A weekend trek with the best Himalayan forest trail
While we run many weekend treks, the Thakoor Top trek is our favourite for it’s superb forest cover. It is the variety in the forests that really sets it apart.
When you begin the trek it is through mixed forests. The variety of trees here is something to look out for. There is a section under coniferous trees that will leave you spell bound. There is hardly a moment when you run out of shade.
As you climb higher, the mixed forests give way to oaks and rhododendrons. This is when you feel the full alpine nature of the trek.
Finally, when you burst open to the snow peak views at Thakoor Top it is a crowning glory to a superb trek.
On the way there are clear streams to cross, clearings to camp in. All in all it is hard to find a better weekend trek than Thakoor Top. Considering it is so close to Nainital, we recommend it strongly.
The trek does require you to prepare for it. It is a climb all the way to Thakoor top. While it is not as difficult as a full fledged Himalayan trek, preparation is definitely required.
Why Thakoor Top is the weekend trek to look out for
Firstly, when you start from Chaffi, a sleepy hamlet in Nainital, you’re surrounded by hills that wear tall pine trees on their shoulders. From there, you venture deeper into the coniferous forests, where lines and lines of pine trees shoot straight up into the clouds. It takes you back to your childhood when you read Jack and the Beanstalk and wondered at how tall a plant could grow.
As you saunter further into the heart of a forest, the surroundings suddenly change into rhododendrons and oaks. They have a different feel altogether. The wet earthy smell, the cool air, the soft forest floor cushioned with layers of leaves, the moss-laden trees that tell stories of so many decades – no terrain can speak more deeply to your heart. Not many people wander through these trails. You’re one of the privileged few.
If you time it right, during the rhododendron season, that’s March and April, you’ll see the trail radiant with rhododendrons! Oh it’s a blissful experience to just stand and look around.
Camping in the middle of the forest
Secondly, you not only get to walk through these forests, but you camp in the heart of it. Your tents are pitched in a clearing deep inside the forests. At night, you’ll sleep to the sounds of leaves rustling, branches creaking and insects scuttling about. It’s a charming abode for the night.
The views of the Garhwal Himalayas from Thakoor Top
Thirdly, the icing on the cake is when you reach Thakoor Top at 8,100 ft. The views you see are mind-blowing! At your eye-level, you see the major summits of the Garhwal Himalayas – Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghunti, Trishul and Maiktoli. If you can make it early in the morning, the views and colours are spectacular! Further down, you see the tiny hamlets of Mukteshwar, Bhateila and Nainital.
Just pick a weekend and go for the trek. You’ll probably sign up for it again the next weekend.
This trek was documented and explored by our Trek leader Indrajit Hazra.
Here’s a short itinerary for the Thakoor Top trek:
|Day 1||Kathgodam to Chaffi (4,600 ft) (1 hour drive). Trek to Aghan (5,600 ft.) 8 km, 6 hours. The pick up is at 6.30 am.|
|Day 2||Aghan (5,600 ft.) to Thakoor Top (8,100 ft.) and down to Chipa (7,000 ft.). 8 km, 7 hours trek. Drive back to Kathgodam. You’ll reach Kathgodam at around 6 pm.|
Day 1: One hour drive from Kathgodam to Chaffi . Trek to Aghan
- Altitude: 4,600 ft to 5,600 ft
- Distance: 8 km
- Time: 6 hours
Your journey starts at Kathgodam, a town bustling with tourists headed in and out of nearby hill stations. It is the nerve centre for major tourist spots – Nainital, Ranikhet, Almora and Garhwal.
Kathgodam is the last railhead towards Chaffi, the base camp of the trek. From Kathgodam, take a shared cab to Chaffi, which is around 30 km away. Most cabs ply in the first half of the day. In case you don’t find direct cabs, break your journey at Bhimtal, which is 20 minutes from Kathgodam. From Bhimtal, take another shared cab to Chaffi. It is further 10 km away. If you’re trekking with Indiahikes, we’ll arrange transport from Kathgodam to Chaffi.
Chaffi is a picturesque little town that sits snugly in dense coniferous forests. With hills rising on all sides and the Kalsa river cutting through the heart of the town, it makes for a picture-perfect base for the trek. It is sparsely populated with a handful of houses and dhabas.
The beginning of the trail
Start the trek where the river forms a sort of pool. Cross the bridge over it. Take a left turn toward the concrete trail that passes through a few houses and a guest house. If you come to Chaffi a day earlier, this guest house is a good place to stay.
A few hundred metres into the trail, you enter a small village called Belwal. It has a few scattered houses and the Kalsa river zig-zagging through it. Around half a kilometre from here, you come across an old foot bridge. It was built during the British era and its architecture reflects that. The trail now continues on the riverside in the middle of the valley. The river is with you for a good hour. Stop to fill your bottle in the river. There are several water points ahead as well.
The initial walk is through small bushes, with forested hills on either side. The tall pine trees on the hills make them look taller than they are. Soon, you see a foot bridge across the river. Get onto the other side of the river. Around 300 metres from the bridge, the trail starts ascending gradually. On this ascent, you come across a resort called Rinarani on your left. The resort is accompanied by one or two houses.
Just after this resort, the pine forests begin. The trail becomes steep and climbs over a series of switchbacks. It is quite a climb and requires strong legs. It is the most difficult stretch on this two day trek. The steep trail continues for half an hour until you reach a dirt track. The dirt track goes to Paniyal, about 5 km from this point. To reach this point, you have ascended about 1,200 ft – from 5000 ft to 6,200 ft.
Walk north for about 200-300 metres on the road. You’ll hit the pine forest again. The forest gets denser as you go deeper. It’s a pleasure to watch tall pine trees shooting straight towards the sky. You have to crane your neck to see the tip of the trees!
Half an hour into this forest trail, the descent begins. After 400 ft, the forest abruptly changes to an oak and rhododendron forest. It’s rare to see such variety of forests in such a short span of time. The forests are dense and dark. Sunlight hardly touches the ground. Come March and April, these forests will be radiant with rhododendrons. Try to time your trek in these months.
A few hours into this forest trail, you reach a flattish clearing beside the Kalsa river. It takes till around lunch time to get here, making this a perfect spot for lunch. Take a moment here for photographs as well; the river and the oak forests make for a beautiful sight.
It is an easy walk from here to Aghan, with a gradual descent all along. The ease of the trek allows you enough time and space to be enamored by the forest around. At this point, it is a mix of oaks, rhododendrons and pines. You see a variety of mushrooms on this trail as well – different colours and shapes. They are mostly used for medicinal purposes.
There is really no hurry. Take your time and enjoy the virgin forests before the day’s trek ends.
After few hours of trekking deep inside the forest, you come across a large clearing. It makes for a snug campsite surrounded by dense rhododendron, pine and oak forests. Aghan is at an altitude of 5,600 ft. From here you can see Thakoor Top, the summit for next day. The sight will fill you with anticipation.
There is a small stream, a little below the clearing on the right. It is a good water source. The clearing is essentially a terrace farm. To ask permission to camp, you have to walk to the hut on the left, on a raised terrace, where the owner of the farm stays. The village he belongs to, Bametha, is 1.5 km away from this clearing. Sit and talk to him: he has wonderful stories to regale you with and will tell you about the history of the place.
Day 2: Aghan to Thakoor Top and down to Chipa. Then drive back to Kathgodam.
- Altitude: 5,600 ft to 8,100 ft and down to 7,000 ft
- Distance: 8 km
- Time: 7 hours
Start early to Thakoor Top. The general rule of a summit trek is the earlier you start, the grander your views. And the views on this trek are something that you do not want to miss!
Follow the trail on the right side of the hut. You start through a clearing. There’s a resort whose construction has been abandoned here. Walk north and you will be able to spot Thakoor Top.Soon, the clearing gets left behind and wilderness envelops you again. The initial walk is easy until the trail starts ascending and hits a road head. The ascent till the roadhead is about 700 ft.
This road runs through the forest – the closest towns are Padampuri – 6 km on the right – and Bhowali – 12 km on the left. This road can be used for evacuation and transferring equipment. After walking on this road for about 300 metres, you hit a dense jungle trail again with rhododendron and oak trees.
The trail gets narrow. Be careful in this section. A fall can take you tumbling down the forested slope by your side. After reaching the 7000 ft mark, stop to rest to enjoy the untouched forest. The last 1000 ft climb is strenuous. As you ascend this section, you will reach a viewpoint from where you can see the whole jungle you have been walking through. The view will take your breath away.
From here, brace yourself for the final push to the summit. The trail climbs quickly. So if you aren’t prepared, it is going to be quite difficult to pull through. It takes around two hours to reach Thakoor Top.
Thakoor Top is astonishing. Not only can you see a major section of the trail you walked on, you spot your campsite at Aghan as well. Aghan is seen from the eastern point of the summit. Apart from your camp, you can see major towns of Kumaon region like Bhateila, Mukhteshwar and even a little portion of Nainital.
But the best views open up at eye level. In front of you are the major peaks of Garhwal region: Starting from Nanda Devi on the right, Maiktoli, Trishul, Nanda Ghunti as well as some mountains from the Panchachuli range. You don’t usually get such spectacular views at such low altitudes. Have lunch at the summit.
After lunch, start your descent towards village called Chipa. The descent is not very steep and is only about 2 km. However, it’s a different route and it makes for a great experience. The rhododendron forest on this side is extremely enchanting. They start blooming as early as February!
After a descent of about an hour, you enter terraced farms of Chipa. From here you get shared vehicles or buses to Kathgodam and Haldwani. Kathgodam is about 60 km from here. You’ll reach Kathgodam by 6 pm if you leave by 3 pm. You can book a night train from Kathgodam back to Delhi.
How to get fit for the Thakoor Top Trek
The Thakoor Top trek is classified as an easy trek. From Chaffi at 4,600 feet, you will gain about 3500 feet to Thakoor Top at 8100 feet and trek back to Chipa at 7000 feet. All this in a period of just two days can make the trek quite demanding.
On the Prashar Lake trek, you will cover an average of 8 km on both days. This requires a good amount of endurance. You can begin your fitness regime by jogging everyday. Jog at a slow pace to start off with and slowly keep increasing your pace day to day. 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. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
This is another area you should work on. Comparatively, for a two day trek, the altitude gain is quite a lot. You may have to walk through snow depending on the months you go in and this could be taxing for your legs. For this, strengthening your legs will help. You can do some squats to strengthen them. Do around 2 sets of squats, with 5 squats in each set.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. 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. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before 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.
What to take on the Thakoor Top trek
- Trekking shoes: The terrain may be rough and you will need trekking shoes with good grip. You can get Forclaz 100 from Decathlon. Sports shoes will not be comfortable enough. 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.
The Prashar Lake trek, though, is just a two day trek, you need to carry things depending on the season you go in.
- Three warm layers: The Prashar Lake campsite, is at a high altitude and the climatic may require you to have enough warm clothes. You will need at least three warm layers (two lights layers such as fleece and woollen and one padded jacket) for this trek.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. There might be snow closer to the lake, so carry a pair of sunglasses.
- Suncap: The sun is more
- 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.
- 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)
- 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 – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
- Dexamethasone – one strip
- Nifedipine – 5 tablets
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
- Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
- Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
- Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
- Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
- Gauze – 1 small roll
- Band aid – 10 strips
- Cotton – 1 small roll
- ORS – 10 packets
- Betadine or any antiseptic cream
- Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
- Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
- Disclaimer- Download PDF
If you’re shopping or packing for the trek, you can download this quick and simple checklist for offline use.
Trek fee: Rs. 2,650/-*
*Service tax at 9% is payable on the trek fee
- Accommodation during the trek (camping)
- Transport to Chaffi and return to Kathgodam after the trek
- All meals – vegetarian
- Trekking permits and forest camping charges
- Trekking equipment (tents, sleeping bags, ice axes, ropes, etc.)
- Safety equipment (first aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretcher, etc.)
- Services of an expert trek leader (qualified in basic/advanced mountaineering courses)
- Services of an expert trek team (guides, cooks, helpers, porters/mules)
- Food during transit to and from the base camp
- Backpack offloading charges – Rs 519* plus service tax of 9%. Charges for last minute offloading during the trek will be Rs 335 per day plus service tax of 9%. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kgs. No suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
- Personal expenses of any kind
- Anything apart from the inclusions
Fitness: 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 30 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. Trekkers who have not adequately prepared may be asked to discontinue the trek at any point. Indiahikes has the right to reject candidates who do not meet our eligibility requirement at the base camp.
Emergency during trek: In a trek a medical emergency or any other emergency may arise. If for any reason you are sent down from the trek then Indiahikes will make arrangements for your return to the base camp or nearest road head. A staff will accompany you. He may not be a trained personnel.
Evacuation or dealing with emergencies is extremely difficult in the mountains. It is time consuming as well. A normal trek of 2 hours may take 6 hours in an emergency (a sick person is not easy to evacuate). Doctors do not go along with a team. Doctors are not available at the base camp or nearest road head either. Indiahikes trek leaders are trained to administer first aid and know how to deal with issues related to the mountains. However, they are not doctors.
Registering for this trek is an understanding that you have read up on the difficulties of high altitude trekking and understand the risks. You have also understood what AMS, HAPE and HACE are. You have taken efforts to educate yourself and you are in a position to manage your own altitude related emergency.
Cancellation: 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.
In case, you wish to cancel your trek, please e-mail us at email@example.com. Cancellation requests are not taken over phone.
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.
a. While our itineraries are designed to allow for adequate acclimatisation, most treks in Indian Himalayas climb quickly, which is called forced accents. Unavailability of camp sites and the Indian Himalayan terrain are the reason for this. There are chances that you will feel the effects of altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation while on this trek. Please be aware that your trek leader may deem it unsafe for you to continue trekking at any time, and arrange for you to descend to a lower attitude.
b. Our trek leaders will conduct routine health checks at all camps to measure oxygen saturation, pulse and blood pressure. Indiahikes reserves the right to exclude any trekker from climbing higher on the trek without refund if the trekker’s vital readings are below accepted norms for that altitude. These norms are available with Indiahikestrek leaders.
c. This is a high altitude trek with rough, rocky and snowy terrain. It is important that you are a fit and confident walker in mountain terrain, able to manage ascents and descents by yourself within a reasonable time. Indiahikes reserves the right to turn around a trekker if in the opinion of our trek leader they are unable to complete the itinerary without requiring exclusive assistance. Please realistically self-assess your fitness and suitability for this trek before registering.
How safe is the Prashar Lake trek?
The Thakoor Top trek by is supposed to be an easy trek. Though being an easy trek there are certain things that you must be aware of before you go on the trek. The trek being 16km long, it requires a lot of endurance. And you climb an altitude of almost 3500 feet which is quite a lot.
At Indiahikes, safety of a trekker comes first. You will experience it first hand on the slope. Your team is accompanied by experienced trek leaders, safety gears, high end trek equipment, high altitude first aid kits and most importantly the right information.
If there is a medical emergency on the trek, your trek leaders are trained to handle crisis, especially related to altitude and medical emergencies. Indiahikes team carries high altitude medical equipment, oxygen cylinders, and other emergency kits.
Most situations are resolved by the trek leader’s intervention. If, however, evacuation is required, it is carried out by the Indiahikes team. There are plenty of exit points throughout the trek so any evacuation needed is taken care of. The affected participant is moved down to the nearest emergency medical centre as soon as possible. This can take time, even 1-2 days, especially from high camps. Medical expenses, if required, at the medical centre are to be borne by the participant.
How to get to the basecamp – Chaffi
Delhi → Kathgodam → Bhimtal → Chaffi
The starting point of this trek is a little town named Chaffi. It is a 30 km drive from Kathgodam via Bhimtal. These are the outskirts of Kumaon. So access to the base camp, Chaffi, is not very convenient. The best time to get vehicles from Kathgodam is between early morning and afternoon. Not many vehicles ply in the second half. There is no direct vehicle either. Break your journey at Bhimtal and take another vehicle further to Chaffi.
To reach Kathgodam
Take the Ranikhet Express from Delhi. It leaves at 20.05 pm from Old Delhi Railway Station. This train will reach Kathgodam at 5.30 am. Kathgodam is the last station and it is around 32km from Nainital.
What happens if you don’t get tickets on the Ranikhet Express?
Ranikhet express is a crowded train and often gets booked many days in advance. Firstly, don’t look for an AC ticket. It is an overnight journey and even sleeper berths are comfortable. Book a Tatkal ticket. Your chance of getting a sleeper ticket in Tatkal is very high. If, for some reason, you still don’t get a ticket on the Ranikhet express, there are two options for you.
Take the earlier day’s Sampark Kranti from Old Delhi, which leaves at 4 pm. Tickets on the Sampark Kranti are usually easy to get as it is a day seating train. Stay overnight in a hotel at Kathgodam (or Haldwani) and join the team vehicle the next morning. KMVN Kathgodam is a good place to halt for the night. KMVN is Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, a government tourist guest house right next to the railway station. The place is decent and clean. You can contact them on (Ph: 05946-266090, 8650002525, 9411589448) or you can book online at http://www.kmvn.gov.in/
Take an overnight bus from Delhi’s Anand Vihar ISBT to Haldwani/Kathgodam (7kms apart). Volvo buses leave Anand Vihar for Haldwani/Kathgodam around 9 pm. It is usually an 8 hour journey. There is no online booking, so arrive a couple of hours early at Anand Vihar to book your tickets. No advanced reservation is required. Try to get to Kathgodam early (by 6 am) to catch the Indiahikes pickup at the station.
Chipa → Kathgodam → Delhi
The trek ends at Chipa. From here you get shared vehicles or buses to Kathgodam and Haldwani. Kathgodam is about 60 km from here. You’ll reach Kathgodam by 6 pm if you leave by 3 pm. You can book a night train from Kathgodam back to Delhi.
If you are travelling further from Kathgodam, you can book your transport post 8 pm, keeping two hours as buffer time in case of road blocks in the mountain roads.