Few transformations can match the grandeur of the Western Ghats morphing from thirsty brown to vivid green during the monsoon. It is the season when numerous brooks come to life and windswept cliffs fleetingly court silvery mist. The hill slopes erupt in a bouquet of wildflowers and waterfalls are born. One of the world’s top biodiversity hot spots, older than the Himalayan range, there is perhaps no better season to venture into these green hills than the monsoon, despite the intimidating rain and unrelenting leeches.
From Gujarat to Kerala, the mountain range runs unbroken, taking on a slightly different form in each state. In Maharashtra, for instance, the green is fluorescent and blinding; in Karnataka, the rolling grasslands are ubiquitous and expansive; in Kerala, the rainforests are lush and intimidating. Here’s a selection of a few monsoon hikes in the Western Ghats that showcase its spellbinding beauty.
Perhaps the best way to escape the crowd that throngs Matheran is to take a hike. You can choose from several trails, such as the one to Garbett Point that offers stunning views of a vast plateau and Morbe dam in the distance, or the more popular Peb Fort trek that provides all the thrills of a monsoon hike in the Sahyadris. Day hike.
Kodachadri is the 10th highest peak in the state, with a height of 1,343m above sea level. But its stunning waterfalls (Arishinagundi and Hidlumane) and favourable location more than makes up for what it lacks in height. Famous for sunrises and sunsets in a setting where the mountains meet the plains, Kodachadri can also be reached by vehicle—but a hike up the slopes is recommended. Two-day hike.
Bamboo Hut trail, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Maharashtra
One of the most surprising things about Mumbai is that the bustling city has a whole national park inside it. The SGNP is the city’s green lung. Not only does it offer respite from the heat and pollution, it also provides one of the best views of the city’s three lakes —Powai, Vihar and Tulsi. The trail leads to the park’s highest point, which provides an unusual view of the park’s greenery fringed by Mumbai’s skyline. Day hike.
Chembra Peak, Kerala
Chembra Peak’s heart-shaped pond, situated high up in the hills of Wayanad, is an instant crowd-puller. The glistening pond that sits in the middle of an expansive grassland overlooking tea gardens, surrounded by soaring mountains on all sides, is best viewed from a height.
Overlooking the picturesque waters of Bhandardara Dam in Ahmadnagar district, Ratangad is a famous hilltop fort with phenomenal views of cliffs belonging to the Kalsubai range. Often covered with wildflowers that bloom en masse, the fort is perhaps the best place to witness the sublime beauty of the Sahyadris
in Maharashtra. Two-day hike.
Nelliyampathy Hills, Kerala
One of Kerala’s lesser-known gems, Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district is a beautiful and wild hill station where lush forests are interspersed with tea gardens and coffee plantations. With its gigantic trees and pristine forests, and sweeping views of the Pothundi reservoir on the way, trekking here is balm for the weary soul. Day hike.
Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka
The trademark of the Kudremukh National Park is the pristine shola grassland that stretches out like a carpet of green as far as the eye can see. Sweeping views, lush forests and waterfalls are abundant on the trails here, making it a preferred hike to see the Western Ghats at their finest. Day hike.