Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers
This trail is within the Knuckles Conservation Forest, so a permit or permission from the forest department is required.
The Knuckles Conservation Forest was added to UNESCO's Natural World Heritage list in 2010 as part of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. It has diverse climate zones, including cloud forest at higher altitudes, and very rich biodiversity. The Dawatagala Trail, or Knuckles 5 Peaks Trail, climbs 600 meters (2000 feet) past a variety of landscapes, flora, and fauna up and across the 5 peaks that give the range its name. Although often covered in fog and cloud, the peaks offer beautiful views over Sri Lanka and are not heavily trafficked. About 300 meters from the trailhead there is an option to visit, and shower in Knuckles Falls.
There are a few important things to know. This a protected tropical mountain wilderness with a variety of fragile ecosystems, so a permit from the forest department is required to enter the park. No services are offered in the park, and bringing water and leech protection is highly recommended.
Need to Know
This is a hike in a tropical mountain wilderness and no services are available at the trailhead or on the path. It is possible to get water from the streams in the first part of the ascent, but is best to bring any needed water along. Clouds, fog, and rain should be expected. Starting at sunrise may be the best option to avoid afternoon storms. Leeches are everywhere, so leech protection is advised. Coating shoes and socks with DEET seems to work well. Leech socks, salt and Dettol are also commonly used.
The trailhead can be reached with an off-road capable vehicle with some ground clearance. Pavement ends just past the Cargills Kist Knuckles Water Plant, and the dirt road is rocky, muddy, narrow and rough from there.
A short hike in from the trailhead and just after the first stream crossing, there is a branch of the trail leading off to the right to the bottom of Knuckles falls. This is a highly recommended short detour only about 20 meters off the main trail. After about 1.7 km, the trail passes a circle of stumps surrounded by logs, that serves as a rest stop. Between 2.7 and 3 km, there is a trail crossing. The left path continues upward toward the peak, and this is the steepest part of the trail.
The trail to the peaks is well maintained and clear up to the highest peak, Peak 2, but is less well maintained, narrow and overgrown after that point. While many people take time and do the hike over two days, camping on one of the peaks, the trail can be done from the trailhead across all 5 peaks and back in 5 hours, including breaks for views and snacks. The elevation gain is about 600 meters, or 2000 feet. Weather can often be foggy, cloudy, and rainy. It is probably best to start early at sunrise to avoid afternoon storms. Leech protection (leech socks and/or deet spray) is recommended.
Flora & Fauna
The Knuckles Conservation Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to an estimated 1033 plant species of which 15% are endemic, 128 Bird species of which 17 are endemic, 31 mammal species, 20 amphibians and 53 different reptile species including the leaf nosed lizard which is also endemic to this range.
History & Background
The Knuckles Conservation Forest was added to UNESCO's Natural World Heritage list in 2010 as part of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. The Mountain Range is called the Knuckles because it looks like the knuckles of a fist if viewed from the right angle. However, the area is locally known as Dumbara Kanduvetiya, or Mist-laden Mountain Range.
Shared By: David Wiberg