Brahmatal and Ali Bedni Bugyal — Two treks starting at the same base camp. Located in the same region. Climbing to similar altitudes of ~12,000 ft. Promising the same mountain views.
Many trekkers make a wrong assumption here. They believe these treks to be very similar.
And then they make a bigger mistake.
They blindly choose to trek to Brahmatal, simply because it’s the more popular of the two. More trekkers have done it and more trekkers talk about it.
“What trekkers don’t realise is that within the first 500 m from the base camp, these two treks are so different that they’re two completely different worlds,” says Arjun Majumdar, the founder and CEO of Indiahikes.
To get a perspective on their proximity, look at the map below. The trail on the left (marked in blue) is the Brahmatal trek and the one on the right (in yellow) is the Ali-Bedni Bugyal trek.
They almost look like ‘one’ trek. But there is a world of difference between the two.
This is what we will talk about today, so that by the end of this post, you’re able to make a distinction between the two treks, and make a choice between them.
Ridge walk on the Brahmatal trek vs Meadow walk on the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek
“The Brahmatal trek is a very open trek. You’re on top of a ridge with the mountains sloping down on either side of you. You walk on this ridge for hours together, experiencing an openness that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. Across the valley from the ridge, you see Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti in all their glory,” says Sandhya.
This ridge walk is one of the best experiences on the Brahmatal trek. The views of these two mountain summits are glorious. Sometimes the perspective of distance makes the mountains stand taller.
The ridge walk on the Brahmatal trek in winter. Picture by Deep Thakkar
Yet, she says, Ali Bedni Bugyal has a different charm. “On the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek, you’re walking through superb alpine meadows. Not one meadow, but two. Ali and Bedni Bugyal, without doubt, are two of the most beautiful high altitude meadows of our country. Ali Bugyal is an experience in itself, and Bedni bugyal has a completely distinct experience of its own.
“Unlike the openness of Brahmatal, here, you’re in a cauldron amongst big mountains. And you have a soft carpet of grass sprawling all around you. It’s almost manicured to perfection. It’s beautifully green in spring, resplendent with wild flowers in summer, a honey-hued landscape in autumn and a blanket of snow in winter.
“More than that,” she adds, “what is unbelievable about Ali Bedni Bugyal is that it is picture-perfect. There isn’t a single rock out of place. It doesn’t have the imperfections that most treks have. It is almost photo-shopped,” she muses.
It’s hard to debate her, because we have all been to Ali and Bedni Bugyal and seen the wallpaper meadows ourselves. It’s a ritual that anyone from Indiahikes at Lohajung must make a visit to Ali Bugyal, even if for only half a day. It gives you a deep sense of satisfaction that stays with you for months to come.
Ali Bugyal in evening light in autumn. Picture by Sandhya UC
Experiencing the legendary Roopkund trek from Brahmatal vs Ali Bedni Bugyal
We have always considered Brahmatal very special. Because when you’re on the Brahmatal trek, you are at a vantage point from where you see the Roopkund trek in its entirety. This video that Sandhya made from Brahmatal will give you a nice perspective of the view.
Right from the base camp, to Ghairoli Patal, to Bedni Bugyal, to Pathar Nachuni, Bhagwabhasa and even the dip in which the Roopkund lake sits, you can see it all from the Brahmatal route. It’s a surreal experience to witness another trek in its entirety from a vantage point (the only other place we have seen this happen is when you see the Hampta Pass trek from a ridge above Bhrigu Lake).
The Ali Bedni Bugyal trek, on the other hand, beats Brahmatal to the punch here. “It’s no contest, because you’re actually doing 65% of the Roopkund trek, and seeing some of the best sections of the trek here,” says Sandhya.
“There’s a reason that Roopkund is such a celebrated trek. No other trek comes close, even till date. And now, when just a handful of people do this trek, is the best time to do it. You have the whole trail to yourself, campsites are isolated, and you are spoiled walking all alone in the luxuriant meadows. Now is the time to do the trek before it gets crowded,” says Sandhya.
An imposing Mt Trishul rising behind Bedni Bugyal in month of April. Picture by Tarun Gupta.
The campsites on the Brahmatal trek vs Ali Bedni Bugyal
I’ll admit, on the Brahmatal trek, you have few of the most exquisite campsites. You camp in a lovely clearing in the forest. Then you camp at Tilandi, which is a vast plateau, where the wind is an experience in itself. Then you have the Brahmatal campsite, just a few minutes away from the Brahmatal lake. The campsites on this trek are few of the most spoken-about campsites among trekkers.
“The sunset at Tilandi is an especially wonderful experience. You are above a blanket of clouds. The sun is setting as a huge orange ball in the distance. I’ve seen so many trekkers get contemplative or teary eyed watching this sunset. It’s something that remains with you for years, especially because you’re camping with this view,” says Dhaval Jajal, a Senior Trek Leader, who has led several teams to Brahmatal.
Tilandi campsite on the Brahmatal trek. Picture by Shriram Kondhawekar
The campsites on the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek, however, fall slightly short in terms of the experience. “Don’t get me wrong. They are wonderful campsites — the Abin Khadak campsite, even the forestry campsite of Ghairoli Patal. If you give me a scorecard, I would put Brahmatal slightly higher on campsites. But only slightly,” says Arjun.
The Ghairoli Patal campsite on the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek. Picture by Yash Trivedi
The forests of Brahmatal vs the forests of Ali Bedni Bugyal
Brahmatal has a few of the loveliest oak and rhododendron forests. Come March and April, these forests are flourishing with scarlet rhododendrons, making a walk through these forests an absolute delight. The forest walk doesn’t last too long, but it’s very pretty for as long as it lasts.
Snow laden forests on the Brahmatal trek. Picture by Vishwas Krishnamurthy
But the Ali Bedni Bugyal, at the risk of sounding too biased, has better forests, because you’re experiencing two different forest trails — one from Didina to Tolpani, and one from Bedni Bugyal to Ghairoli Patal.
You will be covering a few of the rarest forest sections with pretty oak trees, and even prettier clearings among the oak trees. These clearings are delightful, especially when golden light from the sun streaks in through the surrounding trees.
“On the other hand, the experience of exiting the treeline and bursting out into the meadows is something that very few trekkers allow you. Only the Buran Ghati trek comes close,” says Sandhya, talking about the moment you enter Ali Bugyal from the forests of Tolpani.
Delightful clearings in the middle of oak forests on the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek. Picture by Ravi Ranjan
The lake experience at Brahmatal vs Bedni Kund on the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek
Frankly, this is not a fair comparison, since Brahmatal has two wonderful lakes, and Ali Bedni Bugyal has but a small pond — the Bedni Kund. In winter, it’s frozen solid, almost invisible as a lake. In summer, often, it’s covered with tall grass. Only in March, April and May do you get to see a pond with stunning reflections of Mt Trishul in the morning.
However, more than the Bedni Kund, it is the setting of the kund that makes people’s jaw drop. Nestled in the middle of the Bedni Bugyal, with Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti towering over it, with green carpet of grass around, it is a sight to behold. Add to it the brown grey mountains that surround it like an outstretched arm, the setting automatically transports you to a feeling of a very high altitude, something that the Brahmatal trek lakes do not ever give.
The Bedni Kund on an early morning. Picture by Shreyas Chidambara
The Brahmatal trek, on the other hand, has not one, but two lakes — Brahmatal and Bekaltal.
The Bekaltal lake, an oligotrophic lake, is replete with algae and surrounded by dense forests. Our trekkers love sitting by the side of the lake and sharing stories from their treks.
The Brahmatal lake, much higher up, is a completely different experience. Early in the morning, the deep blue waters of Brahmatal reflect a lone tree standing by its side. Often surrounded by snow, and sometimes frozen, it is a spot where photographers stop short and cannot put their cameras down.
Here, we have to give it to the Brahmatal trek, it’s an additional experience that Ali Bedni Bugyal does not have.
The picturesque Brahmatal Lake in winter. Picture by Sandeep Suresh
Snow cover on the Brahmatal Trek vs Ali Bedni Bugyal
Here’s something that will surprise you. Given that these two treks are just a few kilometers apart, and climbing to similar altitudes, you would assume the snow experience to be similar.
But here’s the surprise. Brahmatal is a trek that is mostly spread out on a ridge. Since it’s so exposed, the snow melts away a lot quicker than most other treks. So even though it sees the exact same amount of snowfall as Ali Bedni Bugyal, the snow does not last too long. By the end of March / early April, the snow starts melting away.
Snow cover on the Brahmatal trek starts melting away by March. Picture shot beside the Bekaltal lake in March by Gourab Nandy
This is not the case with Ali Bedni Bugyal. Even though it is a fairly exposed meadow, the surrounding mountains protect the snow cover with their shadow. So in winter, the meadow gets covered in a thick carpet of snow, and this snow lasts all the way until the end of April and the beginning of May. Even the forests become a fairytale-like wonderland in winter, which is not so much the case at Brahmatal. So Ali Bedni Bugyal has a much deeper, and more lasting snow cover.
Incidentally, the snow cover on the clearings of the Ali Bedni trek is unparalleled on most treks, leave alone Brahmatal. So just for the snow cover, then Ali Bedni trek would be my choice.
Snow cover on the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek lasts almost till the end of April. Picture by Ravi Ranjan
Difficulty of the Brahmatal trek vs Ali Bedni Bugyal
The difficulty levels of both the treks are a little different. Ali Bedni Bugyal is a tad more difficult than the Brahmatal trek.
On the Ali Bedni trek, the climb from Neelganga to Didina on day one followed by the steep ascent from Didina to Ali Bugyal the next day can be challenging especially in winter.
The Brahmatal trek, on the other hand, has more balanced days.
The final verdict
To most of us at Indiahikes, the answer here is very simple. If we were at Lohajung and had to pick among the two, we would go with Ali Bedni Bugyal.
“Brahmatal is a great trek. It is at par with our treks like Kedarkantha, Dayara Bugyal, and Deoriatal-Chandrashila. It’s a raw 6-dayer, where it gives you a great trek experience. It’s not without reason that has almost overtaken Kedarkantha as the most popular winter trek,” says Sandhya.
“But at the end of the day, Ali Bedni Bugyal is hard to beat. The exuberant meadows, the variety in the forests, the mountain views that play hide and seek with you as you weave in and out of folds in the mountains… Comparing the Ali Bedni Bugyal trek to Brahmatal, or Deoriatal-Chandrashila, or Dayara Bugyal, I’d pick Ali Bedni Bugyal any day. It is in a league of its own,” concludes Sandhya.