The park is small but varied with spectacular landscapes in three distinct areas. In the west, the Meru Crater funnels the Jekukumia River; the peak of Mount Meru lies on its rim. Ngurdoto Crater in the south-east is grassland. The shallow alkaline Momella Lakes in the north-east have varying algal colours and are known for their wading birds.
Mount Meru is the second highest peak in Tanzania after Mount Kilimanjaro, which is just 60 km away and forms a backdrop to views from the park to the east. Arusha National Park lies on a 300-kilometre axis of Africa's most famous national parks, running from Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in the west to Kilimanjaro National Park in the east.
Arusha National Park has a rich variety of wildlife, but visitors shouldn't expect the same game-viewing experience they find in other national parks of Tanzania's northern circuit. Despite the small size of the park, common animals include giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, the black-and-white colobus monkey, the blue monkey, flamingos and more. African elephants and leopards are present, but rarely seen. There are no lions in the park. Birdlife in the forest is prolific, with many forest species more easily seen here than elsewhere on the tourist route - Narina Trogon and Bar-tailed Trogon are both possible highlights for visiting birders, whilst the range of starling species provide somewhat less gaudy interest.