A Lesser Known, Lush Trail in Uttarakhand
Picture this. A campsite where every inch of it is filled with 3-4ft flowers and wild grass. In front of you is Hathi Parbat, Nanda Devi, Trishul I, Nanda Ghunti – all in one frame. Butterflies and colourful insects flit around you, as you soak this view in. The wind wafts their sweet smelling scent, all along the ridge you climbed on to get here.This is Chenap Bugyal. A small, flower filled world among the mighty mountains of Uttarakhand.
Trekkers have often compared this trek to Valley of Flowers – not for it’s scale. A passing resemblance because of the region’s lush, green trails and campsites on colorful flower beds. (Camping is not allowed in Valley of Flowers!)
Unlike Valley of Flowers, the trek is remote and therefore, much quieter. It climbs out of the hidden village of Thaing. This is where you first spot Nanda Devi, which plays hide and seek throughout the trek. The trail goes through remote villages of Uttarakhand, passes through their farm lands, and takes you further up through ridges and dense forests to finally, Chenap Bugyal. A world of it’s own.
Chenap Bugyal is a short, lovely trek to do in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
Documented by Himanshu Singla
- Day 1: Joshimath (6200ft) to Thaing Village (6900ft); 12kms of drive and 3 to 4kms trek; Duration – 1 hour drive and 2 to 3 hours of trek
- Day 2: Thaing (6900ft) to Dhar Khadak (9100ft); 3 to 4 kms of trek, duration – 3 to 4 hours
- Day 3: Dhar Khadak (9100ft) to Chenap Top (12200ft); 5 to 6 kms of trek; Duration – 4 to 5 hours
- Day 4: Chenap Campsite (12180ft) to Thaing (6900ft); 10 to 11kms of trek; Duration – 5 to 6 hours.
- Day 5: Thaing(6900ft) to Joshimath(6200ft); 3 to 4kms of trek and then 12kms of drive. Duration – 2 hours of trek and then 90 minutes of drive.
Day 1: Joshimath to Thaing Village
- Altitude: 6,200 ft to 6,900 ft
- Distance: 12kms of drive and 3 to 4kms trek;
- Duration: 1 hour drive and 2 to 3 hours of trek
The journey to reach the path that leads to Thaing village from Joshimath is one and half hour long. Even though it is a short ride, it is quite roller coaster of a ride. Make sure your seat belts are firmly on.
As soon as you cross the Marwari Bridge, metallic roads are over. Take a left and cross JP Vishnuprayag hydro-electric powerplant. With steep margins on your left, on a very narrow path with a rock roof, under the shadow of big mountains and clouds and many boulders, it would remind you of the ride from Reckong Peo to Spiti valley. These roads feel like someone has taken a blade to the side of this mountain.
After half an hour, the road ends. There is a small dhaba and incomplete metal bridge which locals say will be ready by end of this year. Take a cup of tea from the dhaba if you are so inclined. From the dhaba, you would be able to see your next two campsites on top of the ridge.
For the trail, descend towards bridge and you will spot one small bridge apart from the incomplete one. After crossing it, take left in south direction. After that, stick to this trail as it ascends in zig zag fashion.
On this trail, you would find yourself surrounded by lush green steep mountains with the sound of gushing stream to accompany you. There are many other trails that go to small shepherd huts or small hamlets. Don’t take them – keep yourself towards north. After 40 minutes, there is one water pipe from where you can fill your water bottle. On your right, across those steep margins, are snowladden peaks . After about 20 minutes more on the trail, there is a small hut where you can take rest.
As the rocky path begins, you see first glimpse of the hidden village of Thaing. The first thing you see of the village is the primary school. When you look back, you see mighty Nanda Devi is peeking out from clouds. Take a left and enter Thaing village. Happy faces greet you as enter the village.
Thaing village is a small village with around 200 to 240 families, divided into four clusters on the mountain slope. Every house has a similar architecture. If you were to go to a roof of any of these houses and look back, you would be able to see Nanda Devi greeting you. Ten minutes after you pass the school, you enter a small field where local kids use to play. This is an ideal place to set up your campsite. From here, you will be able to see the climb for the next day. It becomes windy and cold as the sun goes down. Retire for the day after taking time to interact with the locals.
Day 2 Thaing to Dhar Khadak
- Altitude: 6,900 ft to 9,100 ft
- Distance: 3 to 4 kms of trek
- Duration: 3 to 4 hours
When you face mountains standing opposite to any house in Thaing village, spot the mountain ridge in north east direction. That’s your destination for the day. Start your day crossing the Thaing village in North Direction. In first 30 minutes, catch the trail which goes gradually up through houses. You will reach the corner of the village where there is a hut that is used as a resting point by locals. From here, the trail descends. As you are descending, you will see a metallic bridge over a stream. This connects to Geewani village.
One of the best things about going through villages is to witness local culture, people and lots of fields. You may be able to recognise what is grown – Ramdana, rajma, madua, apple orchids, oranges, apricot etc.
The trail to Geewani ascends through a forest cover. After 10 minutes of this, you will see another Nala. After crossing it, you see two trails. One of them goes down while the other goes up. Take the ascending trail. From here, trail becomes cemented. It goes to Geewani in a zig-zag fashion. Another 15 minutes of walk, spot the first house of Geewani village. This is where you can fill your water bottle and take a break.
Take the trail that goes directly up from that house. The trail becomes rocky from here and is surrounded by wild bush all around. After 10 minutes of steep ascent, the trail again opens up and you can see the whole Thaing and Joshimath on your right. You even see the mighty Nanda Devi! Ten minutes from here, the trail starts becoming more narrow and steep. This is literally a walk on the edge of the mountain!
After 15 minutes on same trail, spot a big boulder on the right. Take rest here if you are so inclined. From here, Dhar Khadak is one hour away.
Stick to this trail. After 10 minutes, the slope becomes more inclined, you see more mud now than rocks and the trail becomes even more narrower. After 30 minutes of gruelling climb on this trail, you see no man’s land with some marijuana plants. In between those, there is a small trail going in. You enter into it and it takes only 5 minutes to cross. You are back on trail.
You find yourself on that ridge that you spotted from Thaing. After that, the trail goes left. After 10 minutes, you enter the small, open, flower-filled field of Dhar Khadak. However, the water source is 500 metres in opposite direction. Appreciate the small joys of coming out of your tent to find Nanda Devi is peeking out from the clouds among so many colorful flowers.
Day 3: Dhar Khadak to Chenap Top
- Altitude: 9,100 ft to 12,200 ft
- Distance: 5 to 6 kms of trek
- Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Today is the best and most challenging day of the whole trek. Fill your water bottles as there are no water sources on the way. Start taking the ridge in the West direction. It’s surrounded by oak trees all around. Even on a sunny day, walking in their shade make you feel like you are walking in evening time.
The forest is so dense that the the narrow trail has been made by leaves and mud. You may be able to hear birds as well. For the first 20 minutes, it goes up gradually. It then flattens out for 10 minutes. As you are on the ridge, you can see steep margins on both sides. The trail becomes steeper. As you gain height, the trees become lesser. After 30 minutes of continuous climb, the trail becomes flat for about 5 minutes. After that, it descends. Negotiate your way around 2-3 big boulders on the way. This is also serves as a nice place to sit and take a breath. You are done with 30 per cent of the trek here.
From here, the slope becomes almost 30 degree and the trail becomes more challenging. Leaves and mud with rain make it more slippery. Keep moving in the West direction. After 20 minutes of gruelling climb, you encounter boulders again. Be very careful as there are steep margins near it. After 30 minutes more on the trail, the tree line ends. Spot Chenap Top.When you turn back, you see Nanda Devi is right there behind your back.
From here, the trail becomes trickier as path become more narrow, margins become sharper and climb becomes steeper. It takes 30 minutes to climb it. The climb is not over. There is one more top to climb and that’s your highest point of Chenap Bugyal. From here, the trail becomes gradual and very pleasant. It’s full of colorful flowers here and there.
The trail ascends in north-west direction very gradually. Another 30 minutes, you are there. There are flower beds spreading across the whole Bugyal with many different colors. It is straight out of a fairytale! It’s time to enter into this world.
There is a ridge between top and the flowerbed. Take the trail on the ridge with wind full of refreshing smells to take you on the other side. It’s a small gradual ascent of 10 minutes and you get lost in flowers all around. You don’t see anything apart from so many colors around you.
Once you find a rock there, sit for sometime and try to embrace everything around. The only problem is to find out the right place to camp because every inch of this place is either full of flower plants that tower around 4 ft or the wild grass towering around 3 ft.
The only option you are left with is to camp on rocks or clearing out the plants. The water sources are small streams here. Find a good place near any of the water sources and camp there. You are all set to explore the Bugyal. It creates a magical world as many colors, sunlight, mighty mountains, moving clouds come together. From the Chenap Bugyal, you can see Hathi Parbat, Nanda Devi, Trishul I, Nanda Ghunti – all in one frame.
You find lot of colorful flies, butterflies there as well. The sunrise from should not be missed. When first ray of sun comes out from Mt Nanda Devi, this trek has rewarded you in ways that is far more than your effort.
Day 4: Chenap Campsite to Thaing
- Altitude: 12, 180 ft to 6,900 ft
- Distance: 10 to 11kms of trek
- Duration : 5 to 6 hours.
Retrace your route down to Thaing village. It will be a long day that is hard on your knees. Wear a knee cap if you have to.
Day 5: Thaing to Joshimath
- Altitude: 6,900 ft to 6,200 ft
- Distance: 3 to 4kms of trek and then 12kms of drive.
- Duration : 2 hours of trek and then 90 minutes of drive.
The drive back to Joshimath is an hour long and further to Rishikesh/Haridwar would take up most of the day. Plan your travel accordingly.
How to get to the basecamp – Joshimath
Haridwar/Rishikesh → Joshimath
The base camp for the Chenap Bugyal trek is Joshimath, about 9-10 hours from Rishikesh/ Haridwar. The buses run from these cities from as early as 4.30 am up to 7 am. You can also hire a taxi to Joshimath as well.
How to reach Rishikesh
Rishikesh is well-connected to most cities in India. The closest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport (It is the Dehradun airport, but is closer to Rishikesh than to Dehradun). It is just 20 km from Rishikesh. The closest railway station is the Haridwar station, an hour’s drive from Rishikesh. And there are plenty of buses that ply directly to Rishkesh.
Travelling from the Jolly Grant Airport to Rishikesh
If you decide to fly to Jolly Grant airport, make sure you reach at least one day before your pick up. You will need to stay there overnight and make it to the pick up point at 6 am on Day 1 of your trek.
If you’re travelling from the airport, there are buses that ply from there to Rishikesh every hour.
Pre-paid taxis are also available from the airport but we wouldn’t recommend these as they charge exorbitant amounts — Rs 800 to Rs 1000.
Instead, flag down a taxi (bargain a bit) with taxis outside the airport. Usually most passengers take taxis from the airport. Try to hook up with co-passengers on the flight for your taxi ride to Rishikesh.
If you’d like to travel by train, take a train from Delhi to Haridwar and then a bus to Rishikesh
Haridwar is just an hour away from Rishikesh. And there are several trains that ply from Delhi to Haridwar. The day trains are best suited to your needs.
In Haridwar, the ISBT bus stop is across the road from the railway station. There are buses which ply at frequent 10-15 minute intervals to Rishikesh. It takes about 1 hour to get there.
Taxis are also available but buses are convenient enough.
Trains that would suit you best:
Dehradun Shtbdi (Train No: 12017). It is an AC train that leaves at 6:45 am from New Delhi Railway station (NDLS) and reaches Haridwar at 11:30 am.
Dehradun Jan Shatabdi (Train No: 12055). It leaves Nizamuddin station at 15:20, arrives at 19:33 at Haridwar.
Note: Do not take a train to Dehradun, its longer to reach Rishikesh from Dehradun railway station. Take the train only up to Hardiwar.
Bus from Delhi to Rishikesh
In case you do not get a train ticket, there are regular overnight Volvo AC buses from Delhi’s ISBT Kashmiri Gate to Rishikesh. You also get Non-AC buses.
Buses are frequent and not usually crowded. You can get a bus almost every half hour. Buses take 8-9 hours to get to Rishikesh from Delhi. AC bus tickets cost about Rs 900. Take a bus that reaches at 5:30am.
Note: Whichever mode of transport you choose make sure you reach Rishikesh a day earlier, Day 0.
Airtel and BSNL display good network range throughout the trail.
The last point where you can withdraw cash is Joshimath.
Chenap Bugyal trek is a moderate one with few tricky sections. The sections you have to be careful on this trek is:
Steep section in day 2
The section from Geewani village to Dhar Kadak is literally on the edge of the mountain. The trail is narrow, steep and riddled with rocks and mud. You have to err on side of caution on this trail.
The trail to Chenap Top
The trail to Chenap Top is similarly tricky as path there is narrow and climb is steepe. It takes 30 minutes to climb it.
How to get fit for the Chenap Bugyal trek
The Chenap Bugyal trek is classified as a moderate trek. You trek up to an altitude of over 12,000 ft at Chenap Top Sahib from 6,000 ft at Joshimath. That is a huge altitude gain and you have to make sure your lungs are strong enough to acclimatise to thin air for more work.
This trek requires a good amount of cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. In order to be prepared for high altitude trek, you should have a combination of distance and speed targets.
Here’s a fitness routine that works:
In case you’re just starting with a regular fitness routine, phase out your distance targets in the following manner –
–>Target completing 5 km in 45 minutes when you begin.
–> Gradually increase your pace by running 4 times a week and bring it down to 5 km in 40 mins.
–>If you are 45 years or above, try to cover 5km in less than 48 minutes.
If you are somebody you prefers cycling over running, then try to cover 18 km in 60 minutes.
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.’
What to take on the Chenap Bugyal trek
- Trekking shoes: Get trekking shoes! Sport shoes won’t be comfortable enough and will not help during steep and narrow sections of the trail. You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
On a trek, carry fewer clothes than you would normally need. Do not pack for ‘what if situations’. That will only add to the weight of your backpack and not be used on the trek. Once your clothes get warmed up on a trek, you will not feel like changing. Just maintain personal hygiene.
- Three Warm Layers: You will be trekking and staying at high altitudes. So make sure you have the apt clothes for the climatic conditions. It will be cold at the higher altitudes so make sure you have at least three layers of warm clothes to protect yourself.
- Two trek pants: Wear one pair and carry the other. Denim/jeans and shorts are not suitable for trekking.
- Three collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one. Let one of these be a dri-fit t-shirt. It will dry quickly in case you are trekking on a rainy day. A common mistake that trekkers make is not changing their tshirts often enough. Regardless of how cold it is, the body tends to sweat a lot. Trekkers who don’t change to fresh clothes after reaching the campsite fall ill due to wet clothes and are often unable to complete their trek.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Sunglasses: Mandatory
- Suncap: The sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Toiletries: Sunscreen, moisturizer, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitiser. Do not carry wet wipes since these are not biodegradable. We do not like biodegradable wet wipes because they take a long time to decompose in the mountains. Use toilet paper instead.
- Sanitary waste: Make sure you bring your used sanitary napkins back to the city with you. Carry a zip lock bag to put used napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose sanitary napkins in the mountains.
- Cutlery:Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. We do not allow biodegradable or disposable cutlery on our treks.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 1 Strip
- Crocin – 10 tablets
- Avomine (optional, in case of motion sickness)- 1 Strip
- Combiflam- Half Strip
- Muscle relaxant – Half Strip
- Digene – Half Strip
- Avil – 1 strip
- ORS – 6 packs
- Knee Cap (If you are prone to knee injury)
Here’s a guide to help you pack for the trek –
Looking for places to visit after your Chenap Bugyal trek?
The trek ends in Joshimath, which close to a lot of places in Uttarakhand that deserves to be seen.
Mana village has the honour of being the last village on the Indo – Tibet border. From here, you can hike up to Vasundhara Falls for a quick trek.
Badrinath town is one of the four sites of Char dham pilgramage and is famous for it’s temple. The temple is open for 6 months every year – spring to early winter.
Auli is famous for it’s ski slopes during winter and make for wonderful meadows in other seasons. Our Pangarchulla and Kuari Pass treks pass through these.
Places to see in Rishikesh
The Lakshman Jhula is a suspension bridge over the river Ganga. It is a bridge that is immediately associated with Rishikesh. Around Lakshman Jhula, there are temples and cafes you can explore.
Every evening, Rishikesh, Varanasi and Haridwar observe the Ganga aarti. It is a ritual to pay respect to the river that is considered to be a lifeline in India – Ganga. The aarti at Rishikesh is a more quieter affair than the ones you would see in Varanasi and Haridwar.
The Ghat on Muni ki Reti side
You can walk on the ghats on the Muni Ki Reti side of Rishikesh. It’s quite a lovely walk!