Bale Mountains

  • Bale Landscape - © By Flickr user Gill_Penney
  • Warthog in the distance - © By Flickr user AGoetzke
  • Semien Fox - © By Flickr user Gill_Penney
  • Bale houses - © By Flickr user AGoetzke
  • Nyala in Bale Mountains - © By Flickr user AGoetzke
  • Dodola, Adaba - © By Flickr user ShaunDMetcalfe
  • Mountain Girl - © By Flickr user AGoetzke
  • Bale Mountains - © By Flickr user RubenXaus11
  • Bale, Lobelias - © By Flickr user AGoetzke
  • To Dinsho Market - © By Flickr user AGoetzke
  • Colobus Monkey - © John Aird
  • Ethiopian wolf - © John Aird
  • Ethiopian Farm - © John Aird
  • Giant Groundsel - © John Aird
  • Nyala Antelope - © John Aird
  • Ploughing with oxen - © John Aird
  • View from our first campsite - © John Aird

Key information: Bale Mountains

    • Two peaks over 4,300m, spectacular, sheer gorges and high altitude plateau in this 2,200sq km National Park.
    • Three distinct eco-regions: the northern plains; the central Sanetti Plateau (with an average elevation of over 4,000m); and the southern Harenna Forest.
    • A thrilling diversity of geology, flora and fauna offers a fantastic other Ethiopia, away from the famed Afar Valley, cradle of humanity, and other sites in the north.
    • A proud example of sustainable tourism, run and managed by local communities and people.
    • The altitude is significant in places, with base camps between 3,080 and 3,600m. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating82
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest16
  • Human interest4
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating82
  • Note: Neg: altitude.

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,200m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Bale, Lobelias - © By Flickr user AGoetzke

WALK SUMMARY

Spectacular volcanic towers, babbling mountain brooks and serene alpine lakes; the mountains themselves, looming majestic on the horizon; the Bale Mountains offer a fantastic other Ethiopia away from the famed Afar Valley, cradle of humanity, and other sites in the north.

 

Tented base-camps atop the Harenna Escarpment are accessible from Dinsho, the National Park HQ, or the resorts of Dodola and Adaba. Forge through dense forest and past beautiful waterfalls (in particular the Kille hada berite and Meribo falls), plus not a little wildlife, to reach these camps. Once there, options abound: trace a circular route through each camp in turn, approximately 20km apart, or utilise your (pretty much compulsory) guide for a bespoke route and glean the benefits of their park knowledge and cultural insight.

Each camp tantalises with glimpses of juniper forest, heather moorland and alpine meadow as the plateau thrusts out of the lowland agricultural expanse. Remarkable and diverse fauna include Ethiopia's endemic mammals, the Mountain Nyala and Semien Fox. Indeed, the Bale Mountains are renowned for their wildlife, with around 60 further species of mammal, and over 260 varieties of bird.

 

It is delving deeper into the park from these starting points, however, that yields the greatest reward. Here, the grand Harenna Escarpment that divides the park could seem almost mundane. Volcanic formations consisting of ancient trachytes, basalts, agglomerates and tuffs, for the geologists amongst us abound in breathtaking spires of solid rock. The central peaks, covered by a capping of more recent magma flows, form spectacular rock ripples and pillars, and provide a constant and dramatic backdrop to any trek. This evocative landscape is echoed and reflected in the tranquil, serene lakes of the plateaux, which can explode into vivid brightness under the blue of a clear sky.

 

Altitudes are high enough to cause (at least) discomfort to most who undertake treks here, but with the park headquarters in Dinsho and various trails leading off every which way from the numerous roads, you can make walks here as easy or as difficult as you like. Two other gateways to the Bale Mountains, Dodola and Adaba, offer accommodation and supplies, and are good access for starting a trek onto the plateau. In addition, these community-led organizations provide local guides with real insight; recommended for most (especially longer) expeditions.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: johnaird
Posted on: 31/05/2015


Comments from Walkopedia friend John Aird (thank you John!)

We did part of this walk on horseback in May 2015, I feel a bit of a fraud writing about it on Walkopedia, but I hope our comments may be of some interest to genuine walkers. 

We started a the Bale Nation Park Headquarters at Dinsho where we camped in a campsite with spectacular views over the valley below. In the morning we took a guided walk through the forest led by a very knowledgeable local park guide where we saw Mountain Nyala, Meneliks bush buck and a lot of warthogs. 

We then met up with our horses at the Park headquarters. The horses were small and thin, but strong and tough. They carried us up to 4,000 mts without difficulty. We were a large party with 10 riding horses for the 8 guests and 2 guides, plus about 10 pack hoses to carry the camping equipment plus 16 cooks, helpers etc who walked the whole way. 

We started up a well established track through many isolated small farms consisting of a thatched mud walled house and two or three acres of land being ploughed with a pair of oxen pulling a single furrow plough. We were soon above the tree line and the hill sides were covered with Kniphophia plants (Red hot Pokers) a few of which were coming into flower. As we got higher,the farms stopped and the track disappeared, to be replaced by a few herds of sheep and goats. Eventually above 3,500 mts, there were only a lot of rodents living in holes in the ground, a few Ethiopian Wolves living off the rodents, some Ibis birds and other smaller birds. We camped on three Park campsites, where we were the only campers. The facilities were very limited, an Open A Frame shelter and a long drop toilet. The scenery and the views were spectacular. There were a few wild flowers in flower. At the Highest Elevations we saw many Giant Lobelias and no other humans. The only motor vehicles we saw on the whole ride were two young men on motorcycles on the first day. I would not describe the route as difficult walking. There were a few places especially on the way down at the end where we had to get off the horses and walk, but though it was difficult for horses, it was not too difficult for a human on foot. After 4 days, we got back to the highway at Robe where we drove for 3 hours to the Bale Mountain Lodge in the Southern part of the Bale Mountain Park, driving over the Sanetti Plateau which is at an altitude of 4,000 mts plus. Again the scenery is spectacular. You see a lot of Giant Groundsel and a few Ethiopian wolves. At the southern end of the Sanetti Plateau the road descends the Herenna escarpment where you get spectacular views and where we saw a surprisingly overturned Caterpillar bulldozer and a little further on a big 360 degree JCB digger that had fallen off a low loader. At the bottom of the Herenna escarpment there is a beautiful rain forest that extends all the way to Kenya. 

We stayed two days at the Bale Mountain Lodge which opened in January 2014. It was built by a retired British Army officer who had been part of an African Peace keeping force. It is very well built in a spectacularly beautiful location and very comortable but it is very remote, 12 hours by road from Addis Addaba and with no operational local airport. 

We did some excellent walks from the Bale Mountain Lodge with very knowledgeable guides through the rain forest. 

The wild life is not as numerous as it is in East Africa and you have to work hard to find it. but it is rewarding when you do and there is no one else there. We saw many different birds, Bale monkeys and several magnificent Colobus monkeys. 
There was wonderful lush vegetation and old trees, many wild flowers, fine stands of Bamboo, but little big commercial timber. The Bale Mountain Park is enormous and it would take you three weeks or more to walk the distance we travelled.

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Semien Fox - ©By Flickr user Gill_Penney

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Bale houses - ©By Flickr user AGoetzke...
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