Karnataka is fast emerging as a trekking destination of national importance with its many mountain trails in the Western Ghats or the Sahayadri mountains, running south to north and criss-crossing the state.
The uniqueness of the trekking experience in Karnataka lies in the abundance that nature has bestowed on the state in the form of lush tropical forests, hills and dales, caves and cascades, roaring rivers. The pristine coastline adds to the charm.
The trekking trails are mostly located in the `Ghat’ districts of North and South Kanara, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Hassan and Coorg in the interior of Karnataka. It is no wonder, that at times, even village houses and temple courtyards serve as camp sites for the persons on the trekking venture! The ideal time to go on a trekking expedition is the period just after the monsoon, that is, September to December when the landscape is lush and green.
In Hassan district, an interesting variation of trekking experience is the `Railway Track’. It is altogether a unique experience – trekking on the railway track from Doniga station to Yedakumeri, Shiribagilu and finally Kukke Subramanya, camping for the night at each station..
The all absorbing Coorg and its stretches of coffee plantation is virtually one continuous trekking territory. With lush green the hills and forests, plantations, gushing rivers like the Cauvery, Barapole and Lakshmanteertha and the wildlife sanctuary at Nagarahole, trekking in this area is an unbelievably thrilling experience. Some of the well trodden trekking trails here are around the tallest peak in this district — Thadiandamol and the trail leading from Chelavara village through the Emmepare Falls, Baliatra Falls, Thadiandamol peak, the ruins of the Nalakkanad palace to the Iguthappa peak, which has a shrine of Lord Subramanya set in what seems to be a mystical location.
The trekking trail around the Barapole River leads from Makutta through the reserve forest to a jungle pool is called Neelampole. Thick bamboo forests skirt the river banks and this is dense elephant territory. In the Brahmagiri ranges of Southern Coorg, a forest trail leads from Irupu Falls to the Brahmagiri peak. The falls present a stunning sight during the monsoons.
Interesting trek routes are also found in the southern parts of Mysore district. From Bandipur, a wildlife sanctuary, a trail through the buffer zone of the reserve forest ascends to the Himavad Gopalaswamy temple on a hill. Another popular route is the “Cauvery river bank trek” from Mekedatu to Muthathi, where the river is a broad gushing expanse of water, creating innumerable small islands and finally to Bhimeshwari.
Besides these long trails, numerous short trails leading up to boulder-strewn monolithic hills abound around Bangalore. These are the Rangaswamy Betta near Kanakpura, the Ramagiri Hills near Ramanagaram, Devarayanadurga, Shivganga, Siddarabetta and Madhugiribetta near Tumkur, the Male Mahadeshwara Hills (M.M. Hills) and the Biligirirangan Hills (B.R. Hills) near Kollegal. These hills have temples, forts, forests or caves. Rock climbing and speleology (the study of caves), are other activities one can undertake besides trekking.
North Kanara is another bet for Karnataka trekking with its marvellous trekking terrain with four mighty rivers flowing east to west of which `Kali River Bank Trek’ starts from Ambikanagar near Dandeli and takes a rugged teak and bamboo forest trail along the dark Kali River and its tributary, the Kaneri.
The district of South Kanara has trekking trails leading to the Kodachadri, the Kumaraparbat and the Kolikamalai peaks. From Kollur town, famous for the Mookambika temple, a trail leads to the towering Kodachadri peak where there is a temple complex and a monument called Sarvagnya Peeta, the seat where Shankaracharya attained divine knowledge.
So put on your trekking shoes but spare a thought for conserving the ecology while you enjoy the experience!