Kashmir is one of the most popular tourist destinations in our country and across the world. Kashmir is best known for its wide canvas of stunning meadows, snow-capped mountains and tranquil alpine lakes. It is rightly called the ‘Heaven on Earth’.
Located in the Anantnag district of Kashmir valley, Chumnai Lakes are part of the Anantnag forest range and shares its boundaries with Upper Dachigam National Park. Though located in such a popular region, the Chumnai Sar Trek still remains a relatively well kept secret.
The Chumnai Sar Trek starts from Aru Valley, a hill station and famous tourist destination in Anantnag district of the Kashmir Valley. The route winds through the greenest meadows, sprawling banks of Lidder river and wide-open Himalayan valleys. Throughout the trek, you'll be greeted by acres and acres of beautiful coniferous forests that extend as far as the horizon goes.
Chumnai Sar Trek is moderate in difficulty and is suitable for fit beginners and experienced trekkers. It is a two days trek and the total distance you cover is approximately 29 km. The best time to trek is from July to September.
Just like you, we love trekking! And this is a trek we’ve documented in great detail to help you do it on your own. Drop in comments at the end of the page if you need any help.
1. Chumnai Valley
Chumnai Valley is popular for its enchanting carpet of greens and charming flower blooms. It is also home to two alpine lakes. Wildflowers particularly Iris, Lavender, Himalayan Indigo and Dandelion are common around the Chumnai valley and add to the valley’s allure.
Picturesque Chumnai Valley. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
The colonies of nomads add an extra dimension of beauty to the valley. Nomads spend the grazing season with their flock in Chumnai valley.
2. The two lakes of Chumnai
Chumnai Sar I is an alpine lake which is the main attraction of the trek. Located at 12,000 feet above sea level, the lake has a perimeter of 1.6 km. The lake is circular in shape with a small tail at the end.
Chumnai Sar I is fed by the small springs and snow-capped cliffs around the lake. It is also the source of the stream which ultimately flows to the Lidder river via Chumnai valley. The lake remains frozen throughout the winter.
Surreal and serene Chumnai Sar I. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Chumnai Sar II is another alpine lake located on the edge of Chumnai Valley. The lake has a perimeter of 1.17 km. The view of the blue alpine lake surrounded by small yellow and purple flowers blooming on glossy green plants is spectacular, to say the least. The surrounding rocky mountains add to the charm.
The lake is the main source of the stream that flows through the Chumnai valley. This stream is the water source for the entire trek.
The beautiful Chumnai Sar II. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Day 1 : Drive from Srinagar to Aru Valley
Drive Distance: 102 km | Duration: 2.30 hour
Altitude Gain: 5,800 ft to 8,800 ft
Reach Aru Valley from Srinagar either by own vehicle or public transport.
Day 2 : Trek from Aru Valley to Chumnai Valley
Trek Distance: 11 km | Duration: 5 hours
Altitude Gain: 7200 ft to 10893 ft
Trek Gradient: Easy to Moderate.Trek through the jungle and alpine trail with a combination of small steep sections and flat walks.
Day 3 : Trek from Chumnai Valley to Chumnai Lakes and Back To Aru Valley
Trek Distance: 19 km | Duration: 6.30 hours
Altitude Gain and Loss: 10,893 ft to 12,000 ft and back to 7,200 ft
Trek Gradient: Moderate. Trek through the mud and boulder trail to Chumnai lakes and descend through the jungle trail to Aru Valley.
Route Map of Chumnai Sar Trek. Screenshot on Google Earth Pro
Know Your Trek
We have always wanted trekkers to be well-informed before they go on a trek. Knowledge is the difference between a safe trek and a dangerous one. It’s also the difference between a wholesome experience and a superficial experience.
Use this section to learn about Chumnai Sar Trek. It has in-depth information about each day of the trek, what to expect, and how you need to prepare for it. Many years of expertise have gone into this content. Don’t miss the ‘Frequently Asked Questions' section. Trekkers find that extremely useful.
How Does Each Day Look Like
Day 1: Reach Aru Valley
Drive Distance: 102 km | Duration: 2.30 hours
Aru Valley is about 102 km from Lal Chowk, Srinagar and about 53 km from Anantnag. You can take a taxi from Lal Chowk or from Srinagar International Airport to reach Aru Valley. It will take around two and a half hours to reach the Aru Valley basecamp, if you choose to travel by shared taxi. The cost for a shared taxi will be around Rs 320. If you take a cab from Lalchowk or the airport, it will cost you between Rs 2800 to 3500.
Though not as straightforward as taking a taxi, you can also travel to Aru Valley by taking a bus. You will have to take a bus to Anantnag and then catch another bus to Pahalgam and then taxi to reach Aru Valley.
Day 2 : Trek from Aru Valley to Chumnai Valley
Trek Distance: 11 km | Duration: 6 hours
Altitude Gain and Loss: 7,200 ft to 10,893 ft
Water source: The Lidder river and many other springs and small streams serve as the primary source of water throughout the trail.
Trek Gradient: Easy to Moderate. Trek through the jungle and alpine trail with some small steep sections and mostly flat trails.
Start your trek from Aru Valley Taxi stand and continue on the Lidderwat trail. This trail is the one going to our popular trek of Tarsar Marsar. The trail starts with a quick ascent to the green top. This trail is muddy, wide and passes between the fence. It takes around 25 minutes to reach the green top. Once you are on the top you will see a big wide opening which will give you a panoramic view of the entire Aru region.
The view of Aru Valley from the Green Top. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Immediately after this, you enter into the gorgeous fir forest. The trail is well marked throughout. Continue on the forest trail for the next 1 km till you come across a small clearing. The lush green grassland surrounded by fir trees on the borderline makes for a nice resting spot. Spot the shepherds’ huts here and indulge in a conversation with them if possible. It gives a sneak peek into their culture.
Next, the trail enters the forest section again. Continue on the trail for another 400 metres. You come across a forked path. You have one trail which continues straight and another one to the left. Take the left one which descends to the Lidder river.
After about 10 minutes of descent, you have to cross the river. There is a log bridge put out. So make use of that and cross the river. The trail continues in the forest section but now it’s an ascent for about another kilometre.
Continue further on the same trail. Soon, you come across another stream crossing. Hop on the boulders to cross the stream. It’s very important to be nimble on your feet.
Chumnai stream alongside the trail. Picture by Saliyah ahmad
This stream is sourced from the Chumnai lakes. You’ve entered the Chumnai Valley now. It is populated by pine and fir trees on both sides till you reach the alpine zone.
Beautiful fir forest. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
A walk on this trail is a pleasant experience for your senses. The fragrance of trees, chirping of birds and the gushing Chumnai stream soothe your soul. The trail will ultimately lead parallel to the stream which will take you to the Chumnai Valley.
Trail parallel to Chumnai stream. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
There are several gradual ascends throughout the trail. But, once you are in the alpine zone the trail will pass through the flat surface of Chumnai Valley. Now the trail is a mix of mud and boulders.
Trekker passing through a mix of boulders and mud. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
As you move higher and higher, the view of Lidder valley opens up with mountains and pine forests. It will take you 4 hours from the Lidder river to reach Chumnai Valley. Once you’re at the campsite, pitch your tents, have dinner and explore around a bit before calling it a day. Rest well and prepare for the next day.
The Chumnai valley is perfect for camping. You will see colonies of Gujjar huts in Chumnai valley. Camping alongside them gives the best camping experience.
Gujjar’s hut near the Chumnai Campsite. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Day 3 : Trek from Chumnai Valley To Chumnai Lakes and back to Aru Valley
Trek Distance: 18 km | Duration: 7 hours
Altitude Gain and Loss: 10893 ft to 12000 ft, and back to 7200 ft
Water source: The stream sourced from Chumnai Lakes and small streams serve as the primary source of water throughout the trail.
Trek Type: Moderate. Trek through the mud and boulder trail To Chumnai Lakes and descend through the jungle trail to Aru Valley.
Start your trek as early as you can. It is best to start latest by 7 am post your breakfast. Wake up at 5 am, have breakfast by 6 am and leave by 7 am.
Follow the trail parallel to the stream. It leads to the edge of the Chumnai Valley.
Edge of Chumnai Valley. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Here, you see a small hill right in front of you. There are two trails. One circumnavigates the hill and another ascends to it. Take the ascending trail to reach the hilltop. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the top. From there, you get an aerial view of the Chumnai Sar I.
Chumnai Sar I is a beautiful lake and the very first sight of it makes you fall in love with it. The right mixture of greenery and boulders adds to the beauty of it. The reflection of surrounding mountains over the lake draws your attention. Take some time out to observe the surroundings and soak in the serenity of the place.
Arieal view of Chumnai sar I. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Now, descend to the other side of the lake through a gully. It leads to Chumnai Sar II. This is the most tricky section of the entire trek. You’ve to descend through the boulders which are very slippery. Be mindful of your footing.
Trekker descending down to Chumnai Sar II. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
From the top of the gully, you will get an aerial view of Chumnai Sar II lake. Descend from the ridge to get close to the lake. It takes about 20 minutes to reach Chumnai Sar II.
Chumnai Sar II is as beautiful as Chumnai Sar I. Spend some time at the bank of the lake.
Chumnai Sar II. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
Start your descent through the trail parallel to the stream which takes you to the Chumnai Valley. From there, trace the same route back to reach Aru valley. Have lunch at the Chumnai Campsite and continue your descent.
The distance from Chumnai lake II to Aru valley is around 14 km and will take you about 5 hours approximately to reach back to Aru Valley.
Tip: If you find the distance to be covered on Day 2 is too much, come back to Chumnai Valley and camp there for the night. Trace the same route back to Aru valley the next day.
How Difficult is Chumnai Sar Trek
Chumnai Sar Trek is rated as 'Moderate' in difficulty level.
It has many steep and bouldering sections.
The section where trekkers need to be mindful when trekking is during the descent from Chumnai Sar I to Chumnai Sar II.
When it rains, the trail becomes even more slippery. Wearing proper trekking shoes and carrying trekking poles come in handy here.
Though the rest of the trek is of easy grade trek, it consists of long distances to cover each day. A beginner can also do this trek, but you’ve to be really fit.
How to reach the Chumnai Sar Trek
The Chumnai Sar Trek starts from Aru Valley. It is 100 km from Srinagar.
Reaching Aru Valley by your own vehicle
If you want to reach Aru Valley on your own, use this link to help set up navigation on Google Maps.
- From Lal Chowk, head towards Anantnag via National highway. The distance from Lal Chowk to Anantnag is 56 km. It takes about an hour to get there.
- Once you reach Anantnag, take the Pahalgam route via K.P Road .The distance from Anantnag to Pahalgam is 41 km. It takes about an hour to reach there.
- Once you reach Pahalgam, you’ll find a signboard directing you to Aru Valley. Take that route. The distance from Pahalgam to Aru Valley is 12 km. It takes around 30 minutes to reach Aru Valley.
Reaching Aru Valley by Public Transport System
Traveling to Aru Valley by public transport is slightly more difficult than using a private vehicle.
If you plan for public transport, reach Pahalgam or Aru Valley a day before your trek.
You have two options - taxi or bus.
- You can take a shared taxi from Lal chowk Srinagar taxi Stand to Anantnag. It costs Rs 130 and takes around 1 hour to reach Anantnag.
- Once you reach Anantnag Taxi Stand, take another shared taxi for Pahalgam via K.P Road. It costs Rs 120 and takes around 1 hour 20 minutes to reach Pahalgam.
- From Pahalgam, take another shared taxi to Aru Valley. It costs Rs 60 and takes about 40 minutes to reach there.
Bus option is also available at the SRTC terminal.
- Take the bus that goes to Anantnag. The bus takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Anantnag and costs Rs 70.
- Once you reach Anantnag Bus stand, take another bus for Pahalgam. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Pahalgam and costs Rs 50.
- From Pahalgam, there are no buses available. Take a shared taxi from here. It takes 40 minutes to reach and costs Rs 60.
Note: Public transport is not available as per timing. Instead, it is based on seat availability. When the seats get full, buses leave for their intended destination. There may be a variation in timing given in the document due to traffic jams and seat availability.
Nearest airport and railway station
Srinagar international airport- 102 km
Srinagar railway station- 57 km
Best Time to do the Chumnai Sar Trek
You can do Chumnaii Lakes Trek from the July to the end of September. The best months to trek are end of July and August. This is when the temperature remains moderate and the weather remains mostly stable. The skies are mostly clear and thus pave the way to crystal clear views of all the surrounding mountains.
There’s life blooming all around, with birds chirping, trees growing fresh leaves, and the lush green carpet of grass getting filled with wildflowers of different colors. Water sources are replenished and streams start flowing at multiple places.
Post-September, temperatures start to drop and the chances of rainfall and snowfall increase at higher altitudes. During winters, the entire trail remains under snow cover.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stay Options Near Aru Village
There are some private hotels and guest houses such as The Snow Mount Guest House, Hotel Milkyway, Hotel Alpine who provide accommodation for tourists.
However, the other option is to stay closer to Pahalgam. Pahalgam has many hotels, some of them are budget friendly.
You can also pitch your own tents at Aru Valley.
Food and Water source on the Chumnai Sar Trek
Many restaurants in and around Aru Valley provide both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food for visitors.
The Mughal Darbar in Pahalgam is a highly rated restaurant in the area, is a multi cuisine one and is preferred by many.
The Lidder river till the Campsite and many other springs and small streams serve as the primary source of water throughout the trail.
Tip: If you are not comfortable with having water from the stream or the waterfalls, carry purification tablets or Paany Bottle to purify water.
Exit points on the Chumnai Sar Trek
Medical Emergencies can strike on any trek. The key to dealing with them lies in knowing your exit points. Know how to get out and reach the nearest hospital quickly.
You will have to retrace your steps and come down to Aru Valley if you want to exit the trail due to any emergency.
Emergency Contacts on the Chumnai Lakes
Hospital: Government Civil Hospital Pahalgam is the nearest hospital to the Chumnai Sar Trek.
Police Station: Police Station Pahalgam (01936243367) is the nearest police station to the Chumnai Sar Trek.
Srinagar Forest Department: In case of any emergency, contact 0194-2455027
ATM and Networks on the Trek
ATMs: Pahalgam has the closest ATM services to Chumnai Sar Trek.
Mobile Networks: Chumnai Sar Trek is a no network zone. However, there are a few spots on the trek where you will find some connectivity on Airtel and BSNL networks.
Weather and Temperature on the Trek
On Chumnai Sar Trek, the weather and temperature fluctuates much due to its altitude. There is a considerable change between the day time and night time temperatures.
During the night, sometimes the temperature falls to sub-zero level. However, during the day, temperature remains above 15°C on average.
The rain showers especially in July and August make trekking to Chumnai Lakes a pleasant experience.
It is advisable to be prepared with appropriate clothing so as to have a comfortable trekking experience.
Temperature from June end to September end
Day time - 15°C - 30°C
Night time - 0°C - 10°C
Places to Visit after the Chumnai Sar Trek
Pahalgam is a popular hill station located in the Anantnag district of Kashmir. Pahalgam also serves as the base camp for many treks including the famous Sarous lake and Tulian lake trek. It is just 13 km away from Aru Valley.
2. Kokernag Botanical Garden
It is a famous tourist destination in Kashmir valley. It is located around 75 km from Aru. It is popular for its springs, flower beds, evergreen shrubs and chinars. The place is generally crowded throughout the year.
Kokernag Botanical Garden. Picture by Saliyah Ahmad
3. Mughal gardens of Srinagar
It is located in the heart of Srinagar around 107 km from Aru Valley. It gives you a glimpse of Mughal architecture.
4. Achabal garden
It is a popular tourist destination in Anantnag district of the Kashmir Valley. The place is notable for an ancient spring surrounded by a garden developed by Mughals. The garden has cascades and fountains which have been erected by Mughal emperors.
5. Martand Sun Temple
It is a hindu temple located in Anantnag district of the Kashmir valley. It dates back to the eighth century and was dedicated to Surya(Sun). The temple has been recognised as a site of national importance.
Trek explored and documented by Saliyah Ahmad.
Trek edited by Manasa N L.