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My Trek to the Hidden Harihar Fort

Searching for offbeat treks, I stumbled upon the towering Harihar fort nestled deep in the Sahyadris. This centuries-old fortress beckoned my adventurous soul with the promise of breathtaking views and a brush with history. But first, I had to locate this elusive hill citadel!

Decoding Clues to Find the Fort

My online research revealed that the Harihar fort was built back in 1636 CE on a knife-edge ridge near the village of Nirgudpada. It was apparently constructed by a Maratha ruler to keep watch on enemy territory. The village located about 40 km from Igatpuri was my best bet to start the trek.

My Trek to the Hidden Harihar Fort

I took a bus from Mumbai to Igatpuri station, enjoying lush green vistas and waterfalls along the way. From there, hired a taxi to Trimbak village. The landscape changed dramatically as the smooth highway gave way to bumpy rural roads winding through hills. I asked for directions from friendly locals in my broken Marathi until we reached a sign for Nirgudpada village. And lo and behold, I could see two intimidating peaks - the Harihar Fort's twin summits!

Conquering the Epic Climb

I started early next morning for the climb, gears and snacks all set. Crossing onion fields I reached the base village - just a few thatched-roof homes here. Right behind towered the imposing rock-cut path to the colossal fort.

Harihar Fort

The trail started easy but soon turned challenging. As I huffed and puffed my way over steep inclines, the cool air resonated with birdsongs. The views were a bonus - I could see hills upon hills blanketed in green forests and dotted by tiny hamlets.

After about 1.5 hours, I reached the famed "Staircase to Heaven" - 350 near-vertical rock-cut steps with iron chains drilled in. My nerves and thighs were both tested climbing these precarious steps that looked down upon a 200m abyss! Finally, I made it to the Balekilla peak - what a view!

Wonder and Isolation Atop the Bastion

Imagine reaching a proper fort town - but there's not a soul around! Wandering through abandoned barracks and water tanks built ages ago, I felt like an intrepid explorer. Below my feet was a neck-straining 200m drop into the shadowy ravine. The opposite peak and connecting ramparts lay shrouded in mist, further adding to the ghostly charm.

Harihar Fort

But it was the history that enthralled me the most. Wondering how ancients carved fine-looking water tanks and temples from the hard basalt rock with such precision? What battle secrets do these walls hold? I sat on the ramparts for hours enjoying the splendid isolation.

With daylight fading, I set up camp in an empty granary. As night fell, layers of hills became but silhouette while stars came out by the hundreds. Sitting under this canvas with just a flask and my thoughts for company, I understood Harihar's magical allure - that sense of timelessness looking over Sahyadri's unending ridges.

Down But Not Out

The less said about my painful descent the better! By the time I had rappelled down the dodgy iron ladders, my nerves and calves were shot. Limping into Nirgudpada, I crashed at a shack before grabbing some chai. The momentary ache seemed a small price though for discovering my own little gem in the hills!

Harihar Fort

Note: This trek is not for the faint-hearted!

Be prepared for steep, rocky inclines that will push your strength and endurance. At the "Staircase to Heaven", you'll be hauling yourself with iron chains bolted into nearly vertical rock-cut steps - not an easy task for my middle-aged self! If you have a fear of heights, this last stretch traversing narrow ridges with 200m drops all around can be quite daunting.

So make sure you have a decent level of fitness before attempting this trek. Carry enough water and salts too as the final climb is very strenuous. I would suggest avoiding the monsoon season between June - August when rains make the rocky path quite dangerous.

Once you leave the base village, there are no food stalls or help available. So do carry emergency contact numbers since the phone signal is erratic. With some preparation and willpower, scaling this Sahyadri challenge is an adventure you'll cherish for a long!


Who knows, a few years down the line, Harihar might be as crawling as Lonavala! But for now, it remains one of the region's best-kept secrets. So do brace those thighs and make the epic climb to discover this magical summit before crowds find their way here! Just don't forget to look back at how far you’ve climbed during those breathless moments en route to the top!


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