Channagiri, towards the north west of the Nandi Hills chain, is a less-frequented trail in Chikkaballapura. Locally, it is better known as Channakeshava Betta. It is the source of the North Pinakini River and has an Omkareshwara Temple at the top. But there is more to this hill than its famous landmarks. It’s a great day trek.
The trail takes you through a surprising variety over two quick hours. What starts off through wild shrubbery and occasional eucalyptus and tamarind trees, enters dense deciduous forests, big boulder sections and reaches a pinnacle with a stunning 360 degree view of the plains and hills around.
- Altitude: 2,950 ft to 4,478 ft. Total altitude gain of 1,528 ft
- Time taken: 2 hours to ascend and 1 hour to descend; 4.2 km including ascent and descent.
- Trek gradient: Easy
- Trail type: Trail majorly in the form of stone steps, hidden in dense undergrowth. Small sections of boulders. Gradual ascent all the way to the top.
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water per person.
Channagiri is a small hill 55 km from Bangalore. It is part of the Nandi Hills range, which consists of the popular Nandigiri and Brahmagiri hills. It is popular with pilgrims for its Omkareshwara temple at the top, with a Hanuman deity in it. It is also known to be the source of River Pinakini, although you rarely see water in any season except peak monsoon.
The start of the trek is marked clearly by a tall ant hill that is painted white and worshipped by the locals. The trails runs to the left of this structure, climbing up slowly.
It immediately enters wild shrubbery, which in winter months is dry and full of thorns. Start on this trail. It is well-marked and follows a straightforward route without any turn for 15 minutes. The Channagiri hill rises on your left during this stretch.
The plateau starts opening up behind you. Every now and then make sure you turn around to take in the view. Farmlands take up most of the landscape, with occasional urban structures dotting the scenery.
The trail climbs ever so gradually. You hardly feel like you’re climbing for the first 20 minutes of the trek. The trail switches between rocks and steps.
Around 25 minutes into the trail, you suddenly enter a flat, open area. This is the first clearing. There are two such clearings on the trek. Here, straight ahead, you see construction work and big rocky hills being torn down. It isn’t a pretty sight, but it’s a landmark nonetheless. Beside the construction area, on the right, Skandagiri rises as a perfect triangular mound. Here, veer left. It’s nearly a right-angled turn to the left. There’s no trail straight ahead. It’s a drop to the bottom.
When you turn left, Channagiri, which was on your left so far, now rises right in front of you.
The trail isn’t too clear here. It could be lost within the tall grass around you. The upward gradient increases slightly from this point.
Your next landmark within a matter a three minutes is a large rock on the left. If you’re quite the imaginative person, you might see a stern face on this rock. With the rock on your left, continue upwards.
The stone steps mark the trail so there’s no possibility of getting lost. Behind you, the view gets better and better.
In around 10 minutes, the trail takes you to a set of large boulders. They are large enough to be climbed on, bringing to mind the massive stone structures of Hampi.
Spend a few minutes on the boulders for a water break. The view of Skandagiri is unblemished from here.
At this point, the trail opens up for around ten minutes, running over big rocks. This is your second clearing. In monsoon, these granite rocks could be slippery.
Within five minutes you reach a flat grassy section. There’s a massive boulder with a flat surface on the right. Straight ahead and above you, spot the deciduous forest stretch that you must next navigate.
The trail might disappear into the bushes here. But if you scout around for five minutes, there’s an unmissable trail on the right, climbing into the forests. So make sure you take the trail on the right.
Enter the final stairway stretch
From here onwards, the rest of the trek is on a full-fledged stairway. The trail alternates between tall grass and small canopies of trees. It climbs on a single, well-laid-out trail for around 30 minutes. You cannot see much ahead of you, but stop and take in the view behind you every now and then. The entire landscape opens up. On a clear day you see at least 30 km into the horizon.
Reach the top
At the end of this staircase, the top of the hill suddenly opens up before you. There’s a temple structure with a Karnataka flag above it. Further ahead you’ll see another small structure with a water tank in front of it. From what we hear, the tank is filled perennially, but the water is not fit for consumption. We wouldn’t recommend touching the water either.
Make sure you walk all around the top of the summit. It’s a vast flat area offering you a 360 degree view of the surrounding hills. You easily spot the entire chain of Nandi Hills.
Start your descent by 4.30 pm. It takes around one hour to return to the base. The trail can get tricky in the dark, so don’t trek after sundown.
Follow the staircase all the way to the bottom. The trail is fairly straightforward. If confused, stick to your right.
If you have time, stop at the second clearing for a while. The colours in the sky and the play of light on the landscape in the golden hour is spectacular! Don’t miss it.
Follow the same trail all the way to the base.
Handy tips for trekkers:
- Do this as an evening trek and not a morning trek. Mornings will only get hotter.
Start the trek by 2.00 pm. Target to reach the top by 4.00 pm. Start descent by 4.30 pm. The sun sets behind the hill that stands behind you (which is the Channagiri hill). But the vibrant colours in the sky are unmissable!
- There’s quite a lot of garbage at the beginning of the trek. Walk past this and the trail gets better. Take small bags if possible to clear out whatever garbage you can. Let’s leave this trail in a better condition.
- Take two litres of water per person. There are no water sources.
- Take some quick snacks and a medical kit. There are no shops or houses at the base. If you need anything, the closest village is Sultanpet, 3 km from the base of the trek.
- Wear full-sleeved cotton tshirts. Avoid fleece or material similar to fleece. The entire trail has thorny shrubbery thanks to the dry nature of the trek. These thorns easily cling onto fleece and such materials. Choose smooth cotton clothes.
- The trek is best done in December, January and February when the weather is cool with clear skies. Summer in this region can get very hot and dry. So avoid April and May, when temperatures can rise as high as 40 degrees celsius. In monsoon, the rocks can get slippery.
- There is space to park your car at the base.
- There are no animals on the trail except trail dogs, skinks, chameleons. There is a possibility of spotting snakes.
This trek has been explored and documented by the Indiahikes office team in Bangalore. Take a look at the photos for a visual representation of the documentation.
How to reach the starting point of the trek
Bangalore → New airport road (Bellary Road) → Left turn onto Nelamangala-Chikkaballapura Road
Channagiri is 55 km from Bangalore. The best way to get there is by driving.
Take the Bellary Road from Bangalore and drive past the Bangalore International Airport. Then take a left to Nandi Hills road. Continue straight for 12 km on this road and take the left onto the Nelamangala – Chikkaballapura road. Skip the right turn that goes towards Nandi Hills and continue straight for 4.6 km. Now take a right turn and drive straight for 4.5 km. This stretch is an uphill drive with forest patches on either side.
Look for a sign that says ‘ Sri Omkareshwara Devasthana’ on your left. This is written in Kannada and is very easy to miss. The picture below if of this board. The mud road you find here leads to the base of the hill.