Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit: Complete Trekking Guide

The Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit is one of the longest and newest routes up the mountain, starting from the West.
On this trail, your Kilimanjaro trek begins at the Londorossi Gate. For the first two days, it follows the same trail as the Lemosho route.
Once you’ve crossed the Shira Plateau, the path heads north near Lava Tower to follow the Northern Circuit.
This lower-traffic route offers a quieter experience on the mountain’s northern slopes to the east. While there are a few route variations at this point, all lead to the summit via Gilman’s Point.
The route down is either via the Mweka or Marangu routes. Here’s our expert guide to the Northern Circuit on Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route: At A Glance

Northern Circuit
A view of the "Roof of Africa."
Mt. Kilimanjaro’s Northern Circuit route is typically one of the quieter, low-traffic trails up the mountain. The route is long (between 88 and 96 kilometres), so most operators offer it over an eight or nine-day trek.
With ample time on the mountain, this route is good for acclimatisation and has a relatively high success rate.
The extended duration helps you to gradually adjust to the high altitude, minimising the risk of Kilimanjaro altitude sickness.
The route is also pretty diverse in terms of landscapes, as you trek through lush rainforests to the barren alpine desert.
If you’re lucky, you might spot some wildlife as you leave the forest and make your way to the first camp.

The Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route Map

While Skyhook Adventure doesn’t offer a Northern Circuit trek, here is an overview of a typical itinerary for this route:

Londorossi Gate (2,100m) to Mti Mkubwa Camp (2,820m)

The journey begins at Londorossi Gate on the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro. This is where you’ll register with park authorities and start your adventure.
As you ascend, you move through the pristine Londorossi rainforest, teeming with lush vegetation and wildlife like the White Colobus monkey.
Mti Mkubwa is your overnight camp, nestled amidst ancient trees.

Recommended reading: Mt Kilimanjaro Animals

Photo opportunities in the forest
Never miss a moment - there are so many photo opportunities.

Mti Mkubwa Camp to Shira 1 Camp (3,610m)

Today, you leave the rainforest behind and replace it with heather and moorland. As you gain elevation into the alpine environment, you enjoy panoramic views of the Shira Plateau at 3,610 metres.

Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp (3,850m)

As you continue the ascent towards Shira 2 Camp at 3,850 metres, you enjoy a gradual hike with impressive views. Once arrived at camp, you’ll have the opportunity to rest and further acclimatise at a higher elevation.
If you’re on the shorter eight-day itinerary, you typically skip the acclimatisation day at Shira Two and go straight to Moir Hut.

Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower (4,600m) and down to Moir Hut (4,200m)

This day sees you "trek high sleep low," which is good for the acclimatisation process. You head up through the high alpine zone to the Lava Tower rock formation, where you have lunch.
After lunch, the Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit will have you heading down to Moir Camp, where you overnight.

Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp (4,200m)

You descend on the Northern Circuit main trail again today to sleep lower. But that’s after a relatively steep climb out of Moir Valley.
Happy hikers
Happy hikers.
Once out of the valley, your guide may take you to climb Little Lent Hill at 4,375 metres. From this point, you’ll traverse the north slopes of Kibo to Buffalo Camp, following several inclines and declines.
Today, your view from Mt Kilimanjaro stretches out over the plains towards the Kenyan/Tanzanian border.

Buffalo Camp to Rongai Third Cave (3,800m)

Expect a shorter hiking day today. But, you will have to climb up the Buffalo ridge before descending down to Porfu Camp for lunch and then east to Rongai Third Cave to overnight.

Rongai 3rd Cave to School Hut (4,800m)

You’re nearing summit day. After leaving 3rd Cave, you steadily ascend to School Hut, the last camp before Uhuru Peak.
The trek is a steady ascent up and over the saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi peaks. You need an early night tonight, as your team will wake before midnight to head for the summit.

Recommended reading: What to Expect on Summit Night, Kilimanjaro

School Hut to Uhuru Peak (5,895m) to Millenium Camp (3,950m)

Today is your day. With a good 14 to 16 hours of trekking ahead of you, it’s important to stay hydrated and pace yourself.
After ascending Kibo’s slopes, there’s a rest point at Hans Meyer Cave. From there, a further 5 to 6 hours will get you to Gilman’s Point, when the climb steepens.
Uhuru Peak
Standing at the summit.
Soon, it starts to get light, and you can look out over Mawenzi Peak. The slope becomes flatter as you walk west around the crater rim, and you reach the summit around sunrise.
After taking photos and celebrating your summit, you head back down to Barafu Camp. Many tour operators use this as a breakfast stop before descending to Millenium Camp to overnight.

Millenium Camp to Mweka Gate (1,640m)

Your final trekking day is a short hike through the montane forest to the exit point at Mweka Gate.
At the gate, the National Park authorities will issue your official certificate, and you’ll have the tipping ceremony with your guides and team.

What's the Best Time to Hike the Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route?

The best time to hike the Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit route is during the mountain's two primary dry seasons: from January to March and from June to October.
These periods offer the most favourable weather conditions for a successful and enjoyable trek.
Taking a water break
A much-needed water break on the trail.
  • January to March (Late-Monsoon/Early Dry Season): This is an excellent time for the Northern Circuit trek. The weather is relatively dry, and the mountain experiences fewer crowds compared to the June to October season. Expect clear skies and relatively stable conditions. However, it can be colder at higher altitudes during these months, so proper cold-weather gear is essential.

  • June to October (Main Dry Season): This is the primary dry season on Kilimanjaro and is also a good time for the Northern Circuit route. The weather is generally stable, with clear skies and less precipitation. The temperatures are milder, especially at lower altitudes, making for comfortable trekking conditions.

Alternative Routes to the Summit With Skyhook