Which is the best trekking route on Mount Kilimanjaro? The best route for climbing Kilimanjaro is the one with the highest summit success ratio, with the best scenery and the fewest people at the summit Uhuru Peak. Many articles describe the Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe, Marangu and Rongai routes and more than a dozen variations. Summit approaches via Pofu Camp, the Western Breach, Stella Point and Gilman’s Point are discussed.
Which is the best route on Kilimanjaro?
There are more than 15 different routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro! Most people are familiar with the Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe, Rongai and Marangu trailheads, but that’s only the beginning of the story! Every trail can lead to the summit in one of many different ways. The picture below of the various routes is fun and colorful, but the many choices are overwhelming for anyone trying to decide how to climb Kilimanjaro.
To make matters worse, the internet is flooded with Kilimanjaro “advice” from novices and experts and everyone in-between!
Instead of listening to others, I believe you should make your own decision about the Kilimanjaro route that is right for you.
I present some route facts here (facts are facts) and some expert opinions (the opinions are mine) – you can ignore my opinions if you want! This way, you can study the facts, take note of or ignore my opinions, and finally come to the right decision on your own. Then, if you want, you can compare your decision with my final opinion presented at the end of this article.
Hopefully, we came to the same conclusion! If not, then please contact me so we can compare notes. Regardless, I want you to be knowledgeable and happy with your route choice, and I want you to be successful on Kilimanjaro!
To be called the “best,” a route has to offer the following:
The high summit success rate
We go to Kilimanjaro to reach the summit. To achieve success, we need to gain altitude sensibly. An average daily gain of about 2,000′ is perfect on Kilimanjaro and if you combine this with several opportunities to climb high and sleep low, then you have a great route. It is not smart to spend most of your days under 15,000′ and to then rush to the 19,340′ summit in one gigantic heroic effort. You are setting yourself up to fail.
Access to the best scenery on Kilimanjaro
The most scenic and unique features of Kilimanjaro are to be found near the summit – Reusch Crater, the ash-pit and the various glaciers nearby. So any route discussion about Kilimanjaro scenery MUST include these summit attractions and you have to see these sights during daylight and not at night! If you cannot get close to these top attractions, then your route is not the “best”!
Other scenic areas include the Montane Forest, the Shira Ridge, Mawenzi, the various Senecio and other plant types near Barranco and the Shira Plateau and last but not least, the views from the summit, the Western Breach, the Barranco Wall, Shira, and the Karanga Valley.
Fewer people when it really matters
It seems each and every person who trek Kilimanjaro wants the mountain to him or herself! There are more than 35,000 of us every year and only about 250 popular trek days – average is 140 trekkers per day plus 550 porters and guides. The problem is only one summit – so you have to share!
But why do you care about seeing other people on the trails on your way to the summit? Granted, the campsites can be noisy at night, and the long-drop toilets overflow on busy trails. But meeting other trekkers from around the globe along the way is one of the endearing things about Kilimanjaro.
It makes no sense to search for a little-used trail on Kilimanjaro only to join the masses during the last 3 days of the trek and to fall in line for your picture at the summit! This is the problem with just about all the routes being marketed by smart business people as remote, quiet, and secret!
I look at this completely differently. I do not mind seeing other people on the trails during the first few days. But I certainly do not want to see them at the summit. I want as few people as possible with me when I reach Uhuru Peak. And I want to have an opportunity to trek summit twice – to see both sunset and sunrise from the summit! Any route that meets these requirements are special and should be a forerunner for best on Kilimanjaro.