A Complete Guide to Kipling Trail Trek
Once the main route from Dehradun to Mussoorie, the Kipling trail is now an exciting trek far removed from the traffic and overcrowding that marks the new Mussoorie road.
This is a 9 km trail starting from the Shahanshahi Ashram and going all the way to Mussoorie through Jharipani and Barlowgunj villages.
The trail follows a winding serpentine path with the Himalayan foothills on one side and spectacular views of the Dehradun valley on the other side.
The path first takes one through a steep jungle trail followed by small villages exhibiting remnants of the colonial era. The path thus appeals to nature-lovers as well as those interested in history and heritage.
The trail has been named after the celebrated writer Rudyard Kipling who had walked this trail in the 1880s and been inspired by the beauty of the Himalayan foothills. He set his walking experience in the famous novel ‘Kim’. Also known as the Bridle Path, this trail has often been described by Ruskin Bond in his books.
The trail is steep with a 30-35 degree incline all the way to the top. Although the incline is steep along almost the entire 9 km route, it is not a cause for concern and can be negotiated by keeping a slow and steady pace.
The trek is suitable for fit beginners and the steep incline would challenge experienced trekkers as well!
➤ Table of Contents
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! You will get all the information required to do the Kipling Trail Trek on your own.
To navigate through the documentation easily, use this section of the Table of Contents:
- What To Watch Out For
- Trail Information
- Google Maps Link Of The Trek
- Best Time To Do Kipling Trail
- How To Reach Kipling Trail
- Difficult Sections On The Trek
- How To Get Fit For The Trek
- Things To Take On Kipling Trail
- Frequently Asked Questions about the trek
- Nearby Places To Visit After The Trek
➤ What to Watch Out for
1. Spectacular views of the Doon Valley
Just ten minutes into the trek, you would be greeted with panoramic views of the Doon valley below. The views continue throughout the duration of the trek all the way to the top.
Doon valley in all its glory. Picture by Abhishek Pant
If you’re trekking in the monsoon months, the views of the valley might be difficult since clouds envelop the entire trail. But even on a cloudy day, it still might be possible to get views of the Doon valley when you’re just starting out with the climb.
2. Rich history and remnants of the colonial-era buildings
The Kipling trail was once the only route to Mussoorie from Dehradun.
During the colonial era, Mussoorie was an important hill station and the British extensively traversed this trail. Back then, this path was also used by the mini trucks or ‘Gattus’ that negotiated the steep terrain carrying quarried limestone to the top.
Colonial style resort on the Kipling Trail trek. Picture by Abhishek Pant
Beyond Jharipani, one encounters several colonial-era buildings, some of which served as crucial halts during the British days. Some of them, like the Jharipani Castle, have been converted into boutique stays. The Half-way House, Barlowgunj Bakery and Brewery as well as Sikander Hall all have their origins in the British era, with a rich history associated with each.
3. Bird Watching
Dehradun is home to more than 500 species of birds and you can spot several of them on the Kipling trail.
With a dense mixed forest accompanying the trail, birds spotted include the Common Hill Partridge, Himalayan Bulbul, Brown-Headed Barbet, Jungle Babbler, Red Junglefowl, Laughing Dove, Grey Treepie, Black-rumped Flameback, Purple Sunbirds and many more.
Black-rumped Flameback. Picture by Abhishek Pant
If you’re an avid birder, make sure you’re carrying binoculars as the birds are often on trees or bushes along the steep slopes far from the main path.
➤ Trail Information
The Kipling Trail can be divided into two sections:
- A winding trail through dense forest on the unmetalled road till Jharipani Village
- An ascent through villages on metalled road from Jharipani till Mussoorie Library
Trail Map of Kipling Trail. Sourced from Google Maps
Section 1: Shahanshahi Ashram to Jharipani Village
Trek Distance: 3.5 km
Trek Duration: 2 hours
Start your trek early in the morning from behind the Shahanshahi Ashram. The Christian Retreat is another landmark.
Fifty meters ahead, you would come across a board on the left side mentioning the start of Mussoorie's trekking path.
Board mentioning the start of the Mussoorie Trek route. Picture by Abhishek Pant
A few meters ahead you come across an old signboard declaring the tax rates for use of the path, even mentioning the rates for mules and other livestock! This is the Old Toll Barrier which was relevant in British times.
The Old Toll barrier. Picture by Abhishek Pant
After crossing a few houses, you will find a Kali Devi Temple on your left. From here, the unmetalled trail becomes visible. You will come across two tracks. Take the one which goes leftward and seems less steep. The other track goes towards the Shikhar Fall.
Take the path on the left. The other path goes to Shikhar Falls. Picture by Abhishek Pant
If you’re trekking during the monsoon or post-monsoon season, the gurgling sound of a stream flowing near the base will be a constant companion for the first one hour, a welcome change from the din of the city.
Being a popular trail, you are likely to come across a few people either making their way up or down, depending on how early you start.
Just five minutes into the trek, the trail turns steep and enters lush forest vegetation. Ferns are a characteristic feature of the foothills.
The chirping of the birds combined with the sound of the flowing stream gives you the feeling of having left the city far behind!
One is rewarded with great views very early in the trek. Picture by Abhishek Pant
The climb towards Jharipani village is marked by five steep and winding inclines referred to as ‘paanch kainchi’ locally. The first of these is negotiated merely ten minutes into the trek.
The unmetalled road gives way to stones and debris about twenty minutes into the trek which make the path slippery. There are no railings on the edge of the path hence make sure you stick to the middle of the path.
A typical winding trail on the path laid with debris. Picture by Abhishek Pant
During the monsoon season, misty clouds will start to accompany you once you are half an hour into the trek.
Hugging the hills on one side, the path gives mesmerizing views of the Doon valley below on the other side.
Typical path in the first section of the trek. Picture by Abhishek Pant
During the monsoons, one also comes across small waterfalls and natural spring water sources where you can refill your bottle and relish the authentic Himalayan mineral water!
Natural spring water along the trail. Picture by Abhishek Pant
The winding trail continues for about one hour when you come across a fork in the path. The main path goes straight while another path goes towards the left. Take the one that goes to the left.
It’s easy to miss the fork and continue on the straight path. If you miss the fork and head straight instead, there is a sign that should serve as a warning and alert you – the path starts to descend, instead of going up.
The tricky crossroad. Take the path going to the left. Picture by Abhishek Pant
After taking the path that goes towards the left, almost immediately the forest thickens and is marked by big trees. You also leave the debris-laden path behind and come across a firm unmetalled path, offering a much better grip.
During monsoons, the path is covered by moss on the edges. Stay away from these as moss turns the path slippery.
The moss-covered trail through dense forest. Picture by Abhishek Pant
The forest that surrounds you is of a mixed kind with trees like Bakain, Kachnar, Tun, Pipal as well as wild rose creepers and cactus.
Apart from the rich variety of birds, you can also be treated to the sight of monkeys diving acrobatically from higher trees to lower ones, unmindful of the steep drop below them!
Kakad (Barking deer) are also found on the steep hillsides. Keep a lookout for huge spider webs dangling on the path in front of you.
The forest consists of a variety of vegetation including cactus. Picture by Abhishek Pant
After about 45 minutes from the path that turned left, you will come across a lot of Tibetan prayer flags. Here, the forest trail ends.
The forest trail ends here. Enjoy a tea break here. Picture by Abhishek Pant
After going up for 5 minutes, you will come across a few tea stalls. Take a break here to refresh yourself. You can help yourself to pipe hot tea, maggi, momos and sandwiches here.
A colourful tea stall! Picture by Abhishek Pant
After refreshing yourself, resume the trail upwards. You will find some bikes plying on this path.
After 15 minutes of a steep climb, you reach the Jharipani village. The path merges with the metalled road of the old Dehradun-Mussoorie road. This marks the end of section 1.
End of section 1 of the Trek. Here, the path merges with the metalled road. Picture by Abhishek Pant
Pro-Tip: In case you are only interested in walking through a jungle trail, you can end your trek here and either head back or take a detour and head towards the Jharipani Waterfalls which are 2km away.
Detour towards the Jharipani Falls. Picture by Abhishek Pant
The rest of the trek from Jharipani would be on the metalled road passing through the village of Barlowgunj. If the thought of passing by old colonial buildings sounds appealing to you, carry on to the next section.
Section 2: Jharipani Village to Mussoorie through Barlowgunj
Trek Distance: 5 km
Trek Duration: 2 hours
On starting off on the metalled path, you will come across an old British building on the left side. This is the famous ‘Half Way House’.
Called so because it’s located almost at the midpoint of the trail from Shahanshahi Ashram to Mussoorie, it served as an important halt during the days of the British. Weary travellers going up would sit here and refresh themselves with drinks.
The once-important Half Way House. Picture by Abhishek Pant
Opposite the Half Way House, on the right side, you will come across the entrance of the Oak Grove School. The school was established by the East India Railway Company all the way back in 1888.
True to the name, you will now come across a lot of Oak trees (Baanj) bordering the road. As you walk along, you also notice a drop in temperature owing to the gain in altitude.
Keep an eye out for huge roots jutting out of the hillsides. You will often stumble upon exposed roots on the hillsides which are even longer than the trees. These are results of landslides washing away the soil and leaving the roots behind, a typical feature on this part of the hills!
Huge roots jutting out of the hillsides. A typical feature of the hills here. Picture by Abhishek Pant
The Jharipani village flanks you on both sides.
Walking along, you will find a lot of colonial-architecture buildings, some of which have been converted to resorts.
During the monsoon season, mist surrounds you. On a clear day though, you will have beautiful views of the Doon valley below and the hills of Mussoorie above beckoning you to come to their lap!
During the monsoons, the mist envelops you on reaching Jharipani. Picture by Abhishek Pant
After walking for about forty minutes from the start of Jharipani, you will come across a Tibetan school on the left.
The gradient again gets steep here as the Barlowgunj village makes its appearance in the distance. Twenty minutes from the Tibetan school, you reach Barlowgunj which is a busy village marked with hotels, resorts and bakeries.
In the British days, Barlowgunj was famous for its bakery and brewery.
Unfortunately for the craft beer lovers, the brewery is no longer functional. Though it’s easy to imagine the joy that would have marked the faces of weary travellers on being presented with a mug of chilled beer, with hills and mist enveloping them!
An SBI branch is now situated on the site of the erstwhile bakery.
Villa Barlow, one of the many colonial-style resorts at Barlowgunj. Picture by Abhishek Pant
On the right side of the Bank, you will come across the St. George’s College.
St. George’s College. Picture by Abhishek Pant
Mussoorie is now just an hour’s walk away.
Continue walking the path which again turns steep. After about half-hour, you will pass by the Sikander Hall which was the summer home of Skinner family.
The founder Colonel James Skinner was thought of as a reincarnation of Alexander the Great (Sikander) by the people of Delhi since his cavalry troops never lost a battle, hence the name Sikander Hall. (Information credits: Been There Doon That)
A half hour’s walk more and you reach the Library Chowk in Mussoorie.
Mussoorie also referred to as ‘Queen of the Hills’, is a busy hill-station, especially on the weekends.
Take a break here and enjoy the spectacular views of the valley below or the hills around you. You can help yourself to some sumptuous food here as there are a lot of good restaurants with a variety of cuisine on offer.
The Mussoorie Library. Picture by Abhishek Pant
You can either explore the town and stay here for the night or return back to the path you had come up.
Descent: You can follow the same route that you had taken on the way up for the descent.
Descending all the way down to Shahanshahi Ashram will take about two hours.
You would need to be careful on the descent, especially on the forest trail through the debris-laden path which could be slippery and difficult to maintain balance on owing to the steep decline.
Google Maps Link For The Kipling Trail Trek
We go to great lengths to ensure you have a safe trek. So here’s a Google Maps link to the trail to help you navigate without getting lost. Click here to download the file
➤ Best Season to do the Kipling Trail Trek
Kipling trail is among those trails which can be done throughout the year.
During the monsoon months of July-August on days when it’s raining, the trail should be avoided as the path would be slippery and there are chances of landslides during heavy rains.
However, if it’s not raining, the trail can be embarked upon even during the monsoon months.
Best season to walk the trail would be from end-September to February.
Post monsoon, you will witness the lush green forests as well as small streams and waterfalls.
In the winter and pre-summer season, you will have clear and breathtaking views of the Doon valley below, something that is difficult to come across during the monsoons due to the clouds and surrounding mist.
➤ How to Reach Kipling Trail
The trek starts from Shahanshahi Ashram or the Christian Retreat which is located in Rajpur in Dehradun.
Reaching by your own vehicle
If you have your own car or two-wheeler, then you have to drive in the north direction from Dehradun.
From Clock Tower, drive towards Rajpur Road which leads to Mussoorie.
After covering a distance of approx. 7 km from Clock Tower, you will reach the Mussoorie diversion. The roads that go left is the new route to Mussoorie (the busy route) while the straight one is an old route that also goes to Mussoorie via Rajpur. Drive straight.
After 3 km there is another diversion. The left one is for Mussoorie and the straight one leads to Rajpur market.
Take a left turn from here and after a distance of 2.5 km, you will reach Shahanshahi Ashram and the Christian Retreat.
This place is not crowded and you can park your vehicle at any of the open spots and start walking.
Reaching by public transport
For those who don’t have their own vehicle, you can take a direct city bus to Shahanshahi Ashram from Parade Ground, which is close to the Clock Tower in Dehradun.
The fare of this city bus would be Rs. 15-20.
The bus will drop you right at the Ashram.
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant Airport – 38 km
Nearest Railway Station: Dehradun Railway Station – 13 km
➤ Difficult Sections on the Kipling Trail
Keep the following things in mind while walking the Kipling Trail:
In the initial 3 km stretch, the path always has a steep drop on one side with no railings. The semi-concrete and gravely nature of the road can make the path slippery hence keep some distance from the edge of the path.
This is more so true during the descent when you might come down too fast due to the steep decline. Having a trekking pole or a walking stick will help you keep balance during the descent.
In the monsoon and post-monsoon season, the forest path is often covered by moss at the edges. Keep clear of the moss which makes the path slippery.
➤ How to Get Fit for Kipling Trail Trek
The Kipling trail trek is classified as an easy-moderate grade trek. From the base, you will gain more than 1000 feet in altitude in a day.
The high altitude gain and the rolling ascents and descents can be demanding for people who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Training yourself for an easy-moderate grade trek:
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for the trek in 4 weeks.
In case you’re just starting with a fitness routine, start slow and increase your pace every day in the following manner –
- Target completing a jog of 5 km in 40 minutes when you begin.
- Gradually increase your pace by running 5 km, 4 times a week.
- As you become more comfortable, introduce another day of running in your routine.
- Progressively increase the distance you run in a workout until you can complete 5 km in 35 mins.
If you prefer cycling over running, target covering 18 km in 60 minutes when you begin.
- Progressively increase your pace to cover 25 km in one hour.
This is an important area you need to work on.
Strength training is equally important to trek comfortably. Work on your glutes, calves and knees. Additionally, work on strengthening your core.
You must strengthen your core muscles. For strengthening your core muscles, holding a plank and its variations (elbow, side planks) are the best exercises to go about doing it.
Also, try these exercises for strength:
Target 4 sets of squats with 20 in each set.
– Squats (Mix it up with sumo squats)
– Lunges (Forward, backward and lateral lunges)
Flexibility determines the amount of movement your bones can make in any direction around joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.
It is an aspect that will help you trek comfortably. Carrying a backpack, no matter how light, can become a strain. Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and lower back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back.
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 Pack for Kipling Trail Trek
- Basic First Aid kit*
- Identity Card
- Cap/ Scarf/ Bandana & Sunglasses
- Water (Minimum three litres)
- Lemon and salt OR Electrolyte Powder/Drink (Electral/Gatorade/Glucon D, etc.)
- High-calorie snacks (Nuts & dry fruits, home-baked cake, etc.)
- Safety Pins, Rubber bands & Whistle (Useful in emergencies.)
- Quick Dry T-shirts are preferable over cotton tees.
- A warm layer (Pullover, sweater or a jacket)
- Poncho, only during post-monsoons
- Plastic sheet to wrap electronic devices, only during monsoons
- Sunscreen (SPF 50+)
- Tent (3-Person or 2-Person – Depending on the number of people sharing)
- Sleeping Bag
*First aid kit:
- Band-aids (Regular & Waterproof)
- Analgesic spray (Relispray, Volini, etc.)
- Antiseptic Liquid (Savlon, Dettol etc.)
- Antiseptic powder (Povidone-Iodine based powders like Cipladine, Savlon, etc.)
- Cotton roll & Bandage
- Crepe Bandage
- 1-inch wide medical tape (paper or cloth.)
- Micropore tape
- Tablet for motion sickness (Avomine), Acidity (Gelusil, Digene, etc.).
- Mild pain relief tablet (Crocin)
Note: Always consult a doctor before taking any medicine.
➤ Frequently Asked Questions about the Trek
1. What about the stay options near the Kipling Trail?
The trail starts from Rajpur which is in the main city of Dehradun. If you’re coming from out of town, you could stay at Hotel Grand legacy, Dehradun.
If you’re planning to explore Mussoorie, you could walk the trail and stay in Mussoorie for the night. There are several hotels, resorts and homestays in Mussoorie.
You could even stay at one of the colonial-style resorts in Jharipani or Barlowgunj.
2. What is the best time to start the Kipling Trail?
The best time to start the trek would be early in the morning.
This way you have ample time to walk up to Mussoorie and come back down to Doon before the sunset.
Bird watchers would also be rewarded with an early morning trek.
3. What about the food and water sources on the Kipling Trail?
You will find a lot of tea shops when starting the trek from Shahanshahi Ashram at Rajpur. Once you start the trek, the next point where you will find eateries is the Jharipani village. There are no food sources in the trail from the base to Jharipani.
After Jharipani, the trail is along the metalled road, and you will have access to small eateries throughout the trail.
It is recommended that you wait till Mussoorie for lunch as Mussoorie will have a lot of eating options.
You can find spring water to fill up your bottle if you’re trekking in the monsoon or post-monsoon season. It’s advisable to carry at least two litres of water per person and a few sandwiches before starting the trek.
4. Emergency contacts near the Kipling Trail
Hospital: Sakya hospital (0135-2733497) is one of the nearest hospitals, about 4 km away from the base of the trek.
Police Station: Rajpur police station (0135-2716224) is the nearest police station to the base of the trek, about 1.2 km away.
5. ATMs and Mobile Network
ATMs – There will be ATMs at Rajpur near the base of the trek.
You will come across the next ATM at Barlowgunj followed by Mussoorie.
Mobile Network – You will have reasonably good coverage of BSNL, Airtel, and Vodafone through the majority of the trek.
There would be patches, especially in the initial trail through the forest when you might lose the signal intermittently.
➤ Places to Visit After Kipling Trail Trek
There are many places to visit in and around Mussoorie, Dehradun after the trek. Some of them are mentioned in this section.
Sahasradhara: Sahasadhara stands for a thousandfold spring, is situated on the banks of the small river Kali Gad which is a tributary of the Song River. It is a sulphur water spring of relatively lower temperature than the surroundings. It offers a magnificent view of nature.
This place is 11 km from Dehradun city and 33 km from Mussoorie.
Robber’s Cave: The local name for this is Guchhipani located very close to Sahasradhara. A natural cave formation where rivers flow inside the cave. Robber’s cave consists of an extremely narrow gorge formed in a conglomerate limestone area on Doon Valley‘s Dehra plateau.
It is located 8 km from Dehradun city and 23 km from Mussoorie.
➤ Trek Contribution
Trek explored, documented and written by: Abhishek Pant
Special thanks to Abhishek Pant for all the pictures used in the trek documentation