Why Trekking During Monsoon is Not a Bad Idea

Monsoon just does not descend over India. In early June an arm of the monsoon clouds slowly creeps in from Kerala while another does the same from the Bay of Bengal. They move in an easterly direction, hitting land mass, before making a wide turn to the north. They drift over the country covering India in a broad sweep before settling down for a month or two’s stay.

These monsoon rains last across the country roughly from the beginning of June to September. As a trekker, you might wonder if it a good idea to trek during these months. So here are some month-wise tips.

June – Excellent for high altitude Himalayan Treks 

While Mumbai may be experiencing big rains in June, it is still dry in the Himalayas. Monsoon tends to reach Uttarakhand only around the first week of July. A few days later it moves over to Himachal Pradesh. This means that June is an excellent month to trek in the Himalayas. Treks like Roopkund, Rupin Pass, Buran Ghati, Bhrigu Lake or Kuari Pass are brilliant in June. It is bright and sunny. The valleys are deep, dark and beautiful, the grasslands lush green, and the snow still thick on mountain flanks.

Camping in the meadows on the Buran Ghati Trek in June. June and September are the best months to go on these high altitude treks. Picture by Anirban Banerjee

At Indiahikes we wind up our Uttarakhand treks by the first week of July. Because that is when the monsoons begin to make their presence felt.

July – Is it impossible to trek in this month?

Actually it is not.

It is just that unlike in summer, the rains are more frequent — but not so much as to make your life miserable. The real rains take hold in August. That’s when we move to Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.

In Himachal, we begin the Hampta Pass trek only in mid-June when the snow become manageable on the pass. By mid-July, monsoon makes it presence felt. In August, with rains, countless flowers spring up; the valley turns a vibrant green.

Twilight in the Jwara meadows on the Hampta Pass trek. The Hampta Pass trek actually doubles up as a Valley of Flowers during monsoon!

The Hampta Pass is an interesting trek. Crossing into Lahaul the rains reduces considerably. In fact, after crossing the pass, you are in the rain shadow region. So most of the time you get rains only on one side of the trek. That’s why even our Pin Bhaba is an excellent trek to do July onward. Most of the trek is in Spiti, which is rarely touched by rains.

Another trek that runs entirely through Spiti is the Kanamo Peak trek. It runs through the heart of Spiti, through the villages of Kaza and Kibber and climbs to a summit at 19,600 ft. If you’re keen on a summit trek during monsoon, this is your to-do trek.

Kashmir falls in the rain shadow region too. While the monsoon is vigorous over India, Kashmir experiences very little rain between July and September. In July, we open up treks in Kashmir.

August – Experience flowery trails in the rains

In August it does rain more in Kashmir than in July but it does not stop you from trekking. Our treks run as usual, getting prettier by the day. Towards the end of August and first week of September, Kashmir is at its prettiest. So Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar are wonderful treks in these months.

The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is a fantastic option during monsoon

In Uttarakhand, the Valley of Flowers is superb during the monsoons. As rains touch the parched hills, flowers begin to bloom in waves. Every week a new bloom greets trekkers. People are apprehensive about doing the trek during the monsoons, but that’s the only time to step on this trail. It is well worth the flowers.

September – Back to the Season of High Altitude Treks

By the third week of September, the first snows come in on the passes, putting a stop to our Kashmir trekking season. But since the monsoon ebbs by the middle of September, the big high altitude treks to Roopkund, Rupin Pass and Buran Ghati are again open for the autumn season of trekking.

Does it rain all the time in the Himalayas during monsoon?

Even during peak monsoon it does not mean that it rains all the time on a trek. In reality, you could get heavy rains for a few days while it might be sunny and dry on other days. Very often you can do a full trek without any rains or with only light showers. Also, in years when El Nino is on (2016 was a year when it was), it is as good as trekking during summer — you get only sporadic rains. But don’t even think about stepping on a monsoon trek without taking a poncho or some sort of rainwear.

Avoid trekking in North East India during monsoon

In the eastern part of our country, the rains behave differently. Rains are wetter and more vigorous, making trekking difficult. The Sandakphu and Goechala treks are best avoided between the months of May and September. Most of the grand views these trails are famous for are hidden in these months. Also, the forest trails are infested with leeches.

Choose your treks carefully and enjoy monsoon trekking

Trekking during monsoon is not something to be worried about. Many trekkers imagine Mumbai-like rains during monsoon. It is not really like that. If you choose your treks wisely, monsoon is one of the best times to trek in India.

If you have any questions about trekking in monsoon, drop in a comment.

Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking. Arjun leads Indiahikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India. He has written extensively for Discover India magazine and is a TedX speaker. He frequently talks at institutions about his entrepreneurial journey, but his favourite topic is always the impact of trekking on the mind, body and spirit. Read Arjun's other articles. Watch Arjun's TedX talk. Watch Arjun speak about our trekking trails. Learn from Arjun about what it's like to work at Indiahikes.