Nestled in the heart of the Western Ghats, in the Chikmaglur district of Karnataka, Kudremukh is a beautiful trek across gently rolling green hills and misty valleys. The third highest peak in the state at 6,207 ft, the trek is a day’s climb from the base village.
‘Kudremukh’ literally means ‘horse’s face’ in Kannada. The name comes from the distinctive shape of the peak. It is a trek of moderate difficulty, and can be accomplished over a weekend. The landscape traversed is mostly wide green grasslands, and a few patches of forest. The peak is situated in a National Reserve forest. If you’re lucky, you may get to see an occasional sambhar deer or peacock.
- Altitude: 6,207 ft
- Time taken: 8-9 hours (5 hours to ascend); 18 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate.
- Water sources: If trekking right after monsoon, you can refill your water bottles from streams along the trail.
On reaching the homestay, you can deposit excess luggage, have breakfast and leave for the climb. The distance covered, to the top and back, is 18 kilometres, and it takes atleast 5 hours to reach the top. You should thus begin by 7.00 am latest to make it in time for lunch at the top, around 1.00 pm.
A short distance away from the homestay, on the way up itself, is the Forest Office. Get the necessary permissions for trekking here. There is a fee of INR 250 per person.
The trek begins from after the Forest Office. It starts off with a slight ascent on a muddy path after crossing a stream. This patch is tricky, and you’ll need a guide to cross it, as there are several confusing trails. This continues for around 1-1.5 km before the trail reaches a plateau of sorts. This is marked by an ontimara, a ‘lonely tree’ at the spot.
From the ontimara, after a left – the trail is flat, with the Kudremukh valley to the right, and easy slopes to the left. The landscape here onwards is mostly wide grassland, with the occasional dense spot of trees, for around 1.5 hours. A lonely road leads the way to the top, surrounded by miles and miles of open meadows.
This route is especially scenic during, and just after the monsoon, when the entire mountainside seems to be covered by a soft, green carpet. Numerous streams, small and large cross the path during this time, and can safely be used as sources of water.
After the fourth dense patch of trees, is another stream of water, and the last water source before the peak. After this point, a the trail moves up two steep ascents for around 5-6 km, before it reaches another ontimara. As the road ascends, the whole Kudremukh valley becomes visible. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the trek.
The second ontimara is reached at the end of the second ascent. This is a good spot to rest and look around for a while, before recommencing the walk to the top. You should ideally reach this point around or before 12 noon.
This point onwards, the trail climbs up the ‘horse’s back’ part of the mountain, gradually curving upwards, and ending in a steep ascent. This is the last ascent – the climb to the top is a level walk past green fields.
The highest point is recognisable by a small group of rocks, and a small stream that runs through from here. It is an exquisite spot to sit and have lunch, breezy, with a view of the valley and undulating hills below.
Leave the peak around 2.00 pm latest to be back at the homestay in time. The descent is down the same trail. The evening can be spent setting up a campfire at the homestay and sleeping in, before leaving on Sunday morning.
Points to note:
Camping on the trek is not allowed, and visitors need to stay at a homestay at the base village. Most homestays charge around INR 800-900 per person, which includes breakfast, overnight stay, and packed lunch.
It is recommended to hire a guide (available at the base), as there are several winding trails, which can be confusing to the naive traveler. The guides are all local folk, who know the landscape by heart, and they are registered by the Forest Office. The trek is best during the monsoon and the winter, but you need to keep a lookout for leeches while hiking. There are also a lot of streams to cross throughout the trek, and carrying waterproof shoes would be a good idea for this trek.
You need to make sure to carry everything you need from your home town or a town on the way – medicines, snacks et. There are no shops at the base, and nothing can be made available after nightfall. The most convenient option is to contact a local person, who manages everything – the jeep rides, the homestay, trekking permissions and guide bookings, and have it done in one go. Satish: (+91-948-107-4530) is one such reliable contact, who can manage the whole set of affairs, even in advance.
This trek has been documented by Revati Tongaonkar. Trek information provided by Vishnu Benne.
How to reach the base camp
The best way to time the trek on a weekend, is to leave on a Friday night from Bangalore, and travel overnight to the base, 332 km away. The base village is a tiny hamlet – it has no known name as such, and no direct buses either.
To reach it, take the road from Bangalore to Kalsa, and get off at a small square just before Kalsa. The ‘square’ is instantly recognisable – it consists of just two small shops by the roadside, with no habitation for kilometres on either side. Nearby, a bridge takes a road towards the base village. Those travelling by bus need to get off here, and take a jeep to the base. Several jeeps ply to and fro from this point to the homestays to drive trekkers, and charge INR 800-1,000 per jeep. Those traveling by private vehicles can drive to this junction, park the vehicles safely at the roadside, and take a jeep from there onwards.
The jeeps are usually available all the time, but they are especially active in the early morning, when trekkers arrive. Hiring a jeep, even by those travelling by private vehicles is recommended – the route to the base is a tough one, and is better traversed by experienced drivers.