Trekking is the number-one activity in Bale Mountains National Park, with most of it fairly gentle and undemanding, and following well-trodden paths. But don’t forget to factor in the altitude. Various routes, from one-day hikes to multiday treks, can be arranged – just ask your guide, who can put together a trek of any length to any place.
Guides, Horses & Handlers
Organising the ‘team’ (guide, horse and horse handler) is done through the Nyala Guide Association at park headquarters and should be arranged the day before you plan to start. Guides are compulsory and cost Birr250 per day. They have a good reputation.
Porters aren’t available, but horses (Birr120 per day) and horse handlers (Birr170 per day) can be hired. You must take a minimum of two horse handlers, even if you’re trekking alone.
If you are using horses, the trek needs to start at Dinsho (or you have to pay to get the horses to your trailhead of choice), though if you are schlepping your own bags you can begin anywhere.
Entry fees must be paid and treks arranged at park headquarters, which sits 1km from Dinsho village. All fees are good only for a single day (not the normal 24 hours) and include entry to the small museum nearby, which has information on the natural history of Bale. A trekking map (Birr100) and the dated Bale Mountains: A Guidebook are available at the headquarters. There are banks with ATMs in Robe and Goda.
A few stores in Dinsho and Robe sell the basics (instant noodles, pasta, rice, tomato paste, canned sardines, jam, biscuits etc), so if you’re planning elaborate menus stock up in Awasa or Addis Ababa. Guides supply their own food (as do the horse handlers), but they’ll often agree to be your cook if you feed them. Professional cooks can be hired for Birr400 per day. Water is available in various places on the mountain, but it should be treated.
Some guides hire out tents, sleeping bags and camping stoves, but there aren’t many to go around so it’s best to bring your own. They can also fix you up with rods for trout fishing.
Be sure to bring wet-weather gear, a warm top, trousers, a hat, gloves, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Quick Trip (Three Days)
Bale’s most popular route covers diverse landscapes in a short time and is even better for wildlife watching than treks concentrating on higher altitudes.
Day one (4–6 hours) Walk southwest from Dinsho up the lovely Web Valley, usually following a dirt road, to Finch’ Abera Waterfall and on to the Sodota campsite.
Day two (4–5 hours) Head to the Kotera Plain, a good wolf habitat, and loop back past Gasuray Peak (3325m) to Adelay campsite. The good visibility here makes this the best birdwatching spot in the north of the park.
Day three (6–8 hours) Descend to the flat Gaysay Grassland for excellent wildlife viewing and the small Web Waterfall before returning to Dinsho. The Gaysay Grassland can also be done individually as a day trek from Dinsho.
Mountains & Lakes (Seven Days)
This trek, usually done in a week, focuses on the desolate highlands, and your challenge won’t be spying wolves, it’ll be keeping count of how many you’ve seen. There’s the option of adding a night or two in the Harenna Forest after day five, either by walking or hitchhiking along the Dola-Mena road. You could also cut the trek short and hitch out of the park.
Day one (4–6 hours) Dinsho–Sodota via the Web Valley and Finch' Abera Waterfall.
Day two (5–6 hours) Continue southwest up the Web Valley to Keyrensa campsite, in an area home to many klipspringers and rock hyraxes.
Day three (4–5 hours) Head east past many viewpoints to the Rafu campsite, surrounded by rock pillars caused by a lava flow.
Day four (5–6 hours) Under the shadow of Tullu Deemtu (Bale’s highest mountain; 4377m), head across the Sanetti Plateau to Garba Guracha campsite, with its picture-perfect view of its namesake lake.
Day five (6–7 hours) Trek over to the seasonal Crane Lakes, which attract thousands of birds from July to October, and up to the summit of scree-covered Tullu Deemtu. Return to Garba Guracha.
Day six (4–5 hours) Head north across Shaya Valley, bagging Mt Batu (4203m) if you wish, before arriving at Worgona campsite.
Day seven (5–6 hours) Follow the Denka River back to Dinsho.