Difficulty Level: Very Easy
Time required: One day
Base Village: Karnala
Best time to go: All year round
Altitude: 2,500 feet (Above seal level)
Accommodation: No accommodation facilities on the fort
Drinking Water: Available at a small canteen at the sanctuary
Food: Available at a small canteen at the sanctuary
History of the fort
A thumb-shamped fort, Karnala was under the Nizamshahi rule till the 15th century, when Shivaji and his troops captured it. After the Marathas, the Mughals and Peshwas have also ruled the fort. In 1818, it went under the British rule till independence. It was built to keep watch on Bor pass, which connected Konkan to the Deccan Plateau, and was the main trade route between these areas.
How to reach
From Mumbai, one can drive or take a train via the Harbour line or a state transport bus to Panvel. From the Panvel bus stand, there are frequent buses that go in the direction of Karnala. Alternately, there are autorickshaws that can take you to Karnala as well.
About the trail
A perfect trek for beginners, as well as those looking to start trekking on their own, Karnala is a hop, skip and jump away from Mumbai. Karnala houses a bird sanctuary in its foot, and when you enter the area, you will have to pay a nominal entry fee to get inside.
There is a wide, well-trodden route going to towards the fort. Very quickly into the trail, it divides into two, one being the main route which goes through the sanctuary, and a smaller trail that reaches the fort faster, bypassing the sanctuary. Both are quite easy to follow, so take your pick on how you want to go! (I usually take the quicker left route to climb up, and then descend via the big main route).
Both these routes converge at the base of the fort. Here, you will see signs showing the way to the fort, and a single trail goes all the way to the top. The base of the fort also has a nice shed to sit and take a break if you are tired. The first thing you will spot as you approach the fort is a small temple, of Goddess Karmaidevi. From here, there are steps that lead to the main fort. Karnala also has a large cylindrical pinnacle, which needs technical equipment to climb.
Things to see
The fort has some remains, like the ruins of the main entrance, and some structural remnants. It also has many water tanks/cisterns. The water in these tanks is not potable, so carry enough drinking water!
The large cylindrical pinnacle was used as the main watch post, but now needs climbing equipment to reach. Beware of beehives in the circumference of this pinnacle. You can also spot an interesting rock formation below the fort, which looks like a resting human face, on the back side of the fort.
Total Cost for one person (from Mumbai)
Mumbai CST to Panvel train (Return journey) fare: Rs. 30
Panvel to Karnala bus (Return journey) fare: Rs. 20
Entry fees: Rs. 30
Snacks (optional): Rs. 20 (Carry your own packed lunch and atleast 2 litres of water!)
Total: Rs. 100 ONLY!!!