Whenever it comes to the great outdoors, Mumbaikars have always sworn by the heady mix of activities available here. Heritage walks, seaside drives, ferry rides, fishing, lazing about in maidans and running wild on beaches — there’s quite a lot. And yet, most city birds end up missing the thrill of being in close contact with nature, as one undertakes challenging journeys on foot.
If you thought finding that kind of an experience was tough in a city, we bring to you 5 hiking spots in Mumbai and its suburbs that are anything but city-like.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
An “urban wilderness” still relatively unknown to many, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the city’s northern suburbs is home to over 170 species of butterflies and more than 250 species of birds. Cool off by the banks of the gushing streams, go on a history trail to the rock-cut Kanheri cave temples, or trek to Jambhulmal, the highest point in Mumbai, which offers some fine views. The 2-km Shilonda Trail is the most popular of SGNP’s five hikes, and takes one through dense forest crisscrossed by a forest stream that rages in the monsoon. You could even come across leopard pugmarks and spot chitals and civets here. The Malad Trail is longer, and runs along the park’s western edge.
One of the best day excursions around Mumbai, Yeoor Hills in Thane offer an incredible hiking experience. Located near the Upvan Lake and flanked by the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, they are a sight to behold during the monsoon. The climb uphill takes just half an hour, and you can stop by the streams on the way. The summit affords views of the urban city you have left behind — literally and figuratively.
Maharashtra Nature Park
You’d find it hard to believe that this 40-acre profusion of trees, birdlife and bees (vipers, too, but don’t let that deter you), used to be a dumping ground. Go on a woodland trail and marvel at the rich variety of climbers and creepers, woody species such as bamboo — even exotic ones like silk cotton and Gulmohar — and wildflowers. The honeybee trail is worth exploring, too, but you can give the creekside trail a miss. Those into more leisurely mingling with nature can take the Shanti Path, a canopied pathway that takes one through the length of the park.
An hour and a half away from Dadar lies the Tungareshwar peak, the trails to get to which come alive when it rains thanks to its forest streams (venturing out here unaccompanied in the monsoon is not advised). Spot bees, dragonflies, damselflies, tailorbirds and coucals on the way. Got more time on your hands? Visit the Shiv temple and the Vasai Fort. Those looking to see actual waterfalls should trek to Kaman Phata and thereon through the forest to get to the site.
Karnala Fort Trek
In case you’re looking to do something more immersive and are willing to jet off to the outskirts of the city, get to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. Located 10km from Panvel Railway Station on the Mumbai-Goa Highway, the fort, which looks like the tip of a thumb from afar, can be reached via a number of trails — all well-marked, covered in thick vegetation, and punctuated by the forest department’s shelters. The summit, thick with sonki flowers and overlooking a historical pass, affords a sweeping view of lush Matheran. Don’t forget to spot magpie-robins, blue-capped rock thrush, red-whiskered bulbuls and other avian species on the way.