Ella Rock Hike – The Best Step-by-Step Direct Route

No doubt you’ve read blog articles, forum posts and Trip Advisor reviews about Ella Rock routes and wondering whether you need a guide or can do this hike yourself.

Sadly, a lot of what is online about the hike is out of date or incorrect. Trust me, I know, I read it all before I did the hike!

Below is a step-by-step picture guide (which I did in comic book style for fun) and answering everything you need to know.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Ella check out the Brilliant View Homestay. For advice on things to do in Ella, getting to Ella on the train (a must!) and general advice for travelling around Sri Lanka see our Sri Lanka Travel Guide.

Do I need a guide for the hike to Ella Rock?

No, there is no real reason to take a guide, unless of course you want to! With the instructions below you can easily do it yourself.

Will locals try to scam me?

A lot of what you read online is that locals are trying to send you the wrong way so that you’ll get lost and need a guide. While this can happen, we found that everyone was actually just trying to be helpful.

Should you want to ask for directions people working on the track, children or farmers are a good bet as they don’t have a vested interest. Anyone that follows you and keeps asking is just looking for work as a guide. To be honest, the directions below are comprehensive and you shouldn’t need to ask anyone for directions.

What’s this I hear about a bench? Isn’t there blue markings showing the way?

Some older guides online reference markings such as a bench or blue paint on rocks for directions. I can tell you that the bench has been removed and the blue markings are either non-existent or incredibly faint. I wouldn’t rely on these to get you up to the top of Ella Rock.

How long does the Ella Rock hike take?

The hike should take you no longer than four hours at the most. It all depends on your pace and how long you spend at the top but four is all you’ll need.

What is the best time to hike to Ella Rock?

Although the top of the hike is mostly sheltered by trees, the walk along the train tracks is exposed and it’s not advisable to do this during the midday sun. If you start at 6am you can complete the hike before things get too warm. We started at 7am and the last bit of the walk along the tracks into town were pretty hot but still reasonable. I wouldn’t leave it any later than this.

What do I need to prepare beforehand?

You’ll need proper walking shoes for this or at least trainers which is what I did it in. Water is also essential and don’t forget your sunscreen. Most importantly you should save an offline copy of this article on your phone or at the very least save the images to your camera roll for reference.

Where does the Ella Rock hike start?

From Ella Town head up the hill to the train station. At the station turn left and start walking along the train tracks. You’ll head east and then start to curve south over a bridge. Keep following the tracks until you hit Kithalella Railway Station.

From Ella Station this is your first landmark.

You’ll pass this mile marker.

There will be a few “exits” that lead into fields and plantations. Ignore these.

Keep following the track.

Around ten minutes after the train station you’ll come to this tunnel of sorts with the track surrounded either side by tall rocks covered in vegetation.

Directly after the rock pass ends there is a hairpin left turn. This is the big turning people seem to miss. With the vegetation it’s hard to spot when you’re walking this way as it’s a tight left turn.

After taking the hairpin left you’ll come across the bridge after about a minute.

After the bridge you can only follow the path to the right.

Follow the path through the tea plantation to this farm. There is a yellow house across the way and the path leading to it is in the shape of a C.

If you face this house and then look left you get the view below.

There’s a dirt path but doesn’t really matter how you get to the top of this.

The steps lead to someone’s back garden. Follow the path to the right instead.

You’ll come across a grey outdoor toilet on your left, just keep walking and you’ll pass through tall grass and into trees.

Follow the treeline in the direction of your 1 o’clock which will then start to curve to your 11 o’clock.

Follow the treeline. You’ll be on a slanting hill with the valley to the right and the hill top to your left. Keep heading straight.

Eventually it’ll slope up ahead and there will be a ridge with a view. Stop there to take it in as from here on out it’s a straight slog up to the top of Ella Rock. At the ridge turn right and keep heading up. No specific instructions here, it’s steep and you just keeps going up. There’s only one way up so you can’t get lost.

Finally, you’ll hit the top! There’s a few makeshift benches made from logs. There might be someone selling snacks or drinks but there wasn’t when we went up. Once you’re done at the top, just head back to town the way you came.

Just mind out for trains!

Found this guide useful? Leave up a comment and less us know how you got on!

23 Comments

  • Maria and Leo

    November 15, 2016

    Thanks so much for this guide. Love the comic book style images!

    We were concerned about navigating our way to Ella Rock, especially after all the trip advisor posts we read but using this made it so easy.

    Thanks again for taking the time to put this together. We will recommend this to our friends who are coming to Sri Lanka next month!!

  • Anthony

    November 23, 2016

    Thanks for this handy guide. We went a bit wrong after the grey toilet but quickly backtracked and found the right path.

    Here’s a link to Google Maps which shows the route (and you can see where we went wrong). Hope this helps!
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Fk_z9rCCiCEpAjg–a4NWt_SxlM&usp=sharing

  • Gap Year Escape

    November 23, 2016

    You’re welcome! Just a little detour there. Looks like after the grey toilet you went left rather than right.

  • Chathuranga

    November 24, 2016

    Thank you very much 🙂

  • Phil

    December 26, 2016

    Thanks for the detailed guide! We did the hike this morning and found our way up to Ella Rock very easily!

  • Kasia

    December 31, 2016

    Used your guide to climb Ella rock today, you made it very easy for us. Thank you very much for sharing !

  • Gap Year Escape

    January 8, 2017

    I’m glad it helped Phil!

  • Gap Year Escape

    January 8, 2017

    No problem Kasia, thanks for reading!

  • Fred

    February 24, 2017

    What a fantastic guide, thanks so much for sharing! We just used it to climb Ella Rock and didn’t go wrong once. Absolutely no need to hire a guide when you’ve got this. Just to add, the route is quite busy with tourists, so it’s easy to tell you’re on the right path.

    You should post this link in all the forums, very useful.

    Thanks again!

  • Gap Year Escape

    February 24, 2017

    Thanks for letting me know how you got on Fred. When I did the hike it was dead and everyone else was unsure of the route which is why I wanted to put this up.

    Any forums you recommend? Which ones did you look at when researching Ella Rock?

    Amar

  • Adam

    March 9, 2017

    Amar,

    Thank you for your detailed guide. It’s both clear and consise. We used it in the early morning when there were few other tourists that we could follow and reached the top of Ella rock with little problems.

    To others using the guide, keep going along the train tracks until you’ve passed Kithal Ella station. At one point we thought we had walked past the hairpin turning however it’s quite clear once you get there.

    Adam

  • Gap Year Escape

    March 9, 2017

    Cheers Adam, hope you enjoyed the view!

  • Emily

    March 23, 2017

    We followed your picture guide this morning and just wanted to say thank you, it was amazing! We didn’t get lost at all and it was so helpful (we definitely didn’t need a guide). Quick note to other hikers, a couple of locals tried to get us to go a quicker way before kitalella station (via waterfall). It think this is a route but other travellers have got lost this way – definitely stick to the above route through some beautiful scenery and you will make it without a guide!

  • Gap Year Escape

    March 23, 2017

    Thanks for letting me know how you got on, appreciate the comment. Glad you found it easy!

    Yes, there is a way you can go before the station but the above is much simpler!

  • Siobhan Kelly

    April 2, 2017

    Thank you 😆 used your picture guide to sucessfully climb Ella Rock last Thursday. Unfortunately their was no view as it was quite misty!! However that can’t be helped. Your guide was very accurate and easy to follow. The climb wasnt any worse then little adams peak- the shade from the trees helped greatly!!! No need for a guide with this route.

    Thanks again

  • Gap Year Escape

    April 2, 2017

    Oh no! Weather can’t be helped hey but as they say, it’s not about the destination but the journey and it is a good hike.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Amar

  • Kate

    April 2, 2017

    Used this guide today, thanks so much was so helpful!

  • Gap Year Escape

    April 2, 2017

    Glad you found it useful Kate!

  • Paul

    April 5, 2017

    Used the guide today… worked perfectly. However, the owner of the yellow house was grumpy and didn’t want us walking by, so he directed us to another path (passing a equally grumpy dog). Agree, so many old guides but this was spot on and photos were perfect. Cheers.

  • Gap Year Escape

    April 5, 2017

    Thanks Paul.

    That’s strange, him and his kids were super nice when we passed through. Glad you got there ok and enjoyed the hike!

  • Ben

    April 13, 2017

    Thanks guys, this was really useful and easy to follow (especially with the Google maps trace posted in the comments by Anthony!). When reaching the tree line, make sure you turn right and stick to the path, even when it goes slightly downhill and you’ll be right as rain 🙂

  • Gap Year Escape

    April 13, 2017

    Cheers Ben!

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