Bale Mountains National Park is an area of high altitude plateau that is broken by numerous spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that descend into deep rocky gorges on their way to the lowlands below. As you ascend into the mountains you will experience changes in the vegetation with altitude, from juniper forests to heather moorlands and alpine meadows, which at various times of year exhibit an abundance of colourful wildflowers.
Bale Mountains National Park is the largest area of Afro-Alpine habitat in the whole of the continent. It gives the visitor opportunities for unsurpassed mountain walking, horse trekking, scenic driving and the chances to view many of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals, in particular the Mountain Nyala and Semien Fox, and birds, such as the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, and Rouget’s Rail.
The Bale Mountains rise from the extensive surrounding farmlands at 2,500 m above sea level to the west, north and east. The National Park area is divided into two major parts by the spectacular Harenna escarpment that runs from east to west.
North of this escarpment is a high altitude plateau area at 4,000 m altitude. The plateau is formed of ancient volcanic rocks (trachytes, basalts, agglomerates and tuffs) dissected by many Rivers and streams that have cut deep gorges into the edges over the centuries. In some places this has resulted in scenic waterfalls. From the plateau rise several mountain massifs of rounded and craggy peaks, including Tullu Deemtu the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4,377 m above sea level. (Ras Dashen, near the Simien Mountains National Park in the north is the highest – 4,543 m). A major part of the central peaks area is covered by a capping of more recent lava flows, still mainly unvegetated, and forming spectacular rock ripples and pillars. Many shallow depressions on the plateau are filled with water in the wet season, forming small lakes that mirror the surrounding scenery. Larger lakes such as Garba Guracha (« black water »), Hora Bachay and Hala Weoz, contain water all year round. These many lakes provide habitat for water birds, especially migrating ducks from Europe during the northern winter.