A New Winter Trek In The League Of Kedarkantha, Dayara Bugyal and Chandrashila
Every once in a while, we come across a spectacular trek that has enchanting forests, meadows, superb mountain views and a very satisfying summit climb. Sometimes, they have the bonus of being completely isolated too. Mukta Top is one of them.
Mukta Top is a gem of a trek that we explored in November 2018. It has seen hardly any footfall despite starting at Uttarkashi, a hub of trekking activities.
We believe this trek is at par with the popular Kedarkantha, Kuari Pass and Chandrashila winter treks. We have our reasons for this.
Variety in the forests like Chandrashila
Unlike any other trek, Mukta Top starts at a relatively low altitude. This gives you a chance to witness a completely different variety of forests in the Himalayas, that no other Uttarakhandi trek gives you. For instance, you see plenty of bamboo forests, you seldom see such forests on other treks.
And as you go further up, you see rhododendrons, maples, ancient oak trees and pines. The forests are dense and as mysterious as forest-lovers wish them to be.
Added to that, Mukta Top is a rare trek with two entire days of forest trails. Most treks have 3-4 hours of forests, leaving you craving for more of those shaded, canopied trails you left behind. Deoriatal-Chandrashila is a rare trail that has as many forests. So Mukta Top matches up to the forest trails of Deoriatal.
Abundant bird life
Thanks to the abundance of foliage, you’re likely to spot many species of birds in these forests. On our exploration alone we spotted 20 different birds — including Uttarakhand’s state bird, the majestic Himalayan Monal. We also spotted russet sparrows, blue whistling thrushes, Himalayan bulbuls, lemon rumped warblers and more. So if you’re a bird watcher, then this trek is for you.
Thanks to the wild undergrowth, these forests are also home to several animals. Our explorers spotted barking deer twice. There are also black bears and barasingha (swamp deer) in the forests.
Clearings and meadows like Kedarkantha
If there’s one reason we love the Kedarkantha trek, it is because of the fairytale clearings in the forests and the openness of the meadows on the trek. The Mukta top has very similar clearings (you camp in one of them).
In winter, the meadows above the forests are covered in snow! It’s a grand experience, especially for first time trekkers,” says Leo Saldanha, our Trek Leader who explored the trail.
Splendid Mountain Views like Dayara Bugyal
After the forest trails end, when you’re still reeling in delight, the trail suddenly opens up to meadows, revealing few of Uttarakhand’s high mountain peaks. And from the summit, you get a 360 degree view of all of these mountains!
On a clear day, you spot the Mt Jaonli (6632 m), the Gangotri Peak (6577 m), Mt Kalanag (6387 m), Bandarpoonch 1 (6316 m) and 2 (6102 m), Draupadi Ka Danda 1 (5716 m) and Draupadi Ka Danda 2 (5670 m). You also spot the trekkable Nag Tibba top (3022 m).
As a bonus, the Mukta Top trail is a virgin trail — it has hardly been trekked on and you will be one of the only trekkers on this trail. If you enjoy secluded, peaceful trails, then do the Mukta Top Trek. You will love it.
Day 1: Reach Kuflon from Dehradun.
- Altitude: 4,600 ft.
- Time taken: 7-8 hours
Kuflon, the base camp for Muktha top trek, is around 7 hours from Dehradun. Taxis and Tempo travellers are arranged in Dehradun for all trekkers. All vehicles leave by 6 AM.
The drive takes you through lovely forest stretches and along the banks of the Bhagirathi river which later becomes the Ganga. The largest town on the route is Uttarkashi. The base camp is near Asi Ganga river, a tributary of Bhagirathi river.
Day 2: Kuflon to Shiladuni
- Altitude: 4600 ft to 6782 ft.
- Time taken: 4 hours, 4 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Steep ascent followed by gradual ascent through forest.
- Water source: A stream 500 meters before the campsite. Carry 2 litres at least.
We start the trek from Kuflon (4600 ft) which is a gradual hike through the village on a marked trail. After a point the trail gets steep for about 1.5 km. It is a zigzag ascent with pine trees around. After that, it’s a gradual ascent for another 2.5 km.
This is the point where the forest begins, with rhododendrons, green oak, brown oak and a few maple trees. We also get to see different variety of birds, especially the white throated laughing thrush. They are in abundance and can be spotted easily. 500 meters before the campsite is where we get our first water source.
After crossing the stream and 20 minutes of hike, the view opens up through the forest for the very first time. You camp at a small clearing, here. To your right you will spot a few shepherds hut. On the opposite side, you see mountains which would be covered in snow (during peak winters). We also have a couple of streams near the campsite.
Day 3: Shiladuni to Chaithathar
- Altitude: 6782 ft to 9600 ft
- Time taken: 5-6 hours, 5km
- Trek gradient: Difficult. Steep ascent on a forest trail. We gain around 3000 ft.
- Water sources: Available
You start the trek towards Chaithathar with packed lunch as today’s trail is steep and slightly difficult. Trek through a forest patch for an hour, where Green Oak trees are dominant. This is where the maple trees start competing with the oak trees in vegetation. Soon after that you cross a small stream using wooden logs and stones placed on it.
After refilling your bottles here, start hiking for 45 minutes and reach Kuari (also our campsite while descending). Kuari (7,781 ft) to Chaithathar is 3 km and takes 3 hours. A steep ascent through a rocky patch for an hour will take you to a view point from where you see the whole valley. You will also spot your previous campsites from here. From here the ascent is gradual as you hike through oak and bamboo forests.
In due time you reach Chaithathar which is a beautiful campsite right in the middle of the forest. As soon as you get there, you notice a shepherd’s hut right next to a flowing stream. These huts are seasonally occupied only in the summers. This campsite is also well known for the Himalayan Monal, which is the national bird of Nepal. Rest and camp here for the night.
Day 4: Chaithathar to Mukta Tal
- Altitude: 9600 ft to 10,800ft
- Time taken: 4 hours, 4 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Gradual ascent
- Water source: Not available. Carry enough water
The forest trail from Chaithathar to Mukta Tal is a gradually ascending one. Follow the well-made out trail and in a couple of hours you will reach a small clearing covered in snow (during peak winters). Towards your right you’re welcomed by the first glimpse of Mt. Bandarpoonch, Kalanag and on the left side by Nag Tibba.
Continue walking 15 minutes on an upward trail to see a small hill with patches of birch and brown oak trees.You pass through the base of the hill and walk on undulating meadows for an hour to reach Mukta Tal. The tal is small and the only water source available. Locals suggest that the water is drinkable but it’s advisable to carry your own water.
Day 5: Mukta Tal to Mukta Top to Kuari.
- Altitude: 10,800ft to 11,838ft and then descend to 7,781 ft
- Time taken: 6-7 hours, 9 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Steep ascent followed by gradual descent.
- Water source: Available at Mukta Tal and Chaithathra.
The trail for Mukta top climbs up from Mukta Tal and crosses the upper meadows. You follow the well paved ascending trail which moves up all the way to Mukta top. While hiking up the meadows you get to see the whole range of Mt. Bandarpunch and Kalanag, on your left.
At the summit there is yet another lake locally called the Siyari Tal. From the top, you get a 360 degree view of peaks like DKD I/II, Gangotri III, Jaonli, Bandarpoonch I/II, Kalanag and Nag Tibba. You descend through the same route to Kuari campsite. Kuari has a couple of streams nearby for your water needs.
Day 6: Kuari to Kuflon. Drive back to Dehradun
- Altitude: 7,781 ft to 4,600 ft
- Time taken: Trekking: 4 hours 6 km; Driving: 6 hours 155 km
- Trek gradient: Easy. Gradual descent.
- Water source: Available near the crossover bridge and Shiladuni campsite.
It would take about 4 hours to reach Kuflon on the same well-defined route through forests. Bird watchers can have a fun time spotting plenty of Himalayan birds near Shiladuni. This campsite is also known to have mammals like Black Bear, Leopards, Barking Deer and Swamp Deer (Barasingha). Near Kuflon, you see the Asi Ganga river which was a host to the Asi Ganga powerhouse that got shut due to massive floods in 2012.
Once you reach Kaflon, you take the road transport to Dehradun. You will reach Dehradun around 6 pm in the evening.
Day 1: Reach Kuflon (4,600 ft) from Dehradun. Pick-up time is provided at Dehradun Railway Station at 6:00 AM. Travel Time: 7-8 hours, 150 km. Stay will be in tents.
Note: Transport will be arranged at Dehradun for trekkers to and from Kaflon. Cab fare is Rs. 5,500/- for a 6-seater one way which is to be split equally amongst all trekkers and paid directly to the driver.
Day 2: Kuflon (4,600 ft) to Shiladuni (6782 ft) . Time taken: 4 hours, 4 km. Steep ascent followed by gradual ascent through forest.
Day 3: Shiladuni to Chaithathar (9600 ft) Time taken: 5-6 hours, 5km. Steep ascent on a forest trail as you gain around 3000 ft.
Day 4: Chaithathar to Mukta Tal (10,800ft) Time taken: 4 hours, 4 km. Gradual ascent throughout the trail
Day 5: Mukta Tal to Mukta Top (11,838ft) to Kuari (7,781 ft). Time taken: 6-7 hours, 9 km. Steep ascent for the first 3 hours followed by gradual descent.
Day 6: Kuari to Kaflon (4,600 ft) Time taken: 4 hours 6 km. Gradual descent. Drive back to Dehradun. Time taken: 6-7 hours 155 km. Reach Dehradun by 6 PM.
You can leave behind luggage (no valuables) that you do not require for the trek at Kaflon. This is free of cost.
It is mandatory for trekkers to carry a copy of their photo id for entry at forest check posts on the trek.
How to get to the basecamp – Kuflon
Delhi → Dehradun→ Kuflon
The Mukta Top trek starts from Kuflon, 155 km from Dehradun. Kuflon is a small village.
Indiahikes organizes transport from Dehradun to Kuflon. The pick up is from Dehradun Railway station on Day 1. The cost of the cab is Rs.5,500 per Bolero. This is not included in your trek fee. It is to be shared amongst trekkers and paid directly to the driver.
You will reach Kuflon at around 6.oo pm.
To reach Dehradun
The best way to reach Dehradun is to take an overnight train from Delhi.
- 12205 Nandadevi Express – 23.50 – 6.00
If you cannot find a train, then take a bus. To stay on the safe side, book buses online in advance. Book such that you have some buffer time to make it to Dehradun on time for the pick-up; buses usually get delayed.
Kuflon → Dehradun → Delhi
The Mukta Top trek starts and ends at Kaflon. It is again a 7 hour journey back to Dehradun. Indiahikes organises this transport for a fare of Rs.5,500 per cab. This is to be shared by trekkers and paid to the driver directly. You will reach Dehradun by 6.00 pm.
If you are travelling further from Dehradun, keep a couple of hours as buffer time in case of delay. Book your further travel from Dehradun post 8.00 pm. If you are travelling to Delhi, you can choose to go back by Mussoorie Express (21.20 – Dehradun) or Nanda Devi Express ( 23.30 – Dehradun).
This trek requires a good amount of cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. In order to be prepared for high altitude trek, you should have a combination of distance and speed targets.
Here’s a fitness routine that works:
In case you’re just starting with a regular fitness routine, phase out your distance targets in the following manner –
–>Target completing 5 km in 45 minutes when you begin.
–> Gradually increase your pace by running 4 times a week and bring it down to 5 km in 40 mins.
–>If you are 45 years or above, try to cover 5km in less than 45 minutes.
If you are somebody you prefers cycling over running, then try to cover 18 km in 60 minutes.
How to send us a proof of your fitness routine?
Record your run on an app like Nike Run. Start recording your run when you start running. At the end of your run, hit the stop button.
Take a screenshot of the summary of your run. We will need a detailed split of each kilometre of your run. This is usually integrated in all running apps.
Note: Make sure your GPS is on when you record your run. If the GPS is off, we will not accept the screenshot.
Upload two screenshots 10 days prior to the start of the trek
For < 45 years age : One screenshot of 5 km in 45 minutes and the second 5 km in 40 minutes.
For > 45 years age : Two screenshots of 5 km in 45 minutes.
If you love cycling, cover a distance of 18 km in one hour and upload the same.
Fitness proof to be uploaded with GPS on and along with your picture.
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for 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.
- 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.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
On a trek, carry fewer clothes than you would normally need. Do not pack for ‘what if situations’. That will only add to the weight of your backpack and not be used on the trek. Once your clothes get warmed up, you will not feel like changing. Just maintain personal hygiene.
- Three 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.
- 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. Denims/jeans and shorts are not suitable for trekking.
- 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. Let one of these be a dri-fit t-shirt. It will dry quickly in case you are trekking on a rainy day. A common mistake that trekkers make is not changing their tshirts often enough. Regardless of how cold it is, the body tends to sweat a lot. Trekkers who don’t change to fresh clothes after reaching the campsite fall ill due to wet clothes and are often unable to complete their trek.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Suncap: The sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Ponchos: At high altitudes, snowfall and rain are quite common and hence it’s mandatory to carry a poncho so that you don’t get wet.
Indiahikes offers rentals on this trek. You can now rent trekking shoes, trekking pole, padded jacket and poncho instead of buying them. You can collect these directly at the base camp and return them there after the trek. Get the details here.
- Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
- Toiletries: Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitiser. Do not carry wet wipes since these are not biodegradable. If you do happen to use wet wipes to clean up after a trek, make sure you bring them back with you. The same holds for used sanitary napkins. Carry a zip lock bag to put used wet tissues and napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose wet tissues and sanitary napkins in the mountains.
- Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 1 Strip
- Crocin- 10 tablets
- Avomine (optional, in case of motion sickness)- 1 Strip
- Combiflam- Half Strip
- Muscle relaxant – Half Strip
- Digene- Half Strip
- Avil- 1 strip
- ORS- 6 packs
- Knee Cap (If you are prone to knee injury)
- Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
- Disclaimer- Download PDF
- Medical certificate – Download PDF
Here’s a guide to help you pack for the trek –
What Indiahikes does to ensure your safety
Our philosophy is simple. We ingrain safety aspects in the people we work with, in the processes that we follow, and in the equipment we carry. All our trek leaders are trained repeatedly on safety issues and protocols. Most issues are resolved with their intervention.
Right from the time you decide to register for the trek till the last day of the trek, these safety procedures will be running in the background. We have listed a few of them below:
1. Fitness criteria before registration
Over years of organising high altitude treks, we have found that safety issues thrive amongst those who are unfit and unprepared for the trek. Anyone who wants to register for the Mukta Top trek has to meet the fitness requirements, with the ideal BMI. The BMI and fitness regime will require proof. A high altitude trek is not to be taken casually.
2. Monitoring health on a trek
On the Mukta Top trek, your Trek Leader will be monitoring two aspects thrice a day.
- Oxygen Level
- Pulse Rate
Your Blood Pressure levels will be checked once a day.
This will help us ensure that your body is acclimatising as required.
Every trekker will be given a Health Card at the beginning of the trek. The Health Card is issued to monitor the trekker’s daily health, wherein they will be entering details about their health everyday. It also contains details of what symptoms one should look out for and what action should be taken during emergencies. These Health Cards will be collected back at the end of the trek.
3. High Altitude Medical Kit
Your trek leader will be carrying a full-fledged high altitude medical kit. This will include basic medicines and specific medicines catering to altitude sickness – Diamox, Dexamethasone (tablets and injections) and Nifedipine. Your Trek Leader will also be carrying a portable oxygen cylinder throughout the trek. In addition to that, there are oxygen cylinders installed at all high altitude campsites for any emergency situations.
4. High Altitude Trek Equipment
To ensure safe trekking on snowy terrain, Indiahikes will provide you with micro-spikes to attach to your shoes. This will give you good traction on hard snow. To avoid snow from entering your shoes, Indiahikes will provide you with gaiters that you can put on over your shoes. You will have qualified technical guides with you, who will lead the way on difficult terrain.
All our sleeping bags and tents are custom-made for high altitude. If it is cold outside, it will be around 10 degrees warmer inside the tent. The sleeping bags can withstand temperatures up to -10 degree Celsius.
With all these processes and equipment in place, you can be rest assured that you will have a safe trek with Indiahikes.
Nevertheless, you will need to be cautious and report the slightest of symptoms to your trek leader as soon as you feel them.
5. Being hydrated and well nourished on the trek
You need to drink a minimum of 4 litres of water every day during the trek to ensure that you’re well hydrated. De-hydration on a trek can make you lose energy very quickly and intensify the effects of AMS. Your trek leader will brief you about the amount of water that you need to carry with you at the start of each day as well as water sources on the trail.
We provide trekkers with nutritious meals to ensure that they are energized to complete the trail each day. Apart from this, snacks or packed lunch is provided wherever the trail before a meal break is likely to be long. Make sure that you do not skip any meal as this can lead to serious health emergencies on high altitudes.
In case, you wish to cancel your trek, please log in to your account and cancel.
Cancellation requests will not be taken over phone or email.
The cancellation charges are as under.
Cancellations prior to 30 days from the start of the trek — full refund.
Cancellation between 30 days and 20 days to the start of the trek — 50% refund.
Cancellation less than 20 days to the start of the trek — no refund.
Please note: In case of refund, there will be a deduction of 4% (cancellation charges) from the total fee you have paid. Also, if you have opted for a trek insurance, the amount will not be refunded.
If a trek is called off at the last moment due to a natural calamity/unforeseen circumstances (like rains, earthquake, landslides, strike, bandh, etc), Indiahikes will issue a trek voucher for the full amount. The voucher can be redeemed for the same trek or another trek in the next one year.
A high altitude trek in the Himalayas requires considerable fitness. Your body needs to train itself to process more work with lower levels of oxygen. Therefore, on treks, cardiovascular training is critically important. You need to be able to jog a distance of 5 km in 35 mins before start of the trek. Unable to do so can make your trek difficult.
In addition, preparation of trek needs to include strength and flexibility training. Registering for the trek is an understanding that you will undertake the mandated fitness training and upload the fitness screenshots on your dashboard. Trekkers who have not adequately prepared may be asked to discontinue the trek at any point.
Indiahikes has the right to reject trekkers who do not meet our eligibility requirement at the base camp.
Indiahikes expects all trekkers to carry their own backpacks. All common gear will be carried by the support team. If for some reason a trekker is unable to carry his or her backpack, he/she can offload the same by paying an additional charge.
Backpack offloading charges – Rs 250 per day plus GST of 5%. Charges for last minute offloading during the trek will be Rs. 375 per day inclusive of tax. You can opt for offloading directly your dashboard after your payment is done for the trek.
Partial offloading is not allowed. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kg. No suitcases/trolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
Online offloading in advance is possible up to three days prior to the trek start date.
Indiahikes will organise transport to and fro Dehradun railway station and base camp Kuflon, on the first day of the trek. This will be in 5-6 seater vehicles. The cost of each vehicle transport one way, is Rs 5500. It will be shared among all the trekkers. The same thing applies to the return journey.
Participants are expected to share the cost of the cab. The amount is to be paid directly to our transporter.
Indiahikes only arranges the vehicle pick up and is not responsible for any issues during transport.
Repeat Trekker Policy
At Indiahikes, we believe that the mountains hold all the aces. The weather could play spoilsport, the altitude could mess with a trekker, the unpredictability of nature itself could turn against him. Whatever the reason might be, it is never nice to turn away from a trek midway.
In the event that a trekker has to come down without completing your trek, they can always head back to the mountain and do the same trek again. If this happens, trekkers don’t have to pay the trek fee. They have to just make the optional payment for the insurance amount.
On another note, it could also happen that you love a trek so much that you want to go back time and again. Trekkers don’t have to pay the trek fee for repeating a trek.
Note – The Repeat Trekker Policy holds good only for Indian Treks.
It is not valid for treks we run in Nepal.
Discount for a group of 10 and above
If there is a group size of 10 trekkers and above, then we will waive off the trek fee charges for one person.
Note - There is no discount available if the group size is 9 or less than that.
You can register the entire group and send us an email. If the group is registering individually, then the primary participant needs to send an email to the Trek Coordinator with the list of trekkers from the same group.
If you want to make the payment individually, then individual registrations have to be done.
This will be the case for a group of 10 trekkers. So if you have a group of 20 trekkers, then we will waive off the charges for 2 trekkers.
This is a new trek that you have recently started running! Why should I opt for this trek unlike some other older popular ones? OR What are the highlights of the trek?
Mukta top is a scenic birder’s paradise. With a wide variety of beautiful forest sections, lovely meadows, smashing views and the experience of a tal or lake, it is certainly one of the most unique treks in Uttarakhand.
What will the pick up point be? How is travel arranged?
Indiahikes will organise transport to and fro Dehradun railway station and base camp Kuflon, on the first day of the trek. This will be in 5-6 seater vehicles.
The cost of each vehicle transport one way, is Rs 5500. It will be shared among co trekkers in the same vehicle. The same thing applies to the return journey.
Can 8 year old or kids go on this trek?
No this is a moderate trek hence we do not recommend this trek to kids.Even though they are active in their daily life, because of the steep ascent of the trek they may not be able to complete it.
You can consider going for Dayara Bugyala and Kedrkantha Trek.
How do I prepare for the trek, it is my first trek. What is the difficulty level?
Mukta top is considered a moderate trek. This is because the distance covered on most days is long, an average of around 10 km. Also the trek starts at an altitude of 4600 feet and climbs up rapidly to 12,000 feet in a matter of 4 days. This makes the ascents on the trek strenuous. It is a good trek for fit first timers.
You will need at least 4 weeks of solid preparation for this trek. You can begin preparation by going for brisk walks and then do brisk jogs to improve your cardio. Your target should be to cover 5 km in 35 minutes comfortably by the start the trek.
Is there an option to not carry my backpack and do the trek?
Yes this is called offloading your backpack. It means a porter or a mule will carry it for you. You will receive it at the end of the day at each campsite. It is at an extra charge of Rs 1050 and is for the entire duration of the trek. You need to book and pay for this beforehand online.
Can I bring luggage I do not require on the trek and leave them somewhere before the trek begins?
Yes we have an option of leaving behind extra luggage you do not need on the trek, at our base camp, Kuflon. Ensure you leave no valuables (laptops, cash, electronics) in this luggage.
There is no extra charge to leaving this luggage at the base camp, and you do not have to pre book it anywhere.