With monsoon around the corner, I’ve been bombarded with questions about which treks to do in monsoon.
What I noticed amongst these questions was that trekkers are not sure about which geographical regions to focus on in monsoon.
Some trekkers think monsoon blocks out almost all Himalayan treks. On the other end, some don’t even consider the effects of monsoon. They assume all treks are accessible.
So in today’s post, I’ll give you some insight on which treks to do in monsoon and which treks to avoid.
To understand this, it’s important to understand a little bit of geography.
There are two sides to our Himalayas. The green side (which is where most of our treks are) and the brown side which is the rain shadow area (where some treks lie). Then there are treks that start from the green side and cross over to the brown side.
To understand how monsoon works on these treks take a look at this infographic made by Noorain Ahmed.
The top most brown section is the rain-shadow region of our country.
This is a region that receives extremely low rainfall. The surrounding Himalayan mountains here stop moisture-laden winds from entering the region, thereby not allowing much rainfall.
This includes arid regions like Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh. They receive very low rainfall in a year (usually below 50 cm). So monsoon doesn’t affect them much.
On the contrary, by the time its monsoon (around July), the winter snow completely melts away and the landscape dramatically transforms from white to browns, pinks and purples. It is the monsoon months when some spectacular treks open up for trekking in these regions.
Good treks to do in the rain shadow region:
- Kanamo Peak (A difficult trek, a summit climb, only for the fittest. Also a great alternative to Stok Kangri. Kanamo Peak rises to almost 20,000 feet)
Do It Yourself treks
- Markha Valley Trek (A tea-house trek, easy to do on your own)
- Tso Moriri Lake (A difficult trek in Ladakh, only for the very experienced.)
- Stok Kangri (Again, only for the experienced. We don’t run this trek)
That brings us to our next region.
The region with dotted lines is in between the rain shadow region and rainy region of our country.
This is another mountainous region of our country, but interestingly, only one side of these mountains receives rainfall. The other side is usually barren.
How does this happen?
During Southwest monsoons in our country, moisture-laden winds blow from the South to the North. But the Himalayas act as a big barrier to these winds. They do not let the winds pass.
As these clouds hit this barrier, they burst and come down as rain on the southern side of the mountain. The other side of the barrier doesn’t receive any rain, so it remains barren and desert-like.
Here’s a picture to give you an idea (all hail Paint!). The winds hit this barrier of mountains (the Himalayas) that stretches throughout J&K, Himachal and further. This leaves a stark distinction between the valleys to the north and south of these mountains.
When this happens, another set of treks opens up for trekkers — usually cross over treks from the rainy side to the barren side.
This turns out to be a visual treat for trekkers because of the dramatic change in landscape. Usually these are our personal favourites. Other treks rarely come close to the drama these treks have to offer.
Good treks to do in this border region:
- Hampta Pass (An all time favourite amongst trekkers, crossing over from Kullu to Lahaul)
- Pin Bhaba Pass (Our most dramatic crossover trek from the lush Bhaba Valley to Spiti, a difficult one though!)
- Kashmir Great Lakes (Enough said. Our most beautiful trek without a doubt)
- Tarsar Marsar, Kashmir (Not enough said. But could qualify as the prettiest trek of Indiahikes)
Do It Yourself treks
- Pin Parvati Pass (This trek needs no introduction, but it’s a killer of a trek (literally). It is accident prone, which is why we don’t run it. Trek at your own risk)
- Gwaru Pass (A well-kept secret in Kullu valley)
The green part of a map is the region that receives normal rainfall.
In the monsoon most treks in this region are usually closed. Trails become slippery, sceneries get washed out (usually under total cloud cover), and a good pouring of rain can dampen spirits.
But there are a few treks that burst to life because of the rains. They come alive with wild flowers, lush grasslands, thriving forests, gushing rivers and waterfalls.
We open up these treks because they’re safe enough to do despite the rain. You might get a little wet, but it’s worth it!
Good treks to do in the rainy region:
- Valley of Flowers (Perhaps India’s most popular trek. The flowers come alive only in the monsoons)
- Nag Tibba (Trekkers love this weekend trek near Mussoorie for the high rewards. The rains make the trek vibrant)
- Bhrigu Lake (A trek with the best grasslands of Himachal. The grasslands bloom in the rain)
- Beas Kund (A trek to the source of River Beas. The landscape turns lush with streams and waterfalls everywhere)
- Pundrik Lake (A weekend trek near Mandi. Doesn’t get as much rain to wash it off, yet retains its charm)
Do It Yourself treks
- Prashar Lake (A 2 day trek perfect for a weekend)
Now let’s move onto treks you should NOT do in monsoon
- Most treks in Uttarakhand above 10,000 ft (except Valley of Flowers) are out of the picture because it rains heavily. The trails are unsafe and slippery with boulders exposed. Plus no views. This means treks like Rupin Pass, Buran Ghati, Phulara Ridge are ruled out.
- Avoid the North-East region of our country. This is a region that receives some of the highest rainfall in our country. The jungles are thick and usually infested with leeches. Also, the rain itself is heavy and almost continuous. Goechala and Sandakphu are out of the question.
I’ll also answer a few questions that you may have
Does it rain so heavily in monsoon that even the treks that you recommend might get cancelled? Treks like Valley of Flowers or Bhrigu Lake
Not likely. We have been running treks in monsoon for nearly 8 years. If a trek is a week long we may get a two or three days of shower, though rain does not fall all the time.
We have had to cancel treks only a few times because of rain (once during the Kashmir floods in 2014 and once during the flash floods in Uttarakhand in 2013).
Does it rain all the time?
Again, no. Out of 6 days, you may experience rain on 1-2 days, could be slightly more or less. But not all the time. Also, it tends to rain in the second half of the day, usually when you’re already done with your trek for the day.
How to stay dry on a monsoon trek?
Here’s a video to help you stay dry on a monsoon trek.
You’ll also find useful tips in this article.
I really don’t want you to put off your trek plans because of the monsoon. Some of these treks that I have mentioned are particularly great only in the monsoons.
That’s all from me today.
If you have any questions, drop in a comment below.
We’ll help you out!