue toward Mawenzi Peak, the first summit of Kilimanjaro. Here, a brief rest before pushing up the ridge to Uhuru Peak, the roof of Africa!

From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist, or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.

After a break for pictures, food, and hydration we will begin our trek to Mweka Hut. This descent happens much faster than many people expect, sliding down scree and loose rock until Barafu Camp. Here we will eat a quick lunch and press on to Mweka Camp, located in the rainforest at around 10,000 ft. We will eat dinner and camp here, resting up for the final day of hiking in the morning.

DAY 9 – Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

Habitat: Rainforest

Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Distance: 10 km | 6 miles

Elevation: 10,000 ft to 5,380 ft

Welcome to your final day! Many people feel mixed emotions at this point, the excitement of summitting often offset by the immanent return to reality. This is a normal feeling that is to be expected. We depart Mweka Camp and take a leisurely hike down, descending more than 4,700 feet rather quickly. Prepare for rain on this day, as we re-enter the rain forest rather quickly and spend most of the day there. We will get picked up by a bus at the gate and head to Mweka Village where we will have a final meal together before heading back to the hotel!

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