Trek to Yedakumeri Railway Bridge: Lost in a green world! - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Trek to Yedakumeri Railway Bridge: Lost in a green world!

The famous tunnels on the Sakleshpur mountain railway line and its surrounding forests

It is one of India’s most iconic railway treks. It is one of the most scenic treks in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. Some people call it the world’s extreme railroad. Some refer to it as trekking paradise. Some have even dubbed this trek as the ‘Green Route’. Whatever its name might be, this mountain railway route is nothing short of a wonder. I am talking about the rail route from Sakleshpur to Kukke Subramanya that falls on the segment between Bangalore and Mangalore.

Above photo courtesy: Pradeep H Gowda

Spanning 52 kms in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, this mountain rail route from Sakleshpur to Kukke Subramanya via Yedekumeri is made up of 57 tunnels, 109 bridges and an umpteen number of rivers and waterfalls. But, that is not it. Some of these tunnels and bridges are as long as 0.75 km and some of these bridges are 200 metres high. Mind boggling, right? Well, I forgot to mention the pristine forests that cover this entire belt and whose dense green cover gives this rail route its name, ‘The Green Route’.

The untouched forests near Yedekumeri railway bridge, Karnataka

15 years ago, I was privileged to have trekked on this iconic rail route. At that time, the railway tracks were undergoing modernization and hence the trains were not plying. It was a glorious, action packed and nerve wracking 2 days for the group, but all of us had a thrilling time in spite of the nagging pain in our calf muscles (due to walking on rail sleepers for 2 days). Today, this iconic railway trek is banned as trains ply on this route regularly. But, there is a way to catch a glimpse of its beauty, albeit through an alternate overland route.

Above photo courtesy: Pradeep H Gowda

Dirt road leading to Yedekumeri Railway track, Karnataka

This overland route is a combination of lush Malnad countryside, some off-roading (either by 4 wheel drive or two wheeler) and a bit of jungle trekking. On the road between Hongadahalla and Yedekumeri falls a dirt track that leads to the famous Yedekumeri bridge. This steep and narrow dirt track crosses plantations and forests to the railway track between tunnels 11 and 12. The tallest bridge of this rail route is here. Things are very different today compared to 15 years ago when there was no support and hand rails. Today, there are platforms and hand rails for safety. These platforms allow you to walk on the bridge easily while soaking in the lush green expanse and the roar of the water below.

Even though the walk is safe, trains can be expected at any time and that can cause some uncomfortable situations. Hence, always keep your ears open for track vibrations and train sounds. Do remember to carry a flashlight if you intend to explore the tunnels. And do remember that walking on this railway track is banned and hence use your common sense and discretion.

After some dirt riding during the monsoons in Malnad, Karnataka

While this Yedekumeri forest trek takes you to tunnel 11, tunnel 12 and the tallest bridge, there is another route that allows you to experience a different side of the railway trek. This falls on the Hongadahalla – Marenahalli road route. As soon as you see the rail overbridge, climb to the railway tracks, walk left towards tunnel 1 and within 50 meters turn right at the opening to discover the hidden waterfall and river. A lot of people have lost their lives here. Hence, do exercise caution. Again, boards have been kept discouraging trespassers. Please use your judgement while going here.

The dirt downhill trail leading to the Yedekumeri railway bridge

These are 2 alternate ways to experience the green route as the original rail route is not possible any more. They are easier than the railway trek, but give you a different flavor of the terrain, the gorgeous Kaginahare forests, laidback Malnad countryside and a bit of the vast green expanse around the railway track. I am sure there are other hidden forest tracks leading to the railway track, but these are the ones that I came across. Full route details and words of wisdom have been mentioned below. Do give them a thorough read before embarking on this railway and forest trek.

Sakleshpur Yedekumeri Railway Track - Green Route of Karnataka

If you are a motorcyclist, this route will give you a bit of off-roading, a bit of trekking and lots and lots of greenery. If you are a trekker, you will love walking on the plantation tracks, the forest trails and finally on the railway bridge itself. Whatever type of traveler you are and whichever route you opt for, you will definitely be blown away by the sheer prettiness f this terrain. The Yedakumari railway bridge is definitely the highlight and will give you a feeling of being lost in a green world!

How to reach here:

If arriving from Sakleshpur side…

Take Shirdi ghat road, turn left at Marenahalli, head straight on this rural highway crossing check dams and before turning left towards Hongadahalla, turn right towards Yedekumeri. About a kilometer further, there is a steep dirt track towards your right. Take this dirt track, ascend rapidly, keep to your left and stay on the steep descent till you reach the Yedekumeri bridge and the railway track. This location is right between tunnel 11 and 12 on the Donigal – Subramanya railway line.

If arriving from Kukke Subramanya, Arkalgud or Coorg side…

The iconic green railway track trek of Karnataka

At Kudrasthe junction, take the road that leads to Sakleshpur via Bachalli. At Bachalli, turn left and head towards Athihally. At Athihally, turn right and continue towards Hongadahalla. At Hongadahalla, turn right and head straight towards Yedekumeri village. Ignore the road that turns right towards Marenahalli and Shirdi ghat highway. About 1 km after this diversion, turn right towards the steep dirt track. Take this dirt track, ascend rapidly, keep to your left and stay on the steep descent till you reach the Yedekumeri bridge and the railway track. This location is right between tunnel 11 and 12 on the Donigal – Subramanya railway line.

Usually, four wheel drives with experienced drivers can take you all the way to the track, but sometimes that might not be possible due to landslides. Two wheelers with good tyres, brakes and a good rider can also cover a lot of the distance if there are no landslides. No other vehicle will be able to go on this road. Do keep in mind that there is no place to reverse your vehicle till you reach the final parking area, so don’t be over enthusiastic and try to test the waters. The track is hard core dirt terrain even for proper off roaders. The rest of the way can be easily trekked.

Time taken for the trek (if vehicle is parked at Yedekumeri dirt track turning): The return journey should take you about 3 hours, including some time for relaxing and photography. The duration could be longer if you spend more time on the railway bridge.

To reach Tunnel 1 and the hidden waterfall behind it, head further on the Hongadahalla – Marenahalli road till you see the railway overbridge. Park your vehicle here and you will see Tunnel 1 to your left.

Tunnel, bridges and waterfalls - the charm of Sakleshpur railway track trek

Where to stay:

If local homestays are your thing, there are a ton of options available nearby in villages such as Hongdhalla, Athihally and Vanagoor. If you prefer a bit of luxury, stay at Somwarpet or Sakleshpur. For uber luxury, head to the luxury resorts in Coorg or Chickmagalur.

Best season to visit:

All year round, but for its vibrant best, opt for the monsoon season.

Key things to keep in mind for this trek:

1) Railway treks where trains ply actively are banned in India. Hence, please use your discretion and common sense while embarking anywhere close to these railway tracks.

2) During the monsoons, leeches can be found here in plenty. Do prepare yourself for them.

3) Do carry a flashlight with you if you are planning on entering a tunnel.

4) Landslides are common here during the monsoon season. Do plan your itinerary accordingly.

Yedekumeri Railway Track Trek - The Green Route

5) Apart from BSNL, which is available in patches, there is no cell phone connectivity on this route. Hence, do keep someone appraised of your plan well in advance.

6) No food or water can be found on this trek. Do carry rations as needed.

7) People with fear of heights, please use your discretion prior to getting on top of the Yedekumeri bridge.

8) Elephants and other wild animals can be seen on this trail during the early hours of the morning and the late hours of the evening. It is alright to explore during the day.

Other tourist attractions nearby:

1) The rolling hills of Kaginahare forest

2) The hidden Mookanamane forest waterfall

3) Manjarabad Fort

Hidden river and waterfall behind tunnel 1 of Sakleshpur railway track

4) Mallalli Falls, the prettiest waterfall of Coorg

5) The pristine Malnad countryside

6) Bisle ghat and Bisle view point

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