Not far from Lake Naivasha is another national park called Hell’s Gate, where we spent a morning hiking. It’s the site of an old volcano, so there are a lot of volcanic rocks and formations, and there are also natural hot springs that run through it underground. We met up with another guide, Benjamin, at the park gates and drove through the game reserve until we got to the canyon. You don’t have to have a guide to take you on the hike; however, I’m glad we did because the path was not clearly signed and there were a lot of places that were tricky to traverse without guidance.
The start of the hike
The aim of the hike was to get to a place called ‘Devil’s Bedroom’, and then finish by walking past Pride Rock. Apparently, Hell’s Gate national park is where the Lion King is based, with the animators getting their inspiration for Pride Rock from a particular formation within the park. How true this is, I don’t know, but if you squint hard enough you can just about imagine it.
It took us about 3 hours, and the first little while was a tricky bit through the river bed. Benjamin explained that we can either take our shoes off and walk through the ankle deep water, or we could basically hop, skip, and jump over, across, and around rocks to get across without getting our feet wet. Almost immediately after giving us the choice, he recanted and said if we could summit Kilimanjaro, we could get across without getting wet.
He was wrong.
Rich made it, and I’m blaming it on the fact that my hands were wet and slippery as to why I didn’t. Anyway, it was about 35 degrees, so having wet feet wasn’t too much of a hardship for me.
The canyon is prone to flash floods, so every so often there would be an ’emergency exit’ sign pointing to a path that takes you out of the canyon if you get caught up in one. We eventually climbed up one see the area from the top before climbing back down into the canyon.
The local Maasai people named the places within the park after Hell for 2 reasons – first, because of the volcano there are certain areas where the water is hot and gives off a lot of steam. Second, due to the flash floods that frequently happen, wildlife and livestock are often caught up and end up either drowning or being killed as they’re swept off a ledge. The carcasses tend to gather in a particular area, which they call the Devil’s Bedroom. The Maasai hold a lot of belief in their legends, so Hell’s Gate is a fairly ominous place for them.
After visiting the bedroom, we started making our way back to the car via a different route. This started taking us out of the canyon and through the hot springs area, and we passed by Pride Rock. There aren’t any hot spring pools, just streams and waterfalls of varying temperatures. There were some waterfalls that were warm enough for a shower, and an area by the stream that is so hot you can boil and egg!
I managed to not fall in this time
We climbed out of the canyon (luckily with the help of some ropes!), and started making our way back around the other side. This is where Pride Rock is, although due to rock slides and unstable ground, you are no longer allowed walking to it.
Inspiration for the Lion King
We stopped for the view, and Benjamin, who is part of the Masai tribe, asked if he could paint our faces in the traditional Maasai way. After excited nods from both of us, he scraped some of the rock off and mixed it with water before decorating both our faces.
It was a fairly easy 10 minute hike along the road back to the car from there. We both really enjoyed the morning, and it was nice to be out of the car and hiking. It wasn’t a long hike; however, there were some technically challenging bits, so you definitely have to be semi fit in order to enjoy it. Although you can only walk within the canyon, there is an option to rent a bike and ride the 8 km from the gate to the canyon and then back again. If we’d had more time we would have really liked to ride; however, we still had the drive to the Maasai Mara that afternoon and it just didn’t work. We would both recommend a day exploring Hell’s Gate if you’re in the area, and it’s close enough to Nairobi that a day trip is doable.