Ella Rock is one of the must-sees in Ella, a place which is becoming increasingly touristy and even brands itself as a 'tourist town' (check out the signboards at the junction!). Offering panoramic views of the Ella Gap and Little Adam's Peak, the hike is an arduous upward climb and you're guaranteed to lose yourselves among tea estates, hills, and tall shrubs if you're without a guide.
Sunrises over mountains (especially the ones in Ella) are nothing short of stunning: so we recommend a super early start to your day. Many people begin the hike from the Ella Railway Station, but you'd save about half an hour or more if you begin it at the Kithal-Ella Station, which you'll be passing regardless of where you start. It'll cost you a bit to get there (around 800 bucks from the Passara Road), especially as you'll have to arrange for a tuk to pick you up at around 3:30am — but it's a steep uphill ride and will take you close to half an hour to get there in the pitch dark, and with hairpin curves. Unless you've got a vehicle of your own sorted this is pretty much your only choice.
The Locals will give you very definite directions on how to get there and what routes to not take ("Turn left from the railway track, down past the bo-gaha, pass the stream, bamboo shoots, and turn right. Follow the path all the way and turn left from the tea estate, and then turn right at the end of the estate. Finally, turn left at the hatharamang-handiya." Please note: this isn't something we made up, it's literally word to word instructions of the directions we got).
You will almost certainly get lost if you're there without a guide — we did, too, as did several of our friends who made the journey before us. But keep going, check squiggly, hand-drawn maps, and you'll get there. We found this on Google Images, and it sort of helped.
Note that we went completely off track even with this map, yet found similar landmarks (except the 'high grass' we came across were over 7ft high, as opposed to the 1ft high ones which this map refers to), so we encouraged ourselves and found our way to the summit (eventually). We also learnt that there are 16 alternate routes to get there.
We discovered one of the longer and harder routes, but given that it was deserted because of that, the undisturbed scenery and views were amazing. We did mention there's a rather exhausting uphill climb, yes?
The climb is arduous and quite hard but the views at the top, as usual, are worth it. Once you finish your vertical climb, you reach a sort of plateau sprinkled with eucalyptus trees.
Walk through this and you'll be at the edge.
There are a few trees photobombing the view especially the lone pine tree which you can pick out from Ella town, making Ella rock easily identifiable, but it's alright. The rock perches right at the edge, but it's quite comfortable and spacious so you can stretch out and enjoy the view.
This is much much easier, especially when you notice the well-beaten path and follow it down. Plus, by this time, there'd be plenty of other people around as well, so you don't really get lost. It takes an average of four hours in total, if you don't get lost along the way (we got delayed by 20 minutes because of running around in circles in that maze of a tea estate).
There's an infinity-fall/ natural pool. Great for photo ops.
You'll reach the Kital-ella station pretty soon, after this, and then follow the railtrack from the Kital-ella to Ella which is about 2kms, if I remember correctly. It's tiring, mostly because you've had an already long day, but not impossibly hard.
And that's all there is to it. Enjoy!