Monsoon brings out the best of the hills — they are at their greenest best, vibrant with dense forests and lush meadows. You never get to see the hills like you see them in monsoon. But you’ve got to know where to go. Here are some helpful suggestions:
Let’s first talk about day hikes. I recently drove to a hill called Handi Gundi in Ramanagara, hardly 50 km from Bengaluru. What surprises me is that not many do this beauty of a trek. In just an hour’s climb, I walked under a lovely green cover, over boulders, through small grassy patches with tiny white flowers.
There are tonnes of trails like these. The Makalidurga trail is a stunning one and so are Channagiri and Brahmagiri (less-frequented twins of Nandi Hills). All of them have well-marked trails. Look them up on Google Earth — they are marked — before heading out.
Expand your circle to about 150 km off of Bengaluru and more trails open up. Tumakuru is well known for its trails. Mandya is another hotbed for trekking trails. Just spread out a map and you’ll find small hills around any district in Karnataka. They are all great treks in monsoon.
The Western Ghats are, however, the Mecca of monsoon treks. From the beginning of June, all the way till September, trekkers throng to these hills and with good reason. Most trails are laden with streams and waterfalls and forests full of life!
Amongst these, I’d highly recommend the Kudremukh and Ballalarayana Durga treks. Kudremukh is the trail that got me hooked to trekking, I’m sure it is the same for many others too. I remember immediately falling in love with the endless folds of hills on this trail.
Ballalarayana Durga is in the same region, but with a lesser crowd. Top it off by extending your trek to Bandaje Arabi Falls. You can stand at the snout of the waterfall and look down, it’s pure thrill!
In the north
Moving further north, most of the Himalayas east of Uttarakhand face heavy rains in monsoon, making most trails inaccessible. However, there’s the Valley of Flowers trek in Uttarakhand that bursts to life only during monsoon.
Frankly speaking though, Valley of Flowers is rather overrated. It’s full of flowers, yes. But after visiting the mountains of Kashmir, it’s hard for me to find anything that comes close. Kashmir is the place to trek during monsoon. Look up Kashmir Great Lakes or the Tarsar Marsar treks. Most people visit the Alps to see blue glacial lakes with snow-capped mountains. Kashmir can give the Alps a run for its money.
Spiti is another region that rates high on the list of monsoon treks. Make the village of Kaza your base, and from there, there are lots of day hikes and also week-long treks to explore. The Pin Bhaba Pass is one such week-long trek. If you’re physically very fit, then it’s something I’d highly recommend this monsoon. The desert landscape of Spiti is a treat to the eyes. Since it lies in the rain shadow region of India, it’s a great getaway to escape the rain. Much like Ladakh. But I’d recommend Spiti over Ladakh — it’s less explored and much more pristine.