Get 3 Best Kilimanjaro Routes, Success Rates & Difficulty Of Climbing Each Trail

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Lemosho, Machame and the Northern Circuit are the 3 best routes on Mount Kilimanjaro in terms of overall performance and hiking experience. Because altitude sickness is the leading cause of Kilimanjaro summit failures, trekking routes that provide excellent acclimatization opportunities will not only improve your chances of reaching the summit, but will also make for a much better hiking experience. The following post will highlight individual route success rates, hiking difficulties and the overall benefits of trekking each trail. If you’re pressed for time and want to quickly read through the article, there are snippets in between paragraphs that summarize and drive home key points. That said, let’s have a look at why these 3 routes perform better than other trails on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Things to also know:

There are currently 7 established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro but only Lemosho, Machame, Rongai, Marangu, Umbwe and the Northern Circuit are widely used for Kilimanjaro expeditions. Many outfitters reserve the Shira route, Kilimanjaro’s seventh established trail, as an evacuation route. This resulted from the discovery of the high-performing Lemosho route, which runs parallel to the Shira route.

The Northern Circuit route, which approaches Kilimanjaro from the Northern breach, has the greatest Kilimanjaro success rate of 95%. It is the newest and longest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, and it offers the most breathtaking views of the entire 360-degree surroundings. This path to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro takes 9 days to complete and is perfect for acclimatization systems to be utilized.

Lemosho is the best Kilimanjaro route for beginners because it allows hikers to acclimate to high altitudes without risking fatigue. Hikers should expect an 85% success rate on the 7-day Lemosho route and a 92% success rate when hiking the 8-day Lemosho variation. Aside from the route’s second-place ranking in overall performance, its beautiful scenic views and excellent acclimatization landscapes make it a popular hiking destination for many hikers that choose to trek the mountain.

Mount Kilimanjaro Uhuru Peak

The key to a successful summit on Kilimanjaro is to properly employ acclimatization systems during your hike. Doing so often leads to a high level of performance and a reduced likelihood of experiencing AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). See, on Kilimanjaro, there are 2 systems that prevent altitude sickness:

  1. Pole Pole (Slow-Slow in English) is the first method used to prevent AMS. This method requires you to be on the mountain long enough for your body to acclimate to various altitudes. A hiking duration of 7 to 9 days is widely considered to be a good range for this system to come into effect.
  2. The second method, Trek-High & Sleep-Low, calls for trails to have gradual inclines in order for hikers to trek to higher elevations and sleep at lower altitudes. This will condition your body to anticipate elevation changes while helping you adjust during your sleep. This is why the faster your body can anticipate elevation changes, the better and much easier it can adjust to higher altitudes.

Long and gradual routes like Lemosho, Machame and the Northern Circuit are perfect for acclimatization systems to be utilized. What distinguishes these three routes from other trails on Mount Kilimanjaro is the extra day you spend acclimating at 4,630m. The full-day spent acclimatizing at Lava Tower will condition your body to anticipate higher elevation gains when you approach the summit at Uhuru Peak. This is because it’s much easier for your body to adjust up to 5,895m when you’ve already acclimatized at 4,630m during your hike.

8 Day Lemosho Route Mount Kilimanjaro Hike Distance And Elevation Gains

A good way to narrow down a suitable route for your Kilimanjaro hike is to factor your age in conjunction with your hiking experience. If you are over the age of 40 and have no prior experience hiking above 3,000 meters, the Northern Circuit route is probably your best bet. This is because older audiences who have never been to high altitudes often require more time for their bodies to adjust to high elevations compared to other demographics on the mountain. Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, so it’s best to consult with your tour operator to get a good sense of what route is suitable for your hike.

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Table Of Success Rates On Kilimanjaro Routes

With about 50,000 hikers that attempt to climb Kilimanjaro every year, the overall Kilimanjaro summit success rate for the 7 established Kilimanjaro routes is averaged at 60%. Though this is the case, Kilimanjaro hikes have been effortless over recent years thanks to the rise of information on the internet. Better-informed hikers have learned to avoid shorter, risky trails in favor of long and gradual routes. This has resulted in better performance on Kilimanjaro as shown in the table below.

Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing RoutesKilimanjaro Success RatingsNumber Of Hiking Days
Marangu Trekking Route42% Success Rate5 Days
Marangu Trekking Route56% Success Rate6 Days
Umbwe Trekking Route60% Success Rate6 Days
Rongai Trekking Route80% Success Rate7 Days
Machame Trekking Route85% Success Rate7 Days
Lemosho Trekking Route85% Success Rate7 Days
Lemosho Trekking Route92% Success Rate8 Days
Northern Circuit Trekking Route95% Success rate9 Days
This table lists and compares Kilimanjaro’s success rates based on climbing routes and hiking durations.

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Related topics to understand:

If you consider acclimatization opportunities, budget, and physical ease, Machame is the best route up Kilimanjaro for hikers in their 20s and below. This is because younger visitors to Kilimanjaro acclimate to high altitudes much better and faster than older hikers on the mountain. The only drawback to hiking the Machame route is the large number of visitors it attracts each year. This is why hikers looking to avoid crowds should either trek the Northern Circuit route or Rongai route or climb during transitional months

Despite being the easiest route on Kilimanjaro, the Marangu trail has a low success rate of 42% to 56%. The route ranks last due to poor acclimatization landscapes and short hiking durations. Even with its poor performance, many travelers are drawn to the route because of its cheap costs.

The Barranco Wall located on Lemosho and Machame trails is often a concern to many hikers however, accidents have never been reported. This interval is essentially a 10ft rock-formed staircase with a wall railing for support. If the Barranco Wall is a major concern, you can always avoid it by either hiking the Rongai or Northern Circuit routes. It’s also worth noting that Kilimanjaro tour guides are very skilled and are trained to ensure your safety around the “Kissing Rock”. 

Table Of Kilimanjaro Routes Difficulty

Except for the Western Breach route, which requires helmets due to loose rocks, climbing Kilimanjaro is not difficult and requires no technical skills or technical equipment. It is simply a lengthy trek along long and gradual trails. The major physical challenge most hikers face during their Kilimanjaro hike is the risk of fatigue. This is why longer routes on Kilimanjaro are deemed more difficult to hike than other trails on the mountain as shown in the table below.

Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing RoutesKilimanjaro Climbing DifficultyNumber Of Hiking Days
Marangu Trekking RouteVery Easy5 Days
Marangu Trekking RouteVery Easy6 Days
Umbwe Trekking RouteVery Hard6 Days
Rongai Trekking RouteEasy7 Days
Machame Trekking RouteMedium7 Days
Lemosho Trekking RouteHard7 Days
Lemosho Trekking RouteHard8 Days
Northern Circuit Trekking RouteHard9 Days
This table lists and compares Mount Kilimanjaro’s climbing difficulty based on routes and hiking durations.

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Identify & Compare Routes On The Kilimanjaro Mountain Map

The Kilimanjaro mountain map below shows Lemosho, Machame, Rongai, Marangu, Umbwe, Shira and the Northern Circuit as the 7 established routes on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes approach Kilimanjaro from the south, whereas the Northern Circuit, Lemosho and Shira routes approach the mountain from the west. The Rongai route, which has low precipitation during the rainy period, is the only Kilimanjaro route that has access to the mountain from the north.

Kilimanjaro Mountain Map

It’s worth noting that the Mweka route is mostly used for descents, while the Shira route, which runs parallel to the Lemosho route, is often used for evacuations. Except for the Marangu route, all routes on Kilimanjaro are referred to as “camping routes”. Trekkers rest in sleeping tents rather than sleeping huts.

The Lemosho route is one of the newer trails and avoids crowds on the early ascent connecting to the Machame route. According to KINAPA (Kilimanjaro National Park) records, the route boasts an 85-92% summit success rate and is ideally trekked between Seven & Eight days.

Lemosho Kilimanjaro Route Map

The hike approaches Kilimanjaro from the west at an altitude of 2,360m by the Londorossi Gate and meanders through an amazing rain-forest crawling with rare wildlife and planted with gigantic groundsels.

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The route eases past the third summit (Shira Ridge), into the Shira Plateu where you’ll come across the infamous Shira Cathedral and towards the Shira Camp by the main Machame route on day 3. This allows a few days of quiet trekking to admire the beautiful scenic view before the trail begins to join the Machame route.

The Lemosho route distance from the Londorossi Gate to Mweka Gate is approximately 70km (ascent and descent). For the average weekend hiker, with little to no climbing experience, the 8 day Lemosho route will be far suitable. The extra day trek to the base of Lava Tower offers the opportunity to acclimate to the changes in altitude and increases the chances of reaching the summit.

Experienced mountaineers and trekkers can opt for the 7 day Lemosho trek as they won’t need the extra day to acclimatize since the route has very good “climb high sleep low opportunities”.

The Machame route, nicknamed the Whiskey route, is relatively straight forward which is colorfully reflected in the route’s popularity. Though there’s very little criticism regarding this route, there’s one simple drawback: the trail welcomes a high number of trekkers during peak season.

Machame Kilimanjaro Route Map

This may occasionally interfere with your hike however, there’s a simple workaround. To avoid heaps of crowds you’ll have to leave camp early in order to beat everyone to the trails. 

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The Machame route is very conducive to good acclimatization which improves your likelihood of reaching the summit at Uhuru Peak. The route begins on the southern circuit by the Machame Gate and stretches north past the Shira Plateau before retiring at Shira Camp. Beautiful sunsets can be seen from the Shira Plateau.

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From experienced mountaineers to the occasional weekend power-walker — this Seven day route to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro is suitable for everyone across the board, given they’re in mint health condition. Hikers above the age of 45, an extra 1-2 days is recommended to properly acclimate to the changes in altitude. Travelers should expect a slight discomfort: headaches and nausea at Barranco.

The Northern Circuit route is the longest trail on Kilimanjaro in terms of distance and number of days traveled.

Northern Circuit Route Map
Northern Circuit Route Map

The route begins along the Lemosho trail before breaking off towards the northern slopes at Lava tower. This is the only trail that approaches Mt. Kilimanjaro from the north and gives hikers a 360-degree view of the mountain.

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Trekkers should expect incredible scenery, low traffic, and a very high success rate. The days spent above 3,900m have proven to provide great acclimatization opportunities but also great success throughout the trail.

The Rongai route ranks second as one of the easiest of all the seven official routes to trek on Kilimanjaro. Though this is the case, the route lags behind in acclimatization opportunities.

Rongai Kilimanjaro Route Map
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Aside from being one of the shortest routes on the mountain, it also happens to be the least frequented. This is great if you’d prefer to trek with fewer crowds. The route’s unspoiled wilderness sometimes offers a rare spotting of large animals like antelopes, buffaloes and elephants. This route is suitable for experienced mountain leaders and mountaineers. 

The Marangu route, also called the Coca Cola route, is widely coined the “easiest route” by many local guides however, it suffers a very low 42% success rate according to KINAPA (Kilimanjaro National Park) records.

Marangu Route Map

Trekkers are often lured by the budget rates that come with the route and are fooled to believe a 5-6 day trek along the steep trails of Marangu could afford them a successful summit.

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This is far from the truth and hikers are usually met with disappointment. The route is simple for guides to manage as there are bungalows along the trails and is easily accessible from Moshi Town. Otherwise, be very weary of promises of a “successful climb”. The trick to reaching the summit is to properly acclimatize by spending enough days on the mountain. 

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The 5 day Marangu trek is perfect for experienced trekkers and mountaineers. Although for moderately experienced hikers, a good 6 day trek would be bearable. This route should be avoided to first time trekkers and hikers who have little experience trekking in high altitudes. The hut accommodations on the route makes the Marangu trail perfect for rainy seasons and for hikers who’d prefer not to camp on the mountain however, it can get a little crowded in the dormitories.

The Umbwe route often attracts a much younger fit crowd and is often used, along with the Marangu route, as a record-breaking route. The trails are raw, unkempt and very steep until Barranco camp. Trekkers have an option to either summit via Western Breach route or Barafu path.

Umbwe Kilimanjaro Route Map
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Travelers should expect headaches and nausea. Unless acclimatized at 4,000m prior to your trek, chances of reaching the summit using this route are extremely low. Non-other than experienced mountain leaders and mountaineers should consider this route. 

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