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Dayara Bugyal -Autumn Trek

Arguably the best meadows of India

  • It is hard to believe that “Barsu village” to “Dayara Bughyal”, a mere 7 km trek can give you so much joy of trekking the Himalayas in such short span of time that one would want to start contemplating in doing more of such treks in such unheard spaces in the Indian Himalayas.
  • And here is the reason why. Where else can you find the beautiful solitude a trekker dreams when engulfed in the prospect of being confronted with either lush green meadows or purity of white snow dunes on the very first day of the trek. And that is exactly why Dayara Bughyal trek should be attempted.
DIFFICULTY:

Moderate

TRAIL TYPE:

Round trail which starts and ends at Barsu. Trail goes through Oak forests, meadows, over a waterfall and villages.

DURATION:

4 days

BASE CAMP:

Barsu

BEST SEASON:

May- June and September-October

Arguably the best meadows of India

Is Dayara Bugyal the most beautiful meadow in India? This is a debate that refuses to die. When trekkers discuss about the most beautiful meadow in India – Dayara Bugyal is often placed at the top position, only to be hotly contested and pushed to the next best, after Bedni Bugyal. But there is no debate amongst trekkers that Dayara Bugyal would fall within the two most beautiful high altitude meadows in India. It is not difficult to see why.

Dayara Bugyal in June Indiahikes
Dayara Bugyal in June

For hundreds of years, shepherds from afar have been taking their flock to graze at Dayara. They have come back with stories of the abundance of grass and splendor of the mighty Himalayan mountain peaks cradling the meadows. They described the place with such intensity that soon, word about Dayara Bugyal reached explorers.

Dayara Top Indiahikes
Dayara Top

When the explorers got back from the Dayara Bugyal trek, they came profoundly affected. The meadows were exactly as the shepherds had described them – but only more beautiful. The mountains they talked about were the Bhagirathi peaks, Bandarpoonch, Black peak and scores of other peaks they could not name. They discovered clear water bodies strewn across the green meadows – in whose reflection the peaks looked even more beautiful. Flowers sprung up around streams and brooks that ran across the meadows.

Author: Sandhya UC

Dayara Bugyal Autumn Trek Guide

Day 1: Barsu to Dayara Bugyal

  • Altitude: 7,400 feet to 11,000 feet
  • Time taken: 4-5 hours

The Barnala and Dayara ridges can be seen right from the lawns of GMVN at Barsu. It is an easy-moderate climb with some stiff edges in between. Barnala, a small meadow, is on top of the first ridge. Take the pathway that goes beside the wall of the GMVN, passing the village fields. The fields give way to trees within ten minutes of the climb. The trees, a mix of local deciduous varieties, oak and rhododendron, create a beautiful mix of colors when their leaves glisten in the morning sun.

The tree cover is sparse initially with a number of clearings in between. Take a peep at the mountains in front and notice them getting bigger as you gain height. Half an hour into the moderately ascending trail will bring you to a herbal garden maintained by the govt. Walk past the garden and in twenty more minutes, you are at the last clearing on the route to Barnala. This place is called Mathi Hoda, which means “last clearing.”

Trail through oak Indiahikes
Trail through oak

The forest cover thickens beyond this and from spring to autumn, the foliage of the trees is thick enough to hide the sky above. Climb up on the well laid-out stone track to the ridge line, which is an hour away.

At the ridge line, the trail gently slopes down. A couple of minutes later, the Gujjar huts and a big clearing are seen. Tall pine trees circle the periphery of the clearing. The trail goes along the side of the clearing, climbing up a small mound at one end. Get on top of the mound and look back. Notice that the skyline has broadened and many more peaks have made an appearance. Run up and in less than five minutes begin the meadows of Barnala.

Barnala Meadows Indiahikes
Barnala Meadows

Barnala is a tree-lined meadow that converts into a ski slope during winter. At the left corner of the meadow is the Barnala Lake. Take a break by the lake watching the reflection of the oak trees in the water.

Dayara Bugyal is on top of the ridge line seen from Barnala. Walk across the meadow and enter the tree line again. Do not forget to turn around to see the views behind as you walk.

Water body in the meadows -Dayara Bugyal
Water body in the meadows -Dayara Bugyal

The climb up the second ridge line is steeper than the first. The path is still well laid-out and it is hard to miss your way through it. An hour and a half’s climb brings you to the end of the tree line and the meadow begins right there. Climb up a couple of mounds and turn around to see the views.  On one side are the new entries, never seen till now – the Bandar Poonch and Black peak.

Entering the Dayara meadows
Entering the Dayara meadows

On the other side are the mountains that were with you until now; the numbers have increased. The view stretches out now to 180 degrees and more. The Dayara Bugyal meadow stretches out far and wide ahead, but the camping areas are limited to the fringes of the Bugyal, where there are good sources of water.

Continue to trek along the right fringes of the meadow with the tree line just below. The trek to the camp site is like a preview to the views in store for the next few days. Capture in your minds and memories, the Bugyals dipping and raising, the skyline around and the long shadows in the golden evening sun.

Indiahikes tents at Dayara Campsite
Indiahikes tents at Dayara Campsite

Pass the Gujjar huts that come up on your left. Within 500 meters, a shady enclosure of oak and pine trees, with a clearing in the center, is seen. A couple of small streams flow on either sides through the year. Make this your campsite. Collect fallen branches and logs from the oak trees around. Light a good fire to warm the chilly night.

Day 2: Trek from Dayara to Bakaria and back exploring the meadow (Bugyal)

  • Altitude: 11,000 feet to 12,000 feet
  • Time taken: 5 – 6 hours

Dayara Bugyal’s expanse deserves a day of exploration. Set aside a day if you can for a complete exploration of the meadow, going all the way to Bakaria top and back. Head up from the camp site and gain some height on the meadows. Move up heading right and traverse through the many sections of the meadows.

A short stiff climb up takes you to the top of a ridge called as Moosa Dhangi. Moosa Dhangi gets its name because of the abundance of rats once found in the burrows there. There is another ridge line to climb after Moosa Dhangi and make the Bandar Poonch a prominent subject of your photographs from here.

All through your explorations, be on the silent lookout for wild life that can be on the prowl. It is not uncommon to catch glimpses of the mountain cat – looks like a small fox – or the mountain deer, whose foot prints are often spotted on patches of snow.

Mountain view from Dayara
Mountain view from Dayara

Get down from Moosa Dhangi and go up the next ridge. The Bakaria top is visible and is three hilltops away. Follow the ridge line and negotiate each hilltop until reaching the last and the highest – The Bakaria top. The ridge line exposes the other side of Dayara Bugyal. Spot the village of Agoda – on the route of the Dodital trek. The Sangam Chetti – Agoda – Dodital – Dayara Bugyal trek route reaches Dayara Bugyal here.

The Bakaria top is the highest point of Dayara Bugyal and is at one corner of the meadow. On one side, see the mountains and the entire Dayara meadow spread out, and on the other, see the hills coming up in layers. Spot the town of Uttarkashi nestled deep down, amidst the hills in the south. Spend time basking in the sun and wind with the views on the Bakaria top.

Dayara Campsite through the woods
Dayara Campsite through the woods

The descent takes a couple of hours, with the route going straight down avoiding the ridge walk. Several streams that run dry during the non-rainy months are found on the way down. Dwarf rhododendrons are the common shrubs found on the mountain sides. The path is narrow but is easily spotted. Sticking to the trail is not necessary as long as you head in the general direction of the camp site.

Day 3: Dayara Bugyal to Siyaari

If in summer, start early. A 7 am start is perfect if you are a bigger group. Take the trail that crosses the stream beyond the campsite and moves into the oak trees. The trail goes out of the forest cover within five minutes, with magnificent views of Bandar Poonch and other peaks.

Exploring the Dayara Bugyal meadows
Exploring the Dayara Bugyal meadows

Keep the tree line on your left and climb up the ridge until you meet the trail that goes to Gidara Bugiyal. It is a breathless 1o min to the trail.

The early morning view of Dayara Bugiyal is worth every effort put in to get there. Miles of undulating meadows stretch in every direction, with the rays of the sun catching them in many moods. If early in the season (May-June), thousands of yellow, violet and white flowers sprout across the meadows – sometimes, there are so many that you have to deliberately skirt around them.

Flowers over looking the valley enroute Dayara Bugyal
Flowers over looking the valley enroute Dayara Bugyal

Stick to the trail as it naturally leads you out of the meadows to the north-western edge (your extreme right). On the edge, it descends sharply through a cluster of dwarf rhododendrons, flattening out to a clearing with a shepherd’s hut. There is a small water point here. Beyond the hut, the trail climbs again topping at a flat ridge of Devikund.

Devikund is a small junction that signals the end of Dayara meadows. A trail descends from Devikund to Dodital, two camps away.

Abandoned shepherd huts on the trail to Dayara Bugyal
Abandoned shepherd huts on the trail to Dayara Bugyal

 

Take the trail that climbs upward and to your right. It opens out to a flattish walk on the steep flank of a large mound. Ahead, Badarpoonch keeps you company, ever watching with its presence. The trail curves around the western flank of the mound before descending gently to the top of a ridge.

Oak trees flank the eastern edges of the ridge. Peep through the trees and spot Barsu many thousand feet below. Take the trail that veers off the ridge to the left and gently descends to a thick cluster of rhododendrons. The trail widens considerably and weaves a flattish trail through the rhododendrons before rounding a shoulder again regaining the ridge. The trail continues to weave in and out of the ridge and into clusters of rhododendrons, finally ending the ridge at the base of the climb towards Surya top.

Bandarpoonch peak- Dayara Bugyal
Bandarpoonch peak- Dayara Bugyal

The climb is short but steep, over a series of switchbacks topping at a tiny pass. From the pass, the view of the entire Dayara Bugyal is worth pausing a few moments for. In front, Bandarpoonch seems a touching distance away towering over the entire landscape.

The trail hugs the eastern side of the ridge, descending mildly in a wide curve to get to another pass in ten minutes. This is the Gidara pass. From the top of the pass, the trail bifurcates in opposite directions. The one on the right heads to Pichkiya and the one on the left leads to Gidara Bugyal.

Ridge walk at Dayara
Ridge walk at Dayara

If you’re short of time and want to end the trek quickly, head towards Pichkiya. If you have an extra day in hand, take the trail that leads to Gidara Bugyal. Gidara Bugyal is a longer trek and takes another three days to complete. But the trail towards Gidara is the way towards Siyaari campsite. Siyaari is visible from the top of the pass about 800 ft below.

Follow the trail to Gidara until it hops on to the ridge overlooking the Dodital valley. Catch the last views of the Bandarpoonch looming over the trail. Descend on the ridge until you get to a shallow, from where the trail to Gidara bifurcates to the left. You are at the tip of a valley that faces the Barsu direction. There is no fixed trail but numerous sheep trails descend to the valley floor. Descend to the valley floor and look for a perennial stream that cuts through the bottom of the valley from one end to the other. Establish your Siyaari camp anywhere near the stream.

Siyaari camp
Siyaari camp

Below, where the short valley ends, an abandoned cluster of shepherd huts perch on the edge of the ridge. Use the huts to fix your bearings on the location. In the evening, take short excursions to the various hill tops that surround the campsite. The view from the top of them displays the entire snow peak range.

In the morning, climb up the hill again to catch a spectacular sunrise from behind Mt Srikhant.

Sunrise behind Mt. Srikant
Sunrise behind Mt. Srikant

Day 4 : Siyaari to Barsu

Siyaari is a superb location to catch sunrise on a meadow. For that, though, you need to climb up about 200 ft to a flat turn to the left of the valley.

Get up on time to make the 10 minute climb to the flat. Carry enough woolens – it can get a little windy on the top. Perch yourself on a boulder or on grass and catch the rising sun behind the summit.

As a bonus, wait for the hundreds of sheep that the shepherd’s let out to graze in the morning light. Catch the first trace of the sun, bouncing off their backs as they bleat in the warmth of the sun.

Sheep grazing at Dayara
Sheep grazing at Dayara

It’s a long descent to Barsu. Start early from the campsite. Keep the stream to your left and take the trail that hugs the right of the valley, climbing slightly on its flank. At the end of the valley, the trail narrows and dips suddenly into the tree line. If there are mules with you on the trek, then, this is not the trail for them as it is too narrow. They need to retrace yesterday’s steps to the Gidara pass and head down to Pichkiya from the ridge above.

The narrow trail is just about wide enough for a person to pass through. The trail meanders in and out of roots of the oaks and rhododendrons, sometimes dipping sharply and at times, rising quickly but at most times having around the same altitude. The forest is thick and sunlight rarely reaches the trail. Within half an hour to forty minutes into the trail, take a break at a permanent stream that runs down a gully. The water is clean and pure.

A small stream en route
A small stream en route

Continue on the trail as it weaves in and out of the routes, until you get to a clearing with a terrific view of the summits in front and the meadows behind. The trail climbs and descends alternately through the thick undergrowth of oak rhododendron and occasionally mixed trees. The trail suddenly curves around a bend to give you a view of a shepherd’s hut perched on a ridge against the backdrop of an empty sky. Get to the hut to catch up with a friendly family of Gujjars. On the right are the last of the descending flanks of the Dayara meadows – a flank the locals call Ki’uttoral.

The shepherd’s hut is a junction of sorts, three trails merge here; the trail that descends from the Gidara pass, another that climbs from Barsu and Pichkiya, and the third, the trail we just came across – that leads to Siyaari and further on the Gidara. From the shepherd’s hut, take the trail that descends into the forest below. The trail gets wide, but descends steeper too.

Pichkiya
Pichkiya

Your next destination is Pichkiya – a large clearing in the forest, an hour and a half from the shepherd’s hut. Within 10 minutes of your descent, the trail flattens out to a big clearing surrounded by oak trees with langoors sleeping through the branches. In the clearing, cows graze about peacefully. Make your way through the clearing to the outer right and edge and catch the trail that again descends sharply into the forest.

Ten minutes later, over a curve, spot another cluster of shepherd’s huts peeping through the trees. Do not move to the hut but look for a sharp trail that weaves right from the trail and disappears into the thicket. This is the trail that you need to take. The trail that you see ahead ends at the shepherds’ huts.

A trekker en route to Dayara
A trekker en route to Dayara

The trail continuing to descend swerves further right to emerge at another cluster of shepherds’ huts in another couple of minutes. The trail starts to the left and switching back to the right to suddenly eme
rge into a cluster of trails sprouting out of it. This can confuse trekkers. From here on, and until Barsu, many side trails emerge and again converge together many times. To avoid getting the feeling that you are lost, always take a trail that is descending and moving to the right. Avoid any trail that looks flattish. Though, keep in mind all trails at some point converge and descend to Pichkiya and further on to Barsu.

Half an hour through the steep descent and further right into the mountains, the trail opens up to a large clearing of a grand view of snow peaks. You have arrived at Pichkya. A permanent water source flows on the extreme right hand edge of the clearing. Below the lip of the clearing, there is a small shady flat here, where the water source descends to a small watering hole. This is a favourite of animals to take a dip or simply drink from. There’s another water source a minute into the trail that starts from the outer edge of the clearing across the water source. This is your trail to Barsu.

Trail leading through dense Oak forests
Trail leading through dense Oak forests

Pichkiya is a lovely spot to take a break for lunch. In case the team is tired and sore from the long descent, then you can think of camping at Pichkiya too. From Pichkiya, it’s only two and a half hours to Barsu. So camping is an alternative only in an emergency or for the die hard.

The trail from Pichkya to Barsu is utterly beautiful and likely to stay in your memories for long. Take the outer trail from the right hand corner of Pichkya and begin your descent through the splendid foliage of oak trees. The brown carpet of leaves is a delight to walk on. To add to the charm, the trail splits and converges many times, sometimes over a height of only a few feet to lend a picture of fairy tale era. Pack your descent evenly because it is a fairly long descent of 2,000 ft to Barsu.

Autumn colours
Autumn colours

About an hour through the mystic forest, the trail suddenly plunges to the sound of roaring water to emerge at the foot of a lovely waterfall. The waterfall creates a few dark pools of water. This is a welcome break for trekkers to freshen up from the dust and grime of the last few days of trekking. Drink to your fill from the clean water and cross the stream over logs placed in the water. The trail climbs sharply out of the waterfall to leave the roaring sound behind in a couple of minutes. Soon enough, the trail again continues to descend through the enchanting oak forest.

Spot village women from Barsu foraging for firewood and dry leaves – and you know civilization is not too far off. Sure enough, an hour into the descent from the waterfall, emerge out into the open to a fantastic view of Barsu right below you. You are perched in an overhang of the steep mountain face that towers over Barsu.

Barsu revisited from above
Barsu revisited from above

Take in the beautiful view and continue your descent as a trail traverses the mountain face. On its descent to Barsu, the upper reaches of Barsu with its pretty wheat and poppy cultivation, soon falls on the trail. From here on, the trail dips towards Barsu quickly, traversing its upper meadows to get a spot close to the temple.

With a trail entering the village from its upper echelon, take your time, witnessing the life in the village of Barsu. Village kids scamper about around their homes, the women thrash wheat and some tend to their cultivation. It is a fascinating moment for trekkers to witness events from a world far removed from modernity. The trail gradually descends to the village square and a primary school surrounded by wheat fields. It brings to an end your enchanting Dayara Bugyal trek.

Cardiovascular endurance
This trek requires a good amount of endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. Make sure you are able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.

Strength
This is another area you should work on. There is a lot of trekking distance that you will cover carrying your backpacks and trekking along with your backpack is not a very easy task. You have to walk on uneven terrain during the trek. It could be taxing for your legs. For this, strengthening your legs will help. You can do some squats to strengthen them. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.

Flexibility
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before 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.

Bare necessities

  1. Trekking shoes: The trek distance is long and you will have to walk for long distances which need you to have comfortable trekking shoes. You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes.
  2. Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.

The Miyar Valley Dun trek happens round the year except for monsoons so make sure your have the proper clothing as per the season demands so you can keep yourself protected during the trek.

Clothes

  1. Three (Five in Winter) Warm Layers: You will be trekking and camping 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.
  2. Two trek pants: One pair of pants should suffice for this trek. But you can carry one spare pair in case the first one gets wet. Wear one pair and carry one pair.
  3. Two collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one.
  4. Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.

Accessories

  1. Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. There might be snow in Har Ki Dun Valley or from Kalkatiyadhaar (depending on the season you are going in), so carry a pair of sunglasses.
  2. Suncap: The sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
  3. Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
  4. Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
  5. Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
  6. Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  7. Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.

Others

  1. Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
  2. Toiletries (Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste)
  3. Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
  4. Two water bottles: 1 litre each
  5. Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.

Mandatory Personal Medical Kit

  1. Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
  2. Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
  3. Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
  4. Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
  5. Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
  6. Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
  7. Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
  8. Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
  9. Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
  10. Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
  11. Gauze – 1 small roll
  12. Band aid – 10 strips
  13. Cotton – 1 small roll
  14. ORS – 10 packets
  15. Betadine or any antiseptic cream
  16. Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
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Sandhya UC

Sandhya UC

Sandhya is a partner at Indiahikes. Over the past ten years, she has explored and put on the map few of the greatest Himalayan treks in India, including Kashmir Great Lakes and Kedarkantha. She believes in sustainable living just as she believes in sustainable trekking.

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