(1) amazing views into the summit crater and ash cone, (2) hiking along the crest of the crater rim, (3) nice, but distant, views of Kilimanjaro from the summit, (4) the ability to see a lot of wildlife on the lower slopes in the form of a walking safari, (5) the chance to escape the tourist crowds, and (6) for Americans, the ability to summit another peak taller than Mount Whitney. Arusha National Park provides certificates for people who summit the Little Meru sub-peak (3,820 m / 12,533 ft) or Socialist Peak - aka the Mount Meru summit. Although the name Socialist Peak is listed on the summit certificate, this name was rarely used and given that the Tanzanian government is moving more towards capitalism, it will probably never be more than a curiosity.
The 14 km (8.7 mi) or 19 km (11.8 mi) YDS class 2 Momella Route is the primary and only official route to the summit today. This route starts at the Momella Gate (1,500 m / 4,921 ft) and uses one of two tracks to Miriakamba Hut (2,514 m / 8,250 ft), either a shorter 5 km YDS class 1 route or a longer 10 km YDS class 1 route that allows one to see more wildlife, scenery including waterfalls, and old huts. From the Miriakamba Hut, you take a 4 km YDS class 1 trail through some forests up to the Saddle Hut (3,566 m / 11,700 ft). From Saddle Hut, you can either summit Little Meru (3,820 m / 12,533 ft) or follow the route another 5 km YDS class 2 to the Mount Meru Summit, aka Socialist Peak. On the way up to the summit from Saddle Hut, the first notable bald area you'll reach is Rhino Point where you can get amazing views of the summit and the inner crater walls, providing there are no clouds. You'll know you are at Rhino Point because there is a pile of bones in the center of the clearing. The easy YDS class 2 portion of the hike involves crossing two moderately long low-angle rock slabs above Rhino Point. Also from Rhino Point to the summit, there are green blazes and arrows painted on the rocks to show you the way, however, these can be hard to see at night. There is a metal flag of the United Republic of Tanzania on the summit as well as a wood box and summit register.
Before Mount Meru was included in Arusha National Park in 1967 it was also possible to reach the summit via the North and West Slopes, however, use of these trails to enter the park (and reach the summit) is now illegal. It is, however, legal to climb the inner Ash Cone but the park only recommends this for researchers and issues a special permit for this activity.
MOMELLA GATE: Most people who visit Arusha National Park make a visit to and stay at Moshi (831 m / 2,726 ft), the closest towns to Mount Meru. The major international airports used to access these northern Tanzania towns include (order from most convenient to least): Kilimanjaro International Airport (code: JRO), Nairobi, Kenya (code: NBO), or Dar es Salaam (code: DAR). From Moshi Road) to Usa River Village about 10 km east of Arusha and just west of the Lake Jipe Bar. From here turn north on to the dirt access road and follow it about 30 km until you reach Momella Gate. The access road is fairly rocky so if you hire a car, a 4WD is recommended. There are no regular buses or public transportation to the park so you will have to walk, hire a car, hire a taxi, or hitch a ride. Often times you will be able to hitch a ride from the A23 junction as well as Momella Gate.
There are a considerable number of regulations you should follow to climb this peak, however, if you know the rules things can progress smoothly. A tour operator or trekking company is not required to climb this peak (unlike Kilimanjaro) so you can arrange everything yourself, however, many tour companies that offer Kilimanjaro treks also offer ones for Mount Meru and using one can make your life easier (though more expensive). Some tour operators offering
PARK FEES (MANDATORY):
There are a number of mandatory fees that must be paid to enter this park and climb the mountain via the only official route, the Momella Route. Of course, you can attempt an illegal summit via the North or West Slopes to avoid the fees, but these are not as scenic as the official route.
When to Climb
Generally, the best times to climb this peak are from June to February with occasional rains in November. The dry season is from July to March. December to February generally offers the best views of Kilimanjaro which can often be seen from the summit and most places in Arusha National Park.
Camping and Accommodation
ON MOUNTAIN: The two established hut / camping sites are at Mirakamba Hut (2,514 m / 8,250 ft) and Saddle Hut (3,566 m / 11,700 ft). If you are going on a park sanctioned trip with the mandatory guide, you will most likely be staying at Miriakamba Hut on Night 1 and Saddle Hut on Night 2 and optionally Night 3. About the only ways you won't stay here is if some emergency happens. You can also camp in the vicinity of the huts. There are also huts for the rangers, caretakers, and porters / cooks here as well as a kitchen.
From jrsteven: "You really don't need porters if you are an experienced hiker with good equipment. Water is collected in rain troughs at the two huts - and at least in October , the troughs were quite full. You just need to boil or filter the water before drinking it." Near Momella Gate, just outside of Arusha National Park, there is a main lodge here with a restaurant, bar, and conference rooms in addition to a number of bungalows and chalets. You can rent a room or camp here.
OFF MOUNTAIN / NATIONAL PARK RESTHOUSE:
This rest house is run by the Arusha National Park and offers both rooms and camping facilities. Contact Arusha National Park (contact info under Mountain Conditions Section) for reservations.
OFF MOUNTAIN / LOGISTICS CENTERS:
Before and after your visit, you can always stay in Moshi, the closest town. Arusha is the primary logistics center for safaris and other trips to the Crater Highlands (e.g. Ngorongoro Crater), while Moshi is the primary logistics center for Kilimanjaro treks.