Harihar fort, also known as Harshagad is a fort located forty two kilometers from Nashik city. This part of Trimbak range, is one of the difficult treks of Maharashtra and at the same time a favorite trek of adventure seekers. Harihar fort is well known for its steep stone carved steps which are inclined at approximately eighty degree. As interesting as it may sounds, it is a very adventurous and a type of trek you will remember forever.
Situated at an altitude of 1120m (3676 feet), Harshagad lies on a triangular rock with all the three sides vertical and is approachable only from one side i.e. through 200 feet high rock cut staircase. Hence, one has to face the steps in order to enter the fort. Though it is a vertical ladder, the steps are provided with niches for proper grip while ascending. There are 117 steps in all. Ascending and descending through this patch is a thrilling experience.
Harihar fort was built during the reign of Pankaj Panchariya of Seuna dynasty. Later it was ruled by Marathas till 1636, when Nitin Ugale surrendered the fort to Zamam Khan of the Mughals. The fort was again captured by Captain Briggs in 1818 along with seventeen other forts during the fall of Trimbak.
Harihar fort has a significant importance back then when it was under Marathas control. Harihar fort along with Basgad was built to keep surveillance on trading routes connecting towards Gujarat.
As it is applicable to all forts, there is always more than one route to ascend a fort’s base. But, there is mostly only way to enter the fort. Harihar Fort can be reached from two base villages, namely Nirgudpada and Harshewadi. You can choose either route based on your transportation arrangement and convenience.
Also, another factor to consider choosing preferred base village is the trek. Generally, people trekking from Nirgudpada, complete trek to Basgad Fort also.
We had no such plans, we only wanted to trek Harihar Fort, and so we headed to Harshewadi village.
How to reach Harihar Fort from Mumbai:
Harihar fort is one hundred and sixty kilometers from Mumbai. You can reach the fort from Mumbai by following means:
- By Train: Kasara railway station is the closest station to both Harshewadi and Nirgudpada. There are local trains headed towards Kasara at frequent intervals. The journey from Mumbai to Kasara is approximately three hours. From Kasara, there are buses and jeeps that connect with the base villages. Both Nirgudpada and Harshewadi are sixty kilometers from Kasara railway station and it takes ninety minutes by road to reach.
- By Road: You can reach here via taking a bus to Trimbakeshwar from anywhere in the Maharashtra and alight at Harshewadi. There is a left turn just four kilometers before Trimbakeshwar that goes towards Khodala. There are jeeps standing at the start of the road which will drive you till Harshewadi or Nirgudpada.
How to reach Harihar Fort from Pune:
To reach Harihar Fort from Pune is tricky, especially by train. It really is not convenient to reach the fort from Pune by train. I highly recommend you to choose to reach there by road. To reach Harihar fort from Pune, you have to go via Nashik. Nashik is five and half hours journey from Pune and Harihar is an hour journey from Nashik central bus stand. There are also direct buses to Trimbakeshwar from Pune that would be an even better idea.
Total distance to Harihar Fort from Pune is two hundred fifty five kilometers. So if you are hiring a private vehicle it should not take more than six hours to reach Harshewadi.
Things to carry:
Harihar is an extremely tiring trek so make sure you have the following items in your backpack while you go for one day trek to Harihar Fort:
- Lots of water: This is a must item to carry for this trek. At least have three liters of it or more as much you require. There is no water resource on the fort. Two shops are available in the entire trek who sell water too, but why take risk?
- Trek shoes with good grip: The stone carved steps can be very slippery in monsoon, so it is advisable to wear shoes that have very good grip. Also, the sand on the trail is very slippery and due to ascend terrain, you can slip, fall and get injured.
- Cap & goggles (If you visit in summer): On top of the fort, it pretty much barren land. The heat in summer is very high and may cause heavy dehydration. Well, cap does not eliminate the effects of the sun completely, but it is recommended to wear one.
- Some food: As mentioned earlier, there are no hotels who can provide you food on the way up. Although, there are two stalls on the way where you can get some snacks. Trekking such a complex mountain takes a lot out of you. Maintaining body energy levels is essential, so keep some citrus fruits or food that give you instant energy.
I wanted to trek Harihar Fort ever since a friend of mine had recommended me. The way she explained the trek, I understood it was not going to be easy. I was looking for an appropriate partner to go with me because it is not safe to go alone on these kinds of treks. One day a friend of mine voluntarily suggested that we go for this trek. I was so happy that I was finally going trek one of the best forts near Nashik.
Our plan was only to trek Harihar Fort, so we were going to start ascending from Harshewadi village. We were going to go our bikes. We wanted to drive on a free road with no traffic, so we started at seven in the morning.
We had a heavy breakfast which is a must for every trek because it’s not predictable if you will get any food once you start a trek. The road is pretty decent from Nasik to Trimbakeshwar. We drove at constant speed of 50km/hr and reached Trimbak forty minutes.
The bypass to Harshewadi is a couple of kilometers from Trimbak. We followed the same Nasik-Trimbak highway further and after we crossed a hill, there is a slight left turn that leads to Harshewadi.
There were some jeeps standing on the start of the road. If you are coming by public transport, you can hire a jeep and reach Harshewadi. Harihar fort is ten kilometers from the highway bypass. It is a straight road which eliminates any confusion of going on wrong track.
Still to be sure, we asked the people in the villages on the way if we were going on the right path. Finally we got a local villager who lived in Harshewadi who was walking home. I gave him a lift on my bike and he led us right to Harihar fort.
The village is a couple of kilometers away from the main road, so if you are driving, be sure to take a correct turn. We reached the village and it is the smallest village I might have seen in my life. There are no more than fifteen houses in that village. We parked our bikes at a house with their permission and started our trek. We took a couple of halts and still we Harihar Fort in ninety minutes.
Rushing to the inclined steps:
The starting of the trek is very confusing. There are multiple trails and by what it looked they are all streams of water in monsoon. There are many rocky patches so the trek exhausted us in beginning itself. Good thing we took lot of water.
We just followed the trail and reached a point which seemed like a dry waterfall. We climbed the rocks to reach a plateau. This plateau can be considered as the first checkpoint of this trek. There is a small shop on this plateau and an old man who owns it. We asked the old man for further directions because we could see more than one trails in several directions.
The further trek starts from behind of the shop. The route leads through small patch of fauna and again opens up after a few steps. Then the trails leads into a forest which we had to pass in order to reach the anticipated stone carved steps.
There is no scope of confusion on this route and after walking a few minutes, we noticed we were climbing an inclined plane and could see a decent view at our back. In a few minutes we realized we were standing in front of a hill. I am not going to lie, but it looked very slippery. After executing the trek, we realized, our judgment was absolutely right. The hill is completely covered with small smooth stones which are extremely slippery. One has to be extra careful while descending then ascending this hill.
The further path led us to another plateau, which can be considered as second checkpoint. There is another stall at this point. A few steps ahead and there they were! The Stairway to heaven, the famous inclined steps of Harihar Fort.
Project Harihar Fort:
Before explaining the further part, let me take a moment to express the rush or excitement we all felt standing in front of these steps. It is really a marvel and beautiful exhibit of art and creativity.
There are total one hundred and seventeen steps before reaching the main entrance of the fort. The steps are of unequal height and all of them are pretty large. But, as a support, all these steps have notches carved within which makes perfect grip. The width of the steps is only wide enough to fit one person at a time. We started to climb the steps and I took the lead because I was the experienced one.
Finally, after reaching the main entrance, we were amazed to see that the further path is carved inside the mountain itself. The sight made me wonder how skillful the people back then would have been. The further route is like passing through a tunnel and series of steps. The sight though is just beautiful; anywhere your sight goes you can see range of mountains.
On the Top of Harihar Fort:
It took us one and a half hour, but finally, we reached the top. There is absolutely nothing remaining on top of the fort. We could see a small hill at a distance; it is called Ballekilla and there is a flag waving on the top of the hill. That is the highest point of the fort and that’s where we headed.
Moving ahead, we encountered three reservoirs. It was summer time so two of them had completely dried up and the third was holding some water. Beyond the reservoirs, there was an idol of Lord Hanuman. By looks, it seemed that the idol was inside a temple. But for some reason, the temple had broken and was fallen away at a distance from the temple. Beside the idol, there is a pretty big lake.
Further ahead, there is a small intact structure still standing tall. Looks like a storage room. We climbed on top and just like that we were on top of Harihar Fort. From the top, we could see plain land, mountain ranges and the view was just very peaceful. We took some pictures on the top and decided to descend towards Harshewadi. I had read about a secret hidden route leading to Bhandardurg Fort from Harihar Fort. We tried to search that secret door, and finally found the secret door at the edge of the hill just after the second door.
We followed the same route to descend but took many halts and clicked lots of pictures. The sight was too beautiful to leave behind, but you cannot capture something like this in camera. It took us two hours to reach the base village and we drove back home drained off and tired.
Harihar Fort is one of the best places to visit near Nasik. According to me, the trek is of medium difficulty. It is strongly advisable to take a person having some experience with trekking to this amazing fort. Harihar is indeed a must visit fort if you are Trek Freak like me and of course to climb the famous stone carved steps. Although one has to be very careful as there are many monkeys on these forts. If you are attacked by them while ascending the stone carved steps, you are done for. One can view various surrounding mountains like Brahmagiri, Bhandardurg, Mount Utwad from top of Harihar Fort.