This diverse, challenging, and immensely beautiful terrain right at the foot of the mighty Himalayas is a paradise for adventure seekers and admirers of nature. Travellers who enjoy exploring the land by foot, camping outdoors and challenge their resilience are bound to find trekking in Uttarakhand a memorable experience. Often referred to Dev Bhoomi as it is dotted with several Hindu temples, the state is also a popular pilgrimage destination. Here are some of its best trails that range from easy through moderate to strenuous in terms of difficulty, offering ample opportunities for both novices and experts to appreciate the settings.
Trekking in Uttarakhand – Easy Trails
1. Valley of Flowers
This pleasant yet exciting journey through the valley of flowers is a visual treat for nature lovers and a boon for avid photographers. The colourful riot of wild foliage in the region also attracts several birds and butterflies, apart from being home to native wildlife species such as the Bharal, Musk Deer and Himalayan bears as well. The foot trail starts from Govindghat, moving up towards Ghangaria and then to Valley of Flowers spread across 20 square km, with a stunning array of flowers, some of them having healing properties as well, before heading back to Ghangaria.
Scaling the summit of Chandrashila proves an enjoyable experience, although negotiating last leg of trail to Tungnath can be demanding. Stunning panoramic views of sprawling meadows, dense forests, avian life, the majestic Nandadevi, Chaukhamba, Trishul and other peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas, local villages, Deoria Tal (lake), and Tungnath temple are highlights of this tour typically starting at Haridwar/Rishikesh, with select parts covered by vehicle. The journey includes trekking to Deoria Lake from Ukhimath and camping at the lake front, before reaching Sari Village, Chopta, trek to Chandrashila peak and Tungnath. Alternate trails starting from Sari village are also active. The settings are bound to vary with the seasons, but nevertheless are indeed captivating.
Serpent Peak, the abode of the Nag Devta (Serpent God) is yet another delightful easy trekking destination most suited for a weekend getaway. Kicking off and ending at different points, the trail interesting does not overlap. Diverse landscapes, dense patches of Oak, Pine, Deodar and Rhododendron, lush meadows, interspersed with quaint villages, excellent views of mountain ranges, specially Swargarohini, Black Peak and Bandar Poonch (Monkey’s Tail) and that of the Doon Valley, and camping out under the stars are but few highlights of this trek. The tour starts from Dehradun, drive through Mussoorie, Pantwari, trek to Nag Tibba Base Camp, summiting Nag Tibba and return to Camp, trek to Devalsari and Thatyur, before a drive back to Dehradun. Alternate trail via Pantwari is also popular.
4. Kuari Pass
Suitable for novice trekkers, yet not that simple, Kuari Pass trek offers exciting opportunities to walk on narrow trails, explore thickly forested areas populated with Bamboo, Pine and Oak that abound with rare wildlife and flora, revel in stunning visuals of snow clad NandaDevi, Dronagiri, Kedarnath, Hathi-Ghori Parvat and other peaks of the Gharwal ranges, and appreciate the beauty of Dhauli Ganga, Kali Ganga and Mandakini rivers en-route. Also known as the Curson Trail, the route runs from Chefna through Ghuni, Semkherk and Pana to Dhakwani, leading right across Kuari Pass to Tali and then to Pangerchuli peak if possible. The last leg of the trek is from Tali to Auli(the ski hub of India), from where travellers are driven back to Joshimath/Rishikesh/Haridwar. The alternate Dhak-Chithrkantha-Tali-Khullar-Kuari Pass-Tali-Auli-Joshimath trail is also active.
5. Dayara Bugyal
The extremely picturesque and relaxing trek to Dayara Bugyal is ideal for family outings. Sprawling meadows of Dayara bounded by verdant hillocks and snow capped mountains at a distance, clear waters of Barnala Lake reflecting the scenic settings, dense Oak forests giving way to grasslands that feed herds of sheep, pristine terrain dotted with water bodies and quaint hamlets are some of visuals that welcome visitors. The foot trail begins at Barsu, running uphill to Barnala Bugyal via forested terrain before reaching Dayara Bugyal, a popular skiing destination during winters. An extended trek to Dodital is also possible. Retracing the route back to Barsu, trekkers can then drive back to Uttarkashi / Haridwar.
Alternately the trail from Dayara Bugyal, across a mountain ridge to Syari Bugyal, to Surya Top and Uchlaru Top offers panoramic visuals of several Himalayan peaks like Gangotri, Draupadi Ka Danda, Bandar Poonch and Jaonli. A walk back along the ridge to Syari Bugyal and Barsu completes the journey on foot.
6. Kedar Kantha
The easy and pleasant trek to Mount Kedarkantha runs through the Govind Wildlife Sanctuary enabling tourists to soak in the pristine settings of the sanctuary and revel in the enchanting atmosphere of the magical lake Juda ka Talab, as they traverse the beautiful terrain. A drive from Dehradun brings trekkers to Sankri from where the foot trail leads to Juda Ka Talab via several bridges,densely forested areas and further across scenic meadows dotted with shepherd hamlets to Kedarkantha Base, from where different trails lead up to Kedarkantha peak and back. Impressive panoramic views and a small temple at the peak are a delight. The return trail downhill runs through Hargaon and Sankri. Bandarpoonch, Ranglana, Swargarohini and Kala Nag are few prominent peaks visible on this trek.
7. Har Ki Dun
A trek to this scenic valley of Har Ki Dun treats travellers with beautiful sights of surrounding mountains, colourful verdant landscape, dense forests interspersed with rivulets, open fields, rare flora such as Bhojpatra and Bramhakamal, Tons Glacier, Ruinsara Tal and much more! The trail from Sankri runs past Taluka, across Rupin river to Osla, before reaching Har Ki Dun. The easy trek allows ample opportunities to revel in the beauty of the settings.
Yet another scenic and relaxing weekend trek, a tour to the peaceful town of Binsar can last anywhere between 2 and 6 days depending on the chosen trail and stopovers. The actual foot trail crosses through Binsar Sanctuary, forests of Oak, Pine, Rhodendron and Deodar interspersed with small rivulets and open fields, with stunning views of Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba and Trishuli from Zero Point among others. Visit to historical temple complex at Jageshwar is an integral part of this trek. The 2-day short tour starts from Kathgodam through Binsar Sanctuary to Dhaulchina and Jageshwar, with parts of journey on vehicle. The longer trail involves trekking from Pauri through Thalisain and Piersain to Binsar and Geirsain. Trekkers are driven from and to Rishikesh as a part of this 6-7 day trek.
Trekking in Uttarakhand – Moderately Challenging Treks
9. Gaumukh – Tapovan
Impressive visuals of tall craggy mountains and ravines, peaks of Gangotri and Bhagirathi, the spectacular Gangotri Glacier feeding the Ganges/Bhagirathi via Gaumukh, a snout like source from which springs the holy waters of the river, dense clusters of Birch and Pine along the trail, Blue mountain goats or Bharals in their home ground, vast meadows and sparkling streams greet visitors on this journey. Tricky glacier crossings and rock climbing on precarious and deceptive terrain are but a few excitements on this trail from Gangotri, through Chirbasa, Bhojbasa, and Gaumukh, steep climb to Tapovan, across Gangotri glacier to Nandanvan before heading back to Bhojbasa and Gangotri. Trekkers are driven from and to Uttarkashi for this tour.
10. Nanda Devi East and Milam Glacier
One of the best treks in the Kumaon region of Gharwals, this tour, rewards trekkers with stunning views of Mounts Trishul (over 7000m), Rishi Pahar and Hardeol. A drive brings trekkers to the scenic village of Munsyari and further to Selapani, the starting point of the foot trail. The route then leads uphill to Lilam, Bugdiar, Railkot, and the desolate village of Ghanghar, before reaching the Nanda Devi East base camp. Retracing the trail back to Ghanghar, trekkers are then led to the Milam village and view point of Milam Glacier before trekking back along the same trail to Munsyari. Deep gorges, rock faces covered with forests, waterfalls, rivers, meadows and slippery ice-covered terrain are key aspects of this trek.
Trekking to Roopkund Lake, where several corpses are buried in and around the waters is indeed an eerie experience. The delightful trail however passes across the Neelganga river, thickly forested regions, and lush meadows adorned by rare flowers. The shallow Roopkund hardly 2 meters deep thaws just for a couple of weeks during the month of September revealing preserved skeletons with flesh that lie on the lake floor. It is only the challenge of the trek, mysterious setting and captivating views of Himalayan peaks Trishul, Bandar Poonch, Chaukhambha and others that draw trekkers here. The long scenic uphill trek begins from the village of Wan, through Bedni Bugyal and Bagubassa before reaching Roopkund.
12. Pindari Glacier
Enveloped by tall mountains, Rhodendron forests that abound with avian life, and remote villages, this frozen river of ice perched between Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot quite transports visitors to a surreal setting replete with picture postcard visuals from Zero Point. The trek starts off from Loharkhet, through the villages of Dhakuri, Khati, Dwali and Phurkia, before reaching the Zero Point at Pindari Glacier that offers spectacular views of the entire surroundings. Walking back along the same trail, trekkers get to Loharkhet. The otherwise smooth trail does throw up some occasional challenges to add a tad of excitement.
13. Panchachuli Base Camp
The trek to Panchachuli Glacier in Kumaon region of Himalayas is a spectacular feast for the eye. Blessed with natural abundance such as lush meadows, forests, waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and colourful flowers, the scenic surroundings are indeed a delight. With the Dhauli Ganga for company along the trail, panoramic views meadows and forests giving way to distant glaciers in the backdrop of Panchachuli peaks are but a few highlights of this trek via picturesque and remote Darma Valley bordering Nepal and Tibet. The trek starts from Dharchula, passing through Dhar, Urthing and Nagling, Baaling and Son before reaching the Panchachuli Base Camp and re-tracing the trail back to Dharchula.
14. Bagini Glacier
This river of ice at over 14,000 feet above the sea, originating from Changabang, Trishuli peaks and feeding the Bagini River is yet another picture postcard destination that makes for an exciting trek. Starting from the village of Jumma, the trail includes an easy walk to Ruing, followed by a steady ascent to Chaza, and then to Dronagiri before reaching Bagini Base Camp via Longatulli. Walking back along the trail trekkers return to Jumma and Joshimath. Impressive views of Hathi Ghori Parvat, Rishi Pahar, Hardeul and Satminal and the landscape dotted with sparkling streams, rivers, lakes, rocky terrain, tall snow-clad peaks, challenging ridges, thick forests, green meadows, captivating flowers that scent the gentle breeze, rustic villages are but few highlights of this trek.
This trail to Pangarchulli/Pangarchulla peak on the Kuari Khal ridge traces a relatively shorter route to Kuari Pass via Auli and Tali. Descending from Kuari Pass to Khulara the trail climbs to Pangerchulli peak, on summiting which, trekkers are treated to impressive panoramic visuals of snow-clad Himalayan peaks Nilkanth, Dunagiri, Kamet, Changabang and Nanda Devi. Descending to Tapovan in the shadows of impressive peaks of Shivling and Bhagirathi, trekkers then drive back to Pipalkoti and Rishikesh. Tricky terrain, a mix of rocky earth, meadow, forest, ridge plus great views are highlights of this trek.
A trek to the Glacial Lake Satopanth is slightly challenging as it offers no real shelter but for the natural caves en-route. Surrounded by tall mountain peaks Swargarohini, Chaukhamba, Satopanth, Balakun and Neelkanth covered in snow, the waters of this triangular lake also perfectly reflect Chaukhamba peak. The trail runs from Mana through the natural Bheem Bridge (one huge boulder) to Vasudhara, Laxmi Van (forest) before reaching Santopath. The return trek along the same trail includes a sight of Vasudhara falls.
17. Rupin Pass
A delightful yet moderately demanding trek to Rupin Pass leads through a picturesque less explored terrain dotted with pretty hamlets, Rhododendron forests, meadows, waterfalls and native flora and wildlife. Parts of the trail are likely to be slippery! With the base camp at Dhaula, the trail runs through Sewa to Jhaka village and Buras Kandi to Lower waterfall/Dhanderas Thatch, then on to Upper waterfall/Rati Pheri, Ronti Gad, Sangla Kanda across Rupin Pass to end in Sangla. Impressive views of Rupin river and the Kinnaur Kailash Mountain Range add to the spectacle.
18. Kafni Glacier
Nestled in the lap of Nanda Kot, this impressive glacier feeds the Kafni River, and is a popular trekking destination in the Kumaon region. The trek commences from Song through Loharkhet, to Khati, Phurkia, Zero Point (Sighting of Pindari Glacier), and then to Dwali, before a long climb to Kafni Glacier and return to Dwali. The return trail winds down to Dhakuri (lush meadow bound by verdant valleys of Sundardunga and Pindari) before reaching Song. Captivating natural settings of the trail and surrounding landscape are delightful.
19. Bali Pass
Linking the Har Ki Dun, Ruinsara valleys and Yamuna valley, the Bali Pass trail traverses remote, serene yet beautiful landscape offering brilliant views of Bandarpoonch, Swargarohini and Kalanag, and flora and wildlife of the Govind National Park. Parts of the trek are bound to be challenging! Starting from Sankri, the trail passes through Taluka, Osla, via Har Ki Dun and Debshu Bugyal to Ruinsara Tal, then across demanding terrain to Bali Udiyari, climbing uphill to Bali Pass before descending to Yamunotri, Janakichatti and ending at Hanumanchatti.
20. Shivling Base Camp (B.C)
With great religious and mythological significance attached to Mt. Shivling, this trek is quite popular among those who follow Hinduism/worship Shiva as most sites, rivers and glaciers find a mention in religious literature. The two-summit mountain is easy to access. After acclimatization at Gangotri, the trail starts from Bhojbasa, through Chirbasa, Gaumukh, and Tapovan (Shivling B.C), including visits to Kirti Bamak and Meru Glaciers, leading to Nandanvan via Gaumukh Glacier. Trips to Gangotri Glacier and and Vasukital along Chaturangi Glacier are made from Nandanvan before the final downhill trek to Bhojbasa and Gangotri. Mounts Bhagirathi, Shivling, Kedardome, Meru, Satopanth, and Vasuki form the backdrop of the trail at different points.
Trekking in Uttarakhand – Strenuous Tours
21. Nanda Devi Sanctuary
A priceless piece of nature, enclosed by a wall of imposing peaks, the Nanda Devi Sanctuary is home to source of the Rishi Ganga river, vast meadows, cascading waters, verdant forests, an array of rare flora and wildlife native to this habitat. This UNESCO heritage site and Indian Bioreserve is a challenging terrain for trekkers, who are however rewarded with exclusive visuals. Peaks Ronti, Nanda Ghunti, Bethartoli, Nanda Devi, and Hanuman are usually visible on this trek. The journey begins from Lata Village, past the Lata Kharak plateau, a steep ascent to Bagfyana Pass via Jhandi Dhar, through the Satkul Gorge to Dharansi Pass, negotiating a couple of ridges to reach Debrugheta and back, before reaching Hitoli Camp Site after traversing heavily forested terrain comprising Fir, Rhododendron and other trees. Alternate routes are active as well.
22. Bamsaru Khal
An offbeat challenging trail across the Bamsaru pass is believed to be an ancient path between Gangotri and Yamunotri. The region is rarely traversed and there are few established trails that are active. One trail runs from Kharsali Village, via Sunapra Top to Sangasu, further through Binthach and Bamsaru Tal to Gidara Bugyal via Bamsaru Khal(Pass), and Siara Bugyal ending at Borsu village. Excellent views of snow clad mountains, flower-filled meadows, clusters of Oak, Rhododendron and Bhopatra, and native wildlife are the rewards of this strenuous trek!
23. Auden’s Col
Known to be one of the toughest treks in the Garwhal, a trip through Auden’s Col high-altitude pass is on every professional trekker’s itinerary. Auden’s Col connects the ridges of Gangotri III and Jogin I, binding the two glaciers Khatling and Rudugaira on either side as well. Commencing at Gangotri and ending at Kedarnath, the trail runs uphill through forested terrain to Nala Camp, and Rudragaira Base camp before traversing moraine and challenging landscape to reach the Gangotri base camp offering unparalleled views of the three Gangotri Peaks. Moving across difficult terrain the trail reaches Auden’s Col base camp, running on to Khatling Glacier, and downhill to Zero Point/Waterfall Camp, past Chowki, Masar Tal and Vasuki Tal lakes, to reach Kedarnath Temple and Gaurikund. Technical skills and gear are a must to tackle the challenges on this trail.
Yet another high-altitude, thrilling and demanding trail for fit and seasoned trekkers, the expedition to Kalindikhal proves a deeply moving experience as one gets to walk the beautiful yet desolate terrain with mountain peaks, gushing waters, meadows and spiritual edifices for company. Starting from Gangotri, the trail leads to Bhojbasa, and Nandanvan, across Gangotri Glacier and alongside Chaturangi Glacier to Vasuki Tal, and further to Suralya Bamak aka Khara Pathar before reaching Sweta Glacier at the base of Kalindikhal. The trail further leads to Kalindi Pass, Raja Parav, Arwatal, Ghastoli and Mana to conclude at Badrinath on the banks of river Alaknanda, with impressive views of peaks Nar, Narayana and Neelkanth. Key sightings include Gaumukh, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda valleys, and the peaks of Shivling, Sudarshan, and Bhagirathi among others.
25. Khatling Glacier
The source of River Bhilangna, the Khatling Glacier, right next to Gangotri is located in extremely picturesque settings dotted with pretty hamlets, vast meadows and dense forests, with tall water-falls along the trail. Crossing the waters on precarious log bridges add to the thrill! Notable are the peaks in the background of the glacier – Meru, Kirti Stambh, Jogin peaks, Barte Kanta and the white quartz peak aka Sphetic Prishtwan! The foot trail starts from Malla, through Sillachhan, Kushkalyani, Kyarki Khal, Kyarki Bugyal, Parital, Sahasratal, Kalyani, Kharsoli and Tambakund, from where 3 Km trek leads to Khatling Glacier. Returning to Tambakund, the trek further winds through Masar Tal and Vasuki Tal to Kedarnath and Gaurikund from where trekkers are driven back to Rudraprayag. Alternate trails again are active.
These are few compelling treks in Uttarakhand region. Trekkers are usually driven to and from the nearest motorable point as a part of most trekking tours. In some cases several parts of the tour are motorable as well.