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

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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Sadly, a lot of what is online about the hike is out of date or incorrect.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!

  • Maria and Leo
    Posted at 16:57h, 15 November

    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
    Posted at 08:07h, 23 November

    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!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 16:00h, 23 November

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

  • Chathuranga
    Posted at 13:36h, 24 November

    Thank you very much 🙂

  • Phil
    Posted at 09:53h, 26 December

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

  • Kasia
    Posted at 09:19h, 31 December

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

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 13:15h, 08 January

    I’m glad it helped Phil!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 13:16h, 08 January

    No problem Kasia, thanks for reading!

  • Backpacking Sri Lanka – Two Week Travel Itinerary - Gap Year Escape - Backpacking & Gap Year Travel Blog
    Posted at 20:32h, 03 February

    […] This hike is a must do for anyone heading to Sri Lanka. It’s a little bit of a challenge and requires an early start but the views are worth it. I’m not the best hiker and with a bit of huffing and puffing I still managed it. It’s a great walk along the train tracks, through plantations and then a climb. The Ella Rock hike can be a little tricky to navigate so it deserved a whole post of its own. Check out this step by step guide to doing the Ella Rock Hike. […]

  • Fred
    Posted at 10:06h, 24 February

    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
    Posted at 10:10h, 24 February

    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?


  • Adam
    Posted at 06:03h, 09 March


    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.


  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 10:27h, 09 March

    Cheers Adam, hope you enjoyed the view!

  • Emily
    Posted at 06:57h, 23 March

    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
    Posted at 09:38h, 23 March

    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
    Posted at 08:06h, 02 April

    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
    Posted at 08:32h, 02 April

    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.


  • Kate
    Posted at 14:18h, 02 April

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

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 23:34h, 02 April

    Glad you found it useful Kate!

  • Paul
    Posted at 10:03h, 05 April

    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
    Posted at 11:26h, 05 April

    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
    Posted at 13:00h, 13 April

    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
    Posted at 20:47h, 13 April

    Cheers Ben!

  • Fran
    Posted at 07:17h, 20 April

    Thanks so much for this! Just walked up Ella rock and couldn’t have done it without this guide!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 12:26h, 20 April

    Thanks Fran!

  • Jack
    Posted at 11:43h, 21 April

    Hi Amar
    Another appreciative viewer here. Easy to follow guide much appreciated. I’ve pointed people to it through trip advisor. Hope that’s ok!
    Thanks again

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 12:42h, 22 April

    Thanks Jack, appreciate you sharing it!

  • Hugo
    Posted at 09:41h, 24 April

    We were a bit worried going up – all these stories about getting hopelessly lost in tea plantations – but had no trouble at all thanks to this guide, thank you very much! Actually helped out some other tourist along the way, who were lost and bargaining with a local. Thanks again!


  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 12:46h, 25 April

    Yeah there’s quite a few stories banded around but really it’s not that difficult, especially with this guide! Feel free to share it with others. Glad I could help.

  • Inês
    Posted at 10:24h, 28 April


    I’m traveling to Sri Lanka and I think this will be very helpful!!
    I would like to ask you if this rout passes by the famous Nine Arches Bridge?

    thanks for your help!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 12:49h, 28 April

    Hi Inês!

    No Ella Rock and Nine Arch Bridge/Little Adam’s Peak are in different directions along the train track.

    Check out the Ella section of this guide and it details the routes – https://gapyearescape.com/backpacking-sri-lanka-two-week-travel-itinerary/


  • Lucy
    Posted at 04:06h, 02 May

    We followed this guide on 01/05/17 and made it very safely to the top of the rock! Fantastic walk…thank you!!!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 12:52h, 02 May

    Glad you enjoyed it and the guide was useful. Safe travels Lucy.

  • Malithi nanayakkara
    Posted at 11:17h, 03 May

    This was absolutely useful !
    We climbed the Ella rock last week and followed the path mentioned !
    Good job, the path u described is the path with the best view 🙂

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 12:54h, 03 May

    Thanks for stopping by. Glad you found this useful!

  • Omer
    Posted at 12:14h, 10 July

    Just wanted to say thank you. These directions were the bomb. We climbed Ella Rock July 10/2017 and had no problems following these instruction. Meanwhile other hikers got totally lost. We weee happy to help out. Thank you!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 00:07h, 12 July

    Thanks so much for letting us know how you got on. Glad you found them useful. Feel free to share with anyone else who might do the hike!

  • Dimitri
    Posted at 06:49h, 16 July

    THANKS a lot for the PERFECT description!
    We just did the hike now and were even able to save a couple of other tourists from a “guide” (who actually got angry at me 🙂 ).

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 20:25h, 16 July

    Haha you’re welcome Dimitri!

  • Mathieu Lc
    Posted at 06:06h, 28 July

    We just went up using your plan, we could not afford to get lost as we had a train to catch, you just saved our day! Thanks a lot 🙂

  • Oli
    Posted at 08:03h, 09 August

    Thanks so much for these instructions. We downloaded these along with others and found your information to be the best and easiest to use. They got us and another couple we met on route to the top with ease and we then shared them with people we met on the way down. Thanks for some very clear instructions.

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 13:50h, 10 August

    Awesome, glad you found it so useful and appreciate you sharing it with others too!

  • Amitha Amarasinghe
    Posted at 17:39h, 20 August

    Thank you!
    I am Sri Lankan, but still I found this the best directions to Ella Rock, compared to all the advise I got from locals.:-)
    This guide will never go wrong.
    BTW, I found that there is a scam to give wrong direction near the Buddha statue and then forcing you to hire a guide once you lost your way.
    Anyone who wish to follow this route, my advice is to stick to this guide all the time. Some locals will tell you this is a difficult route, but it’s not true. This is the easiest way up, even though you have to walk a little longer on railway tracks.

  • Sophia
    Posted at 08:23h, 27 August

    Thanks so much for this guide! We hiked Ella Rock today with minimal trouble. Really clear instructions. We went wrong before the ridge (penultimate instruction!) and turned off right too quickly, resulting in following a long path right and scrambling up the hillside. Was a bit hairy – read the instructions better and don’t do this! But was a great hike. Definitely no need for a guide!

  • Lauren
    Posted at 05:56h, 17 October

    I hiked up to Ella Rock this morning and your guide was perfect! As a solo traveler I was a bit nervous to try the hike myself but it was easy to follow the directions even when locals tried to lead me the other way. The only place I questioned was when I got to the tree line but just follow the path you are going the right way.
    I started around 6:15 and it was nice to see all the school kids walking along the tracks as well. It took me 3 hours with enough time at the top to enjoy the view, walk around and have a cup of tea but I did hurry down to catch the bus to udawalawe. I suggest 4 hours is plenty for a leisurely time. Thank you for putting in the effort to make this..it made for a great experience!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 21:51h, 17 October

    No problem Lauren, glad you found it useful!

  • Sam Wilson
    Posted at 12:20h, 07 December

    Thank you very much for the guide. Was very easy to follow and helped at all the small points where you could see the potential to take a wrong turn. Only had a couple of Touts trying to tell us we were going the wrong way.

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 23:54h, 15 December

    Thanks for leaving a note and letting us know how you got in. Enjoy the rest of Sri Lank!

  • Robin
    Posted at 12:02h, 05 January

    Yes very helpful, easy to follow. Enjoy.
    I heard a rumour that next year they are going to make a charge to go out on the rock itself (which is where the views are to be had). There was some construction work going on so it is plausible. I hope the Sri Lankans do not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

  • Annie Howitt
    Posted at 07:45h, 08 July

    Thank you so much for this amazing step by step guide! The combination of this and the Google map trace someone commented with got me safely and easily to the top. A lot of advice I read said don’t do it alone or without a guide, but with this you don’t need either! Watch out for locals telling you they know a shortcut, just stick to your guns and you’ll be fine!! Thank you again 🙂

  • Petra van de Sande
    Posted at 15:02h, 14 August

    Thank you so much! Thanks to your photos I had the courage to walk it on my own, it was great! The wooden “bridge” on picture 4 is still at the sane spot, I was so happy to see it and made a picture of it, but I can’t put it here in the comment. Again thanks for your work on this, greetings, Petra

  • Mandy Roux
    Posted at 07:54h, 07 December

    Thanks so much for this! Got us there fast 🙂

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 09:10h, 07 December

    No worries at all, thanks for the comment.


  • Gen
    Posted at 05:31h, 19 December

    Very useful! Thank you!
    Our host at « Serenity HomeStay » printed it out and let us go with your guide (it was missing the last two images though but I figured out the way after ending at someone’s house haha!)
    A man tried to scam me just before Kithalella railway but ah! ah! I was well prepared 😉
    I recommend staying at any of the « Good Neighbours » guesthouse. Not only is it a shorter hike but it’s a community programm and the rooms are juste perfect.

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 08:42h, 19 December

    Hey Gen, that’s awesome! Glad you got it figured out and I’ll have to make a printable version!

  • Clarke-Cloke Tours
    Posted at 12:37h, 21 December

    Great directions and photos to ensure we reached the top without our usual short cuts 😉 and also the need for a guide! Thank you.

  • Michaela and George
    Posted at 16:30h, 22 January

    Brilliant! So glad we stumbled across your guide. Quite a few folk were taking the turn before Kinsthella station (guides saying it was shorter) and we beat them to the top and had a quieter more peaceful route. Fresh fruit juice and coconut sellers at the top, a bit weird but can’t knock their entrepreneurial spirit!

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 19:20h, 23 January

    It shouldn’t be a race to the top but… I’m glad you won!

    Don’t forget to check out our guide on Sri Lanka for the places you haven’t visited yet – especially the food recommendations – some absolute winners in there:


  • Kim
    Posted at 06:34h, 14 April

    We did this hike starting from Ella rail station in April 2019. These pictures perfectly describe the route – thank you so much for this! Beautiful hike with great scenery. I highly recommend this if you’re staying in Ella. We did it in 2.5 hours round trip but at a super fast pace (We hike a lot and like to move quick!). This is the best route guide I’ve seen. Enjoy!

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