Drive to the highest peaks in Karnataka

12:26 PM

Drive to the highest peaks in Karnataka:
It was the end of the summer season in south India and pre-monsoons were already felt, we decided to take an extended weekend tour to Chikmagalur. Though there was no initial plan, we had few places in mind like the Mullayanagiri, Bababudangiri, Kemmanagundi and Hirekolale Lake, within 3 days of our leisure time.
After checking with the hotel staff we dropped the plan of Kemmanagundi as it was relatively drier in summer, we decided to start with Mullayanagiri as our first attraction.


At 1930 m ASL Mullayanagiri is the highest peak between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris, and also highest peak of Karnataka state.
Located on the Chandra Dhrona Hill Ranges of the Western Ghats.
Mullayanagiri Peak
Mullayanagiri Peak
The drive to the peak from Chikamagalur may be a short one but it is one of the most dangerous roadways I've ever experienced. Take my words, it's the stretch between Seethalayanagiri temple and Mullayanagiri peak which is about 2km and goes with wild turns and blind edges with steep slopes of over 800-1000m deep. The road is very narrow, in the final stretch only one car can pass at a time, no safety barriers, and lots of potholes.
We saw at least 3 cars got breakdowns like tyre repair, engine breakdowns, etc.
Government or concerned authorities should either restrict vehicle movement from Seethalayanagiri or increase safety measures, practically there were no warning boardings also which says dangerous drive ahead. During evening hours, there was a heavy traffic jam at the mountain peak and all the upcoming vehicles were forced to drive reverse and to drive back or park at the edges to give way for downcoming vehicles.

To know more about the Mullayanagiri road conditions and route with photographs CLICK HERE

So my advice is to park your vehicle at Seethalayanagiri temple and take the final 2km by walk to reach Mullayanagiri.
View from Seethalayanagiri Temple
View from Seethalayanagiri Temple
View from the road on Mullayanagiri-Seethalayanagiri stretch
View from the road on Mullayanagiri-Seethalayanagiri stretch
After parking at Mullayanagiri, one has to climb about 500 steps to reach the peak.
View of the parking area from the peak
View of the parking area from the peak
After all the hustle and bustle the experience was amazing with 360 degrees view of the Chandra Drona hill range. Drive safely during rains, as it might get very slippery. Best time to visit is from Sep-Feb, although one can visit round the year to enjoy the nature's beauty.
View of BB Hills as seen from Mullayanagiri peak
View of BB Hills as seen from Mullayanagiri peak
Shiva Temple on the Mullayanagiri peak
Shiva Temple on the Mullayanagiri peak
Mullayanagiri cave
Mullayanagiri cave
Beautiful artwork on display at Siri Coffee shop en route Mullayanagiri
Beautiful artwork on display at Siri Coffee shop en route Mullayanagiri

The next day we decided to drive to Baba Budangiri Hills along with dabdabe waterfalls. BB hills is a close second highest peak(along with Kudremukh) in Karnataka at 1895 m ASL.The route from Chikmagalur is same as Mullayanagiri for few kilometers later you’ve to take the diversion to BB hills. Unlike the Mullayanagiri road, the road to BB hills is cemented with solid concrete safety barriers.


About 23km from Chickmangalur towards BB hills is the Honnammana Halla Waterfalls, this one was particularly a mess with heavy traffic jam around this area, large crowds and all the garbage thrown in and around the waterfalls. Sincere advice is to skip this and go for dabdabe falls. From here about 400m there is a diversion on the left to Dabdabe falls (or Buttermilk falls), this road is not motorable for even 4x SUV’s. So park your vehicle before this and hire a jeep, for around 200 Rs per/head (to & fro) and get ready for the bumpy ride. The jeep driver will give you about an hour time to play in the waterfalls and return back.
Dabdabe or Buttermilk falls
Dabdabe or Buttermilk falls
Dabdabe falls is a triple cascading waterfall nestled within thick forest cover where the sun can hardly reach.
The waterfalls are very close to nature with its immensely beautiful triple cascade over the steep rocks.
The virgin water stream flowing through the forest fall from a height of about 25m over steep rocks forming a triple cascade, which makes it immensely beautiful. Getting a dip under the waterfalls can be a very chilling experience. There are no changing rooms here, so be prepared to get dry under the sun.
Like all other nature tourist attractions, dabdabe is also not left out from large crowds with increasing commercialization. During holidays, this place can see crowd’s like in a market. So plan accordingly. The jeep ride back to Baba Budan Giri road was another good experience.


Another 7km from here is the Baba Budan Giri Datta Peeta, we continued further without knowing where the road goes, asked a passerby and he said it's the way to Baba Bundangiri. We did a mistake listening to him and proceeded to the end of the road at Manikyadhara which is about 3km from Baba Budangiri. Road condition beyond Baba Budangiri is pathetic and again no safety barriers.
Gaalikere lake which was on the way to Manikyadhara was dried up and was filled with garbage. The road ends at Manikyadhara, and there was the heavy traffic jam and no place to park the vehicle. Seeing heavy crowd for Manikyadhara falls we decided to skip it. On the other side of the hill, we can see Deviramma Temple hill, couldn't find the way to reach there.
Deviramma Temple hill as seen from Manikyadhara hill
Deviramma Temple hill as seen from Manikyadhara hill
Spectacular views from the BB Hils
Spectacular views from the BB Hils
BB Hills
BB Hills
BB Hills
BB Hills
We drove back to Baba Budangiri and parked our vehicle in one of the small hilltops and did a small trek of about 1.5km to get a better view of the valley.
Trek routes across the BB Hills
Trek routes across the BB Hills
The climate at BB hills was comparatively warmer than Mullayanagiri, for tourists the later is preferred. Did Not spend any more time here we drove back to Chikmagalur and had our lunch.

To know more about the Baba Budangiri & Manikyadhara road conditions and route with photographs CLICK HERE

Having ample time left for the day we decided to drive towards Hirekolale Lake and at the diversion, we saw the Karnataka Tourism yellow board about Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) and took an instant decision to drive to Bhadra WLS instead of the Hirekolale. Bhadra WLS was about 40km from here. Having driven for some time we were in a dilemma if there will be any forest safari else the drive would be worthless. We enquired villagers on the way and they were not sure but said safari facility is there, so we continued our journey and entered ghat roads, and a passerby looked like tourists, we stopped them and inquired about safari. They said the last safari would start by 5pm and we had to hurry up as it was already 4.30pm. Road got narrower as we approached Bhadra forest. We made it to the Bhadra WLS forest office on time and booked our Jeep safari for 400rs/head.
The Jeep safari was thrilling with jeep crossing the river and a typical rain forest view where the river was canopied by overhanging trees and hardly any sunlight reaching the ground. It was raining heavily through most of our safari ride and for our bad it was a half open jeep and we were showered for more than 30mins. Although we could not witness any rare wildlife (maybe because of heavy downpour), but we were welcomed with many groups of peacocks throughout our safari, few bisons, a large snake which looked like a cobra and many different species of birds. Overall it was a good safari experience, better than what I had in Bandipur and Nagarahole.
Also, note that Google maps might not show the position of WLS properly, but you can follow the boardings on the road. Bhadra WLS is also called as Muthodi WLS.
Jeep Safari Route in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
Jeep Safari Route in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary 
We started our journey back to Chikmagalur and before dark, we crossed the ghat route and reached Chikmagalur by 7.30pm. Had our dinner at Kanha restaurant. The third and last day of our trip, we decided to take up a short drive to Hirekolale Lake which we had skipped the previous day. It's a short 30min drive and was very much worth. The lake is beautiful and tranquil, surrounded by coffee estates with a picturesque backdrop of Mullayanagiri. The lake is also good for bird watching, I had forgotten to carry my telephoto lens, so couldn't capture them. Don't expect any fun activities here but is definitely a nature lover's spot.
Hirekolale Lake
Hirekolale Lake
Hirekolale Lake with Mullayanagiri in Backdrop
Hirekolale Lake with Mullayanagiri in Backdrop
We started our journey back to Bengaluru and on the way stopped for Belur Chennakesava Temple, which is a 900yrs old heritage temple. This is a must visit for aesthetes.



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