Trekking in Himachal does prove a refreshing experience as the diverse terrain comprising snow clad mountains in the lap of the Himalayas, lively valleys and the lush verdant meadows and further south offer delightful scenic escapes from concrete cityscapes. The region has quite a few tough treks for thrill seekers, moderately demanding trails for regular trekkers as well as easily navigable routes for just about any fit traveller eager to explore the terrain on foot. It is however important to note that winter treks are definitely no cakewalks, even on flat terrain. Here are some of the best treks in Himachal worth a try!
Trekking in Himachal – Effortless Trails for Beginners
This trek to Beas Kund glacial lake, the origin of River Beas is an easy trip that showcases the rich natural beauty of Himachal – valleys, meadows, snow-clad peaks, and the Beas glacier. The foot trail starts from scenic Solang Nallah (Valley), running through Dhundi, ascending to Bakarthach before reaching Beas Kund. Sightings of Seven Sisters and Hanuman Tibba peaks from Dhundi, add a tad of excitement for novice trekkers.
A relatively fast and easy trek to this high-altitude glacial lake (14,000 feet) set amidst vast alpine meadows rising above the tree line is a rewarding trip, every step of the way. Steep yet manageable ascents tackled in just a couple of days, is the specialty of this trail running from Gulaba village through Gulaba meadows and Rola Kholi to the spectacular Bhrigu Lake. Snow covered Pir Panjal, coniferous forests at a distance, changing hues of the sparkling waters, spectacular visuals of a star studded night sky when you camp overnight, plus the sights of Deo Tibba, Seven Sisters and Hanuman Tibba are sure memorable. A steep descent to Pandu Ropa and further to the hot springs at Vashist, complete the trek. Alternatively retracing the trail back to Gulaba saves up on time, while being kind on the feet as well!
This quick day trek to Dainkund peak is ideal for those who are on a family holiday as well. The trek is also combined with a longer trip to Khajjiar Lake. The foot trail begins from Alha village and runs through forested terrain opening out on to a ridge (1.5 Km) that leads to Dainkund view point, from where an easy downhill walk brings travellers to a well-paved car park for a drive back to Dalhousie or the next leg of their journey. The trail is popular for some impressive views en-route and from Dainkund. Parts of the trail running between the ridge and Air Force Base at Dainkund peak add an element of challenge and need extra attention. The Pholani Devi Temple here draws locals regularly.
A trek to this last active village en-route to the Pin valley can prove challenging or easy depending on the chosen trail. The journey kicks off from Barshaini through Tosh, winding through scenic landscapes to reach Kheer Ganga, where trekkers are welcomed by the hot springs at Parvati Kund. The trail via Rudra Nag proves demanding but is a photographer’s delight; however the longer route via Kalga is easier. The mighty river Parvati roaring in the background, path snaking through off-beat terrain, the serene, scenic settings of hospitable Kheer Ganga, a small Shiva temple and stress busting hot waters are indeed a treat to sore eyes and limbs!
This beaten path, though a regular shepherd’s trail leading to pastures in Lahaul and Upper Ravi region, winds through rough terrain strewn with rocks and boulders and includes steep ascents at times. Running from Kangra valley, Dharamsala to Chamba, across dense forests, vast meadows, rugged tracks – the trek offers impressive views of the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges, a glimpse of the holy Mani Mahesh Kailash peak, sprawling lush plains of Himachal as well as native plant and animal species. The journey begins with a trek to Triund, via Dharamkot, uphill through forested area to Laka Got and Lahesh Cave, ascending further to reach Indrahar Pass, running through meadows back to Chatru Parao and Kuarsi, before a downhill trek along agricultural land to Machetar and a drive back to Chamba.
Trekking in Himachal – Moderate Trails for Regulars
The trail to Kareri Lake proves an exciting journey in many ways – verdant forests interspersed with sparkling streams with wooden bridges, vast pastures, transparent lake and its spectacular lake bed, native flora and fauna and more. As this lake is fed by thawing snow from the Dhauladhar range and drained by the stream Nyund, the waters are shallow, fresh and crystal clear. Starting from Dharamsala aka Mcleodganj, the trail passes through forested terrain and quaint hamlets to Kareri village, further via dense vegetation, climbing up alongside the Kareri Nallah and crossing it multiple times before reaching Kareri Lake, from where the trail snakes down to Bagga, Rewa, Galu Temple, and Triund before heading back to Dharamsala via Dharamkot.
Chandratal – Baralacha
The crescent shaped lake set amidst picturesque surroundings is indeed a rewarding sight after a tiring climb through dense forests, lush meadows, with impressive glaciers, small rivulets, seasonal flowers and native wildlife adding to the scenic beauty of the path. A couple of acclimatization treks typically precede the actual 18 Km trail running from Batal to Chandratal, further to Tokpo Gongma and Tokpo Yongma before heading to Baralacha, one of the highest motorable passes in the world. A short trek from Baralacha leads to yet another high-altitude lake Suraj Tal. Return trip is usually a drive back to Manali. Impressive sights of peaks Mulkila, Tara Pahar, Minar and others located in the Lahaul range are visible for most parts of the trek.
Trekking to Deo Tibba Base Camp (B.C)is both thrilling and delightful as the trail offers a chance to observe nature at its best – snow covered peaks, sparkling waters – lakes, rivulets, waterfalls and the River Ravi, dense forests, sprawling meadows, captivating flowers, divine glaciers, remote villages local wildlife as well as the dry desolate terrain of Lahaul from Rohtang Pass. The trail commences from Khanol through Seri to Tainta, climbing uphill to Chandratal (mini) at the Base of Deo Tibba before returning to Khanol along the same path. Views of Tainta waterfalls, Indrasan and Deo Tibba peaks prove quite rewarding. An alternative trail reaches Chikka via Panduropa and Setan continuing further via Marhi, Piyangniru, Raurikhaudi, Jogidugh, Tilgam and down to Bhanara offering great views of Bhara Bhangal, Beas Kund and Manali valley regions as well as Deo Tibba and other peaks.
The journey to Hampta Pass is a mix of spectacular views and moderately challenging track. Mountain peaks, pristine glaciers, remarkably contrasting lush Kullu-Manali valley and the barren yet beautiful terrain of Lahaul, forests, rivers, streams, exotic birds and colourful seasonal flowers are indeed a visual treat. There are different trails leading to Hampta Pass, invariably passing through Chikka and to Balu ka Ghera. A 5-day trek from Jobra, via Chikka to Balu ka Ghera and Siagoru, across the Hampta pass and to Hampta village, before descending to Siagoru and Chatru is a great way to observe the Dhauladhar ranges, Pir Panjal, River Rani, Valleys of Hampta, Lahaul, Kullu and explore high-altitude terrain.
This trek Kullu valley aka Valley of Gods enables adventurists to better appreciate the natural bounty of this terrain and its culture and legends as well. Majestic peaks of Pin Parvati, Pir Panjal and Deo Tibba, Bara Bhangal and Tosh valley, Malana Dam, forests of Pine, Cedar and Rhododendrons, rapid rivers, lush meadows, traditional villages and temples are but a few sights along the way. Flagged off from Naggar, the trail winds past Rumsu, Ganachalani, uphill across forests and meadows to Celanti before hitting the ridge of Chandrakhani Pass, descending to the Nagarvani meadow and across Malana river to Dadru and further along the river to Malana village. From Malana a verdant downhill trail leads to Jari, from where a drive brings trekkers back to Manali. A shorter Rumsu-Naya Tapru-Chandrakhani trek is also possible.
A trek to Jalori pass proves a cherishable experience for those who love to appreciate nature in a calm, serene setting. Rocky foot trail running amidst forests with occasional glimpses of the sky, colourful array of flowers, native wildlife, rare birds, lakes, rustic homes of locals, and temples of mythological significance make this journey a special one. Starting from Sahiropa in Sainj National Park, Kullu valley, the trail gently climbs up to Bhihari, Baghi, and Jhibhi, via Ghyaghi to reach Shoja. The trail from Shoja leads trekkers across the Jalori Pass to Khanag, through the sacred lake Sarau Sar and Beem towads Tarala. Ascending further the path runs through Kullu Sarahan and Arsu to reach the last stop at Rampur. Chehni Kothi, Shringa Rishi temple and the Sherkhand Mountain are but a few highlights of this trek.
Trekking in Himachal – Arduous Trails for the Seasoned
The expedition to Charang valley in Kinnaur, close to the Tibet border is indeed a dream come true for trekking enthusiasts. With strictly regulated entry, this almost forbidden terrain is home to Rivers Spiti and Sutlej, as well as the majestic Dauladhar, Zanskar and Greater Himalayan ranges with Kinnaur Kailash, a significant landmark. The pedestrian trail starts at Thangi, ascending towards Lambar and Charang, up the valley to Lalanti, downhill to Chenab River, climbing up again to rest at Bindrabani. The trip ideally includes a drive to and from the foot trail which involves steep ascents and descents.
Also known as the Sar (Lake) Pass trek, this wonderfully scenic trail in Pin Parvati valley leads trekkers through fruit orchards, streams and rivers, valleys, and forests set against the backdrop of snow capped mountains. With sparkling waters and chirpy birds for company and well-preserved temples of yester years dotting the terrain, the trail runs from Raoli through Sach and Kilar, descending steeply to banks of the Chenab banks and ascending further to Bindrabani,Duna Sarai Bagutu,and Satrundi, before steeply climbing again to reach Sach Pass and back to Satrundi. The last leg of the trail runs from Satrundi to Traila via Alwas.
Cloaked eternally in snow, the towering Friendship Peak in Pir Panjal is a popular trekking destination that is easily accessible. The trek however demands high levels of fitness and use of equipment at select parts. The trail from Solang leads to Bakarthach and to Friendship Peak B.C after adequate acclimatization. The next leg of the trek leads to an Advanced B.C from where trekkers will attempt to summit Friendship Peak, before re-tracing the path back to the Advanced B.C, Bakarthach and Solang. Alternatively the trail from Solang to Friendship Peak via Beas Kund and Dhundhi is also active.
Pin Parvati Pass
One of demanding treks in Himachal, the trek leads from Parvati Valley to Pin Valley across this high-altitude pass that connects Kullu and Spiti. Starting from Manikaran the trail runs along Barsheni and Khirganga, climbing steeply through forests and meadows to Tunda Bhuj, continuing through water-fed terrain to Thakur Kuan, from where another steep ascent leads to Odi Thach meadow. The trail then winds uphill to Mantalai Lake, revealing the Mantalai Glacier and the single-stone Pandu Bridge across River Parvati. The ascending path from Mantalai runs to Pin Parvati Pass B.C from where a sharp upward climb leads to the Pin Parvati Pass, offering spectacular visuals of both Kullu and Spiti regions from the top. From the Pass, the trail runs down along the Pin River, through the Pin Valley National park (home to snow leopard, Ibex and other rare fauna), Tiai, and Mud before finally reaching Gulling, the end point of the trek. Seasoned trekkers are bound to be challenged by punishing terrain, steep trails, extreme temperatures and fluctuating weather but get to revel in the settings invariably comprising stretches of mountain ranges, flower-filled meadows, forests, temples and monasteries, glaciers and native wildlife.
Yet another arduous trek, the journey to the remote and pristine village of Bara Bangal, demands technical prowess and strong will to brave the inhospitable travel/camping conditions – narrow ridges, moraine, slippery icy terrain and more! As usual the spectacular visuals of Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal, dense verdant patches, gushing rivulets, icy terrain, and glaciers are indeed rewarding, and the challenge a welcome one for thrill seekers. The expedition sets off from Hidimba Temple in Manali, ascending through forested terrain to Lama Dugh, revealing Bara Shigri glacier, Deo Tibba, Indrasan peaks, winding past Rani Sui, across the Manali Pass down to Taintagiri Glacier, across Taintagiri Nullah to Phulan Got, following the River Ravi, past Karu Glacier to Koari Got Spring, descending further along the river to reach Bara Bhangal. The return trail from Bara Bhangal ascends to Balu Got and runs across Tainu Pass to Beas Kund before descending to Solang, the end point of the trek.
Kinnaur Kailash has special significance to both Buddhists and Hindus. The 79 feet tall ‘Shivling’ form, symbolizing Lord Shiva is the highlight of the trek, which runs from Tangling on the banks of River Sutlej through scenic orchards, hamlets, streams, meadows, tunnels and rocky terrain, proving quite a challenge to tackle. Tangling itself can be reached via a swing bridge at Powari! A trail from Tangling ascends steeply towards Kailash Dwar, continuing via Bara Pathar and Bara Ped (end of tree cover) to reach Darshan Park. The path from Darshan Park via Bheem Dwar winds uphill towards Parvati Kund, followed by a sharp climb to reach the ‘Shivling’. The route is demanding and trekkers must carry adequate supplies of water as water sources along the trail are limited. The Charang valley trail also offers exceptional views of Kinnaur Kailash.
The high-altitude trek to Bhabha Pass opens up vast scenic vistas comprising tall peaks, river-fed valleys, meadows, natural bridges, seasonal flora and the barren landscape of Spiti. Starting off from Kafnu in Kinnaur’s Bhabha Valley the trail runs past Mulling and Kara to reach Phustirang, before ascending through snow laden terrain to reach Bhabha Pass. The return trek runs through Baldar, Mudh, Kaza, and Chandra Tal to Kunzum La pass, back to Chandra Tal and finally to Manali. Fruit orchards, river crossings, sightings of different peaks including the Hansbeshan, and several mountain passes are highlights of this trail. Alternate trails are active
Tracing the ‘Gaddi’ or shepherd’s trail from Kullu to Kangra valley calls for exceptional agility, high levels of physical strength and the mental tenacity to negotiate punishing and dangerous terrain and travel along remote and silent routes with just spectacular vistas for company- open skies, mountain ranges, forests, cattle farms, rustic villages, lively streams, lakes mirroring the scene above the ground and colourful meadows – the beauty of Himachal is indeed an integral part of all treks in the region! This trail starting from Manali runs through Lamadugh, ascending steeply to Dohra Nalla and across Khanpari Pass, to Sangohar at the base of Kalihani, before tracing a sharp uphill climb to reach Kalihani Pass (4800 m) and descends gradually to Gaddi Gote. The trek then continues past Devi Gote, along the Soony River to Lamba Phad and towards Bara Bhangal, again rising steeply to reach the Thamsar Pass, heading to Panihartu, descending to Raj Gundha and further downhill to Bir, ending in Dharamsala. This long journey involves trekking through narrow, steep trails, moraines, slippery icy surfaces and crude frail bridges, and requires trekkers to also get well-acclimatized to the settings.
An excellent yet demanding journey to Rohtang pass unveils the majesty of the snow-clad peaks, caressed by crisp mountain breeze. Spine-chilling temperatures, perilious slippery paths and muddy roads winding through desolate landscape, and the enchanting views make this trek special. Sitting between Lahaul & Spiti and Kullu-Manali, the pass is accessible only during limited times of a year. The trail starts from Manali, running past Goshal and Burua to Solang Nalla, continuing through Palchan, Kothi and Rahala to reach Marhi, the base camp from where Rohtang Pass is scaled. Return trip follows the same trail back to Marhi and Kothi before reaching Manali. Traversing the Rahni Nallah and other steep gradients en-route prove quite a challenge. Road blocks, landslides and rough weather are common hurdles that trekkers need to be well-prepared for. Sights of the Rahala waterfalls, the Ghepan Goh peak, Chandra and Bhaga rivers and the cold desert Lahaul & Spiti valley are quite rewarding.
Himachal trekking is definitely not limited to these trails. Tour operators offer a great selection of treks, many of which are usually customized to suit specific requirements. All trekking expeditions are a treat to the eye and a shutterbug’s delight, however the extensive acclimatization and technical prowess required for tough treks are bound to limit your choice; but it is always possible to drive to some of these trekking destinations to experience the thrill of high-altitude travel and beauty of the landscape.