The hiking trails of Himachal Pradesh are considered one of the best in India. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, with lush green meadows, pine forests, waterfalls, streams, rivers, lakes, rugged mountains and snowy peaks, all mesmerising trekkers as they try to reach higher elevations. By Manas Sen Gupta
If one looks at the Himachal Pradesh trekking map, there is actually no dearth of trails in the state. Many of them are interconnected. While some are easy to explore, others can be taken up only by experienced trekkers. Imagine walking over a glacier! That’s part of one of the treks.
While the easy ones can be enriching weekend treks, the tough treks can be equally exciting if one has the time. Many prefer going in groups, which is advantageous, but solo treks, especially of the easy ones, is possible in Himachal Pradesh because locals are always very helpful and warm to travellers.
All treks are best explored in the spring and summer seasons. The monsoons are the riskiest and autumn through winter extremely cold. Whichever trail you choose to take, the guarantee is a sight of nature in a glory unmatched.
Hiking trails of Himachal Pradesh and treks you should explore
Hampta Pass Trek
One of the longest treks on the Himachal Pradesh trekking map, the Hampta Pass trek rewards those who cross it with views from two worlds — one green and the other arid.
The pass is a narrow stretch in the Pir Panjal range at around 4,298 metres. It is known for combining two valleys, one of Kullu and the other of Lahaul-Spiti. While the Kullu valley is resplendent with flowers and vegetation, the Lahaul-Spiti section looks like a cold desert.
Trekkers begin from the Kullu side and have to walk six days to cover a distance of some 35 kilometres to the end at the Spiti side. While the flowers of the Kullu valley are indeed beautiful, the Chandra Taal lake in Lahaul is breathtaking amidst the ruggedness of the region.
Since there are two strikingly different landscapes to explore, trekkers can choose their time to undertake the Hampta Pass Trek. Those who are more interested in snow can visit between June and July when the cold is not too hard. For greenery lovers, the ideal time will be July to October coinciding with the spring season.
Beas Kund Trek
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This beautiful Beas Kund trek begins just about 15 kilometres from Manali and winds its way through dense deodar forests onto vast open grasslands under the shadow of snow-covered peaks.
Trekkers will be treated to some of the finest views of the region. There are the lush greens of Dhundhi and Bakarthach on which to rest and camp. The sight of the majestic Hanuman Tibba, Friendship Peak, Ladakhi and Shitidhar can make anyone forget their fatigue.
But the highlight of the trek — and the reason why it is named so — is the River Beas and the lake bearing the same name. Climbers go all the way to the source of the mighty river, on which the lives of multitudes in the lower regions of Himachal and Punjab is dependent.
River Beas originates from the Beas Kund, which is at a height of around 3,800 metres and believed by practising Hindus to be the place where sage Ved Vyas, the composer of the epic Mahabharata, used to bathe.
The trek is relatively easy and can be completed in just about six hours.
Friendship Peak Trek
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The Friendship Peak trek is for the well-experienced trekkers and avid mountaineers. While the peak is visible to those who opt for the Beas Kund trek, it is another thing to scale the mountain itself.
Friendship Peak is one of the major peaks on the Pir Panjal ranges. Its neighbours are the peaks of Hanuman Tibba, Indrasan, Deo Tibba, and Priyadarshani. The 34-kilometre Friendship Peak trek, therefore, requires mountaineering skills.
Friendship Peak has a height of 5,289 metres. Meadows give way to blankets of snow as trekkers move up the mountainous terrain. The weather is unpredictable in the region, which adds to the difficulty of the trek. There are glacial streams and icy rocks which can be both a challenge and a sight to watch.
The best time to visit is summer through autumn. Expect snowy landscape between May and June, which then transforms into a rocky terrain till October as the snow melts away.
Kareri Lake Trek
Kareri Lake trek is about 27 kilometres long, which means that it can be completed in about two or three days with ample rest and easy walks. It is among the busier treks of Himachal Pradesh and is, therefore, dotted with campers and stalls selling food items along the stretch.
Hikers will pass through dense forests of pine and oak trees. There are rocks covered in vegetation along the trail and flowerbeds beside pasture lands, all of which make the area appear almost like a green wonderland depicted in high-fantasy movies. Flowers of a wide variety add to the ethereal beauty of the trail.
As for the lake, it is located at a height of about 2,950 metres. The freshwater lake in the Dhauladhar range is the source of the Nyund stream, which flows along the trail itself. Kareri Lake trek is Instagram perfect from any point because of the greenery and the presence of a wide variety of birds. The best time to do the Kareri Lake trek is the spring season.
Bhrigu Lake Trek
Between the months of July and September, the trail that takes trekking enthusiasts to the Bhrigu Lake wears a green carpet of varying shades. It looks so enchanting that those who undertake the four-day trek might feel they are walking amidst the meadows of Switzerland.
There is hardly another trek with such alluring beauty as the Bhrigu Lake trek. The peaks of the Pir Panjal range, such as Deo Tibba, Indrasan, and Hanuman Tibba, tower over the surroundings like sentinels draped in white guarding the pristine beauty of the Bhrigu Lake.
The glacial lake at 4,268 metres itself is an attraction to behold. It is believed that the lake changes colour every season. And even if this may not be entirely true, the reflection of the snow-capped peaks on the bluish-green waters of the lake is certainly photogenic.
Bhrigu Lake trek is about 26 kilometres long, so it can be done by beginners as well.
Indrahar Pass Trek
The Indradhar Pass trek begins at a height of around 2,800 metres and reaches 4,425 metres at its end. The tail technically begins at McLeodganj and can stretch for four days for easy-going hikers.
On the way Triund, Laka Glacier, and Lahesh caves serve as pit stops. The trail passes through vibrant meadows, rocky outcrops and flowers of a wide variety.
At Indradhar Pass, which divides the districts of Kangra and Chamba, trekkers are rewarded with sights of the magnificent Dhauladhar range. It is also possible to see the lakes Kareri and Mankiani along with tiny villages from the highest point of the trail.
Tosh Valley Trek
Tosh is one of the most famous hiking trails of Himachal Pradesh, attracting many who are just getting a hang of the trekking experience. Tosh is the name of the village at the heart of the trail. It serves as the end of the Parvati Valley and is the gateway to the breathtakingly beautiful but rugged Pin Parvati Pass.
The easy trek passes next to the Tosh river, a tiny stream which goes on to join the Parvati river. The entire stretch is dotted with tiny hamlets and covered under the green canopy of the coniferous forest.
The Tosh Valley Trek starts at Barshaini, which is not very far from Kasol. It takes around five hours to complete the trek. Trekkers can camp but for an even more leisurely feel, booking a homestay at Tosh is also possible.
Sar Pass Trek
Depending on the skill of the trekker, Sar Pass Trek in Parvati valley can be challenging or easy. It takes about five days to cover an approximate distance of 50 kilometres.
The trek starts at Kasol, an extremely famous tourist destination in the state. It winds its way through Grahan, Nagaru, and Biskeri Thach before ending at Barshaini.
Sar Pass, which lends its name to the trek, is located between Nagaru and Biskeri Thach. It is actually the name of a lake, which is usually frozen throughout the year. Terrain changes by the day and transforms from lush green vistas to snowy rocks as Sar Pass nears. Being a famous hiking trail, Sar Pass has enough camps and guest houses along the way.
For those who can do a steep climb, Kheerganga in Parvati Valley is an excellent trekking destination. Like Tosh, the trek starts at Barshaini.
There are in fact two trails that lead to the heights of Kheerganga — one passes through a hamlet of Rudranag while the other passes through Kalga. The Rudranag route is more challenging but is also more rewarding.
Along the Rudranag trail are several small streams and waterfalls winding down from the mountains. The majestic Parvati river can be seen flowing with a powerful force towards the end of the trail, which is about 13 kilometres one way and can be covered in a day.
There are no meadows along the trail till Kheerganga but conifers are all around. Along the way are quaint villages, with Rudranag serving as the last hamlet before the final ascent. The terrain can get extremely treacherous as one moves towards Kheerganga. There are narrow ledges at places, the flowing river down below. The rugged trail can be muddy and slippery.
But once the green open meadow of Kheerganga is reached, trekkers should directly head for the star attraction — the hot spring known as Parvati kund at the highest point. Bathing in the warm waters surrounded by mountains covered in snow is an unforgettable experience.
The best season to trek is spring. Summers can be also exciting but expect rain at any time of the day.
Pin Parvati Pass Trek
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There is a reason why Pin Parvati Pass Trek is considered one of the most difficult treks of the country. Besides the fact that the trail is almost completely icy, trekkers have to walk a day or two on a glacier.
At its height, the trek has an altitude of 5,320 metres. It takes about 10-11 days to cover the distance of 110 kilometres. The pass is named as it links Spiti’s Pin Valley to Kullu’s Parvati Valley. Being a long trek, the landscape changes dramatically. There are greener pastures at its lower elevations and barren rocky landscape at heights.
Between the Pin Valley camp and Wichkurung Thatch is the famous Pin Valley National Park. This is where trekkers can, if they really get lucky, see the ‘ghost of the mountains’ — the snow leopard.
The trek can be started at Barshaini, with the first day following the trail of the Kheerganga Trek. It then moves beyond Kheerganga away from the civilisation towards Thunda Bhuj, Thakur Kuan, Odi Thach, Mantalai lake and then the first base camp. The glacier is crossed between the first and the second base camp, which is on the Pin Valley side. The trek ends at the village of Mud.