Harihar Fort trek – Is it all about the rock cut staircase?

Harihar Fort Nashik

What makes you travel to a particular destination? Sometimes it’s about a particular spot that you wish to see in person or sometimes it’s about the overall experience, isn’t it?  All those fascinating pictures of the rock cut staircase of Harihar fort trek is what brought me to this interesting hill fort located in the Nashik district. How difficult would it be to climb these stairs? Is climbing these stairs really scary? I wanted an answer……….

Stairs section at Harihar Fort near Nashik

Steep stairs that lead to Harihar Fort top

Also, known as Harshagad Fort, Harihar fort lies in the Trimbakeshwar range standing at a height of approx. 3676 feet above sea level. The peculiar rock cut steps pulls in thousands of visitors to this magnificent Harihar Fort every year. What amazes me the most is that how tough it would have been to construct such structures in that era when only basic equipment and tools were available.

The adventurous Harihar Fort near Nashik

The adventurous Harihar Fort near Nashik

Lake at the start point of Harihar fort Trek from Harshewadi village

Lake at the start point of Harihar fort Trek from Harshewadi village

How to reach Harihar Fort trek

It totally depends on the route which you are trekking to ascend Harihar fort. Igatpuri is the major town if you are planning to ascend from Nirgudpada side and Nashik is the major town if you are planning to ascend this fort from Harshewadi side. Both Igatpuri and Nashik are well connected to other towns via roadways and railways.

How to reach Harihar Fort from Pune Mumbai

To reach Nirgudpada from Igatpuri: From Igatpuri board in a bus for Trimbakeshwar and alight at Nirgudpada. Also you can board into a bus/shared tum for Goti and take another transport for Nirgudpada.

Harihar fort trek near Nashik

To reach Harshewadi from Nashik: From Nashik, take a bus for Trimbakeshwar (buses starts as early as 5:00 am). From Trimbakeshwar, Harshewadi is around 13 kms and there is no direct public transport available. Transport is available to Kachorli (a village enroute) but frequency is very low. You can hire an auto from Trimbakeshwar which charges INR 400 and drops you to the base village Harshewadi. For return, you will have to depend on hitchhiking or call the same auto driver.

Harihar trek route from Harshewadi

Harihar trek route from Harshewadi

Difficulty level of various Trekking routes for Harihar Fort Trek

  1. From Harshewadi: This is the easier route compared to Nirgudpada and it takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to reach the stairs section from the base village. The trail is well marked and there is no chance of getting lost. Also, Harihar is visible all along the trek so you can move in that direction.

Breathtaking scenes as seen on Harihar fort trek

Breathtaking scenes as seen on Harihar fort trek

  1. From Nirgudpada: This is the longer route and it takes around 2 hours to reach the stairs section from this route. Also, trail is little confusing but if you are a regular trekker, there is no chances of getting lost.

Ascending the stairs section of Harihar Fort

Ascending the stairs section of Harihar Fort

Just few meters before the stairs section, both routes combine and there is just a single route going ahead. Notches have been carved on either sides of the steps to assist the climbers. Descending the steps is little trickier compared to ascending.

climbing at the Harihar fort steps Nashik

Climbing the stairs with help of notches at the Harihar fort

I would rate the overall trek as a medium level difficulty trek. Just calling it as a medium one due to risk and difficulty involved in climbing and descending the rock cut step sections. Otherwise in terms of fitness required, it’s an easy trek.

me enroute to Harihar fort Trek

My journey to Harihar Fort

After literally dozens of cancelled plans to visit this magnificent Harihar fort, finally one got executed. As soon as I heard that the fort is reopened, I decided to give it a visit. Every year with the onset of monsoons, thousands of trekkers turn up to this amazing fort. There is huge risk involved in climbing the stairs section specially in the monsoon season and with such heavy crowd, it turns even more riskier. I am glad to hear that a decision was taken to restrict visiting the fort in monsoon season.

scary steps enroute to Harihar Fort top

Scary steps enroute to Harihar Fort top

Harihar Fort trek base village Harshewadi

With the extended monsoon season this year, Harihar fort was reopened for public only after mid-October. I along with my friend took a bus for Nashik city from Pune and reached the same by 4:30 am. I had already explored Nashik on my previous visit, so directly looked for a bus for Trimbakeshwar. I was glad that we got a bus at 5:00 am.

Small water body as seen on trek route to Harihar Fort

We reached Trimbakeshwar at around 6:00 am. It was raining cats and dogs and my eyes glued at the calendar (2nd November), ohh!! the monsoons this year have been crazy!! After taking blessing at the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple (one of the twelve Jyotirlingas), we started enquiring for the transport to Harshewadi (base village of Harihar Fort Trek). Sadly, there wasn’t any public transport available. Shared taxis do run but that entirely depends on seats being filled.

Trimbakeshwar temple near Nashik

Trimbakeshwar temple near Nashik

Heavy rains at Trimbakeshwar near Nashik

Heavy rains at Trimbakeshwar near Nashik

We agreed with the auto driver who asked us to pay INR 400 (shared between us). It wasn’t a bad deal as the distance was 13 kms and road conditions aren’t that great. The views all along the way to Harshewadi were breathtaking. After a bumpy ride, we finally made it to the village.

Enroute to Harshewadi(base village of Harihar Fort Trek)

Enroute to Harshewadi(base village of Harihar Fort Trek)

It was a cold morning and the fort was covered under clouds. The views of the surrounding hills from the village were fabulous. I was very eager to reach the step section so without waiting any further, we began with the trek. The initial trail begins by the side of a small lake. Few arrows are marked to assist you with the correct path.

Harihar Fort covered under clouds

Harihar Fort covered under clouds

The trail is a mixture of jungle section and open plateaus which finally lead you to the stairs section. The views of Vaitarna reservoir from the trek route are marvelous. Wow!! How would have one carved this out?” I was left stunned just imagining as I got the first view of the staircase. I just sat by and kept admiring the sheer brilliance of the people who actually carved it out on that giant structure.

Harihar Fort near nashik Maharashtra

Now came out the camera and the dozens of mandatory poses. LoL!! There are 117 steps in all. Notches have been carved on either side of the steps where you can grip your fingers. Climbing the steps isn’t difficult due to this notches. After climbing the stairs, you reach the cave section. The nearby views from the cave are splendid. But remember one small slip from here and you are a history.

Entrance gate of Harihar Fort

Entrance gate of Harihar Fort

Cave area at Harihar Fort

Cave area at Harihar Fort

There are few more steps that is needed to be climbed to reach a vast flat land which possibly seems the top most point of fort. As you move little ahead, you will come across a small water body with a temple at one side. And guess what you still have to climb a small hill to reach the top most point of the Harihar fort. But don’t miss climbing the same, as it provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of the nearby region.

Water body at top of Harihar fort

Water body at top of Harihar fort

highest point of Harihar can be seen in background

Highest point of Harihar Fort can be seen in background

I was mesmerized by the overall beauty of the fort, and the amazing views it provides. So the fort is not just about the stairs, it has so much to amaze it visitors. I had planned to set up a tent over there, star gaze all night and leave next morning. Sadly, I had to cancel the plan as I was feeling feverish. We descended the fort in around 1.5 hours. We tried hands at hitchhiking and we were lucky to get a lift till Trimbakeshwar. With all the lovely memories we left for Pune.

surrounding views from Harihar Fort

Surrounding views from Harihar Fort

The adventurous Harihar Fort near Nashik

Taking bath at a lake in Harshewadi

Best time to visit Harihar Fort Trek

The best time to visit the fort is definitely the time period just after the monsoon season (October to December) as the surroundings are still lush green. January to March isn’t a bad time either, you can set up tent at the top, star gaze for the night and enjoy the splendid sunrise from the top of the fort. The fort remains closed in monsoon season, so avoid visiting the same.

view from Harihar Fort

View from Harihar Fort

Stay and food options at Harihar fort Trek

Nirgudpada has a few stay options; villagers provide homestay facility. Harshewadi isn’t that developed in terms of food and stay arrangements. You can pitch in tent anywhere on the top of the fort but be mindful of the wind. The tent that I carry during the treks is Quechua Arpenaz 2 Tent. It has enough space for 2 people. Trimbakeshwar and Nashik are nearby and has lot of stay options, so you can cover Harihar fort on a day’s trip from these towns.
Camping at Harihar Fort Trek near Nashik

Camping at Harihar Fort Trek near Nashik

There isn’t any food option available at Harshewadi. You can probably ask at a home over there and see if they are ready to cook it for you. Do carry few eatables and at least 2 water bottles along with you. There are small dhabas on the trek route where you can get basic eating stuff and lemon water.Cucumber and Lemon water enroute to Harihar Fort

Harihar Fort trek organized by onacheaptrip from Pune

Harihar Fort trek organized by onacheaptrip from Pune

If you have more days with you, I am sure you would love to explore the beautiful city of Nashik and the nearby regions. To know more about Nashik, you can read my earlier post Nashik City – An exciting two-day’s trip from Pune/Mumbai/Surat (INR 1500).

At the stairs section of Harihar Fort

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Are you looking for some essential travel gear? Check out my blog post on What’s in my Backpack.

Looking for more weekend gateway options near Pune and Mumbai? Check out these blog posts:

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