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Five Things to Know About Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails

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Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is a self-guided walking trail through the Pangani Forest. Along your way, you’ll encounter a variety of African animals and learn about Disney’ global conservation efforts. So, if you’d like to know more, read on. Otherwise, to mosey on down to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.

1. You start by entering the forest.

There’s no queue for Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, but the entrance can be crowded depending on your timing. That’s because people exiting Kilimanjaro Safaris can choose to either return to Harambe or take the self-guided Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. When the Safaris are operating at full capacity, hundreds of guests will exit every minute, and many of those folks will decide that the trail looks more appealing than jumping back into the busy-ness of the park.

The sign for Gorilla Falls Exploration trail is attached to a thatch-roofed structure that stands over the road.

In our experience, even if the trail looks crowded at first glance, the people space out as they move along. Yes, you may also run into crowds who gather around certain animal viewing areas, especially if there are baby animals (not uncommon!) on view. If so, just wait a bit and when they move along, you’ll have a chance to enjoy the view yourself.

2. Then you hit the trail.

The trail itself is about three-eighths of a mile long and is spread out over five acres. Depending on your speed, you can circumnavigate the entire attraction in 20-30 minutes. And while the attraction’s name is “Gorilla” Falls Exploration Trail, it’s home to many different species, not only gorillas.

An underwater picture of a hippo on a rock with small tropical fish in the foreground

You’ll encounter colobus monkeys, exotic birds in a screened aviary that allows them to fly freely, fish under the pathway and in ponds, mole rats, meerkats, hippos, giraffes, zebras, and more. (The hippos are the same you may spot if you ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction.) But if you’re here for the gorillas – and who isn’t? – it’s worth knowing that there are multiple open-air gorilla viewing locations. If you don’t see much at the first location, keep moving. A better view may be just ahead. On our last visit, we were able to observe two parents and two babies!

A baby okapi's legs are peeking out from behind his mom
Those extra legs aren’t a bad AI image artifact. Baby Okapi Elijah is hiding behind his mom!

3. You’ll need a sharp eye to get the most out of your tour.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is an opportunity to stroll and linger. Slow down your day and take the time to read the informative posters and displays. There is something to see everywhere you look.

A small rock is surrounded by greenery. "Beware of Buffalo" is painted on the rock.

The Imagineers have provided animal tracks along the trail floor, and beautiful works of art on the ceilings of the buildings you pass through. So, look up! Look down! There’s a lot more going on than what’s at eye level. There are helpful, educational displays in addition to the fish, birds, and animals.

If you have any questions as you take this self-guided, self-paced tour, ask the Cast Members. They’re filled with knowledge about the animals and their forest habitat – and aren’t only happy, but eager to share with you. You’ll come away with a deeper appreciation of the variation of life our planet houses.

4. The forest has a backstory, too.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail opened with Disney’s Animal Kingdom on April 22, 1998. In August of that year, the name was changed to Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Then, in May of 2016, the trail reverted to its original name.

A gorilla is walking on all fours

Whatever its name, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail has an interesting backstory! You’re visiting a forested portion of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Here, Dr. K. Kulunda runs a conservation school, a joint effort between the people of Harambe and different conservation groups. The displays posted at various locations along the trail are filled with facts about what you’re able to see, and they have a “naturalist’s flavor” to them.

A "chalkboard" display has a picture of a gorilla with notes about habitat, anatomy, etc.

The trail houses several research outposts for the students as well as visiting scientists to study the forest and its many inhabitants. The Cast Members stationed along the path are “research students” who are studying here. Which explains why they’re so knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions you have as you walk along the path – or stop at the various stations and overlooks. We think the bird “checklist” card is particularly helpful in identifying the feathered inhabitants you’ll encounter.

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail sits between Kilimanjaro Safaris and the entrance to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s an outdoor experience, so if the skies open up you’ll get rained on. However, there are a few sheltered points on the trail to take cover in – if you can find space among everyone else who is doing the same.

A large room with exhibits and terraria along the walls.

There are no health or safety advisories for this attraction and no height requirement. Guests may remain in a wheelchair/ECV to follow the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. Audio Description is also available. But due to the nature of this attraction, service animals are only permitted with certain cautions, check with a Cast Member for more information. But if you’re chomping on a delicious snack, finish it before entering; food is not allowed on the trail.

The trail’s hours are shortened during fall and winter, closing as early as 4:30 p.m. And the Trail is not open for Early Theme Park Entry or Extended Evening Theme Park hours. Check the Times Guide or our Touring Plans Lines app for the most up-to-date schedule. Genie+ isn’t offered for Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, but you don’t need it here.

The Bottom Line.

We think Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is a great opportunity to move at your own pace for a bit during your visit to Walt Disney World. The shaded areas and overlooks provide a leisurely stroll with a bit of learning on the way. Our grandkids aged 8-13 loved it, and our daughter (a certified naturist) was impressed. While it may not make our “not to be missed” category of attractions, it’s worthwhile for those who are willing to take the time.

Have you been through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

One thought on “Five Things to Know About Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails

  • The trail is huge and epic. I love it.


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