Over the last couple of weeks me and some friends from work have been spending a considerable amount of time in planning treks and hike to places in and around Mumbai. It turns out there are several such spots where one can get away from the hustle bustle of the city and enjoy some quiet time out. Unfortunately there are very few sources where any information about these places – things like how to get there, how much time it takes to get there, how difficult is the hike, how remote is the area – is available. This is my small attempt to put together all that in one page here.
I ll be updating this post as and when I visit more places, so over time I hope its usefulness will improve.
- Bhivpuri Falls
- Karnala Bird Sanctuary
- Mahuli Fort
- Sanjay Gandhi National Park
- Peb Fort
Bhivpuri Waterfalls – 10th August ’13
Take a local from Thane towards Karjat. Get off the train at Bhivpuri Road(it takes about an hour) and exit the station on the West side(if you cant figure out your heading, look for the hills :-). There are a couple of small shops, owners of which will helpfully give you directions to the waterfall; it is a short walk and takes about a half hour or so. In case you want to speeden things up you can take a rickshaw for about fifty bucks all the way to the base of the hills where the falls are.
Once at hill, where the real trek starts, the trek starts off at a very gentle slope and then gets a bit tricky with some rocky trails for the last few hundred meters. Depending upon the season you go in, there might be a lot of water around which means the rocks there will be very slippery due to the slime – be careful during the walk.
Overall its an Easy trek, which means there will likely be several people around visiting. It gets quite crowded with people shoving and pushing each other to get under the waterfall.
Time to destination
If you leave Thane by, say, 8, then you’d easily be at the waterfall by 10-10:30 depending upon how fast you walk and if it rains(you’d likely visit it during the rains).
Karnala Bird Sanctuary – 11th August ’13 & 20th June ’15
The sanctuary is located on NH17(now NH66), about 15km from Panvel. I took my car along as I wasn’t too sure about the frequency of buses or availabilty of autos/taxis. Both concerns proved valid, the sanctuary gates are a fair distance away from any bus stand and the highway it is on looked to be frequented by trucks instead of interstate buses.
EDIT: Rushikesh(refer comments section below) updates that state buses towards Pen will drop you off at Karnala; taking a bus in the opposite direction towards Panvel isn’t too difficult either. From Panvel stations, local rickshaws/tumtums can be hailed for a pick-and-drop to Karnala too.
At the entrance there is a map of the trail, which is completely out of scale; so use it it only for a general sense of direction. The trail has quite a gentle slope at first with small rocks strewn about which will tend to shift under your feet. After about a kilometer or so into the hike, the trail gets slightly difficult with several large stones that you’ll have to climb over. But there are ample places for you to take a rest and pace yourself. At places there are stretches of flat trails with good views of the sanctuary and the forest below. Carry enough water with you as there are no rest areas with drinking water availability along the trail.
I’d categorize the trek as Medium. Depending upon the weather, it could get very tiring especially when the sun comes out.
Update(20th June ’15)
– This time around, the incessant rains and poor visibility left us a bit less adventurous and we stuck to the marked trail all the way to the fort. Although the sanctuary’s facilities – snacks, first aid, water holes, rest rooms etc. – have improved over the last two years, maintenance of the safety railings around the fort has been poor. They are now rickety and some sections have fallen clean off(photos below).
Time to destination
From Nerul, the sanctuary is a short half hour drive. The actual trek took us 3-3.5 hours; we deviated from the trail for a fair bit so you can shave off a half hour from that if you stick to the route.
Update(20th June ’15)
– Following the trail, we managed to cover the distance from the entrance to the fort – about 2.3km – in a little over an hour and half. Four shaded rest areas and a light drizzle throughout the trek helped pace ourselves well.
Lohagad Fort – visited on 17th August ’13
This fort is located very close to a small village called Malawali, a bit off Lonavala. The easiest way to get here is to drive down the Mumbai-Pune Expressway towards Pune and get off the Lonavala exit and continue on the old Mumbai-Pune highway(NH4) till Malawali. From here, a small road towards the base of Lohagad Fort is marked.
From Malawali, the trail is well marked all the way to the fort; its about 4km at a pretty gentle slope. If you want to trek less and directly get to the fort then its possible to drive up almost to the fort walls along a different route. But then you’ll miss some spectacular views of the village below from the trail. Along the way there are ample shacks setup where you’ll get local foods, water and roasted corn-on-the-cob.
This one is definitely Easy. Thankfully, quite a lot of people prefer to drive up to the fort walls so the trail from Malawali to the fort is quite empty and quiet. The fort is usually teeming with visitors.
Time to destination
Malawali to the fort is a good 2-2.5 hour walk at a leisurely pace. The drive to Lonavala and back is usually smooth along the expressway, unless a container carrier gets stuck in the ghat section.
Naneghat – 24th August ’13
Naneghat is located about a hundred kilometers away from central Mumbai on NH222; the base village is called Vaishakhare. There is supposedly a bus that runs between Kalyan and Vaishakhare(about 60km), but I wouldn’t recommend this – its much better to drive all the way to Vaishakhare where the trail starts. To get here, you’ll have to take the Kalyan-Ahmednagar highway(NH222) towards Ahmednagar for about 60km. The road from Kalyan onwards is quite bad for the first 10 km or so with frequent potholes, but then on its alright and you can make up time. In all it will take about two hours to drive this distance. Just stay on the highway with an eye on your trip meter. Once you’ve gone about 58 km, slow down and watch out for a diversion to the right leading to Vaishakhare, you shouldn’t miss it as there is a bus stop here with a restaurant called ‘Sai Anand’. Don’t take the diversion, stay on the highway – from this point the entrance to Naneghat is exactly 2 km and to your right. Its a good idea to have something at Sai Anand before you start the trek.
From the highway, where you start the trek, the end of the trail is approx. 5 km at the top of a small hill. The trail starts off at a very gentle gradient and after about half a kilometer you’ll enter the forest. Be ready to wade through shallow streams here. Once in the forest, the gradient of trail becomes slightly steeper. Following this for another kilometer will take you to a clearing (called Havan) from where you get a good view of the valley below and of the summit(where you finally end up at) on the other side. Now the trek really becomes tough – you will have to walk over stones, crouch and crawl from under creepers and at times you’ll be struggling upstream against a gentle waterfall. Its quite testing on your stamina. At the summit, there is small cave where you can rest and stretch your feet before the climb down. Due the the rains and thick clouds, we weren’t able to see much else from here.
This one is a Medium. Due to the nature of the trail, most people trek only till the Havan clearing. You’ll come across very few fellow trekkers this point on. There is another route you can take to the summit which seems to be good enough for bikes and small cars, though we didnt go by that.
Time to destination
From start to end, the trek will take about 3-3.5 hours one way. The walk back also takes about the same time as in places, the rocks are very slippery. Its better to time yourself so that you get down well before sundown. Once dark its quite easy to lose way in the forest below. Plan to start the trek at around 10 so that you’ll be able to return by 5-6 PM. Any later and it could get dark.
Prabalgad – 7th September ’13
The trail to Prabalgad (and Kalavantin Durg) starts at a village called Thakurwadi which is ~15 km from Panvel. From Panvel, there are buses in the morning at 8 and then at 9:45 plying between Panvel and Thakurwadi. So take trains accordingly to ensure you reach Panvel atleast 15 minutes earlier (the Panvel bus stand is a short walk from the station). In case you miss the bus, you can take a rickshaw for about Rs. 200. It takes a half hour to get to Thakurwadi.
The trek plays itself out in two distinct stretches – Thakurwadi to another village called Prabalmachi and from Prabalmachi to Prabalgad. From Thakurwadi the trail to Prabalmachi is relatively easy at a gentle slope and a clear path to follow – however there is little shade here, so if the sun is out then you’ll be sapped of energy. Following the trail for about three kilometers, you’ll reach Prabalmachi where you can take a breather and refill drinking water. From Prabalmachi, the trail splits into two – one of them to the winding stairs of Kalavantin Durg and the other to Prabalgad. Prabalgad is the longer trek of the two. The trail is not too clearly marked, infact in places its not even sure that you are on the trail; so it might be a good idea to take with you a guide to show the way from Prabalmachi. He’ll charge you a couple of hundred rupees. You’ll walk through forests with plants and creepers brushing your face, you’ll climb over loose rocks trying to keep a steady footing and you’ll even be scrambling over boulders! Every so often you’ll come across a rock with an arrow painted in white telling you helpfully that you are on the right track. Once at the top, the view of the valley below is incredible with the summit of Kalavantin Durg in clear sight below you.
This one is on the higher end of Medium.
EDIT: In case you are looking for an organised trek to either Prabalgad or Kalavntin Durg, scroll down to the comments section. Nilesh Bhutambara provides food and guided treks from Prabalmachi; he gives his contact details below.
Time to destination
Thakurwadi to Prabalmachi takes about an hour and half. With a short 15 minute break here, the trek to Prabalgad will take another hour and a half. We started our trek at 9 in the morning and were at the summit by 12:30 PM. The trek downhill to Prabalmachi will take you about the same time as the climb up. From Prabalmachi to Thakurwadi you can easily make up time and cover the distance in a little less than an hour. We had started the trek back at 1:15 PM and were in Thakurwadi by 4, right in time for the bus back to Panvel (which turned out to be running late itself).
Mahuli Fort – 27th September ’13
The trail to Mahuli Fort starts from near Asangaon. You can take a train to Asangaon station on the central line and from there take a rickshaw to the place where the trail starts. It might be easier to drive to the place though – just stay on the Mumbai-Nashik highway for 55km(exactly!) and then keep an eye open for a pretty large signboard to the left telling you go off the highway towards Mahuli. Once you hit this diversion drive for roughly a kilometer till you hit a fork – the path to the left takes you to the start of the trail. Be warned though that the road is very bad for the last 2-3 km and for a significant part of the return journey on the highway.
At the start of the trail, there is a small tea-stall where you can buy water bottles aand snacks. The owner, one Vilas Thakre(in case you want to get in touch with him beforehand for directions, he’s available on 9209526268), will helpfully get you started in the right direction towards the fort. The trek in all is about 4.5km in one direction. At first, the trail seems almost too easy with quite a lot of walking along a level path through some woods; depending upon how much rain the place has seen you may have to cross a stream or two. Soon it gets steep with the usual combination of hiking through thick forest, swatting buzzing mosquitos, scrambling over medium sized boulders and maintaining balance on a slippery slope – in other words everything that one goes out on a trek like this for. The last stretch gets quite tiring because you’ll be doing a lot of climbing over large rocks; at the fort walls thankfully there is a ladder to climb the last 10-15ft. Its quite a precariously balanced ladder which shakes under every step you take…scary. When I reached the top, it was quite disappointing really – the rain and thick clouds obscured the vista spread out before us. So hope that when you are there, the sun is out.
In difficulty, this one is a Medium.
Time to destination
To reach the base, it took us close to 2.5 hrs from Nerul(we drove) – the highway is good but the few stretches of bad road are very bad, so you’ll be driving really slowly on them. The trek from the base to the top took us about 4 hours with a lot of breaks along the way to catch breath. I’d guess that people in better shape can cover this distance in about half the time. The walk back takes less time, but usually people take a small detour near the tea-stall to go check out a waterfall. If you time yourself right, then it shouldnt take more than half a day to go there finish the trek and get back home.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park – 27th June ’15
The sprawling forests of Sanjay Gandhi National Park are vital lungs of Mumbai. Being inside the city means getting to the park is very convenient – both by public transport and by own vehicles. On weekends and holidays, the parking areas within the Park tend to get crowded, so it might be a good idea to take a local till Borivali station and either hop into a rickshaw or take a small walk eastwards towards the main gate.
If you prefer driving to the Park, the main gate to the park is on the Western Express Highway. Drive north on the highway towards Borivali and about a kilometer from the main gate an overhead signboard will guide you underneath a flyover to the main gate.
From the main gate, a concretized road runs all the way to Kanheri Caves(about 6km), which are a popular family attraction and very crowded. Along this road start several trails which take you inside the dense forest areas of the part. We took one such trail – the Bamboo Hut Trail – which snakes through the forest and makes its way up to Jambhulmal, the highest point in Mumbai.
The Bamboo Hut Trail, and others that go into the forest areas, requires prior permission from the park authorities. The park also doesn’t let trekkers go along these trails unsupervised; once you confirm your trek and make a token advance payment, a naturalist will be assigned to your group who will take you along the trail. You’ll need to plan in advance to get permission.
From the main gate, you will first have to make your way inside to the Nature Information Center and ‘check in’. Here you will be introduced to your naturalist.
For the Bamboo Hut Trail, you make your way into the park along the main road for about 4 km. The trail is marked by an inconspicuous shack and a railway crossing style gate to the left. If you drove in, you’ll have to park your vehicle here to the side and start off for the trek.
The trail is fairly easy for the most part, going through the forest at a gentle gradient. For most of the way up to Jambhulmal, the forest floor is covered with fallen leaves which offer good grip. However, every so often there are short steeper sections with exposed rocks, which tend to be slippery.
At Jhambhulmal, you’ll be greeted with a spectacular view of the 3 major lakes of Mumbai – Tulsi Lake, Vihar Lake and Powai Lake – to the south. A small watchtower helps get a better view from over the treetops.
On our way back, instead of retracing our steps entirely, midway we took a detour towards Kanheri Caves. This section leads you through the forest to a vast open plateau which offers some beautiful vistas of the park too. From this plateau the trail towards Kanheri Caves is extremely steep with moss covered rocks. We were lucky that the weather gods gave us a break, our naturalist told us during rains this section of the trail would be off limits.
Along the way, we stopped at a small waterfall(teeming with people of course) before reaching Kanheri Caves. From here, we walked along the main road back to where our vehicles were parked.
The Bamboo Hut Trail and back via Kanheri Caves is apparently the longest trail inside the park; and it requires a naturalist to accompany you which is an additional cost(besides entry, parking etc.). So for the most part, it isn’t crowded and noisy. If you have a day(the naturalist doesn’t rush you), want to be surrounded by greens and love flora & fauna(the naturalist will point out species of plants, mushrooms, snakes, lizards etc.), this trek is a treat and is a must do.
From an endurance perspective, this trek is Easy. Don’t forget to carry some mosquito repellent, inside the forest you’ll need it.
Time to destination
From the starting point to Jhambhulmal, it is about 4.70km and will take about 2-2:30hrs. From Jhambhulmal to Kanheri Caves, it is another 3.30km(via the waterfall) and will take about 1:30hrs. From Kanheri Caves, back to the starting point of Bamboo Hut Trail is another 1.50km, but this is along the main road so is a quick walk.
Peb Fort – 26th July ’15
Peb Fort is located just off Neral, on an adjacent hill to the popular summer retreat of Matheran, which makes it an easily accessible spot.
The trail starts from the village of Aanandwadi which is a short rickshaw ride away from Neral station, in case you travel by a local train. Rickshaws ply from the station aplenty.
Driving is an option too, especially because the roads are good all the way and the Aanandwadi has several open areas for parking (there are shops around, whom will helpfully keep an eye on your vehicle). From Navi Mumbai, follow the Mumbai-Pune Expressway till the Shedong exit, after which take the old Mumbai-Pune highway till Chowk. Immediately after Chowk, you’ll come to a crossroads – turn left here and follow State Highway 79 all the way to Neral. At Neral, take the Neral-Badlapur road(immediately after the entrance to Matheran, Dasturi Point) and head towards the village of Aanandwadi. Or maybe its simpler to use Google Maps.
From Aanandwadi, the trail starts from behind a few houses. Local villagers offer guide services, which might be a good idea to consider if there aren’t too many other groups around. The trail isn’t well marked and its easy to lose way.
The initial stretch is flat, snaking its way between fields of paddy and a little later slowly making its way up along a gentle gradient. After about 30min of hiking along, the trail leads into an open grassland which offers spectacular views of the hills surrounding the area.
Continuing on, the next leg of the trek goes through rather thick forests. The thick foliage give way every now and then to rocky patches, over which you’ll need to scramble over. The final 100 metres or so of this leg are especially steep; it ends at a T-junction. Follow the trail to the left for Peb. Take a right here and the trail ends at a cliff with a great all-round view of the plains below.
Continuing on towards Peb Fort, the climb now becomes steeper and through thick, although short, bushes. Depending upon the weather, it could get very windy or sunny or wet as for the most part the trail is exposed to the elements. This leg ends at a couple of large boulder faces. Getting across them is quite tough, you’ll need someone already up to pull you over. So, this point acts as a pitstop, if you will. Trekkers cross it one at a time, and a queue starts building up slowly. Its best to catch your breath here, have some energy bars, take in the views before continuing.
Once past the boulders, a short climb brings you to a narrow trail that encircles the hill you’re climbing; so this trail is along an exposed cliff face. As you carefully tread along, to the left there is large cave-like opening. Another rest stop if required. This path ends at the fort walls which have to be climbed over using a rickety ladder. Again, only one person can climb this ladder at a time, so there’s a queue to wait in. Immediately inside the fort, there is a steep and tricky section of jagged, slippery exposed rocks, a bit like in Naneghat. This climb takes you to another small open area.
From here, there are several paths leading up to the pinnacle of the hill, where a makeshift temple has been built. It’s best to scout a few paths and then decide on one which seems to take you closer to the destination(listen for other trekkers who’ve already made it up). This path, after a short climb, will take you to the top of the hill, into the temple. There are spectacular views all around here. If its cloudy and raining, you might be in for a treat – it’s a sight to see clouds at your level send rain down towards the villages below.
At this point now, there are two options – take the same route back to Aanandwadi or continue on towards Matheran/Dasturi Point. We did the latter, which is what I describe.
Since Matheran is atop an adjacent hill, you’ll have to partly climb down the hill you’re on, cross a ridge connecting both hills, and finally climb up the second hill. The climb down is short, just be mindful of loose rocks and avoid slippery patches. There is another ladder here, actually two laid end to end, to climb down on. Once at the bottom, the path slowly circles around the hill and crosses the ridge. In the second hill, the path continues encircling it for some distance and then rises steeply up towards the top. This climb has yet another ladder – it looked the flimsiest, but actually turned out to be the sturdiest – crossing which you hit the toy train tracks. This toy train runs between Matheran and Dasturi Point(and Neral beyond). Take a left(looking towards the temple you reached earlier) and walk along the tracks to hit Matheran or follow the tracks to the right and get to Dasturi Point. We followed the latter. From here to Dasturi Point is a gentle 45min hike; along the way you’ll spot the famous Ganesha statue.
You can then take a cab from here back to Aanandwadi(in case you drove) or to Neral station(in case you took a local) for Rs.80-90 per head.
Overall this trek is a slight notch above Medium, only because of the few tricky sections.
Time to destination
From the village of Anandwadi, till Dasturi, it is about 7km. For us it took about 4:30-5:00 hours, not including the breaks. Two factors will determine how long it takes to complete the trek – the time you end up waiting in the two aforementioned points and how good your endurance is(the 7km is misleading, it feels a lot more because of the steep sections). From Dasturi, a taxi back to Anandwadi takes about 30-40min.
Tungareshwar – 12th September ’15
Tungareshwar National Park is located in the northern suburb of Vasai and is famous for a Shiva temple. Indeed most people who come here are pilgrims who undertake a short hike from the roads up to the temple; autorickshaws ply here too.
The national park is easily accessible by both road and rail. If you prefer driving, hit the Western Express Highway and head north. Once you cross Vasai Creek, drive for another 15 odd kilometers. Now watch out for a right turn into Tungareshwar Road underneath a fly-over. There isn’t a signboard marking it, so perhaps Google Maps is your best friend. After turning right, head along the narrow street till the dead end where you can leave your bike/car. There is a house here with a large open space where you can park for a small fee after taking the owners permission.
If you prefer to take a local train, simply take one to Vasai Station on the Western Line. From the station frequent autorickshaws ply to Tungareshwar.
Well, I’ve been misleading you. This is not really a trek – its a hike. A very long hike.
In fact, the trail we follow is navigable (barely) and connects the Western Express Highway with a Vajreshwari Road on the other side of Tungareshwar National Park. Instead of hiking across, we started at the Western Express Highway, walked along past the temple, up to a ‘Sadanand Maharaj Ashram’ at the top of the hills. From the base up to the Ashram it is a little over 9km long. After resting a bit, we headed back retracing our steps.
For this hike, from where you park, follow the unpaved path towards the forest & hills. Almost immediately you’ll hit 3 streams – not very deep or with strong current. After this, the path winds its way through the national park. In this segment of the hike, the path is peppered with hawkers selling tidbits to eat/drink – lots of cucumbers, lime juice vendors and other street foods. Along the way you’ll come across open streams running by the path and small waterfalls (almost all of them teeming with people and quite dirty). This goes on for about two and half kilometers till you hit the temple.
Here the road forks – to the left is the temple entrance and to the right continues the trail up. From here till the Ashram, there aren’t any vendors or any passers-by. So its a good idea to stock up on water and other knick-knacks here before continuing.
The gradient is very gentle all the way up. Approximately every two kilometers, you’ll hit a water handpump – refreshingly cool each time – which you can use to gauge progress. The path winds itself amidst the forest for the first half. As you gain altitude, expansive views of the surrounding hills become more and more frequent. One section in particular was most picturesque – open valley to the left and the hill-face to the right.
After walking along for another 5-5.5km,the path flattens out – you’ve reached the top of the hill. But you have to keep going for some more time along this even road, crossing hill-tops; the final half kilometer is a gentle gradient down into the Ashram gates.
In the Ashram, all are welcome. We got tea, had lunch and rested for a while here before heading back in the direction we came all the way down to where we’d parked.
Time to destination
In all the hike was about 18km, which took us 5:40 hours.
The hike up took us 3:10hrs – it was very sunny while going up and we were constantly resting in the shade panting.
By the time we had rested in the Ashram the weather gods had changed moods – it was as wet going down as it had been sunny & warm while climbing up. So the walk down, while definitely easier weather & temperature wise, was again a bit slow because of the now slick & slippery path.
Of all the treks I’ve undertaken so far, this one was perhaps the most uneventful. Neither does any one section or leg really push you to the limit, nor does it wow you with beauty.
Overall its definitely an Easy. The only challenge here is its sheer relentless length.