Often called the “Land of the Gods” the Indian state of Uttarakhand lies just west of Nepal and is the geographic center of the greater Himalayas. Hindus have long made pilgrimages to the source of the Ganga which starts from the Gangotri Glacier glaciers high in the Himalayas. Home to Nanda Devi (7,816 m / 25,643 ft) the second tallest peak in India as well as a host of other 7000m+ peaks Uttarakhand is a fantastic destination for trekkers.
Known as the Garhwal Himalayas it is further divided into the western Garhwal division and eastern Kumaon division. Daily flights can be taken to Dehradun from Delhi but it still a few days of travel to get into the mountains via rugged mountains. The small town of Rishikesh along the banks of the Ganges and at the base of the Himalayas can make a good resting point for those on their way into the mountains. The best trekking season is between April and Early June and then again during October and November. Here is a look at some of the best treks in the region.
Gomukh Tapovan or Gangotri Glacier Trek :
This is a short 4 or 5 day trek from Gangotri to the Gangotri Glacier, one of the largest in the Indian Himalayas and the source of the Ganges River. It is a popular trek and often made as a religious pilgrimage. Gomukh literally means cows snout and refers to the origin of the Ganges River where it flows from the end of the glacier. One enjoys fantastic views of Mt. Shivling and the Bhagirathi peaks. Mount Shivling 6,543 m / 21,467 ft who’s name refers to the sacred symbol of Lord Shiva while not particularly tall by Himalayan standards is exceptionally beautiful and was often referred as the “Matterhorn” by Europeans who first trekked the region. An extra 3 or 4 days can be easily added for hiking around the Tapovan (meadow) to the different peaks and up the glacier.
Deorital & Chandershila Trek
If you only have a limited amount of time this short 4 day trek starting from Rishikesh is a great option. It’s a little longer than a half day drive to the trailhead at Sari village. It’s an easy 45 min hike to Deorital Lake which offers great views and fantastic camping. The second day takes you to Chopta and then on to the summit of Chandershila which offers fantastic views of Chaukhamba 7000m+ in the distance. The entire hike has fantastic views of the Himalayas and the high point at Chandershila is 4000m so the trek poses no acclimatization issues. If you go in April expect the hills to be colored pink from the blooming Rhododendrons.
Valley of Flowers Trek
This 4 or 5 day trek brings you to the most famous area for wildflowers in the Himalaya and unlike the other treks mentioned is best done during the monsoon when the flowers are in full bloom. Trekkers should expect plenty of rain and prepare accordingly. Fortunately the beauty of the flowers make up for it and one can stay in one of the lodges at Ghangria in order to stay out of the rain at night and get dry. The trek starts from Govind Ghat and it’s the first day is spent hiking to the small village of Ghangria.
This picturesque 6 day trek takes one to the “haunted” lake of Roopkund (4450m / 14600ft) which is known for the human skeletons that can be seen in the lake. Local legend has it that the lake contains the ancient remains of several hundred people. Asides from the mystery surrounding the lake it’s a beautiful trek. The trail starts in the dense oak and rhododendrons forests before emerging above treeline where trekkers can get magnificent views of the giant peaks of Trishul, Nanda Ghunti and Badrinath.
Towering waterfalls, fantastic views and flower laden meadows ensure that this is one trek that will leave everyone happy. The trail starts from the small village of Dhaula 1560m/5400ft and over the course of 6 days climbs to Rupin Pass at 4650m/15250ft an impressive altitude gain of nearly 10,000 feet. On the way to the pass the trail passes through the small village of Jakha where people follow the path of Satsang which is a pathway to inner truth.
This trek is the only trek mentioned that heads into the Kumaon part of the Garhwal Himalayas. It’s a spectacular trek through a wild region that offers incredible views of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Nanda Kot some of the tallest peaks in this part of the Himalaya. It’s a six day trek along the banks of the Pindari River to the glacier. The trekking is only moderately difficult and locals hold the trek in high accord.
This popular 5 day trek sets out from the small village of Uttarkashi and takes one to the beautiful lake of Dodital (3,024 m / 9,921 ft) and the view point at Darwa Top (4150m). The low elevations make the trek possible throughout the year with the exception of the monsoon period from June to August. The lake is famous for its Golden Trout which can easily be seen in the crystal clear water and is set against a forest of Oak and Rhododendron trees which blossom in April. Views from Darwa Top take in the Bandarpunch and Swargarohini ranges.