The hiking trails in Uttrakhand are loved by adventure junkies for their challenging terrains and avid photographers who admire enchanting landscapes. Not just that, spiritual seekers undertake the arduous journey to sacred places, like Gangotri, to find peace, too. By Moyena Parikh
The best part of trekking in Uttarakhand is that many of the trails are interconnected and can be undertaken by novice as well as seasoned trekkers. For thrill-seekers, the area also offers glaciers, such as Kafini, Namik, Pindari, Bander Punch and Doonagiri, that can be hiked. Additionally, the rich flora and fauna in the lush forests of this beautiful northern state will leave nature lovers spellbound. You definitely cannot miss these hiking trails in Uttarakhand.
Uttarakhand is home to some of the most magnificent peaks, including India’s second-highest mountain Nanda Devi, Kamet, Abi Gamin, Mana Peak, Hardeol, Chaukhamba and Trishul I. The best time to trek in the state is between April to June, October and November.
A look at some of the best trekking routes that’ll introduce you to natural wonders in Uttarakhand
Bali Pass Trek
If you want to witness the magnificence of a Himalayan pass crossing, the Bali Pass Trek is meant for you. The pass connects the Har Ki Dun Valley with Yamunotri while passing through the confluence of rivers Tons and Ruinsara. It further traverses through the Ruinsara Valley and the green expanses of Devsu Thach.
Situated at the famous Govind Wildlife Sanctuary, trekkers get to witness the pleasing lush meadows, trees and wildlife. This ascends to the breathtaking alpine zone — a 360-degree panoramic view of the Bandarpoonch, Kalanag and Swargarohini peaks at an altitude of about 5,000 metres. It starts in Sankri and ends at Janki Chatti.
However, this tempting trek is meant for seasoned trekkers and can be undertaken pre- or post-monsoon season to get the best views of the enchanting journey which also includes Yamunotri temple which is the origin of Yamuna river.
If you plan your trek between mid-April and June, you can witness snow in higher regions of the pass. But if you prefer drier, rockier winter treks, then September to mid-November are the best months to visit. The total distance of the entire trek route is 61 kilometres that can be covered in eight days.
Satopanth Lake Trek
At an altitude of 4,600 metres, Satopanth Lake is hidden in the Garhwal Himalayan range. Located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, the triangular lake is surrounded by Mount Chaukhamba, Mount Neelkantha, Mount Swargarohini and Mount Balakun.
It holds a great religious significance and is said to be the place where Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva bathed and meditated on auspicious days.
Covering a total distance of about 22 kilometres, the Satopanth Tal trekking trail begins and ends at Badrinath, which is at an altitude of 3,301 metres. The best time to visit the trek is between June to Mid-October. This moderately difficult trek takes about five to six days to complete.
The Satopanth Lake Trek is among the popular ones in Uttarakhand, as trekkers witness unobstructed views of the majestic Mount Neelkanth, the major peak in the Garhwal region. Once here, sit by the crystal-clear evergreen lake and relax to the sounds of the cascading Vasundhara Falls and the melodies of rare varieties of birds.
Rupin Pass Trek
Trekking in Uttarakhand is incomplete without experiencing the Rupin Pass Trek. Beginning at an elevation of 4,650 metres at Dhaula in Uttarakhand, the trek ends in Sangla in Himachal Pradesh, delighting trekkers with soaring waterfalls, exotic flower-laden pastures and stunning scenery of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks.
The Rupin Pass Trek is an eight-day thrilling experience for adventure seekers, which includes crossing hamlets and snowy patches to get to the Rupin Pass. What makes this trek rewarding is the ultimate, breathtaking view of the Kinner Kailash range after the hike.
It is rated as a moderate-difficult trek, which takes you through dense forests of fir, rhododendron and oak trees, Jhaka — the hanging village, the Dhanteras Valley that boasts glacial waterfalls and the two-storey Kinnaur Temple at Sewa.
The Rupin Pass Trek covers an approximate distance of 41 kilometres. The best time to visit is during the peak summer months of May to June and post-monsoon months from September to October.
The Chopta village offers breathtaking views of snowfall and ice-capped mountains, making it one of the most popular treks in Uttarakhand, especially during winters.
The delightful hill station in the Garhwal Himalayas is covered with evergreen forests and alpine meadows. A part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, the route begins at Ukhimath and will take you along the Deoria Tal to reach Chandrashila, which is lined with maple and rhododendron trees. If you are visiting in March and April, the trail will seem like it’s been set on fire because of the red and pink rhododendron flowers. You might also spot parts of the Kedar dome and peaks of Chaukhamba.
The ‘Moon Rock’, or Chandrashila, mountain peak houses one of the highest Shiva temples in the world, Tunganath. At an elevation of 4,000 metres, you can witness the mesmerising views of Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba mountains from the Chandrashila summit. You then trek back to Chopta to return home. It can take five days to cover the trek.
The trekking route stretches to five kilometres and is ideal for beginners. You can undertake this trek any time of the year, except during the peak winter months of December and January, as the area is covered with snow.
Pindari Glacier Trek
Graded moderate in trekking difficulty, the Pindari Glacier Trek is one of the popular trekking places in the upper Kumaon Himalayas of Uttarakhand.
It spans from Nanda Devi to the Nanda Kot peaks and is dotted with magnificent glaciers, gushing rivers and waterfalls, colourful flora, lush and forests along the path. The trek starts and ends at Khati village.
Famed as the ‘Soul of Kumaon’ by the locals, this glacier trek is situated at an altitude of 3,860 metres above sea level. Trekkers also get to experience the rich local culture in the quaint towns of Almora and Bageshwar.
It is voted as one of the most amazing locations for avid photographers, nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. While trekkers can plan their trails from April to November, the trek can be completed in ten days. The distance of the entire trek is 64 kilometres and can be completed in seven days.
It is also close to Kafni Glacier, another popular trekking site that can be undertaken by both experienced trekkers and novices.
The Roopkund Trek is famous for its glacier lake, which is locally known as ‘Mystery and Skeleton Lake’. It gets its name from the human skeletons from the Paleolithic age that can be seen at the bottom of the lake when the snow melts.
At an altitude of 5,029 metres, this trek begins and ends at Lohajung and has challenging terrain that runs along the Bedni Bugyal grasslands and offers stunning views of snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Other highlights of this trail include large expanses of alpine meadows, experiencing the rich pahari culture of the villages in the area, and visiting Bhagwabasa and Bedni Kund.
The uphill climb has a difficulty level of moderate to challenging, which makes it ideal for experienced trekkers. The best time to plan the trek is during summer — from April to June — and the entire trek of 38 kilometres can be completed in about nine days.
Dayara Bugyal Trek
The Dayara Bugyal Trek is an amazing 29-kilometres-long route in Uttarakhand at an elevation of 3,048 metres above sea level. It starts and ends at Natin village and takes trekkers through lush green meadows and fragrant forests. Trekkers can even enjoy skiing during winter.
You will also find the alpine forests of Dayara along the trekking route. Other highlights of the trek are the Bhagirathi Peaks, Bandarpoonch Peak and Black Peak, among other snow-capped mountains.
The Dayara Bugyal Trek ends at Dodital Lake, which is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Ganesha. The lake is surrounded by thick jungles of pine, oak and deodar.
The entire trek of 9 kilometres can be covered in ten days by both beginners and seasoned trekkers, given the moderate level of its trekking difficulty. The trekking route is best explored between mid-March and mid-November.
Gaumukh Tapovan Trek
The Gaumukh Tapovan Trek is known to have one of the best high-altitude grasslands in all of India, making it a fantastic hiking trail in Uttarakhand. It is situated at an altitude of 3,048 metres above sea level.
Trekkers can witness stunning flora and fauna along the way. The sights dominating the landscape include Mount Shivling and the Bhagirathi sisters, making the uphill climb worth the effort.
The Gaumukh Trek is 46 kilometres long and passes through the Greater Himalayas situated in the Gangotri National Park. The route starts and ends at the pilgrimage site of Gangotri and can be hiked over six to eight days.
It is considered to be one of the most pleasing trekking routes in Uttarakhand, despite having a moderate to difficult trekking level, which is attributed to the terrain and harsh weather.
There are two seasons suitable for this trek — summer (from mid-May to the end of June) and autumn (from mid-September to the end of October).
Har ki Dun Trek
The Har ki Dun Trek is one of the easy trekking places in the Garhwal region. At a height of 3,566 metres, this trek boasts a vast variety of flora and fauna, guaranteeing a glorious sight to behold.
The place is also tied to religious sentiments, as Har ki Doon is a mountain from where the Pandavas are believed to have ascended to heaven.
The cradle-shaped Tons Valley is enveloped with highlands and dense woodlands. Other attractions along the trail include the Swargarohini and Jaundhar glaciers, where you can sight the rare species of Bhojpatra and Brahmakamal trees. You also cannot miss Kala Nag (Black Peak), Bandarpoonch, and the majestic Swargarohini Peaks.
The trek begins and ends at Sankri near Dehradun and stretches to 44 kilometres. It can be covered in about eight days.
The best time to take up the Har ki Dun Trek is either pre-monsoon to witness the mountain birds or post-monsoon.
One of the challenging treks in Uttarakhand, the Kedartal Trek rewards trekkers with beautiful views of glacial lakes, stunning peaks and sightings of rare and indigenous animals such as the haral (blue sheep), goral and the Himalayan black bear.
It spans over 50 kilometres that starts from and ends at Gangotri and passes through Kedarnath and Bhoj Kharak. The Kedartal Trek is a difficult one and is meant for those who have experienced Himalayan treks before.
However, this is a trek that you can embark on with your loved ones, especially if you are looking for an adrenaline kick or tranquility. It should take about seven days to hike to Kedartal, starting from Dehradun.
At an altitude of 4,912 metres, you also get to witness the soothing meadows of the Garhwal Himalayas and the popular Birgupanth and the Thalay Sagar mountains. To get the most of this trekking in Uttarakhand, you can visit it in summer or between September to October.
Related: Your Complete Guide To Uttarakhand’s Unexplored Gem, Harsil
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