Gujarat is not all about temples and the sea. Go trekking among its hills and forests to discover an almost unknown side of the state. Post monsoon is the best time to go trekking in Gujarat as the hills and forests don a mantle of green, seasonal hilly springs and brimming rivulets adding a silvery spark to them. Gujarat forest department has introduced eco camps in many areas which can be a base for exploring the surrounding areas. Gujarat Tourism maintains a list of the eco campsites.
The ‘abode of the snakes’ or Saputara is Gujarat’s only hill station. Pull away from the regular touristy paths and go trekking among the green hills post monsoon. The trails to Rajat Pratap and to Tridhara near Dhupgarh are two of the popular trek routes. If you are keen to study local culture, trekking to the Bhil and Warli tribal villages can be a rewarding experience. Experienced trekkers may go up to Hatgad Fort, about 3km away from Saputara Lake.
The 10,000 steps to the Girnar hill top will test your stamina even though the place is considered a popular pilgrim centre. With over 800 temples spread over its five summits, Girnar hill is considered holy by both Hindus and Jains. Start in the wee hours of the morning as it can get very hot later in the day. A stone-built path connects the five summits. The final 4,000 steps are said to be most tiring. You may cut short your ascent at any point. It is better to wait out the hottest part of the afternoon and then descend.
Zarwani eco campsite is about 28km from Rajpipla by road and located inside the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary of Gujarat. With a local guide, trek to the Zarwani waterfalls inside the forest. With special permission, you may also hold a picnic near the waterfalls. Note forest-worthy vehicles will go up to a point near a riverbank from where one has to trek to reach the waterfalls. Be careful while wading through the river, especially while walking over the submerged rocks as they can be very slippery.
Vijaynagar Forest, on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border is a lesser known destination of Gujarat. Post monsoon, explore the lush green forest, which is said to be home to nearly 275 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, and 32 kinds of reptiles. Inside the forest, you will discover the ruins of the old Polo city. The name is said to have been derived from ‘pol’ or gateway. Said to be established by the Parihar kings of Idar in the 10th century, it was conquered by the Rathod Rajputs of Mewar in the 15th century. Gujarat Forest Department operates a campsite near the Vanaj Forest area, Harnav River and Damsite.
About 30km away from Vyara in the Dangs region of Gujarat, Padamdungari eco campsite nestles in the middle of the Sahyadri hills by the bank of the Ambica River. From here, go on day treks into the surrounding forest. But do take a local person as a guide.