Try these five exquisitely beautiful and extremely refreshing mountain trails this monsoon, says Priya Shahi
The wilderness is enchanting in every season but nothing compares to its beauty in the rains. It allows the trekker to witness nature at its best – the air is fresh, the grass is green and the clouds hang so low you can almost touch them. Monsoon in India traditionally sets in towards the middle of June, July and August, and begins thinning off in September, before completely receding in October. In north India, June witnesses showers that start to open up the lush greens. The combination of light showers, warm sun and luxuriant greens makes it perfect to start trekking to the high altitudes. July is when the country experiences anything between torrential rains and mild daily showers. But there is definitely an option to visit places that offer great paths suited for trekking during monsoon. Here are some trails you can attempt during the season to witness nature in its full glory. However, stay updated on the latest weather conditions before attempting any of these. These treks are safe if you do your research, plan ahead and bring along the right equipment.
Hampta Pass, Himachal Pradesh
The trek to the Hampta Pass, at an altitude of 4,300 m, takes you from the Kullu valley to a perpendicular overhang of sheer rock. A number of rare wildflowers and herbs grow at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000 m. It offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Lahaul valley. The valley itself is a small grassland corridor, frequently used by shepherds from Lahaul. The excursion begins from Jobra, a short drive from Manali. Trekkers usually set up camp at Jwara – a wildflower meadow – and the picturesque Balu ka Ghera, located in the delta of the river and flanked by the Indrasen and Hanuman Tibba peaks. After crossing the Hampta Pass, they halt at Shia Goru before trekking to the road head at Chatru.
Valley of Flowers,
Uttarakhand The Valley of Flowers National Park sits at an altitude of 3,658 m on the Zanskar range of the Himalayas, nestled in the expanses of the Bhyundar Valley. The valley is known for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers. The hike begins from Govind Ghat (Govindghat), a small town near Joshimath in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. From there, a shared taxi up to four km and then a leisurely climb of 11 km bring travellers to the small settlement of Ghangharia, about three km from the valley. The valley is home to rare and endangered animals like the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, red fox and blue sheep. The park stretches over an expanse of 87 sq km. The trail leading to the valley is well populated and it takes only a few hours to cover the distance.
Great Lakes, Jammu & Kashmir
The Great Lakes trek, also known as Sonamarg-Vishansar-Naranag trek, is famous for a cluster of lakes (Satsar, Vishansar, Kishansar, Gangabal, Nandakol and Yamsar) that adorn lush, alpine meadows. The week-long trek is considered moderately challenging. The climb begins from Shitkadi, a few kilometres ahead of Sonamarg amid thick temperate pine forests. Gaining altitude, trekkers enter jungles of morinda spruces, pine firs and deodar trees, which beyond 3,352 m, are replaced by expansive, lush meadows. Trekkers camp at Nichinai and then ascend the Nichinai pass to Vishansar lake. From Vishansar, the trek leads up through the Gadsar pass, past the Kishansar lake and on to Gadsar. From here, the route proceeds to Satsar and continues to the Gangabal lake, past the Haramukh peak to the Nandkol lake. The final leg of the journey is a steep descent of 1,219 m from Gangabal to the village of Naranag.
The hike begins from Yuksom – a small settlement that was once the capital of Sikkim. The trek spans a considerable altitude (1,720 – 4,200 m) and can be moderately challenging. The trail proceeds from Yuksom to Tshoka village, passing through the bewitching tropical forests of the Khangchendzonga National Park. Traversing the valley, one can witness towering peaks and picturesque waterfalls, a few hanging bridges and magnificent red and white rhododendron flowers. It is advisable to camp in Tshoka, to get acclimatised to the high altitude. The trail from Tshoka to Dzongri, lined with some of the densest rhododendron trees in India, is steep but short. Trekkers camp at Dzongri, a large meadow surrounded by imposing peaks of the Kanchenjunga range.
Harishchandragad via Khireshwar Tolarkhind, Maharashtra
The trek to the hill fort of Harishchandragad (1,424 m), in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, is widely regarded as one of the best treks in the region. There are multiple trails leading up to the fort, with the trek from Khireshwar being the most picturesque: it passes through seven hills, each gaining elevation and offering magnificent views of the hills and the valleys. From Khireshwar, it is a brisk climb through to the Kedareshwar cave and the Konkan Kada cliff. The latter presents a rocky overhang with a steep incline that makes it look like a snake’s hood. Hikers can camp overnight at the cave or continue on to the Taramati Peak (1,429 m), one of the highest in Maharashtra. The climb up to Harishchandragad is a short excursion that can be comfortably completed in a day, although it can be somewhat challenging for beginners.
The author is a senior journalist and the views expressed in this article are her own