The Complete Guide to Karnala Fort Trek
The Karnala Fort trek begins at the entrance of the bird sanctuary on a well-defined road and winds through the forest. Eventually, it leads to an uphill track under thick vegetation. There are multiple routes inside the sanctuary that lead to the main trail up to the mountain and offer a variety of fauna, both in the enclosure and in the wilderness. The trek to the top is a little challenging but thoroughly enjoyable and the fort provides a comfortable perch to rest and have lunch. After a final walk up to the bastion, one is presented with a splendid 360-degree view of the surrounding Raigad district. A 125 ft high basalt pillar sticks out like a thumb at the centre of the peak. It is clearly visible from far away on all sides.
A beautiful fort in Maharashtra that makes for a pleasant one-day trek
- Karnala is a quaint fort overlooking a sprawling bird sanctuary. Situated along the Mumbai-Goa highway, it is at a distance of about 10 km from the city of Panvel.
- It is an absolute beginner’s trek amidst the natural flora and fauna of the enclosed sanctuary.
- The relative ease of this trail also provides an excellent opportunity for parents to introduce their children to trekking and nature.
En route sanctuary
There are essentially two routes that wind through the forest and lead to the trail up the mountain. The main route is a well-defined motorable road and goes straight through the center of the forest. The alternate route is a crude track that encircles the sanctuary before rejoining the main road.
Signboard with trek map
The main route, sweeping through the heart of the sanctuary, provides a rich experience of the flora and fauna of the forest. The main road comes to an end at the base of the mountain, where there is a big enclosure containing a variety of birds and final signs of human settlement. There are a couple of houses for the forest officials, a canteen to cater to the tourist population and a relaxing area offering a glimpse of the pinnacle of the fort.
Final settlements at the base
A signboard on the left side of the road indicates the direction to the Karnala fort. The trail uphill is full of scree and gets steep gradually. The gradient alternates between loose soil patches and muddy scree. There are multiple signboards en route and even sheds in some places that offer respite from the sun. There are several forks on the trail and it is advisable to keep left.
Uphill trail through the dense forest
The pinnacle of the Karnala fort lies to the extreme right of the sanctuary and constantly remains in view as one is climbing uphill. The track uphill comes to an abrupt end as one reaches towards the top of the mountain. It sharply breaks ways, right and left. The summit lies to the right and a small uphill walk of nearly 15 minutes will get one to the base of the fort.
The pinnacle to the extreme right of the mountain
The trail flattens out and ends at a small temple near the base of the fort. A flight of steps can be seen from here leading to a stone frame that forms the main door of the fort. The tall basalt pillar lies in the centre overlooking the bastion on the other side of the fort.
Flight of stairs leading to the entrance of the fort
The fort looks formidable from the outside, but inside, most of it is in ruins. Barring a few stone door frames and staircases, the fort is just a shadow of its former self. A pathway along the left-hand side of the pillar leads to the back of the fort that has a bastion and a rampart at the edge of the mountain.
Rear view of the fort
The base of the thumb-like structure forms a small plateau and offers a wide area where one can rest and have snacks/lunch. There are a couple of rock-cut tanks that hold water but they might not be potable. One is advised to carry water along with them on the trek. Also, watch out for monkeys that are ever ready to snatch a bite of your meal.
Trail leading to the edge of the mountain and the rampart
One has to retrace the same path while descending and the way down takes no more than 90 minutes. The descent is short and the cool air under the thick forest cover hardly causes any exhaustion. There is a canteen at the base, where one can get their bottles refilled and sip some hot tea/coffee. Local transportation can be hired from outside the sanctuary gate to get back to Panvel city.
How to Get Fit for the Trek
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging every day. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace every day. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your workout.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises - stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can't go out and jog because of time and space constraints,here's a video you can use to work out indoors.
What to Pack for the Trek
The Karnala Fort is just a one-day trek. You will only need the following things.
- Small 20L backpack
- Two litre water bottle
- A jacket or poncho in case of rain
Author: Sujay Madbhavi