Along with Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh ranks at the top of India's premium destination for Himalayan trekking. The tall snowy peaks, wooded forests, glacial lakes, flowering meadows are best discovered on foot and whether you're a beginner or have traversed the most challenging slopes, this state has something for everyone. This is our list of Top 10 treks in Himachal Pradesh for beginners. Please note that though they are marked Easy-Moderate on the grade scale, there might be certain, albeit small, parts on the route which is difficult. For information on beginner's treks, read One Step at a Time: 5 Himalayan Treks for Beginners.
This short day-trek starts from McLeodganj and covers 9 km on well-defined trails to reach the top of Triund Hill. You can choose from any of the routes that branch off from Rawa, Dal Lake, Dharamkot and Bhagsu as they all converge at Galu Devta (2130 m). There is a small temple and a few guest houses and teashops. From here, the trail winds up over a forested ridge that overlooks Dharamshala and the lush Kangra valleys. In May-June, the rhododendrons splash the trail with dollops of crimson. You will cross a mountain stream, beyond which the gradual climb steepens abruptly and runs through a clump of trees to the top of Triund Hill. The area has a rich birdlife. You can also spot animals like monals, black bears, leopards, pigs and wild goats. Spectacular views of the Dhauladhars with peaks like Mun, Slab, Riflehorn and Arthur's Seat can be had from here.
Highest Altitude: 2975 m
Trekking distance: 9 km one way
Best Season: March (if you want snow), August & October
En route to Triund Hill
Kareri Lake is an elliptical glacial lake located high in the Dhauladhar Ranges and it's perfect as a long weekend destination. The trek starts from McLeodganj, through thick woods and pasturelands; we reach the Dal Lake- a lovely lake surrounded by deodar and rhododendrons forests- and offer prayers at the temple. An annual fair is held during the Hindu month of Bhadon (August/September). From here, we trek onwards to Satobheri, through a forest, and across a wooden bridge over the Gaj River to reach Ghera. Alternately, you can drive to Ghera. A steep ascent from Ghera will bring you to Kareri Village. Kareri Lake is another 13 km south-east from the village. The trail climbs abruptly to a hillock where there is Kali temple, then drops to Gaddi Got and follows a steep climb along Kareri nala. In April and early May, there are multiple glacial formations along the stream. Two kilometres before Kareri Lake, there is a dry lake, Sati Kund. Kareri Lake is the base for treks to the Minkiani and Bleni Passes.
Duration: 2N/3D (if you drive to Ghera)
Highest Altitude: 3200 m
Trekking distance: 18 km (if you drive to Ghera) one way
Best Season: June & September-October
Stream crossing towards Kareri Lake
Located towards the east of the Rohtang Pass, Bhrigu Lake dazzles a brilliant blue under clear summer skies. The lake derives its name from the famous saint Bhrigu, one of the Saptarishis, who is said to have meditated by the lake as he wrote the Bhrigu Samhita. The trek starts from Gulaba, a 22 km drive from Manali. The trail runs through thick forests of silver oak, cedar and birch trees and opens out now and then onto grasslands dissected by rivulets. In the background stand the tall peaks of Hanuman Tibba and the Seven Sister peaks in the Beas Kund Valley. We will cross the milky white Kolang Nala and proceed towards Rola Kholi at the base of Bhrigu Lake, which sits in-between two high altitude ridges. It is frozen in winter. On clear days, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar rangers. The descent will bring you to the rice fields of Panduropa in the Vashist Valley and further down along steep, slippery slopes to Vashist from where you can drive to Manali.
Duration: 2N/3D (if you drive to Ghera)
Highest Altitude: 4270 m
Trekking distance: 29 km
Best Season: Mid-May until November, except the monsoon
One of the ideal short treks near Manali, the Beas Kund Trek brings you to the source of the Beas River. You start trekking from Dhundi, an 8 km drive from the Solang Valley. The 8.8 km Rohtang Tunnel is being constructed here. Follow the well-trodden trail to Bakar Thach, a gorgeous wild flower covered meadow with the Beas River raging nearby. Behind you rises the majestic Indrasen and Deo Tibba peaks. In summer, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali sets up its training camp here. The flat meadows eventually give way to boulder fields and moraines and you have to take the steep trail along the river's left bank and onto a ridge. The way is well marked by cairns. As you near the Beas Kund Valley, the barren landscape turns into a maze of rivulets and waterfalls but the lake remains elusive until you are directly upon it. Rishi Vyas, the author of the Mahabharata, is said to have taken a daily dip in these pristine blue waters. In the distance, the Pir Panjals dazzle in the sun. In winter, most of the trail is under snow.
Highest Altitude: 3690 m
Trekking distance: 6 km one way
Best Season: Mid-May till mid October
Malana is famous as one of the oldest democracies in the world as it is notorious for the Malana cream, one of the best marijuana in the world. The village has a unique architecture and language and its judicial and administrative systems is one of a kind. The Malanese consider themselves descendants of Alexander the Great's army. If any outsider touches anything here, the people or buildings, they have to pay a hefty fine for purification rituals. Malana can be reached over the Chanderkhani Pass. A 21 km drive from Manali will bring you Naggar from where the actual trek begins. Make sure you visit the Roerich art gallery before starting on your ascent to Rumsu and onwards to Nauya Tapru at the base of the Chanderkhani Pass. Enroute you will be mesmerised at the bird's eye views of the Beas Valley right up to Manali. The vegetation changes rapidly from shorn bhojpatra trees to dwarf rhododendrons to a thin layer of brown grass. A steep incline from here leads to the Chanderkhani Pass beyond which the snow capped peaks of the Spiti Valley shimmer in the sun. A very steep descent will bring you to the Malana River and then upwards through fields of cannabis and thickets to Malana village (7 km) from where you will trek down to Jari and onwards to Manali.
Highest Altitude: 3650 m
Trekking distance: 35 km
Best Season: April - June, October - November
Malana Chandrakhani Pass Trek
The Hatu Peak Trek is another day trek starting from Narkanda, 63 km from Shimla. If you attempt it in the first few weeks of March, you will come across fresh, untrodden snow. From Narkanda, you will start following the road to Thanedar till a three pronged crossing in a clearing surrounded by pine forests. The trail snakes along the mountain- sometimes the undergrowth is moist and mossy and at others, sunlight filters through the leaves. 3 km later, you can get your first glimpse of the snow covered greater Himalayas and further onto a clearing with a few shepherds’s huts and a small pond reflecting the blue skies and snowy peaks. From here, the trail is no more marked and you have to ascend the ridge under the shades of oak and pine to reach the top of the Hatu Peak. The Hatu Mata temple is located here. An hour's walk south east past the temple will bring you to the beautiful meadows of Jor Bagh. A 7 km trek from Jor Bagh will bring you to the Tanni Jubber Lake. Please note that the area is inhabited by Himalayan bears and hence having a local guide with you is recommended.
Highest Altitude: 3400 m
Trekking distance: 14 km
Best Season: December end - January, March - mid-April, September- November
The landscape en route
The Deo Tibba Base-Hampta Pass-Chandratal Trek is three short treks rolled into one. Alternately, if you are short on time, you can attempt any one or two sections.
Section I: 7 km from Manali is Jagatsukh, the old capital of the Kullu State, from where we start trekking through walnut trees along the Bhuhangan Nala to Khanul and onwards over an alpine plateau and a rock climbing area will bring us to Chikka (8 km). You will ascend another 10 km to the flower laden meadows of Seri at the southwest base of Deo Tibba and descend to Chikka the next day. (From Seri, a nearly two hour’s climb will bring you to Chandratal.)
Section II: Hampta Pass is an 11 km trek from Chikka. The serrated peaks of massive mountains loom in the distance, with close views of the Deo Tibba and Indrasan Peaks.
Section III: Crossing the Hampta Pass, you reach Shea Goru located adjacent to a glacier snout and onwards to Chhatru (5 km). A 16 km walk through the rugged valley will bring you to Chhota Dara and an equal distance more will bring you to the base of the Kunzum Pass at Batal. The view of the shimmering, iridescent archway of solid ice with the Shigri stream emerging from beneath will leave you breathless. Alternately, you can also drive to Batal from Chattru. An 18 km trek from here brings us to a meadow of edelweiss in the heart of which sits the emerald Chandratal, the lake of the moon. Beautiful views of the Samudra Tapoo Glacier and Mulkila Range is obtainable.
This trek further goes up to the Suraj Tal and across the Bara Laccha La to Mandi.
Duration: 8N/9D (if you trek from Chattru to Batal)
Highest Altitude: 4270 m
Trekking distance: 104 km (if you trek from Chattru to Batal, 72 km otherwise)
Best Season: June, July, September
Near Hampta Pass
The Jalsu Pass Trek is considered one of the easiest treks in the Dhauladhars. It connects the upper Ravi Valley with Kangra. The trek starts from Bharmour, weaves its way into Holi, a separate sub-valley of Bharmour, and ends at Bajinath. A 12 km drive from Holi will bring you to Nayagram where the trekking trail starts. Walk down to the village and up through thick forests of pine and deodar to the revered temple of Laka Mata (3 km), beyond which the trek drops steeply to a wooden bridge in the meadows of Channi before spiralling up towards the village of Surahi. Descend down to the Surahi nala and continue climbing to Yara (12 km) and onwards to the plains of Jalsu at the base of the pass (7 km). An easy climb from here will bring you to the top of Jalsu Pass. The descent to Parai (13 km) and onwards to Uttrala (12 km) includes crossing several streams. Buses to Bajinath are available from here.
Highest Altitude: 3600 m
Trekking distance: 47 km
Best Season: March & June
Mist strewn mountains on the way
The Parvati Valley is a lush green valley ringed by the tall Himalayas and offers some of the best trekking opportunities in Himachal Pradesh. A 30 km drive will drop you at Kasol, one of the most important hippie settlements of yesteryears. The Kasol River is populated with trouts and angling is a popular pastime here. From Kasol, we will trek to Barshaini, the confluence of the Parvati and the Tosh Rivers and onwards to Tosh (15 km). The trek to Tosh often runs amidst marijuana plantations. An 8 km trek will bring us to the hot springs of Kheer Ganga past the village of Nakthan and the temple of Rudra Nag. There are orchards of apples and apricots on the way. From Kheer Ganga, one trail goes up further to Mantalai Lake and the Pin Parvati Pass and the other to the Buni Buni Pass.
Highest Altitude: 4143 m
Trekking distance: 23 km
Best Season: July & August
On the way to Tosh
The relatively unexplored Seraj Region is characterised by undisturbed forests, pastures and grasslands and the occasional sleepy hamlet. You will start your trek from the charming village of Gada Gussain located along a branch road off the Banjar-Jalori road. There are two buses a day to Gada Gussain from Jibhi. From here, a short walk across a field abruptly turns to a steep climb and soon you will be rewarded to a bird's eye view of the village. In the early morning light, the mist swirling over the gray slate roofs adds a touch of mystery. The first village on the way is Alwa. Behind the conifers, rows of mountains- each taller than the one before- crowd the horizon. The Pir Panjals rise in the north and the Shrikhand Mahadev Range in the east. In the distance, you can see the Madhupur fort and the Raghupur fort. A gradual climb through oak forests will bring you to Kunala Thatch, a beautiful meadow ringed by oaks. Later we cross Pandavo ka khet, a rectangular field with water and paddy like grass. A steep climb will bring you to the top of the treeless hill on which stands the Raghupur Fort, the highest point on this trek. The Serolsar Lake is 6 km away. A pleasant walk through woods will bring you to the lake. In summer, the area is alive with alpine blooms. There is a temple dedicated to Budhi Naagin, the local Goddess of ghee. The descent to Khanag is through a forest and cultivated areas. Alternately, you can drive to Jalori Pass and trek to Serolsar Lake.
Duration: 2N/3D (if trekking from Gada Gussain)
Highest Altitude: 3200 m
Trekking distance: 6 km one way (if driving to Jalori Pass)
Best Season: May- June, September - October
View from Jalori pass
Himachal Pradesh's trekking trails are diverse, and this variety reflects in the exhaustive list of options that this state offers to amateur trekkers. So take your pick, and set off.
Article by: Mohana Das