Mawphlang David Scott Trail – A Shillong Trek in East Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya, India

East Khasi Hills - Meghalaya - Salam Travellers

The Mawphlang David Scott Trail is a historic hiking trail located in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, India. Winding through lush forests and local villages, the 20 km trail follows the route taken by David Scott, a British officer, between Cherrapunji and Bangladesh in the early 1800s. 

Originally built as a pony trail for trade and transport between India and Bangladesh, today the David Scott Trail Trek serves as a popular activity among many adventurous things to do in Meghalaya. The moderately difficult trail takes hikers from the village of Mawphlang up to the high-altitude plateau of Umshyrpi, traversing refreshing waterfalls, verdant woods, and spectacular valley views along the way. The village of Mawphlang is easily reachable from Shillong main town area, attracting nature lovers and trekkers from around the world.

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The Trailhead at Mawphlang

Mawphalang River - David Scott Trail - Salam Travellers

Mawphlang is a quaint village in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. Known for its natural beauty and pine forests, it serves as the starting point for the David Scott Trail Trek. 

To reach the trailhead, drive from Shillong to Mawphlang village, which takes around 1.5 hours, covering nearly 25km. The village is located off the Shillong-Dawki highway. Follow the signboards directing towards Mawphlang and drive until you reach the village center.

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At the trailhead, you’ll find a small arch welcoming hikers. The initial part of the trail starts amidst the pine trees behind the arch. There are no major facilities available here, so it’s recommended to stock up on food, water, and other supplies in Shillong before beginning the trek. 

The area near the trailhead offers picturesque views of the surrounding forests and valleys. You may see some locals farming or children playing. The starting point has an easy gradient and passes through dense pine groves. This allows you to get a feel for the trail before the ascent begins.

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First Section of the Trail

A Hanging Bridge - Mawphlang David Scott Trail - Salam Travellers

The first section of the Mawphlang David Scott Trail winds through lush forests and farmland. This part of the trail is relatively flat and easy, making it a nice warm-up for the more challenging sections ahead. 

As you start from Mawphlang, you’ll pass by local farms growing betel nuts, pineapples, and other crops. The trail is wide and well-defined in sections, allowing you to admire the natural scenery. Dramatic limestone cliffs tower above, blanketed in moss and lush vegetation.

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After about 2 km, you’ll cross a wooden bridge over a small river. This makes for a lovely photo spot. Watch out for the birds and other wildlife that live in this area. 

Around the 3 km mark, the trail narrows in parts, and you’ll start gaining elevation. Some of the of the steeper sections require scrambling over rocks and tree roots. Take care with your footing and use trekking poles if needed.

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Second Section of the Trail 

A Bridge - Mawphlang David Scott Trail - Salam Travellers

The second section of the Mawphlang David Scott Trail, from around the 5 km to 10 km mark, takes you deeper into the lush forests and rolling hills of the Khasi Hills. This section has some of the most spectacular scenery but also requires navigating some steep and rocky terrain.

The trail remains relatively narrow, surrounded on both sides by tall pine trees, bamboo groves, and lush ferns. You’ll cross several small streams over makeshift log bridges, which can be slippery. Look out for the huge boulders covered in bright green moss – they make for great photo spots! 

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As you climb higher in elevation, you’ll get some amazing valley views through the trees. One particularly stunning vista point around the 8 km mark overlooks a valley with multiple streams cascading down the hillside. 

Third Section of the Trail

The third section of the Mawphlang David Scott Trail, from 10 km to 15 km, takes hikers into the heart of the Sacred Forest. This is considered one of the most scenic yet challenging parts of the hike. 

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And what is the story of the Mawphlang Sacred Forest?

Mawphlang Sacred Forest - Salam Travellers

The Mawphlang sacred forest holds a rich history intertwined with the Khasi people and their veneration for the land. According to local lore, the forest was originally home to the Blah community. A woman, believed to possess supernatural gifts, refused to become a leader unless a divine sign was granted. She planted saplings in the forest, and their survival for three years was considered a sign. Her son subsequently became the leader.

The forest remains sacred to the Khasi tribe, who believe the deity Labasa resides there. Sacrifices are performed to keep Labasa appeased. The presence of monoliths scattered throughout the forest further strengthens its spiritual significance.


And now we continue the third section of the Mawphlang David Scott Trail.

Mawphlang Sacred Grove - Salam Travellers

From here, the terrain becomes quite steep and rocky as you climb higher into the mountains. Lush green ferns and moss cover the ground, with towering pine trees all around. You’ll need to watch your footing carefully, as the path narrows and becomes slippery in parts.

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One of the highlights of this section is the breathtaking waterfall that cascades down the mountainside. Take time to pause and enjoy the serene natural beauty. Just past the waterfall is an old wooden bridge suspended over a gorge, which offers stunning valley views. 

This 5 km stretch is rated as difficult, with steep inclines, uneven steps, and high altitude. Pace yourself slowly and take breaks when needed. Make sure to carry plenty of water and snacks to refuel. Trekking poles are highly recommended for added stability. 

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Final Section and Arrival at Umshyrpi

The last 5 kms of the Mawphlang David Scott Trail take you through the final stretch of dense forest before emerging at Umshyrpi village. This section has some of the steepest ascents and descents on the entire trail, with a few tricky sections that require using your hands to scramble over rocks or downed trees.

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As you near Umshyrpi, the terrain levels out into a gentle downhill path. Emerge from the forest to be rewarded with your first glimpse of the quaint village of Umshyrpi in the valley below. Soak in the views of the rolling green hills surrounding the settlement. 

Descend carefully along the eroded steps and slopes. The trail can be slippery here, especially during monsoon season. Use trekking poles or trees to steady yourself.

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Once you arrive at the outskirts of the village, you have completed the Mawphlang David Scott Trail! Reward your efforts with a cold drink or snack before exploring tiny Umshyrpi village. You can arrange transportation back to Cherrapunji from here.

When to hike the Mawphlang David Scott Trail

Siat Khnam festival Mawphlang - Salam Travellers

The best time to hike the David Scott Trail is during the cooler, dry months between October and March. This avoids the monsoon rains and extreme heat during other parts of the year. 

October through December offers pleasant daytime temperatures around 70–80 °F (20–25 °C), along with mostly sunny skies. January and February can be a bit chillier in the mornings and evenings. By March, temperatures start warming up, but rainfall is still minimal.

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Avoid the steamy summer months between April and September if possible. Not only is the heat intense, with highs above 90F/32C, but heavy downpours are frequent, making the trail muddy and slippery. 

While the David Scott Trail can be hiked year-round, some key events to note are:

  • The Siat Khnam festival, held in April or May, marks the Phek New Year with cultural performances and rituals along the trail. 
  • Monsoon rains peak in July/August, so trails will be wettest and most prone to landslides then.
  • December/January can occasionally see snow flurries at the highest elevations of the trail, adding extra challenge.

Checking the local Mawphlang weather before setting out is highly recommended. Carrying extra warm layers and being prepared for rain, even during the dry season, is also wise. With proper precautions, the David Scott Trail offers scenic hiking no matter what time of year you visit.

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Travel Tips and Recommendations

The David Scott Trail passes through remote areas, so planning and preparation are key to having a safe and enjoyable hike. Here are some tips for your trip:

Where to Stay

There are a few accommodation options near the trailheads in Mawphlang and Umshyrpi. In Mawphlang, consider staying at Ri Kynjai Resort or one of the local homestays. In Umshyrpi, options include the Umshyrpi Tourist Lodge and village homestays. Make reservations for lodging well in advance, particularly during busy times of the year.

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Guides and Equipment Rentals 

Unless you are an experienced trekker, hiring a local guide is highly recommended for the David Scott Trail Trek. Guides can arrange for porters to carry your gear and ensure you stick to the route. In Mawphlang, tour operators like Meghalaya Adventure Tours offer guiding services and gear rentals. Make arrangements before your trip. Bring proper hiking shoes, rain gear, first aid or medication, snacks, and plenty of water.

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Health and Safety

The Mawphlang David Scott Trail traverses steep, slippery terrain with some exposed cliffs and drop-offs. Exercise caution at all times, and do not stray from the main path. Leeches may be present during the rainy season – wear closed shoes and socks, and tuck pants into socks. As this is a remote hike, carry a first aid kit and tell someone your planned itinerary. There is no mobile reception, so consider renting a satellite device for emergencies. Start early and aim to finish before sunset.

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Why hike the Mawphlang David Scott Trail?

The Mawphlang David Scott Trail is one of the most rewarding treks in Meghalaya and offers unique highlights you won’t find anywhere else. Here are some of the key reasons why this trail is so special:

  • Stunning natural scenery, from dense forests to lush meadows to cascading waterfalls. The landscape is pristine and untouched.
  • The cultural glimpse into traditional Khasi villages along the route. You’ll get a window into indigenous culture.
  • The challenging yet achievable hiking distance. At 16 kilometers total, it’s demanding but preferable for fit hikers.
  • The sense of accomplishment upon completing the legendary hike. You’ll earn some serious bragging rights after finishing this famous trail.
  • The solitude and serenity found on the trail. With limited crowds, you can enjoy the peaceful tranquility of nature.
  • The sweeping panoramic views from high vantage points. You’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping lookouts along the way.
  • The rich biodiversity, from exotic orchids to unusual pitcher plants. It’s a nature lover’s paradise.
  • The chance to tread where few have gone before on a historic trail. David Scott was a British explorer who charted parts of these ancient footpaths in the early 1800s. 

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If you’re looking for amazing scenery, cultural immersion, and a sense of adventure, the Mawphlang David Scott Trail delivers an incredibly rewarding trekking experience. The stunning natural beauty and heritage of this trail make it a true standout.

Stay tuned for more adventure guides from Salam Travellers.

Hassan Tariq Malik

Hassan Tariq Malik is a highly skilled Freelance SEO Consultant, specializing in Technical SEO, Digital PR, Rebranding, and Content Marketing. With a deep understanding of search engine optimization, Hassan develops effective strategies to support business development and increase conversion rates, ultimately leading to greater profitability for his clients.

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