You just have seen tv shows or movies where you have seen caves and forts located on top of hills and mountains. If you have been nursing the desire to visit such a fort, then you should head out for Harihar Fort, located in Nashik, on a weekend. There are many trekking places and forts in Maharashtra which are good for a weekend trip but nothing is like the thrilling Harihar Fort Trek. This trek should be on every trekkers and climber’s bucket list.
Of course the Himalayas are there in India, every trekker’s paradise. But if you stay in South India and just have time for a day or two but are dying to go on a trek, attempt this treacherous south-western trek! The fort is actually 40kms away from the city (Nashik) and from Igatpuri, it is approximately 48 kms away. Look at pictures on the internet and your interest will piqued for sure. This fort trek involves climbing on rock-cut stairs. The stairs look scary, so how difficult will the trek be? To find out, you need to take the trek.
Another name of this fort is Harshgad Fort and it is situated on the Trimbakeshwar range. The fort is around 2676 feet above sea level. Though the rock cut steps look daunting, the fort attracts a large number of tourists every year. It will fill you with awe about how difficult it must have been to carve out the steps and build the fort in its location in the bygone era, with simple tools and equipment. There is a lake at Harshewadi village which marks the starting point of this trek. At the beginning, there are arrows on the trail to show you the direction .
How to get there?
Now that you have an idea of the Harihar Fort location, you must be thinking where and how to reach the Harihar Fort Trek. That will depend on the route which you want to take while ascending. You can arrive at Igatpuri Junction by train if you are planning to climb up from the Nirgudpada side. And if you want to go up from the Harshewadi side, then come down to Nashik. You can travel by trains and also easily by road to both Nashik and Igatpuri.
From Igatpuri to Nirgudpada – Take a bus going to Trimbakeshwar from Igatpuri and get down at Nirgudpada. You can also go till Goti by bus or tumtum and then reach Nirgudpada by another vehicle.
From Nashik to Harshewadi – Take a bus from Pune and reach Nashik.Buses start running from 5 in the morning. You can take a bus going to Trimbakeshwar. If you take the 5 am bus, you will reach at 6. Harshewadi is at a distance of 13 kms from Trimbakeshwar but there is no availability of direct transport. You might get something which goes till a village named Kachorli, which falls on the way. It is best to hire an auto from Trimbakeshwar itself. You will have to pay around 400 rupees but the auto will drop you right at Harshewadi. The road is rocky and uneven, so the ride will not be a smooth one. While going, you will be able to see the fort hidden under the clouds. The hills all around will be a mesmerising view. Returning can be tricky because you will have to hitchhike or if you are not comfortable with that, keep the auto driver’s number with you. You can call him after completing the trek.
If you want to do a trek which is not very long but will still challenge you, go for the Harihar Fort Trek. Harihar fort is located 3676 feet above the sea level. When you reach the fort, you will be seeing some mind blowing scenic views as it is built on the Trimbakeshwar mountain ranges. From the base, Harihar Fort looks rectangularly shaped. It has been built on a rock having three rectangular sides, like a prism. 2 edges and 3 faces of the rock are completely straight. The edge on the west is slightly slanted like a 75 degree-angle. A rocky staircase has been carved out which is used for going up and down. The staircase is just 1 meter wide and at many places, the passage is so narrow that only one person can climb up or down. It is like people have built a top floor apartment on a peak during ancient times. You can also plan to camp at the top most part of the cave or fort by putting up a tent. Spend an unforgettable night under the stairs, relax, enjoy the sunrise next morning and climb down. You will also have a 360 degree view of the whole surrounding area.
The Harshagad or Harihar Fort location has already been mentioned. It is 48 kms away from Igatpuri. It was a significant fort in Nashik region. It was built during the Yadava dynasty or Sevuna dynasty. This Indian dynasty had a kingdom which started from Naramada river in the north till Tungabhadra river in the south. They ruled mostly over the western part of the Deccan plateau.The fort was built to keep a check on the trade route which passed through Gonda Ghat. The fort now looks worn down, with any defensive wall completely missing because it broke down. You can only imagine and wonder about how majestic the fort once was. But if you observe the fort you will be amazed at the structure. It was built in a way that infiltrators had no way to infiltrate the fort easily.
One thing is clear, this trek is not for the faint-hearted. When you reach the finish of the Harihar trek, the climb on the rock-cut steps becomes steep at the last 200 feet. The staircase has an inclination of just 80 degrees. When you will be climbing down, it will be a thrilling and bold adventure as you will be able to see as far as 500 feet down. The design of the staircase is unlike any other and is truly magnificent. The views that you get to see are outstanding, unbelievably beautiful and also nerve-wrecking at points. You need mental strength to look back while climbing up. But once you do, the views that you see are priceless. From Harihar fort, you will be able to enjoy a full view of the Sahyadris. Some of the forts that are visible from Harihar Fort are Anjaneri Fort, Bhaskargad, Navra-Navri Peak, Utwad Fort, Brahma Parvat and Brahmagiri.
The Nirgudpada village in Kadamwadi forms the base for this trek. The trek begins from where Harihar dhaba is situated. You will be trekking through small streams and open fields, jungles and plateaus. The trail is visible quite clearly, you will also be able to see the Vaitarna reservoir while trekking. The trail becomes uphill after crossing through the fields and leads into the forest region. You will arrive at the valley after hiking for about 45 minutes. The first part of the trek concludes when you reach this point.
The trek becomes challenging from now, as you start climbing on the popular rock-cut staircase. There are a total of 200 steps on this staircase. After crossing the main entry point, there will be a tunnel which has been cut through the rock and you will have to walk slowly ahead by keeping your head a little bent. You will walk on a trail which is below a dangerous overhang having a sheer drop. There are indentations or cuts made on these steps for better foot support but still you should be extremely careful while stepping on each stair. During the rainy season, the stairs get moss-laden and become slippery.
You will be facing a door after climbing up 90 stairs. The trail becomes diagonally on your left when you reach the door. As you walk ahead, you will find the wall of the Fort on your right and the valley to your right. Then you will reach another staircase having approximately hundred steps. This is also a steep staircase but this one will finally take you to the top of the Harihar Fort.
A cave will lead you into the open area where there are Shiva and Hanuman temples and small ponds! If you feel more adventurous and want to reach the highest point, you will need to trek for another 15 minutes or so. The top of the fort will reward you with breathtaking views. From here you will be able to see Alwad Dam, the source of water for Mumbai. You will see vast stretches of farmlands, hills, mountains, valleys and wastelands.
You will have to climb down by the same route but it can look more scary and you need to be even more cautious while you descend. It will indeed be a much more difficult task as there will be no railings to hold on to. You have to be calculative at each step. The worst thing to do now is to panic. You will have to stay calm and not look at the sheer drop. Keep your focus on the descent. There is a three-point technique which will help you in keeping safe. While you face the mountains, always keep two hands and one leg or foot in contact with the surface while taking each step. Take support by using both hands.
How difficult is it really going to be? Which route to take?
Understandably, climbing the almost 200 steps is a real challenge and it requires the visitors to be physically strong and fit. Trekkers do maintain a certain level of fitness, but if you are a novice, remember that this climb has its own dangers which is what makes it more thrilling than regular small treks. Trek-lovers from all over the planet come down here for this experience. Maybe there were handrails along the steps earlier but none of that remains anymore now. So while trekking, you have to keep the adventurous spirit in you to the peak and also be really determined. But if you have acrophobia, i.e., you are afraid of heights, this trek is not recommended for you.
Nirgudpada route – Out of the two routes, this is the longer one. Reaching the carved stairs will take you a couple of hours. If you are a beginner trekker, you might feel a bit lost. But if you are an experienced trekker, the slightly confusing trail will not bother you much.
Harshewadi route – Definitely the easier route out of the two. The point where the auto will drop you might look deserted as people don’t stay there. From the base village, you will reach the stairs after hiking for about one and half hours. Even if this is your first trek, you will not get lost. The trail is clearly visible. Throughout the trek, the Harihar Fort will be visible to you. You can look at it and move ahead, if you feel unsure at any point.
The interesting thing is that both the routes merge a little before the stairs section and you are left with only one route, as there is only one staircase leading to the fort. If you are a fit individual, the trek is not difficult. But on the whole, for all kinds of visitors, the difficulty level can be placed as medium. Climbing up can be a little difficult and climbing down, a little risky. But if you are between 14 and 40, you should be able to do the trek without much discomfort.
The best time to visit the fort is anytime between June to February. Summer can be stiflingly hot, so it is best to avoid going then. The lush greenery will be a scene to behold if you go during monsoon but post-monsoon, from October to December, is the most ideal as you will be able to see everything very clearly. The fort is kept closed during the monsoon now, so coming here will be a waste.
Where can you stay? Where can you eat?
There are few places at Nirgudpada where you can stay if you want. There are homestay options which are provided by the locals, the villagers. But you will not find such facilities in Hinjewadi. It is still quite undeveloped. As mentioned earlier, you can always set up your tent on the top of the fort but be ready for strong winds. There are hotels and other accommodations at Nashik and Trimbakeshwar. These are near the fort and you can take a trip and come back on the same day to your stay
You will not find any food in Harshewadi too, not even a tea stall! You might take a chance, approach a home and ask a villager if it’s possible for them to cook something for you. Harshewadi is largely deserted but here and there, you will find a few huts where families stay. But you must absolutely not forget to carry some dry food in your backpack which will be your hunger saviour when you fail to find any food options. You should also carry 2 water bottles or one bottle having 2 litres of water. In the middle of your route, you might come across shacks selling simple edibles and lemonade.
Things about the trek that’ll memorable:
The memories of this trek are forever going to remain with you. Afterall, who can forget the astounding beauty of nature that one experiences on this trek? You will be a part of an exhilarating adventure as you climb to one of the peaks of Maharashtra. After reaching the top, you will feel like the ruler of the world! All the pain and fear and effort of climbing up is every bit worth it all. You will be able to see other forts and hills like Anjaneri and Bhaskargad.
The chill wind hitting your face will only heighten the feeling of achievement in you. You might also meet a sanyasi climbing up to worship the idols up there! And you might also find water reservoirs, cut in square shapes to collect natural water. Unfortunately there is plastic waste, otherwise the water can be used to quench thirst if one is very thirsty and is not carrying water! The scenic views that you will see as you go up or after you reach the fort are going to be absolutely hypnotic. The Harihar Fort Trek will give you an opportunity to view and be amongst such lush greenery that it’s almost magical. Add to that a tranquil environment. You will most probably be back whenever you would want to take a short break from the regular city life.
So gift yourself a wild adventure filled with challenges and dangers. Put your fitness to the test. You will have a hair-raising story to tell after you go back home!
Getting on the train to reach Manmad Junction
Arrive at Manmad Junction
Head towards base village
Arrive at Trimbak Range
Breakfast on the way
Arrive at Base Village
Welcome drink (tea or coffee)
Complete the trek
Lunch on the way
Exploring Harihar Fort after setting up the camp
Dinner and night stay
Wake up call
Enjoy by taking lots of photos and exploring a bit more
Descend towards Trimbak Range
Leave for Man mad Junction
On the way, lunch at Nasik
Arrive at Secunderabad Junction