Kedarkantha trek can be done using multiple routes or starting from different locations of Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. Since it's a standalone summit, it can be approached from several directions.
The birth of this trek started from Sankri, via Juda Ka Talab. Indiahikes first explored this trek from the Sankri route, which went on to become the most popular route to the Kedarkantha summit.
In 2017, we moved away from this route consciously towards a less crowded trail. It started from another village, around 4 km from Sankri — Gaichwan Gaon that started from the western face of the mountain.
Again, in 2019, we explored and documented another trail from the northern side, which starts from Kotgaon.
So overall, there are three main routes you can approach the Kedarkantha summit from:
- From Sankri (viaa Juda Ka Talab)
- From Gaichwan Gaon
- From Kotgaon
At Indiahikes, for most times of the year, we trek from the Kotgaon route where our campus is located. However, during the peak of the winter months, we move to Gaichwan Gaon.
Different routes to Kedarkantha summit. Photo Captured from Google Earth
Which route to choose to Kedarkantha?
Well, no one will tell you about this, but the routes from Gaichwan Gaon and Kotgaon will give you a much better experience for trekking to the Kedakantha summit.
We’ll take you through all three routes so that you can get a clear picture of what to expect.
Why avoid the Kedarkantha Trek via Sankri Route
First, let us speak about the Sankri route where it all started. The route from Sankri still stays close to our hearts at Indiahikes. It was the route we first ever explored and documented this trek. Back then Sankri was nothing but a one-street hamlet with a few homes and a small shop where you could get a few essentials.
The trek starts through a lovely pine forest cover, entering the much-celebrated Juda Ka Talab campsite.
The popular Juda Ka Talab Campsite on the Sankri route. Picture by Jyotirmoy Paul
From Juda Ka Talab or now known as JKT in short, you enter some lovely clearings. The Kedarkantha trek is known for its clearings and the charming campsites in them. Surrounded by ancient pine forests and opening up to snow-capped peaks, they’re extremely beautiful settings to camp in.
Trekking through the clearings of Kedarkantha. Picture by Swathi Chatrapathy
From the clearings, you ascend towards a plateau, popularly known as Kedarkantha Base. From here, you hit the ridge towards the final summit climb.
As Indiahikes, we do not use this trail anymore. Sankri has unfortunately become a crowded hub, losing most of its old-world charm. With loud music, litter on the trail and the camping experience being almost a mela, it’s best to avoid this route if you want a true Himalayan trek experience.
The campsite of Talketra on the Sankri route was captured by our trekker during the winter season of 2018. The crowd has increased by many folds now. Picture by Hardik Patel
If you are still planning to go on the Sankri route, we will recommend trekking only during the off-season.
Kedarkantha Trek via Kotgaon Route: A great route to choose in all seasons except winter
The Kotgaon route is one of the best Kedarkantha routes for the variety you get. You start from the village of Kotgaon, which is right out of a storybook. Our campus at Kotgaon is an experience in itself.
The beautiful campus of Kotgaon. Picture by Jothiranjan
Unlike other Kedarkantha routes that have trails on roads or mud tracks for a long distance, this route immediately enters thick forests of oak. As you get used to the wilderness and cross a few streams, you enter the lovely clearings of Mohlani Thatch.
Trekkers enjoying through the oak forests. Picture by Abhishek
Snow-capped peaks form a beautiful backdrop against the forests, glowing in the evening during sunset. You camp in these clearings the very first day. This view is hard to find on Day 1 on the other routes to Kedarkantha.
From Dhoka, you enter the main trail towards the Kedarkantha base, which joins the Sankri route. If it's a popular season, then the trail can get crowded.
However, during the winter season for Kedarkantha (mid-Dec to mid-Feb), we change from this principal route towards our trail of Gaichwan Gaon. Read on to find out why.
The Gaichwan Gaon Route - The best route to choose during winter
Now coming to the Gaichwan Gaon route, our go-to winter route.
The village of Gaichwan Gaon almost resembles a palace perched in the hills. Entering the village by road is like a grand scene from a movie, where a beautiful castle comes into view. Even if you don't start a trek from here, you get a lovely cultural experience here in this apple valley.
The trek from Gaichwan goes towards Haltwad, which is the last road head. This is the last village on the trail and you soon enter the forests. The houses here have a uniqueness with Katkuni architecture, borrowed from Himachal Pradesh. That’s no surprise, since Kedarkantha is on the western edge of Uttarakhand, almost bordering Himachal.
Basecamp of Gaichwan Gaon towering like a palace. Picture by Jothiranjan
From Haltwad, the landscape is like a fairyland through oaks and pine forests. During winter, the entire setting is a winter wonderland, with snow draping the branches of the trees.
The campsites of Julota and Pukrola are clearings that we particularly love on this trail. These campsites have terrific sunsets since you approach the Kedarkantha summit from the western front of the mountain. The experience of camping is much greater on the Gaichwan Gaon route.
Early winters on the Julota Campsite. Picture by Vasudev Sharma
The summit push during the winter season has the thrill of climbing a difficult summit. It feels like a big challenge since you need to enter from the shoulder of the mountain and then climb up to the peak. On the other two routes, you hit the ridge directly from the campsite and push for the summit.
The summit climb on Kedarkantha trek. Picture by Abdul Raoof
Why we choose the Gaichwan Gaon route over the Kotgaon route in winter
We spoke with many of our senior trek leaders and slope managers who have done the Kedarkantha trek from all different routes. They share multiple reasons why we switch to the Gaichwan Gaon route in winter:
- The first and foremost reason is the lack of sunlight on this trail of Kotgaon - This is the main reason why we move towards the western side of the mountain. During peak winter, the Kotgaon route, which lies in the shadow of the Kedarkantha peak, gets extremely cold.
To give you a real picture, the sun hits the Kotgaon basecamp only at around 9.30 am and lasts until only 2.30 pm, while Gaichwan has the sun shining merrily from 6.30 am morning until the sun sets. In fact, you get to see a stunning sun drowning across the horizon. This warmth and comfort make a very big difference to trekkers in winter.
- Because of the lack of sunlight, once snow sets in, it doesn’t melt easily. It only accumulates further with more waves of snowfall. The sections especially between Khujey to Dhoka have a heavy deposit of snow.
The route of Kotgaon getting heavy deposit of snow during the peak winter season. Picture by Ravi Ranjan
With trails inaccessible and water sources frozen, it becomes very difficult for trekkers to approach the Kedarkantha summit from Kotgaon.
If you have done the Kedarkantha trek with Indiahikes earlier, from any of the routes, you must definitely plan the Kedarkantha summit climb again — this time from another route. All three routes are unique and feel like separate summit climbs.
You can plan a different season using our Trek Again Philosophy and experience the magic of this trek. You’ll never feel like you’re repeating the same trek.
Perhaps add a dose of adventure by planning it DIY style too. (Read all about it here.)
Tell us which route you have taken and loved in the comments below. We would love to hear about your experience.