An independent guide to the Ella Rock Hike in Ella, Sri Lanka. Enjoy one of Sri Lanka’s best mountain vistas from the viewpoint at Ella Rock, just a short stretch from Ella Town.
Once a quaint mountain town nestled between green peaks and rolling tea-lined hills, Ella Town is far from the laid-back hidden gem it once was. While a slice of the relaxed mountain ambiance lives on, commercialization and mass tourism seem to be taking a firm hold on Ella.
Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that this place is magical. But if it was nature you were longing for, then don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. The Ella Rock hike is one of the best walks from town and offers excellent views over the Baddula valleys and the Sri Lankan highlands.
Since finding the track can be a little confusing, I’ve written this guide to help travelers and adventurers head up to Ella Rock without a guide. Enjoy!
Where is Ella Rock?
Ella Rock sits high on the hills just 2.5 kilometers above Ella Town. The close proximity to town makes it a perfect hike for those staying in Ella.
However, to reach the Ella Rock viewpoint, you will need to navigate through narrow streets, down a railroad, and passed rural villages. It's certainly tricky to find the trail up to Ella Rock without a guide or any other means of navigation, so if you're already lost, don't feel too bad.
Ella Rock GPX FI and Hiking Data
Below is a GPX file that I generated using my Garmin watch. It follows the route from the heart of Ella town to the top of Ella Rock viewpoint, and a little further down the pine forest to the second viewpoint. You can download the GPX file below using the link.
GPX File: Download
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The Ella Rock Hike: Independent Hiking Guide
- Hike Distance: 12 km return
- Duration: 3-4 hours return
- Elevation: 600 m elevation gain (1360 m AMSL at Ella Rock)
- Difficulty: Moderate
Okay, the truth is that there isn't a single hiking route to Ella Rock from Ella Town. There are a series of tracks and ways to reach the forest trailhead below the viewpoint. For the purpose of this blog, I'll outline the route I took.
Overall, the hike is not too challenging, but the last section is quite steep. In saying that, if you have a general level of fitness, you'll have no problem.
Depart From Ella and Walk Along the Railroad Tracks
Starting from Ella Town, your first waypoint will be the train station. Depending on where you are staying in Ella, this might be just around the corner— or you might prefer to grab a rickshaw instead.
From the Ella railway station, turn left and start walking along the tracks (heading south).
As you probably know already, Sri Lankan railway tracks are multi-functional in the sense that they serve as conventional train tracks as well as heavily-tramped walking routes for animals and humans.
You will need to follow these tracks for approximately 1.5 KM (30 minutes) before arriving at Kithalella station. Along the way, you will probably meet trackside merchants who will be eager to sell you fresh fruit or snacks, usually hanging out near the rail bridge before Kithalella.
Continue passed Kithalella station, following the main track around a wide bend for approximately 700 M. Keep an eye out for a worn walking track on your left. (6°51'46.7"N 81°02'35.2"E).
Hike Through Highland Villages
Although the start of this section can easily be missed, you shouldn't have a problem if you enter in the GPS coordinates above. I'm assuming that most people who have trouble finding their way mess up at this spot.
Immediately after turning onto this walking track, you'll see a picturesque river and a small waterfall known as "Little Ravana Falls". Cross the bridge, and follow the worn tracks to your right.
Follow this same track along the edge of a tea plantation and into quaint rural villages. Finding your way here is again, a little tricky but if you get lost and end up in someone's living room, they'll kindly direct you back on track.
Admittedly, I got a little lost here myself, and on the way back, ended up making a longer loop back to a point further down the railroad. To avoid making the same mistake, my best advice is to follow the plantation until you reach a low, yellow house.
From here, turn left and walk up the hill, keeping right at the fork (not the stone steps). Then, continue passed the outdoor toilet and follow this same track into the tree line.
Forest Climb to Ella Rock Viewpoint
I agree, finding the trailhead was an adventure in itself, but now, time for the actual hike. This section of the walk is straightforward to navigate as the track is well-worn, leading through the trees all the way to Ella Rock.
It's steep in sections, which calls for a bit of a leg pump, but there's no technical scrambling involved.
After climbing approximately 500 M of altitude through the beautiful highland forest, passing some scenic vista views on the way, you'll arrive at Ella Rock.
You'll notice that there is a store set up here, accommodating tired and hungry tourists. Walk past the stall and you'll see the Ella Rock viewpoint on your left.
View From Ella Rock
The view from Ella Rock is quite spectacular and easily one of the best in the area. Below I've included some pictures of the Ella Rock viewpoint so you know what to expect.
Optionally, it's also possible to continue on a short stretch after Ella Rock through tall pine forest more akin to Bavarian or North American forests. This leads to another viewpoint that is worth the walk but not as impressive as what's on offer at Ella Rock.
Once you're eyes are satisfied, warm up the knees and return on the same track back to Ella Town to tell your mates all about the epic views from the Ella Rock hike!
Where to Stay in Ella
It's no secret that Ella Town has grown significantly over the last half-decade. However, most accommodation options are still relatively central. Therefore, you don't need to worry too much about location. Below I've listed some of the best places to stay in Ella to help you plan your trip.
- My Ella Accommodation: Hangover Hostels
This place sounds like a party hostel but it's more of a chilled backpacker vibe with a rooftop terrace and good views. One of the best-reviewed places in Ella on Hostelworld and also one of the most affordable.
- Mid-Range Guesthouse: Pearl View Guesthouse - Spacious rooms with a private terrace over the Ella tea plantations and highland hills. This place has it all. With a booking price of less than $20 per night, this is the place I wish I stayed at.
- High-end: EKHO Ella - Located 3.8 KM from the Nine Arch Bridge and only 1.5 KM from Ella Rock, EKHO is the perfect base if you have a bit more to spend. Situated high on a green hilltop and offering epic views, this private oasis has a heated jacuzzi and includes a historic breakfast.
More Travel Guides and Blogs
I hope that you enjoyed this travel guide to completing Ella rock hike independently and without a guide. If you're looking for more inspiration for your Sri Lanka trip, make sure to check out some of my other blogs and articles below.
Thursday 1st of October 2020
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