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Photo Courtesy : Sandeep Verma

Tulian Lake Trek

An Iconic 8-Shaped Alpine Lake

  • “This was my first solo exploration. I couldn’t have asked for a better setting. Marmots roamed around freely, whistling before disappearing into their burrows. Horses and cattle grazed the bright meadows that stretched either to the treeline or to the base of the mountain ranges. I was humbled”, says Sandeep who explored this trail in August 2016.
  • The views from Ting mountain provides a bird’s eye view of the beautiful meadows of  Kashmir Valley, Chutiyaal Village and Baisaran (Mini-Switzerland of India).
DIFFICULTY:

Easy - Moderate

TRAIL TYPE:

Forests, grasslands, mountain streams and alpine lake

DURATION:

5 days

ROAD HEAD:

Pahalgam

BASE CAMP:

Ganesh Bal

BEST SEASON:

May to July

When our Trek Leader, Sandeep Verma ventured to explore Tulian Lake, he did not take the beaten path. The prospect of hiring a horse from Pahalgam might have appealed to the tourists, but not Sandeep. He studied the maps of Pahalgam and chalked out a trail. The proposed route would snake through the cherished grasslands of Kashmir Valley and Baisaran. Soon he found himself trekking in the midst of wilderness.

“This was my first solo exploration. I couldn’t have asked for a better setting. Marmots roamed around freely, whistling before disappearing into their burrows. Horses and cattle grazed the bright meadows that stretched either to the treeline or to the base of the mountain ranges. I was humbled”, says Sandeep Verma who explored this trail in August 2016.

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Horses Grazing in Kashmir Valley

An Iconic Alpine Lake

Picture this. A steep slope riddled with boulders. It is the last stretch. From the base, the climb looks rudimentary. Well, looks can be deceiving. It has taken you a few days to get to this point. All you need to do is buckle up and push for the summit. You might wonder, what is beyond the slope?

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Steep Slope En Route to Tulian Lake

The climb to the top is gruelling. But there is an incentive. The summit holds a secret. Sandwiched between the legendary mountain ranges of Pir Panjal and Zanskar, a turquoise lake emerges out of the blue and springs a surprise. This is Tulian Lake. The lake assumes the shape of number 8, split by a narrow inlet that connects the water source. The color of the water body is quite a contrast to the snow-capped peaks and multi-coloured mountain range adorning the perimeter. No wonder it is one of the most iconic attractions in the Pahalgam region.

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Captivating Tulian Lake

Whom is the trek meant for?

The Tulian Lake trek is a perfect introductory trek for fit beginners. The 48 kilometer trail has a few steep sections, which requires decent fitness levels. Due to its easy accessibility, it is perfect for trekkers seeking a short trek which is beautiful nonetheless. Although some trekkers have concerns about the safety of trekking in Kashmir. As troubled as the state might seem, it is relatively safe to trek in the Kashmir valley, as long as you’re cautious and know where to go.

What are the risks involved?

The Tulian Lake trek does not have any tricky sections. However, the proposed route takes a detour when it goes to Kashmir Valley and Baisaran. It is highly recommended that a local guide accompanies you. The Gujjars have dogs that are aggressive. They are trained to guard their sheep. It’s advisable to trek in a group of atleast 3 to 4. It’s highly recommended that you carry two trekking poles, which will double up as your line of defense in case you’re attacked by a dog. If you’re trekking in a group, have your backs to each other.

The Tulian trek does not involve any technical sections that require special skills . The proposed route is suitable for those who have stuck to the recommended fitness schedule. In this trek, you’ll be trekking upto an altitude of 13000 feet and there are chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness, which can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. You can start the course 2 days prior to the trek.

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Mountain Range En Route to Tulian Lake

How difficult is the trek?

Tulian Lake trek is classified as an easy to moderate trek. The trek has sections with a few ascents and descents which require considerable preparation. There are a few mountain stream crossings along the trail need to be negotiated with care. Use the human chain method to cross them. The altitude gain is progressive and the grade of difficulty remains at a constant, giving you ample time to acclimatise and settle down.  A physically active child above the age of 12 can do this trek.

How to prepare for the trek? 

Start slow with your fitness regime. You need to be in good physical condition before the start of the trek. On the 2nd day of your trek, there is a steep ascent from Chutiyaal Baisaran to Kanimol;  you will need trekking shoes with good grip. Stair-climbing is suggested to strengthen your knee joints and legs. Expect intermittent rainfall on your trek and carry a poncho and backpack cover to avoid wet clothes.

 

trail-to-kashmir-valley-tulian-lake-trek-indiahikes
Trail to Kashmir Valley

Author: Ajay Nagaraju

This trail was explored by Sandeep Verma, Trek Leader, Indiahikes

Tulian Lake Trek Guide

Day 0: Getting to the base camp – Pahalgam – Ganesh Bal

Pahalgam is about 100 km from Srinagar. You can hire a shared vehicle from Srinagar to PahalgamGanesh Bal is 2.5 kms away from Pahalgam. It is a small village that lies on the right banks of Lidder river. Devotees frequent this place because of its religious significance.

Take a shared cab from Pahalgam to Ganesh Bal. Local transporation is available for the short ride from Pahalgam to Ganesh Bal. You can stay over at Pahalgam for the night.

Day 1: Trek from Ganesh Bal to Chutiyaal Village

  • Distance: 7.5 kms
  • Time taken: 4 hours
  • Trail type: Grasslands, mountain streams

Brace yourself for a long day. The climb starts from Ganesh Bal. The gradual to steep ascent follows a zigzag course. It is highly recommended that you navigate this terrain with a guide. Cross the river using a wooden bridge. Interestingly, this river originates from Tulian Lake!

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Wooden Bridge Crossing

Today, you will be traversing the beautiful grasslands of Kashmir Valley before you reach Chutiyaal village.From Ganesh Bal, it is a 5 km gradual to steep ascent to Kashmir Valley. The scenery en route to Kashmir Valley is a tryst with wilderness.

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Trekking in the beautiful meadows of Kashmir Valley

The beauty of the valley is unmatched. Being flanked by the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountain ranges, the sprawling meadows of the region are a treat to the senses. Horses and cattle graze in the open fields. Kashmir Valley is a good spot to take a breather. Spend an hour here.

Continue along the trail for another 2.5 kms. Chutiyaal village is a beautiful hamlet with a difference. Here, there are no huts. The villagers stay in the sheds built for their cattle. The villagers are friendly. Pitch your tents and camp here for the night.

Day 2: Trek from Chutiyaal Village to Kanimol

  • Distance: 6.5  kms
  • Time taken: 4 hours
  • Trail type: Grasslands, mountain streams

Today, you will be traversing via Baisaran, which is hailed as the ‘Mini Switzerland of India‘. The 2.5 km stretch from Chutiyaal to Baisaran sets the perfect tone for the day. Baisaran is a beautiful, gigantic meadow that stretches up until the treeline.

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The beautiful expanse of Baisaran

Pine trees and conifers thrive together in close clusters, adding grandeur to the snow-capped mountains that form the backdrop. If the beauty of Kashmir Valley delighted you, Baisaran will sweep you off your feet. You can spot shepherds flocking their herds.

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Chutiyaal to Kanimol Trail

The trail from Baisaran to Kanimol is a gradual to steep ascent. The 4 km well-marked route takes you through the heart of a jungle. You can spot Gujjar huts in the vicinity. This place is called Breadayanghan. Camp at Kanimol for the night. A mountain stream meandering close to the campsite is a good water source.

Day 3: Trek from Kanimol to Tulian Marag

  • Distance: 9 kms
  • Time taken: 8 hours
  • Trail type: Grasslands, mountain streams
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Kanimol

Brace yourself for a long day. The trail from Kanimol to Tulian Marag is a 3 km steep ascent. The route snaking through a jungle is slippery yet beautiful. These jungles have remained untouched since the beginning. It is easily to understand why this place evokes a primordial vibe. Trek poles and proper hiking shoes are a must to navigate the slippery terrain. Tread carefully.

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Mountain Range En route to Ting

After 3.5 hours, you will arrive at Tulian Marag. Ideally, you should reach this spot latest by 9.30 am. This spot has a few huts built out of stones and trampoline sheets. Offload your backpacks at Tulian Marag.  Spend an hour here.

Today you can take a detour to visit the Ting mountain peak. The 3.5 hour journey to the peak is fraught with adventure. The climb is steep and exciting. The view from the peak are unprecedented; you get a bird’s eye-view of the expanse of Kashmir Valley, Chutiyaal Village and Baisaran. The descend is tricky. It usually takes 2.5 hours to get back to Tulian Marag. Pitch your tents in the perimeter and camp here for the night. It is an ideal camping ground for star-gazing enthusiasts.

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Beautiful Valley

“I hoped for a moonless night and got one. Starlight is most prominent when its a moonless night. I felt as if they were right in front me”, says Sandeep Verma, our Trek Leader who explored this trail in August 2016.

Day 4: Trek from Tulian Marag to Tulian Lake; Back to Chutiyaal Village

  • Distance: 10 kms
  • Time taken: 10 hours
  • Trail type: Grasslands, mountain streams

Today is a long and tiring day. Yet it is extremely rewarding. From Tulian Marag, start climbing upstream along the banks of the river. The straight 1.5 km stretch will take you to the end of the valley. The approximate time taken to reach this spot is half an hour. From here, take the trail diverging towards your right. Right away, it is a steep ascent. There is no trail. It is mandatory that a guide accompanies you at this juncture. It is easy to lose your way here.

tulian-marag-to-tulian-lake-trail
Tulian Marag to Tulian Lake Trail

Continue walking up slope for another 3.5 kms. The last stretch is riddled with scree and boulders. When you reach the top of the slope, the summit unravels a secret. Tulian Lake emerges out of the blue.

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Captivating Tulian Lake

The 8-shaped turquoise waters of Tulian Lake (Altitude: 11,000 feet) is quite a contrast to the snow-capped mountains adorning the perimeter. Spend an hour exploring the banks of the lake. The beautiful mountains cast their shadows on the lake. The snow patches glisten when the sun is out. The landscape is surreal.

From Tulian Lake, descend back to Tulian Marg and take the short cut to Chutiyaal village, which is 4 kms away. Camp at the village for the night.

Day 5: Trek from Chutiyaal Village to Ganesh Bal

  • Distance: 4.5  kms
  • Time taken: 5 hours
  • Trail type: Grasslands, mountain streams

It is a short trek today. The 4.5 km stretch is the same route that you’ve trekked on Day 1. Usually, it takes a couple of hours to complete the day’s hike.

How to get fit for the Tulian Lake Trek

Tulian Lake Trek is classified as a trek of easy to moderate difficulty. This trekking trail does not pose any serious challenges. The highest altitude you reach during this trek is 11,000 feet, at Tulian Lake and Ting peak. The distance covered and altitude gained is progressive throughout the trek and it offers plenty of time for you to acclimatise.

There are a few steep sections along the trail; especially the climb from Chutiyaal Village to Kashmir Valley and from Tulian Marag to Tulian Lake. Both portions requires persistent preparation and stamina.

You can begin by jogging everyday. This helps increase your lung capacity. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 25 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.

Strength

The muscles on your legs need to be strong enough to endure the climb from Tulian Marag to Tulian Lake. To strengthen your legs do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.

Flexibility

Trekking with a backpack requires some effort and agile muscles. 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.

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 you need to carry on the Tulian Lake Trek

Once you’ve decided to go on any trek, the first two things you need to purchase are trekking shoes and a backpack.

  1. Trekking shoes:  Not sports shoes. The shoes need to have soles with good grip and ankle support. We recommend FORCLAZ 100, 500, and 600 from Decathlon. .Wear the shoes for a week prior to the trek to avoid shoe bites/blisters on slope.
  2. Backpack (40-60 litres): Backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.

The best season to do this trek is between March to October. Expect light showers during these months. So carrying a poncho is absolutely essential.

Clothes

  1. Full sleeve woolens (2 pairs including the one you are wearing):We endorse fleece over wool as it is light weight, compact and warm. It is better to layer your clothing with multiple light sweaters than to carry one thick heavy jacket.
  2. Thick jacket: Carry 1 full sleeve windproof jacket/down jacket.
  3. Trek pants (3 pairs including the one you are wearing): We highly endorse synthetic quick-dry pants as they are light. Plus, when it’s cold you can wear one over the other. While trekking, a pair is what you would carry apart from the worn. You could keep the third pair for your return journey. Alternative would be cotton pants with many pockets or track pants. Jeans, shorts and 3/4 pants are not suitable for trekking.
  4. Collared t-shirts (3 pairs including the one you are wearing):Preferably light, full sleeve t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Avoid loud colors that would distract birds and animals.
  5. Thermal inners: 1 pair of lightweight, upper and lower. Thermal inners are optional for those who are more sensitive to the cold.

Accessories

  1. Sunglasses: Curved ones will cover your eyes well. No blue coloured sunglass — they don’t block UV. Blacks, greens, browns are fine. Avoid multi tone sunglasses. Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. People who wear spectacles, choose either contact lenses or photo chromatic glasses. If both are not possible, wear your spectacles and carry big sunglass that can be worn over your spectacles.
  2. Suncap: To protect your head from the direct heat of the sun, protect your face and neck from sunburns. The cap must cover your ears 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 scarves as an alternative to balaclavas.
  5. Poncho: A lightweight poncho is preferred because unlike raincoats, it covers your rucksack as well. A poncho is indispensable for the Rohil Basmai Valley Trek as light showers are expected
  6. Socks (3 pairs): 2 cotton pairs, 2 woolen pairs (mostly to be used on campsites and while sleeping. Keep them dry.)
  7. Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  8. Trekking pole: Trekking pole is mandatory.

Others

  1. Daypack (20 litres): It is mandatory to carry a daypack if you choose to offload your backpack. If you decide to carry your backpack, day pack is not required.
  2. Toiletries (Sunscreen – SPF 40+, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm/chap stick, small soap, toilet paper)
  3. Repair kit (needle & thread)
  4. Camera: Carry all accessories – spare batteries, charger, etc.
  5. Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. To save weight, you may use your lunch box instead of carrying a plate separately.
  6. Water bottles: 2 bottles, 1 Litre each. Packaged drinking water bottles like Aquafina, Bisleri and others are not allowed.
  7. Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  8. Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes. While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.

If you are going shopping, download this list so you don’t miss out on anything! Download PDF

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)

The Tulian Lake trekking trail does not pose any threats by itself. However, it has a couple of tricky sections; the trail leading up to Kashmir Valley and Tulian Lake are unmarked. It is easy to lose your way in these sections. It is mandatory to take a local guide for this trail.

However, trekkers should be wary of the dog attacks. The Gujjars and Bakarwals have dogs that are aggressive.

They are known to attack trespassers. It’s advisable to trek in a group of atleast 3 to 4. It’s highly recommended that you carry two trekking poles, which will double up as your line of defense in case you’re attacked by a dog. If you’re trekking in a group, have your backs to each other.

If you do not have a trekking pole, make do with a stick. The dogs in this trail are known to sneak up on you. Be on the lookout. If you come face to face with a dog, do not run. They will eventually run you down. Stay put and face them. Use the trekking pole/stick to scare them off. Hitting them or throwing stones at them is not a good idea. It will only aggravate them further.

srinagar-to-pahalgam-map-tulian-lake-trek-indiahikes
Srinagar to Pahalgam Map

Getting to the base camp – Pahalgam – Ganesh Bal

Pahalgam is about 100 km from Srinagar. You can hire a shared vehicle from Srinagar to PahalgamGanesh Bal is 2.5 kms away from Pahalgam. It is a small village that lies on the right banks of Lidder river. Devotees frequent this place because of its religious significance.

Take a shared cab from Pahalgam to Ganesh Bal. Local transporation is available for the short ride from Pahalgam to Ganesh Bal. You can stay over at Pahalgam for the night.

srinagar-to-pahalgam-map-tulian-lake-trek-indiahikes
Srinagar to Pahalgam Map

“This was my first solo exploration. I couldn’t have asked for a better setting. Marmots roamed around freely, whistling before disappearing into their burrows. Horses and cattle grazed the bright meadows that stretched either to the treeline or to the base of the mountain ranges. I was humbled. After three days of trekking, I reached Tulian Lake. Words fall short when you want to describe the beauty of an alpine lake. You have to be there and see it for yourself”, says Sandeep who explored this trail in August 2016.

About Author

Ajay Nagaraju

Ajay Nagaraju

Ajay Nagaraju is a Travel Writer at Indiahikes. He holds a PGDM in Financial Analysis and Fund Management from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. He spent six years working in finance with business firms and global investment banks, before deciding to pursue his passion in travel and writing. Trekking, tennis, movies and poetry are a few of his favorite things.

If you want to get in touch with Ajay, you can email him at ajay@indiahikes.com

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Ajay Nagaraju

Ajay Nagaraju

Ajay Nagaraju is a Travel Writer at Indiahikes. He holds a PGDM in Financial Analysis and Fund Management from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. He spent six years working in finance with business firms and global investment banks, before deciding to pursue his passion in travel and writing. Trekking, tennis, movies and poetry are a few of his favorite things. If you want to get in touch with Ajay, you can email him at ajay@indiahikes.com

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