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Nilgiris Green Lake Trek

A colossal lake surrounded by mysterious forests and meadows

  • There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the Green Lake Trek. Passing through the densest forests, with sightly pine trees and fragrant eucalyptus trees, this trail skirts an enormous green lake. Tunnel-like thickets and Switzerland-like meadows crop up every few kilometres.
  • On the second day, deep, dark deciduous forests and creaky bamboo forests unfold on either side of the trail. It’s hard to believe that such a gem of a trail lies just an overnight journey away from Bangalore, on the outskirts of Ooty.
DIFFICULTY:

Easy

TRAIL TYPE:

dense forests and slightly uphill climbs

DURATION:

1 days

BASE CAMP:

Hindustan Photo Films

BEST SEASON:

March to September

Nilgiris Green Lake Trek is a trek which leads to a beautiful lake that one just cannot ignore. If the trail isn’t splendid enough, the lake in itself is absolutely magical. Uninhabited, except for the occasional fisherman, the lake is lined with grassy knolls along its edges. To just sit on the mounds of grass and look at the delicate ripples of the lake is in itself a pleasure.

Find complete details of the trek here.

 There are two added bonuses to this trek. To reach the start of the trek, we take the route through Bandipur National Park. We usually drive through the park between 6 am and 7 am, which is the perfect time to spot animals. One can spot elephants (including tuskers), spotted deer, sambar deer, peacocks and bisons without even going on a jungle safari. Another bonus is the brilliant weather during the trek. Since it’s on a hill station and reaches an altitude of 7,000 feet, the weather remains cool throughout the year. Even when the sun is out, a cool breeze keeps you fresh and enthusiastic. The second day is warmer than the first, but it’s a great escapade during hot summers.   

 How to do the trek

Day 1: From HPF and back, around Green Lake

  • Time taken: 7 hours, 8 km 

Get onto the road that leads to the X-Ray plant. In less than a minute, you’ll reach the shoulder of the road, which curves to the right and leads to the plant. Spot a small clearing ahead and on your left. There is a trail made for cows that leads to the clearing from the shoulder. Climb onto it.

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The trail

The clearing in the heart of a eucalyptus grove is a delight. The pleasant aroma of eucalyptus all around is intoxicating. The clearing climbs gently and drops down to a wonderful meadow. At the foot and to the right of the meadow are the last of the greens of the Ooty Golf Course.  

1 Meadows at the start of the trek - 1
Meadows in the beginning of the trek

 Cross the meadow in a straight path with the golf course on your right. The fragrant eucalyptus grove all around you is a delight. Cut through the meadow in the direction of the hill. Stick to your left. 

2 Lovely eucalyptus grove around the meadow
Lovely eucalyptus grove around the meadow

Keep to the trail and gently descend to the left. The trail gets into a thick clump of thorny bushes with wild yellow flowers.

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Clump of bushes after the meadow

It emerges into a road in about 5 minutes. The road is a properly tarred. It skirts the outer rim of the Green Lake. Grand old trees stand tall and like a work of art here. There is also a tree that has a huge man-sized hole in it. The road comes to a T-junction. Veer left here. Walk along the road and 3-4 minutes later, you’ll get your first view of the lake. 

First view of the lake
First view of the lake

 The Lake

Spend some time taking in the view. The vastness of the lake and the seclusion of the location are spellbinding. 

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Dry pine cone fallen on the forest floor

Further on, as the road straightens out of a curve, look for a wide dirt track that leads out off the road on your right. The dirt track curves around a mound, to another spot from where you can see the lake. From here on, the lake view becomes more frequent and more picturesque. You can get down to the bank of the lake and bask in the heartening view. Forests border the lake on all sides and cloudy blue skies overlook the lake. The trail soon enters a forest. The forest floor has layers of colourful leaves strewn on it, making the trail as soft as a bed. Your shoes will pleasantly sink in and out of the cushioning at every step. You’ll find several dry pine cones fallen here. They are truly nature’s work of art! Soon, the trail skirts around the curves of the lake. Occasional fishermen sit at the corners of the lake hoping for a catch. Spend time chatting them up. 

First full-fledged view of the lake
First full-fledged view of the lake

In around 10 minutes, you’ll reach a view point with the grandest view of the lake so far. Forests branch into the lake here and there. The view is framed by bushes and trees closer to you.  Endless ripples in the lake exude a sort of perpetual calmness.

Forest floor with pine
Soft forest floor with dried pine leaves

From this point on, the forest floor changes from colourful leaves to dry brown pine leaves, whose noodle-like structure provides more cushioning to your feet. Look skywards and see the pine trees staring down at you protectively. You’re in nature’s loving arms now.

Continue on this brown-hued trail for ten minutes, until you reach another view point. A huge fallen tree trunk sits at the bank, pointed towards the lake. There are boulders inside the forest where you can rest for a while. 

Notice that the forest is also slowly changing from shola to more and more pine all around you. If you stay quite, you could spot rare trees and perhaps a few deer here.  

7 - View from the fallen log point
View from the fallen-tree point

Soon after these boulders, in another five minutes, you’ll reach a small stream that you have to cross. There are small boulders that will assist you here. Note that the water is not fit for consumption.

The trail re-enters forests with slender, tall pine trees all around. Then the forest slowly paves way for thorny bushes again. After 20 minutes, the trail rolls out along the rim of the lake. This area could be slushy, so watch your step. Soon, spot a scrawny tree that has fallen down, jutting into the lake. It lies beside a beautiful shady glade. Look for a pump house on the far side of the lake to get your bearing right. The pump house is diagonally opposite on the other side of the lake.

The fallen tree that marks the arrival of the lunch spot
The fallen tree that marks the arrival of the lunch spot

 This is a good spot to have lunch. Since it’s within the forest and you’re not walking, it could get a bit nippy. A jacket could come in handy here. Enjoy your lunch with a grand view of the lake. Even if it rains, the forest will protect you.

9 View from lunch point
View from the lunch point

Resume your trek after lunch. The trail curves around the lake a few more times. Half hour later round a sharp bend to reveal a narrow prong of the lake that runs deep into the forest. Make your way to the tip of this prong. Here, careful to get your orientation right; make a perpendicular path into the forest as shown in the map here. Your task is to cut through the forest to get to the other bend of the lake. 

Mark a route that climbs into the pine forest. Dive straight into the forest and avoid going either to your left or right. Make a trail that climbs gently to the top of the ridge. From the top of the ridge the slope descends gently towards the lake even though you may not be able to see the lake. As you round the top, a clear-cut trail cuts through the forest and makes a path to the left. 

10 Trail through pines while crossing to other bank
Route through pine forests while crossing to the other bank

The trail is often criss-crossed by other trails. Stick to a path bearing left and eventually the trail pops out to a lovely grassy bank on the lake. The traverse from one side of the lake to the other does not take more than 15-20 minutes. 

Nilgiris Ooty (55)
View on the other side of the lake

 A new vista and shore of the lake opens up. The view on the other side is what all of us dream countryside must look like. Little farmlands in the middle of meadows dot the landscape. Beyond the meadows, pine woods climb to the hills.   On your side o f the lake, the view of the lakefront is even prettier. The dark woods overhang on the trail that continues to cut through the glades. Continue on the trail as the lake makes a wide bow-shaped path around the edges. The pine forests overlooking the lake make a fascinating sight. Especially with the way they suddenly end at the grassy knolls about 20 feet from the shore.

12 Trail around the lake
Trekking along the lake

Half hour later the trail curves around another sharp bend. A surprise waits here. From the bend, to your left, a narrow strip of clearing skirted by Shola trees climbs into the hills. Almost meadow-like the clearings are a delight.  The low floored shola trees make a dark shadow against the golden clearing. The contrast is hypnotising.

The clearings and meadows

This is where you leave the lake and climb to the clearing. Take a moment to look behind and catch the last glimpse of the emerald lake. The views round the corners are excellent. Looking ahead, keep your direction between the two electric lines that follow the clearing. 

13 entering the undulating meadow with electric lines
Looking back while entering the clearing with electric lines

The meadows rise and fall in a series of hillocks. The shola trees that encircle the meadows are mysterious. Their depths are dark and impenetrable.  

Continue your trek as the trail traverses the many small meadows that line the top of the hillocks. Even with its ups and downs the trail climbs gradually. Time to time, you need to dive into the undergrowth between two hillocks to climb up again. Small streams sometimes run between these hillocks. Avoid drinking water from them.

You may also see clouds and fog in the distance. The weather is almost always beautiful here.

14 undulating meadow with electric lines
Navigating through the meadows

It takes about an hour to get to the logical end of the long stretch of clearing. Make sure the electric lines follow you all along. There is a fence at the end of the clearing.

At one spot, the electric lines split one going right (Option A) and another going left (Option B – scroll down to read about option B).

Option A – Keep to the direction of the electric line to your right. The line keeps to a straight path ahead. The trail gets very interesting from here. Descending gradually the trail gets into a mixed forest of myriad colours. Colours burst out everywhere in the foliage. Orange, brown and a variety of green. 

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Edge of Meadows

The undergrowth sometimes is hardly a few feet tall. Under the canopy of the undergrowth, with light hardly seeping through, the trail snakes through moist earth and leaves. 

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A beautiful Canopy
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Farm

Continue to descend as the trail dives in and out of the forest. Half hour later, the trail gets into a cluster of shola and pine trees, tall, deep and dark. Suddenly the trail stops abruptly at a gate. The sudden development takes you aback. Cross the gate to pop out to a farm overlooking a valley. A lovely farm settlement of three-four houses and a church is your first human settlement on the trek. The farms are lovely with their abundance of green against the red soil. Though the trek ends here, the true end of the trek is somewhat further on.

Cross the village and hop over another gate that borders the community. Meadows surround the village. 

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Meadows

A dirt track leads out of the settlement. Take the dirt track as it crosses an underground stream that runs under it. The dirt track climbs swiftly to level out on a eucalyptus grove. For ten minutes the trail follows the grove until it gets on a regular tarred road. This is where twice a day you get buses to Ooty. The final ones leave at 1.00 and 5.00 pm.  If you have not kept a vehicle waiting for you here turn left on the road and continue walking. The road after a kilometer goes past one of the garbage dumping yard of Ooty. Past the dumping yard, the road curves around small settlements. Human activities increase progressively.  Another kilometer later the road meets up with a similar road at a fork. Walking further on will get you to a bus stand and possibilities of an auto rickshaw.  The way to Ooty is on the Governor’s Shola road and past the Ooty lake. A distance of about 5-6 kms. Option B: When you follow the electric lines going left, you’ll come across a fence. Across the fence, wild bushes with yellow flowers climb up across an ascending terrain. You have to go through this terrain.

15 TRekking through thick undergrowth
Walking through the thick undergrowth

 After crossing these bushes, keep left. After five minutes, look back to take in the grandest view of yellow flowers and pine trees. It’s a wonderland!

16 - View before entering the fence into farmlands
Wonderland of wild flowers

Within a minute, you’ll come across another fence. Crossing this fence will immediately lead you into a charming farm land. In step-farming style, farmers cultivate potatoes, radish and onions here. Avoid treading on sown land. You may harm the crops. There is a clearly-marked trail through the middle region.

Nilgiris Ooty (64)
Cutting through lovely step-farms

Walk in a single file to the other end of the farm as the trail is narrow. Once on the other end of the farm, you’ll step into a meadow, where there might be cows grazing. The forest stretches endlessly ahead of you and on your right. You could rest here for a while. The view will likely tempt you to give up city-life and move to the hillside.  From the meadow, turn left at the edge of the forest. The trail here is broad and spacious. On the left, a forest soars above you. On the right, there is a small stream that is covered with moss. A lone pine tree stands tall in the middle of this stream. On the other end of the stream rises another forest.   Expect to see a small cement bridge over the stream here. Cross the bridge. 

Nilgiris Ooty (78) - edited
A cement bridge that needs to be crossed

March till you reach the forest wall and turn left. The trail here is perhaps the prettiest part of the trek. It is canopied by golden pine trees that shade the trail beautifully. Small shrubs grow on the right. This overwhelmingly beautiful trail ends in 10 short minutes. Walk as slowly as you can and make the best of the beauty. Around two minutes into this stretch, the lake appears once again on your left side.

19 - Canopy
The trek ends on a high note with a walk through this canopy of pine trees

Soon, you’ll come back to the point from where you got your first view of the lake. It’s the part with the cemented road. Take a right turn and retrace your steps. You’ll have to walk through the thorny bushes, over the big fallen tree, across the meadows keeping left and then turn left to get back onto the HPF track. From here, if you have a vehicle, drive down to Kokkal, continuing in the same direction you were following in the morning. Kokkal is a small village an hour and a half away from HPF. Have dinner at a small eatery there. The fields in the village are a lovely place to set up your camp. Make sure you get permission from the village head before you go ahead with this. 

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The camp site at dawn

Day 2: Trek from Kokkal to Bokkapura. Drive back to Bangalore.

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Clouds around Kokkal during sunrise

 

  • Time taken: 4 and a half hours, 7 km 

Kokkal looks dream-like in daylight. Charming houses sit silently embedded in green farmlands. Flowers grow in abundance on bushes. A deep breath will give you a lung full of oxygen. Most people who visit this village dream of settling here. 

Nilgiris Ooty (88)
Kokkal village

After freshening up, start your trek. Today is going to be warmer than yesterday. Get to Kokkal bus stop. From here, march on a cemented path till you find Ayyanar Kovil (temple) on your left. The trail ascends from here. This part of the village is called Doobakandi (it is an extension of Kokkal). You’ll soon cross the last of the settlements on your left.

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Settlements in Kokkal

Note that you are surrounded by vivid green tea plantations for a long time on the trail. After a while, The trail descends rapidly through a series of switch backs, eventually getting into a thick deciduous forest. The vegetation is dense and sometimes the trail wet.

Nilgiris Ooty (99)
Before entering deciduous forests

In spring and autumn, the trail is covered with layers of fallen leaves. In other times of the year, the trail is under lovely shade under the protective forest. Losing height rapidly, the trail suddenly emerges at a stream in the fold of the mountain.

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Trekking through deciduous forests

A cement bridge spans the stream. The whole place under the cover of giant trees is just the right spot to take a break. The water is clean and cool.

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A cement bridge across the stream

Continue on the trail, now emerging on the other side of the valley. Don’t be surprised if you see elephant dung on the trail. Elephants thrive in this region. It is common to spot wild elephants on the trail or on the slopes above the trail.  So keep a sharp lookout for them.

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Trail on the edge of the valley

The trail moves further towards the open edge of the valley, making a wide traverse over the Bokkapura village. After the wide traverse, the trail plunges rapidly in a series of switchbacks to enter a dark bamboo forest. The bamboos sway in the wind, their stems making an eerie creaking sound.

A descending trail through bamboo forests
Nilgiris Ooty (133)
A resort upon entering Bokkapura

Another stream meets the trail in the heart of the bamboo forest. This stream might run dry during summer. It feeds the Bokkapura village. The trail continues to the edge of the bamboo forest, emerging suddenly out of the darkness to the edges of Bokappura and civilization. Resorts line the dirt track that comes up to meet the trail. Bokkapura is a small village more famous for its temple deity. A small bus stop has buses every hour to Masanagudi, the next larger village. The road to Masanagudi cuts through the Mudumalai forest reserve.  From Masanagudi it is easy to get a bus to Theppakadu, the elephant camp of the Mudumalai forest reserve. Theppakadu is on the Ooty-Mysore highway, NH67, and getting a bus to Mysore is not too difficult. From Mysore, there are regular buses to Bangalore. It takes 6 hours to get to Bangalore from Masanagudi.

Cardiovascular endurance

The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. 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 everyday. 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 work out.

Flexibility

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.

backpack

No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.

What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.

How much should my bag weigh?

“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.

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Trekking hack

One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.

How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.

 

Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.

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Backpack essentials

Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.

Click on the images below to for full screen view

Getting to the start of the trek

Just outside Ooty Railway Station, as you exit the main gate, a bus shelter stands quietly on the left. Every 15 minutes or so, mini buses saunter to pick up passengers and drop them to locations on the outskirts of Ooty. From here, take a bus to HPF (Hindustan Photo Films), 6 km outside Ooty on Mysore road. Autos will also take you there, but will set you back by a few hundred rupees.   Get off at the HPF bus stop and walk on the road that runs past Kendriya Vidyalaya. The road swivels around the play ground of the school, leading to the HPF’s Polyester X-Ray plant. Within 5-7 minutes you’ll come across a T-junction and a signboard that announces the presence of a Polyester X-Ray plant.

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Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking, he leads Indiahikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India. He has written extensively for Discover India magazine and is a TedX speaker. Read Arjun's other articles. Read the full text of Arjun's TedX talk. Watch Arjun speak about our trekking trails. Learn from Arjun about what it's like to work at Indiahikes.