Hikers hiking along the northern circuit

Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route

The Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route approach Kilimanjaro from the west, via the Lemosho route. The trail then continues along the Shira plateau, and swerve north at Lava Tower. The route then follows the northern circuit, a remote Kilimanjaro route, with few hikers and great scenery. The route then merges with the Rongai route. The summit attempt is made from Kibo hut and the Mweka route is the descent route. 

We recommend the 9 days option because it has a high summit success rate. It allow hikers to acclimatize better and offer manageable daily hiking distances. The actual trail on the route is challenging and strenuous. The route is considered to be one of the most breathtaking Kilimanjaro routes. You nearly circumnavigate the mountain and get to see all the diversity Kilimanjaro offer. Please click on the map to see an enlarged Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route map.

Kilimanjaro Hiking Tours custom small map of the Northern Circuit Route

The minimum duration for the route is 8 days, however we strongly recommend you choose the 9 days option. The 8 day option will be challenging, with a long hiking distance on day 3 of the hike.

Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route summary

Northern Circuit route advantagesNorthern Circuit route disadvantages
Scenic and beautiful route, with low number of hikers on the northern circuit. Long transfer time to the starting point, making it more expensive.
Possible to see (not guaranteed) wildlife through the forest section on day 1 of the hike. Actual trail from the Lemosho gate to Kibo hut is long and challenging.
Opportunity to climb high / sleep low, reducing the possibility to get altitude sickness. Strenuous summit attempt – longest summit trail from Kibo hut to Uhuru peak of all routes.
Ascend and descend using different routes. Challenging summit attempt, loose scree (rocks) on the trail and Jamaica rocks just before reaching Gillman’s point.
Short distance to High campsite or Mweka campsite, after reaching the summit. Basic long drop style toilets at campsites.

Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route 9 days itinerary

Day 1 – Lemosho Gate (2 100m / 6 890ft) – Mti Mkubwa campsite (2 650m / 8 695ft)                                 

Hiking time: 4 to 5 hours
Distance: Approximately 7 km / 4.4 miles
Habitat: Montane forest

Your day starts early with a 3 to 4 hour drive from Moshi town to the Londorossi gate. As you ascend through the beautiful rainforest, you are advised to stop regularly today and to move quietly in the hope of sighting wildlife near the trail. Occasional sightings of small antelope are virtually unique to the Lemosho and Rongai routes.

Big tree in Kilimanjaro rain forest

Day 2 – Mti Mkubwa campsite (2 650m / 8 695ft) – Shira 1 campsite (3 610m / 11 843ft)                                                                 

Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours
Distance: Approximately 7 km / 4.4 miles
Habitat: Moorland

You rise early at Mti Mkubwa campsite and after breakfast you hike for an hour to the end of the forest. The trail will then steepen gradually and enter a giant heather moorland zone. You will cross several streams on the way to Shira 1 Campsite, located on the western edge of the Shira plateau.

Day 3 – Shira 1 campsite (3 610m / 11 843ft) – Shira 2 campsite (3 850m / 12 631ft)                                                                                     

Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours
Distance: Approximately 10 km / 6.2 miles
Habitat: Moorland

After breakfast, trek from Shira 1 campsite, directly across the gentle slope of the Shira plateau. We take a scenic path to Shira Cathedral (3 872m / 12 703ft), a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles. Shira 2 campsite is exposed campsite, and the night will even be colder than the previous night, with temperatures dropping to well below freezing.

Day 4 – Climb high, sleep low

Ascend: Shira 2 campsite (3 850m / 12 631ft) – Lava Tower (4 600m / 15 090ft)

Hiking time: 4 to 5 hours
Distance: Approximately 7 km / 4.3 miles                                                                                                                                            Habitat: Semi-desert

Descend: Lava Tower (4 600m / 15 090ft) – Moir hut (4 165m) / 13 664ft)

Hiking time: 3 to 4 hours
Distance: Approximately 7 km / 2 miles
Habitat:
Semi-desert

old hut on mount Kilimanjaro surrounded by mist, Northern circuit route

The route now turns east into a semi desert and rocky landscape surrounding Lava Tower, where you reach an altitude of 4 600m / 15 090ft and stop for lunch. This is where the true acclimatisation benefit of the Lemosho route becomes clear, of climbing high and sleeping low. After lunch descent to Moir hut, located at the base of the Lent Hills. On this day the Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route 9 days split away from the Lemosho route.

Day 5 – Moir hut (4 165m) / 13 664ft) – Pofu campsite (4 027m / 13 211ft) 

Hiking time: 6 hours
Distance: 11 km / 6.8 miles
Habitat: Semi desert

After breakfast, we continue on this remote Kilimanjaro route, leaving the Moir Valley and make our way up to the top of Lent Hills. We then continue on the trail to Pofu Campsite, offering great views of Mt Kilimanjaro’s northern plains that stretch out over the Kenya / Tanzania border. We enjoy dinner and overnight at Pofu campsite. Please click on the Kilimanjaro Northern circuit 9 days, Northern circuit route map to visualize.

Day 6 – Pofu campsite (4 027m / 13 211ft) – Third Cave campsite (3 950m / 12 950ft)

Hiking time: 3 hours
Distance: 8 km / 5 miles
Habitat: Alpine desert

Enjoy breakfast and we continue east on the northern slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro to Third Cave Campsite. The area is extremely remote and we hike through valleys rarely travelled and seen by other hikers, truly one of the most breathtaking Kilimanjaro route options available. The landscape has increasingly sparse vegetation, until you finally reach Third Cave Campsite for dinner and overnight.

Day 7 – Third Cave campsite (3 950m / 12 950ft) – Kibo hut (4 720m / 15 485ft)

Hiking time: 5 hours
Distance: Approximately 7 km / 4.3 miles
Habitat: Alpine desert

After breakfast we ascent steadily crossing the “Saddle” located between Mawenzi and Kibo taking approximately 5 hours to reach Kibo Hut. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent, which begins around midnight. On this day the Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route 9 days connect with the Rongai route. 

Day 8 – Summit attempt

Ascend: Kibo hut (4 720m / 15 485ft) – Uhuru Peak (5 895m / 19 341ft)

Hiking time: 6 to 8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak                                                                                                                                                                                  Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit

Descend: Uhuru Peak (5 895m / 19 341ft) – Mweka (3 100m / 10 170ft)

Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak, 6 to 8 hours to descend to Mweka Campsite
Distance: 12.5 km / 7.8 miles to Mweka campsite or 9 km / 5.6 miles to High campsite
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit

You will rise at around 23h20 and start your summit attempt. The first section of the trail consists of a rocky path to the Hans Meyer Cave (5 240m / 17 191ft), also a good resting spot. The path, with a lot of stone scree, then zigzags up to Gilman’s point (5 681m / 18 638ft), which is located on the crater rim. The area just before reaching Gilman’s point, is called “Jamaica rocks” and is very steep, rocky area requiring a great physical and mental effort. This is probably the most demanding section of the entire route. Do the Kili shuffle and move slowly.
From Gilman’s Point you will normally encounter snow all the way up to Uhuru peak (5 895m 19 341ft), the highest point in Africa. Total exhilaration and satisfaction – you made it. Please click on the Kilimanjaro Northern circuit 9 days, Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route map to visualize.

Descend after summit attempt

We will then descend using a different trail and hike to Barafu campsite, where we will have lunch. If the group manages to summit just after sunrise and everything is on schedule, we will descend to Mweka campsite (3,100m / 10,170ft). However, if the summit attempt takes longer than planned, we will overnight at High Campsite (3,950m / 12,960ft), which is located closer to Barafu campsite. On this day the Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route 9 days reconnects with the Machame and Lemosho routes.

a group of hikers on their way to Uhuru peak Kilimanjaro Northern circuit route map

Day 9 – Final descend

Shorter: Mweka campsite (3 100m / 10 170ft) – Mweka Gate (1 640m / 5 380ft)

Hiking time: 3 to 4 hours
Distance: Approximately 10 km / 6.2 miles
Habitat: Forest

OR

Longer: High campsite (3 950m / 12 960ft) – Mweka Gate (1 640m / 5 380ft)

Hiking time: 5 to 7 hours
Distance: From High Campsite approximately 13.5 km Mweka campsite approximately 13.5 km / 8.4 miles
Habitat: Forest

After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short 3 to 4 hour scenic hike from Mweka campsite to the Mweka gate. If the group spend the last night at High Campsite it will be a slightly longer 5 to 7 hour hike down to the Mweka gate.

At Mweka gate successful climbers will receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5 756m / 18 884ft) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5 895m / 19 341ft) receive gold certificates.