The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh lies in the heart of the Himalayas nestled between Ladakh one side and Uttarakhand on the other. It’s a land of contrast between the lush and rainy southern portion which encompasses, the districts of Chamba, Kangra, Kullu and Kinnar and the much drier northern region of Lahaul and Spiti which lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas. It’s a fantastic region for trekking with a handful of well trodden routes and numerous peaks between 6000 and 7000 meters. Access is via the hill stations of Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala. Flights from New Delhi can take you to either Manali or Dharamsala and all three are accessible by overnight bus. One of the most amazing treks in the region is Pin Parvati a 10 day journey that traverses the Himalayan Range from south to north and encompasses the full range of environments from arid landscapes and glacial traverses to towering pine forests. Here is a look at what might be the 5 best hikes in Himachal Pradesh.
Pin Parvati is a challenging 10 trek across the Himalayas that covers nearly 100km (60 miles) and tops out at the pass of the same name (17,457 ft / 5319m). The trek offers a handful of challenges ranging from route finding in the dense forests of the Great Himalayan National Park, to challenging river crossings and finally negotiating the snow fields and glacier near the pass. The risk is not without reward as the trekker gets to see two completely different sides of the Himalayas. The Parvati Valley is quite lush and with rich forests while Pin Valley on the other side of the pass is dry, cold and inhospitable, but not without its own beauty. If that’s not enough you can rest and relax at the hot springs of Parvati Kund and if luck is on your side you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard which is occasionally seen in the region. The best time for trekking here due to the heavy snowfalls is between July and September.
Starting near Manali this is a relatively easy trek that can be completed in 2 to 3 days. Given its easy access and proximity to a major domestic tourist destination it can be quite crowded during the peak season in October (the trail itself is passable from June to October). It’s a great hike if you have a limited time in the Himalayas and want to hit the trail. The trailhead at Solang Nala (2480m/8100ft), easily reached by bus or taxi, is a popular meadow for local picnicking about 14km from Manali on a good rood. The trek heads up the Beas River valley offering great views of the surrounding Himalayas. Lush meadows frequented by local shepherds give way to rocks and boulders as you make your way up the river. The trek ends at a small glacial tarn (lake) at the head of the Beas River (3690m/12100ft) where you should be able to find a good campsite and return the following day.
Mount Kinnaur Kailash (6349m) lies in the far northeast section of Himachal Pradesh and should not be confused with Mount Kailash in Tibet. Given its close proximity to Tibet foreign visitors need to obtain an inner-line permit. The best approach to this 9 day trek is from Shimla and then drive onward to Sangla and from their Thangi (best done over 2 days). Just getting to the starting point if a fantastic journey through what is a relatively seldom visited region known for its ancient monasteries and traditional cultures. Charang La (5300m / 17400 ft) is the high point reached after several days trekking. The deep canyons are home to a myriad of orchards and these small strips of green stand in sharp contrast to the surrounding mountain peaks which are dry and arid. The trek is significant as a religious pilgrimage and is known for a large rock formation changes in color with the sunlight and resembles a Shiva Lingam.
This is a relatively easy 5 day trek that starts close to the hill station of Manali and reaches a high point of 3700m/12100ft at the base of the Deo Tibba Glacier. The route takes you through pleaseant green meadows used by the local Gaddi Shepherds. An easy side excursion takes you to Rohtang Pass for stupendous views of the Pir Panjal Range. If you are looking for a trekking option around Manali this is a good choice and slightly longer then the Beas Kund trek mentioned earlier.
This is a pleasant 4 day trek that starts at Ganachalani which is about a 6 hour drive from Manali. The trek passes through some inspiring mountain scenery with views of the Bara Banghal and Pir Panjal ranges. The trail leaving Ganachalani starts with a climb over Chanderkhani Pass (3650m/11972ft) before heading down through pine and oak forests. The highlight of the trek is definitely the remote and isolated village of Malana lying at the base of the giant peaks of Deotibba and Chandrakhani. This ancient village said to the “Athens of the Himalayas” is said to be the world’s oldest democracy which functions through 11 council members. The villagers consider outsiders to be untouchable and looked down upon so its important to stay on the trails and not touch their houses although they are perfectly peaceful.