Why Trekking in Jan & Feb is Better than December (Stats and Top 5 Treks Inside)

Today I’m going to give you some advice that not many people will give you. 

And I’ll get straight to it: If you want to do a winter trek in snow, avoid the month of December. Choose January and February instead. 

Many trekkers raise their eyebrows when I give them this advice. 

For most of them, the month of December is synonymous with winter. Christmas and New Year are synonymous with winter. And I don’t blame them. Ever since we opened up Kedarkantha as the first winter trek in India in December 2011, trekkers have always thronged to the mountains in December. 

In fact, a study that we did last year revealed that more trekkers go to the mountains in December than in the classic May and June months! 

Here are some stats to give you an idea. 

This graph shows you how many trekkers trek in the months between October and March with Indiahikes. You’ll see a big peak in December, dwindling down dramatically in January and February. 

And that’s the biggest tragedy! 

I’ll tell you why. 

December is the mere beginning of winter. It’s when the first winter snow comes in and by mid December, leaves behind a trail of snow on most trails. However, this is still just the beginning. 

Real winter sets in only in January and February in our country, forming a luxuriant blanket of snow on all Himalayan treks.

I must tell you, not all treks are accessible in Jan and Feb. Many trails are buried under snow and inaccessible. On many other trails, water sources freeze up. So only a handful of special treks are open in Jan and Feb.

January and February are what we term as “Peak winter” at Indiahikes.

I recollect speaking to a meteorologist, Akshay Deoras, who has been a forecaster for the past 11 years. “What we consider summer (March-May) in India, is officially pre-monsoon, and what we consider early winter (Oct-Dec) is officially post-monsoon. Only January and February are considered winter,” he had said. You can read my entire interview with him on snowfall in India here

Here’s where I want to reiterate my advice to you

Most of us go to the mountains in winter for one of these three reasons. 

  • To isolate ourselves from the clutter and noise of the city
  • To trek in a fairytale snow setting
  • To usher in a new year on a big high 

And there’s no better time than peak winter to experience these. This small infographic will tell you why.  

Before I give you the best treks to choose in peak winter, I want to address some concerns you’ll surely have. 

  • Most trekkers choose to trek in December because of the traditional holidays around that time. I understand that. But given that most of us are working from home, if you can negotiate your holidays by even few weeks, then you may end up doing a fabulous winter trek with very little crowd.
  • Another worry that trekkers have is the presence of high snow might stop them from completing their trek. I must admit, peak winter is a difficult time to summit treks. But with our expert technical teams, 90% of our trekkers complete their treks successfully. Only when teams are hit with big safety hazards like snow storms, or extremely heavy snow, they don’t complete their treks.

Note: If you do not complete the trek, you are welcome to come back and repeat the trek. We will not charge you for it. This has always been our philosophy.

Having cleared these doubts, I’m sharing with you the best treks you can do in January and February. 

Consider this a reminder because now is the right time to start planning. Our December dates for all winter treks have thoroughly run out. And we now have January and February dates available. 

If you plan now, you’ll have the luxury of choosing dates that suit you. Very soon, you’ll have to adjust your schedule to the leftover dates.

I hope you make use of this reminder.

Top 5 Himalayan Treks to do in January and February:

1. Dayara Bugyal trek

Dayara Bugyal is not a difficult trek, but even the most experienced trekkers fall in love with this trek. It’s one of the most elegant treks of Uttarakhand — the way the forest trails are laid out, the mildly undulating meadows, big Himalayan peaks standing majestically at the edge of the meadows. In peak winter, the entire trail is covered in snow, making for a grand snowy experience. 

My tip for you: Close your eyes and choose this if you’re a beginner. Winter treks tend to get a bit difficult, and this is the least difficult of them all. And perhaps the most rewarding trek for the small amount of effort you put in.

Duration: 6 days
Gathering point: Dehradun
Suitable for: Beginners with no prior experience
Click here for trek details and dates – https://indiahikes.com/dayara-bugyal-trek/

Looking back just after entering the meadows of Dayara Bugyal. This picture was taken in January. Picture by Sudheer Hegde

2. Brahmatal trek

Brahmatal as a winter trek has become almost as popular as Kedarkantha. And I’m not surprised. It’s a stunner in winter with the snowscapes, frozen lakes and the snowy forests. This video made by a trekker will give you an idea. The best experience on this trek is getting to see Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti at close quarters. No other trek gives you that privilege. 

My tip for you: If you’ve done the Roopkund trek, you’ll doubly love this trek — you can see the entire Roopkund trail laid out in front of you while you’re trekking to Brahmatal.  

Duration: 6 days
Gathering point: Rishikesh
Suitable for: Fit beginners
Click here for trek details and dates – https://indiahikes.com/brahmatal-trek/

The frozen Brahmatal Lake in peak winter. Picture by Devang Thapliyal

3. Sandakphu-Phalut trek

Sandakphu is one of the few treks that has been done as a peak winter trek for a very long time. It’s a trail that dates back to the 40’s with a lot of historical and cultural significance. It’s different from ALL our other treks, because it’s on the border of India and Nepal. You find the same trekking culture as on the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp treks at Sandakphu. 

My tip for you: If you don’t like high snow / extreme cold weather, this is a good trek to do in Jan and Feb. This region does not get as much snow as Uttarakhand. Additionally, you stay in tea houses on most days, where you have the warmth of a solid roof over your head. 

Duration: 7 days
Gathering point: New Jalpaiguri Railway station / Bagdogra Airport
Suitable for: Fit beginners
Click here for trek details and dates – https://indiahikes.com/sandakphu-phalut/

Sandakphu is one of those few trails where you have the luxury of staying in a warm tea house despite the chilly weather outside. This picture was taken in January. Picture by Mark Rodrigues

4. Kedarkantha trek

Many trekkers flock to Kedarkantha in December. This crowd completely dies down by January. And in February, there are almost no signs that this is a popular trek at all. I admit, the trail gets a bit too snowy, but if you have the right fitness for it, it is a thrilling summit climb in peak winter. 

My tip for you: If you want to trek to Kedarkantha, trek with Indiahikes. This is because we take a different, less crowded, much prettier route to the summit. We start the trek from Gaichwan Gaon, which approaches the summit from a different angle.  

Duration: 6 days
Gathering point: Dehradun
Suitable for: Fit beginners
Click here for trek details and dates – https://indiahikes.com/kedarkantha-trek/

Peak winter in Kedarkantha is a challenging experience. But every bit of effort rewards you manifold. This picture was taken in late December. Picture by Dhaval Jajal

5. Nag Tibba Weekend Trek

Here’s a trek that climbs right out of Mussoorie, but not many people do it in peak winter. Despite being a small weekend trek, it gets lots of snow in Jan and Feb, giving you an experience much like a full-fledged Himalayan trek. The sunset views and the forest trails on this trek are something trekkers fall in love with. 

My tip for you: This trek makes a lot of sense if you live in or around Delhi and want to have a quick adventure over the weekend. 

Duration: 2 days
Gathering point: Dehradun
Suitable for: Beginners with no experience, families with slightly older children too (above 13)
Click here for trek details and dates – https://indiahikes.com/nag-tibba/

Very few people have a chance to see Nag Tibba in such a snowy setting. This picture was taken in February by Vipul

That’s the full list of our peak winter treks. Given that it’s a small list, the dates are likely to run out soon. And after I introduced the thought of Indiahikes 2.0 last week, lots of trekkers are excited to trek with our team. 

If you need any help planning your trek, just drop in a comment below. Or better, call us on +91-080-468-01269. We’ll be able to help you out much faster. 

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers. A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content. Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact in a person's mind, body and spirit. Read Swathi's columns. Watch Swathi's videos.