The heady scent of pine, oak and rhododendrons. Dried leaves crackling under your feet. These form the first, indelible memory of the trek. Simply because you always begin your Himalayan trek by stepping into a forest. And, these forest sections set the mood.
They prepare you for the cathartic experience of stepping into an expansive meadow with majestic mountains popping at the horizon. It’s the forests — how they begin and how they end – that determines the mood of the trek.
But not all forest sections are the same. Different species of trees, the trail, the altitude — all impact your experience in the forest. Some forests stand out. Here, we have listed forest sections that haunt us long after the trek got over.
| Oak Forest at Chitrakantha, Tali and enroute Auli — Kuari Pass Trek
Of all Himalayan trek, this one of Kuari Pass trek is the favourite forest section of Indiahikes’ Co-founder Sandhya UC.
She says, “Kuari Pass has one of the finest pure Oak forest sections you can find on any of our treks. On most other treks with great Oak forests like Roopkund, Dayara, Brahmatal, you are focussed on just one thing — climbing up. Here the forest sections are undulating and gain altitude gently. You get to see and feel the forest. Oak forests generally have a very clean floor. Walking on a flat forest floor with only brown carpet of leaves, under tall, ancient Oaks is one of my most memorable experiences I take back from Kuari Pass.”
| The forest sections from Syalmi to Baniya Kund – Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek
Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek is known for its Rhododendron forests. But here’s the section you must watch out for.
From Rohini Bugyal, proceed towards the connecting forest ridge from your right. Observe a tall rhododendron tree, which is just a five-minute walk from the campsite.
Enter the forest of upper Rohini Bugyal and reconnect with the old trail to Chopta. Follow the trail that ascends gradually all the way to the top of the forest ridge. It takes 30 minutes to reach the ridge top, which is covered in dense forest cover.
The locals call this spot as Tikidi Khal.
| Rhododendron forest from Bekaltal to Tilandi – Brahmatal Trek
Brahmatal has mesmerizing forest walks. You get to walk through centuries-old forests of Oaks and Rhododendrons. What particularly stays with me is the dedicated section of Rhododendrons! Just out of Bekaltal, you get a clearly demarcated section of Rhododendron forests.
The Rhodo forests are a treat to the eyes. The trunks twist and turn in shapes and forms. The trunks are usually bare and smooth wooded. The trees are not too tall and form a nice canopy at the top. They are close enough to form a perfect green roof over your head.
This is what you see throughout the year. If you come here during March and April, you get a pink flowery roof. If you come here during winters, you get a white snowy carpet!
| Rhododendron and Pine forest from Tshoka to Dzongri – Goechala Trek
Goechala is known for its spellbinding views of the mountains up close. But, not many know of the magical forest sections this trek has.
Especially the thick rhododendron and pine forest on the way to Dzongri from Tshoka. This is the longest section on the trek that has nothing but tall and old pine trees, and smooth and twisty rhododenron trees. You also get to see magnolia trees sprinkled here and there, that adds to the variety.
In April and May, this forest comes alive with rhododendrons ranging from reds to pinks to violets to yellows and whites. Trekking through the variety of colours on wooden log trails of the Khanchendzonga National Park is a sight for sore eyes!
And in October, the rhododendron trees go into hibernation and this very forest turns dark and mossy, giving you an otherwordly feeling as you trek through to Dzongri.
| Maple and Rhododendron forest sections from Nayata to Raithal – Dayara Bugyal trek
An intriguing mix of maples, rhododendrons and pines on the Dayara Bugyal trek. Photo Credit: Anuja Gupta
Right from the base camp until you break out of the forests into the meadows, the trail is in the good shade with lovely forest cover. The biodiversity is high. This is why you’ll hear a lot of bird calls. While we talk about the meadows, don’t miss out on the forest.
Not many know that rhododendrons flourish even in this section of the Dayara Bugyal trek. You also spot maples and green oak. Together, these form an interesting combination of trees that lend themselves to the biodiversity of the region.
When we discuss treks at Indiahikes, forests always gain a special mention for the mood they set. So, watch out for the next forest on your trail. Observe the trees, the sounds, or the silence when you trek through them. It alters how you look at your trek.
Although this blog is nearing its end, our conversation on forests has just begun. Tell me — do you have a Himalayan forest that’s close to your heart? In which section, on which trail did you find it? Drop your answer in the comments to share it with us and we will include it in the blog.