Stairways to heaven


We list five spots close to Chennai, ideal for weekend treks.

When the hills call, avid trekkers pay heed. They climb up known paths and tread unknown trails, make a date with Nature and summit personal goals. These spots offer a sanctuary from a teeming metropolis — an endless green carpet, pristine springs, a chance to reflect, indulge in community living, and bond with like-minded people. Peter Van Geit, founder of Chennai Trekking Club, helps compile a list of destinations not too far from the city — some touristy and meant for rookie trekkers; others discovered using Google topographic maps meant for those with more endurance. The best part? Almost all of them have a near-perennial water source — this means a guaranteed splash under a waterfall or a dip in a pool that holds rain water, even in peak summer. So lace your shoes and step out into the wide world.

Nagalapuram Hills

The hills, spread across 30 km and with an altitude of 900 metres, boast several perennial streams and a lush green forest. This spot has many trails, mostly alongside crystal-clear mountain streams. The main stream can be reached through various routes; the adventurous can even take cars for a mini off-roading experience. There are three levels — the first, a gradual upward slope, is good for beginners. The consecutive levels are more difficult, but offer pristine dark green pools, surrounded by boulders and waterfalls.

From the highest peaks, you can spot the Pulicat Lake, 30 km away. Mornings see the hills sheathed in a white cloud cover. Since this is a virgin range, with no villages nearby, you have to carry along camping gear. At night, you can cook using water from the streams, and star-gaze endlessly. Don’t forget to wear sturdy, waterproof footwear — the pathway, especially close to the waterfalls, is littered with broken glass. 

Distance from Chennai: 70 km, just across the Andhra border, en route to Puthur

Time: A 90-minute drive

Difficulty level: Ideal for experienced trekkers familiar with maps and GPS-based navigation.

USP: Pristine streams and waterfalls

Ideal: For day-long treks

Nagari Hills

This is a route well-travelled by pilgrims, on their way to the hill temples during the full moon, but you could head there too. The selling point is the Sadasiva Kona falls. There are clearly marked trails that start from the southern base and head interior, interspersed with waterfalls and pools. The Nagari Hills is a circular mountain range, with an altitude of 1,050 metres. There’s a 12-km jeep track, and the site is suitable for cycling and hill running too. You can camp on the grasslands around the lake.

The temple priests provide food, and there is fresh water too. It takes about three hours to reach the temple and falls; you can picnic there and return, or stay the night.

Distance from Chennai: 100 km, near Puthur

Time: A 150-minute drive

Difficulty level: Mid-level

USP: Waterfalls, cycling tracks, hill running and a jeep track

Ideal: For day-long treks

Tada Falls

A well-developed eco-tourism destination, this is a great place for beginners. There’s a hint of adventure, but there are enough facilities at Tada Falls, also called Ubbalamadugu Falls, to reassure you. The falls drop down from a height of 100-odd metres, and it makes for a glorious sight. There is a well-defined trekking trail, parking facilities and refreshments. Novice hikers can trek along a three-km-long trail that snakes along a stream. Mid-level trekkers can go further up, climbing the boulders to reach the base of the falls. If exhausted, jump into the water pools along the trail. The green cover makes it a pleasant hike.

Distance from Chennai: 50 km, off NH5, on the Andhra border

Time: An hour’s drive

Difficulty level: Perfect for novices, and mid-level trekkers

USP: Off-beat, yet developed

Ideal: For short treks

Javadhu Hills

Located near Vellore, and a part of the Eastern Ghats, this scenic trekking destination covers a vast area, spanning 100 km North to South, and 20 km East to West. This is the home of many tribals, and the settlements are connected through off-road tracks, great for trekking, running or cycling. The north-eastern part of the hills has valleys and peaks, and the climate is pleasant and cool, when compared to Chennai. The locals are known for their hospitality, and food is easily available. If you want to stay overnight, take along camping gear. The area is a mix of forest and rolling farm lands. The Javadhu Hills Ultra marathon is held here, and attracts talent from across south India.

Distance from Chennai: 150 km, via Pollur or Vellore

Time: About four hours

Difficulty level: Mid-level

USP: Well-defined trails, cool climate

Ideal: For day-long treks


The closest to the city, this is a group of many 100-metre-tall hills, surrounded by scrub forest and natural lakes. This is ideal for a weekend trek for families. The view from the peaks is scenic — especially during sunrise. The trails are short, and offer a gradual ascent; suitable for running and mountain terrain biking too. There are many lakes and abandoned quarries nearby, full of rain water, suitable for a refreshing dip at the end of a trek. These tend to be deep, so it is better to travel with someone who knows the place. You can camp overnight on the farmlands.

Distance from Chennai: About 35 km, after OMR

Time: A 40-minute ride from Sholinganallur

Difficulty level: For novices

USP: Gentle climb, near the city

Ideal: For an early morning trek

To join the Chennai Trekking Club, check out their Facebook page or log on to http://www.chennai They also go on weekday treks, because 55 weekends is just not enough! The group sometimes leaves for the destination after office, camps there overnight, treks at daybreak and returns to office in time for work. The group includes members of all ages. On one trek, the youngest was a two-year-old, the oldest a gentleman aged 71.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 11:48:00 PM |

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