They may be dry and dusty in the summer, but the Sahyadris come alive in the monsoon. Waterfalls spring out of the slopes, the hills get a green coat and the temperature dips. That makes the monsoon the perfect time for a trek.
There are several little-known forts hidden away in the Sahyadris, and trekking to them requires little more than experienced company and sturdy footwear. "The waterfalls, rivulets and greenery make it a great experience," said Kaustubh Upadhye, founder of adventure firm Jungle Lore.
Although most monsoon treks are easy, it's necessary to take a few precautions. "The ground can get slippery, so carrying ropes is mandatory," said Upadhye. If you're going on a trek for the first time, make sure you go with professionals. You can also hire villagers as guides since they are familiar with the terrain. "It is also a way of providing them employment, so they welcome you back the next time," Upadhye added.
This hill fort constructed by Shivaji is a popular destination because it is one of the easiest forts to trek to in Maharashtra. It takes just over two hours by road to reach the base village, Malawli. From there, you have to climb approximately 500 steps to get to the top. You can also trek to the fort from Malawli station. The walk is not treacherous and can be safely attempted even by newbies.
How to get there: About 120 km from Mumbai, the most convenient way to get there is by road. Take the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and turn left at Manshakti, after you cross the toll plaza. The drive to Malawli takes two-and-a-half hours. If you take a local train from Lonavla, alight at Malawli, the next stop. The fort is 9 km from the station.
If you want to go on a leisurely trek that doesn't test you, try climbing to Peth fort. The climb from the base village takes two hours and the route winds through dense jungles. You can stop at Peth village for hot meals.
How to get there: About 70 km from Mumbai, the base village, Ambivli, is 21 km from Karjat. The journey takes 90 minutes by bus or six-seater rickshaw.
Although Lohagad and Visapur are twin forts, Visapur is not as popular. That's because it is not easily accessible, and because the route is very slippery in the monsoon. Experienced trekkers advise that you take ropes along as precaution, and hire local guides who know the terrain well.
How to get there: Take the same route as you would to get to Lohagad.
Rajmachi village is situated at the base of two forts: Shrivardhan and Manoranjan. The long trek to the fort is not tough, and is a scenic one marked by waterfalls and rivulets. The walk to the twin forts isn't challenging, but hire a local guide if possible.
How to get there: About 120 km from Mumbai, you can reach Rajmachi via Kondivade village near Karjat. But it’s an easier walk from Lonavla, though it takes two-and-a-half hours. Rajmachi is close to both Lonavla and Khandala, so you can drive or take a train to either station.
The fort is located on the road to Alibaug. Since it isn't well known, it's not very crowded. The trek is scenic, and the approach road from Khandale village has a large waterfall en route. The trek takes an hour-and-a-half.
How to get there: About 130 km from Mumbai, you can reach Sagargad through Khandale and Vagarhole. Both these villages are stops on the Mumbai-Alibaug bus route.
Jawhar region, though rich in tribal culture and best known for its Warli paintings, is a relatively unexplored part of Maharashtra. You can find several seasonal waterfalls in this region, which makes it ideal for waterfall trails. The forest also makes for great treks.
How to get there: Jawhar is located 150 km from Mumbai and 80 km from Nashik. You could take a train to Nashik, and hire a bus from there.
Peb is close to Matheran and makes for a great day trek. A moderately difficult climb takes you to the fort, which has a cave at its entrance. You could even stay overnight in the cave. The trail passes through a dense jungle and a waterfall.
How to get there: Peb is 115 km from Mumbai. Take a train to Neral and climb up to the from there.
The fort here was constructed by the Portuguese to defend their territory that extended from Korlai town to Vasai. The trek is suitable for all age groups, as the fort is an easy 10- to 15-minute walk from the base. It is located between a creek and a beach. You can also visit the naval lighthouse and there are several homestays available in nearby villages.
How to get there: Korlai is about 110 km from Mumbai and is en route to Murud-Janjira. The nearest railway station is Pen, 55 km away.
This fort is located between Panvel and Matheran, and is visible from the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Despite its proximity to Matheran, it is not besieged by trekkers because the climb is challenging. If you have never been on a trek before, make sure you attempt Prabalgad with a professional group. Since there is no village at the base, you’re unlikely to find locals to guide you.
How to get there: About 60 km outside Mumbai, take the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the exit at Shedun Phata. From there, it’s 10- to 15-minute drive.