Hike to Vattakanal (Canopy Hills) | Western Ghats

The Kotagiri trek that I had planned to do over the weekend was canceled due to not having the minimum required participants. Supposedly, the cancellation of hikes or treks due to not having many participants is quite common in Bangalore. So, I decided to call the Bangalore Mountaineering Club (BMC) just a day before the hike to inquire if there was any hike that was happening. They informed me about Kudremukh, Kumara Parvatha, and Vattakanal hikes. As I had never heard of Vattakanal before, I booked the trek. The booking can be done on the BMC website and it is quite easy.

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Hike to Vattakanal (Canopy Hills) | Western Ghats
PIN for later reference – Hike to Vattakanal (Canopy Hills) | Western Ghats

About Vattakanal (Canopy Hills)

Vattakanal is a small village that is a few kilometres (6 kilometres) from Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, and is located in the southern tip of the upper Palani Hills. The village is locally known as ‘Vatta’ which means circle. The trek to the Vattakanal village is one of the lesser-known treks in the Western Ghats. It lies on the eastern coast of the Western Ghats.

How to reach Theni?

The closest town to the base camp (Kumbakarai waterfalls) of the hike is Theni. The distance between Theni and Bangalore is around 450 kilometres one way which takes about 8.5 hours drive.

There are buses from Bangalore to Theni that leave from Electronic City (Bangalore). The buses can be booked on the Redbus website.

Logistics of Vattakanal Hike

The hike to Vattakanal is a multi-day hike and is one of the difficult hikes in the Western Ghats.

  • Starting point: Kumbakarai Waterfalls.
  • Finishing point: Altaf’s Cafe.
  • Total distance: 18 kilometres.
  • Days required: 2 days.
  • Grade: Difficult.
  • Terrain: Mountains, forests, and waterfalls.
  • Stay: Camping at Vellagavi.
  • Path: Kumbakarai Waterfalls –> Vellagavi –> Dolphin’s Nose –> Altaf’s Cafe.

It requires at least 2 days of hiking and below are the logistics divided by days.

Day 1

  • Starting point: Base camp at Kumbakarai waterfalls.
    • Note: We took an auto-rickshaw from the closest town Theni to the base camp and the distance was around 8 kilometres.
  • Finishing point: Camping site near the village called Vellagavi.
  • Total distance: 11 kilometres.
  • Time taken: 5 to 6 hours.
  • Grade: Difficult (many steep ascends).
  • Terrain: Through the forests and it has steps made of rocks. The path also passes through many streams of water. Note: Be careful of the leeches.
  • Path: Kumbakarai Waterfalls –> Vellagavi.

Day 2

  • Starting point: Camping site near the village called Vellagavi.
  • Total distance: 7 kilometres.
  • Time taken: 2 to 3 hours.
  • Grade: Difficult (many steep ascends).
  • Terrain: Through the forests and misty paths. The view is spectacular. Note: Be careful of the leeches.
  • Finishing point: Altaf cafe, Vattakanal via Dolphin Nose.
  • Path: Vellagavi –> Dolphin’s Nose –> Altaf’s Cafe.

Important Information for Vattakanal Hike

  • Be careful of leeches. I was bitten by at least three leeches. The best way to get rid of them is by sprinkling some salt at the bite. The leeches generally fall off.
  • Take warm clothes. The nights get really cold and one definitely needs warm clothes. Also, ensure to carry these clothes in a waterproof bag.
  • Carry sufficient water. The water can be refilled in the streams but if you are sensitive to stream water, do carry water purifying tablets. As I did not have sufficient time to buy the purifying tablets, I carried 3 litres of small bottles for the entire hike and it did fall short of 1 litre towards the end which I bought near the Dolphin’s nose. Dolphin’s nose is the only place where one can buy water, which is almost towards the end of the hike.
  • Take the first aid kit, especially some bandages.
  • Carry an extra pair of slippers for the night and an extra pair of socks. I always carry one pair of socks for each day and an extra pair just in case of unforeseeable situations.
  • Carry a good torch with extra batteries. They are definitely required as the toilets are at a distance (not far) from the tents.
  • At the end of day 1, we camped. So, be prepared to stay in a tent with a basic sleeping mat and blankets.
  • Toilets are only available at the camping site and are relatively neat as it is available only for the participants in the hike.
  • There are buses between Theni and Bangalore but it is best to go with a trekking agency.
  • The permission to hike needs to be taken from the forest department in advance. This is covered in the trek package that I took.

Trekking/Hiking Provider

I have been on various hikes with BMC earlier and I have always enjoyed hiking with them. They are one of the oldest trekking providers in Bangalore and they are quite experienced in trekking, especially in the Western Ghats. The trek guides are very friendly and they do know what they are doing. I have always loved going on hikes with them as they are economical too when compared to the other trekking agencies in Bangalore.

Expenses

  • Trek package: Rs 4620.
  • Food: Rs 2000 (as only day 1 was covered in the trek package).
  • Miscellaneous: Rs 500.
  • Total: Rs 7120.

Is it safe for Solo female travelers?

I would not recommend hiking this hike solo even for male travelers/hikers. Hence, a definite No for solo female travelers/hikers. There are very few people on the track and it can get risky very quickly. I suggest going with a trekking agency or a group of friends. The trekking agency is great because all the safety needs are taken care of.

Closing Notes

The hike to Vattakanal was adventurous and I really enjoyed this hike. I wouldn’t say it was the best but it was definitely a good one to do if you are looking for a hike for an experienced hiker. So I suggest having this hike on every trekker’s bucket list if you are living in Bangalore.

Gallery

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Hike to Vattakanal (Canopy Hills) | Western Ghats
PIN for later reference – Hike to Vattakanal (Canopy Hills) | Western Ghats

17 Comments

  1. Well, this proves that having your planned tour cancelled doesn’t always have to be such a bad thing. Having done so many volcano hikes before, knowing that this is a difficult hike got me even more excited to do it. There is something sooo rewarding about long and difficult hikes once you finish them.

    The place looks stunning and the camping area is so cute with all of those little terraces.

  2. This is incredible! I remember when I did my hike in Yosemite, I climbed Half Dome and the process of getting everything together to be ready for these 17 miles was a lot. You talk about 3 leeches that bit you, and I literally couldn’t imagine what I would do. It’s good to know that salt helps, definitely going to be adding this tip to my list for my next hike. 🙂 I’m excited to add this hike to my list of places to visit.

  3. It was too bad your original hike got cancelled. But interesting to be able to hike a lesser known path in the Western Gnats. With a 2 day trek at a difficult level, it is understandable why this may also be a less hiked path. Good to know you went with a hiking company that you knew well.

  4. I love to do day hikes, but camping overnight is kind of scary/off-putting for me (mostly because I am very picky about clean toilets). That said, this hike sounds lovely.

    Does BMC do day hikes as well? I would need to look into it and see. Good to hear your back-up trek was also really good.

  5. Umiko

    I think to have salt handy with you is a must when hiking here since you are most likely will get bite by leeches. Even though it’s not a popular trails, but I found from the pictures that the views are beautiful. Somehow it reminded me of my home country, Indonesia.

  6. What a beautiful trail. I would love to do this trek. Tamil Nadu is on my list; I only spent two days there while I was in Kerala. Canopy Hills looks fabulous; views are breathtaking. It’s great that you provide so many tips. Thanks for the recommendation to make this trip in a group, not solo.

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