The Makalidurga Trek is the perfect plan to quench your weekly thirst for adventure. It is one of the best places to visit near Bangalore, only 60 km away from the city. It is well connected by road and rail. The railway option is ideal when doing the Makalidurga night trek.
The Makalidurga hill stands tall at 4,430ft and has an iconic hump that helps you spot it from a distance. The trail is not well defined. You can choose to take a path that matches the challenge you seek. All paths take you up to the fort, with occasional arrows painted on rocks to reassure you of your path.
The trail is filled with small rocks and thorny bushes. On a windy day, as you climb, little bursts of lemongrass fragrance energize you. As you gain altitude, the rocks get larger and more barren. This makes the Makalidurga trek a popular spot for rock climbing and rappelling enthusiasts. You will have to carry your own equipment if you want to give it a try.
You will pass a Krishna Temple at the base of the trek; it marks the start of the climb. At the end, you enter a fort, now in ruins. Being part of three well known dynasties, it has quite a history to it. You can mark the end of your ascent with a darshan at the Shiva and Nandi temple.
The view from the top
You are presented with a picturesque view from the top. On one side you will see the Gunjar Lake, mimicking the outline of South America, surrounded by wild grasslands and manicured farms. From the opposite side of the hill, the enormity of a train is reduced to a web of rails. Completing the landscape, similar hills surround the Makalidurga hill, including the Nandi hills.
The hill got its name from the late ruler Makaliraya, who used it as a granary back in the 1800’s. It has been a part of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Maratha Empire and the Gowda Empire. During the Vijayanagar Empire it was used to train military soldiers. It was then captured by Shahaji (Shivaji’s father). Finally it was captured by Kempegowda. The hill fort now lies in ruins.
Another popular spot for trekking in Bangalore is Anthargange.
The Makalidurga trail is 60km from Bangalore. Take the SH9 to get there. You will spot the Makalidurga hill on your left.
The trail starts near the railway track. Choose a safe intersection to cross it and walk along the path laid out ahead. In about five minutes look out for the Krishna temple. With the temple on your right continue on this path. Follow it as it turns towards the left, leading you to the iconic hump of the Makalidurga hill, made up of large granite rocks. Here you will spot many monkeys playing around.
The climb starts here. You will need to navigate through small rocks and thorny bushes. You can marvel at the crude granite rocks in their naturally occurring form. A huge contrast from the polished slabs we see at home.
At the base of the hump, take the path on your right. Continue on the path, finding a way that is suitable to you. Be adventurous, there is no marked trail. All paths lead you to the top, with occasional arrows painted on rocks to reassure you of the path. Up ahead is a huge granite boulder. From now onward you will encounter many of these. Continue your climb over the left side of the boulder. The ascent is now steep and one might encounter tricky sections. Some streams run down the rocks, leaving them covered in moss. Avoid stepping on these areas. They are extremely slippery.
You are energized with the fragrance from the lemongrass that covers the entire trail. Often on the trail you will get viewpoints that peep through the trees. These are mere trailers to the view from the top.
Once you climb up three quarters, leaving the tree cover behind, the rocks get larger and barren. The larger granite rocks have made Makalidurga a popular spot for rappelling and rock climbing.
Enjoy the uninhibited freedom to soak in the view. Look down to spot the Gunjar Lake, in its peculiar shape of South America, surrounded with wild grasslands and manicured farms. To the right is Nandi hills. Looming over you are the crumbling outer walls of the fort. Take a break. Explore the area, and inspect the landscape from different angles.
The fort is a short climb from here. Explore the fort walls. You will notice a cemented room. This is a Shiva and Nandi temple. Look down to see that the view has now changed to railway lines cutting through varied hues of grasslands. Finish your darshan and start your descend.
Exit the fort from the little doorway to the right of the temple. This path will eventually merge with the uphill trail and you will soon be retracing your steps. The key to descending is to visualize where you must place your foot and be confident. For the steep sections of the trail, stand on your heels for support.
You will need shoes with good grip to step on the rounded rocks. You should reach the base in about 45 minutes. Cross the railway line and head back.
Additional: If you complete your trek by noon, include the Shri Ghati Subramanya Temple to your itinerary. It is 6km from Makalidurga. It is unique because of the rare occurrence of Lord Subramanya and Lord Lakshmi Narasimha under one roof. This temple sees devotees throng its gates to worship their respective deities.
The temple is specifically popular amongst those who seek a child.
You can also visit the temple to admire its Dravidian style of architecture.
Here is a routine that will ensure you enjoy the Makalidurga Trek
The Makalidurga trek is an easy-moderate trek, because it has multiple trails to get to the top. One is easy and the other is steep, climbing through large granite rocks.
It gives you the freedom to alter your path according to the adventure you seek. The trail passes through a couple of steep stretches which need basic fitness levels. You can start by jogging everyday. This helps you to build stamina and your cardiovascular endurance. The secret to a comfortable, continuous ascend is to choose cardio workout and do them over a longer period of time. Swimming continuously or cycling for long stretches are also good workouts. Stretch out your muscles so that they do not pull while crossing the larger rocks. Stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexes, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while.
The Makalidurga hill does not have any facility to buy basic things. You must carry water and snacks to keep you hydrated and energized. 2 litres per person is a must. The hill is quite barren, it lacks forest cover. Hence a sunscreen with SPF 20+ will keep you safe from the sun. Additionally you can carry a hat for extra sun protection. You must wear shoes with good grip to maneuver the large granite rocks.
The Makalidurga trek is safe for adventure. Locals climb the hill to visit the temple on top. You can always ask them for help/directions.
During monsoon, although very beautiful, the rocks are covered with moss and can get extremely slippery. You should tread carefully if you are planning your trek during this time.
Alternatively, in summer, due to the lack of a natural canopy, you can get dehydrated. Carrying enough water do the trick.
Makalidurga is an ideal weekend trek due to its proximity to the city. It is 60kms from the Bangalore city and is well connected by road and rail.
By road: When coming in from Bangalore city, take the SH9 (Dodaballapur road).Continue on this road until you reach a T-junction. Take a left and follow the road for about 15kms. In the next kilometer you will spot a food court on your left. Soon after, you will see the Makalidurga hill also on your left.
By rail: Due to the timings this option is ideal only for those who are planning to camp overnight. The Makalidurga station is just three kilometers from the start on the trail. From Yashwanthpur station there is a train at 05:57pm. It reaches Makalidurga at 07:00pm. To return, start your descent early as the train back to Yashwanthpur starts at 07:32am.