In the middle of December when the first winter snow begins to fall, the mountain slopes in our country turn magical. The snow is not thick enough to prevent trekking, but the all-white landscape is perfect for a winter trek.
Time yourself for the last week of December for most of our winter treks, though some like Brahmatal and Dayara Bugyal, can be done even in January and February.
Here are the Top 6 Winter Treks in India
With high snow, not many treks can be done in January and February. Brahmatal is a rare exception. Even with good dollops of snow, the trail winds through waist high snow, climbing steadily to Brahmatal, a large tarn in a crater-like depression on top of a mountain. But it is not the lake you make the trek for. It is for the lovely setting along the trek — jungles with carpets of snow beneath the leaves, meadows with undulating snow cover all around and, of course, the terrific mountain views. Very few winter treks give such commanding views of snow clad mountains as does the Brahmatal trek. Brahmatal is a fairly new winter trek in India — but it has already begun to give our other treks a run for their money!
Kuari Pass has always been a popular trek in India. It is only now trekkers are discovering how good a snow trek it can be. There are forests on treks, and then there are snow lined forests on the Kuari Pass trek. With sunlight falling at an angle, the whole forest wakes up to a terrific dance of light and shade. Stepping out of the forests, trekkers get into the snow covered meadows — with big mountains towering over them. Not only are these big mountains, they are the biggest mountains of India. The biggest bonus? The Kuari Pass trek takes you close to Mt Nanda Devi, the tallest mountain in India. You not only see Nanda Devi, you see the entire south west flank of the mountain, which is perhaps one of the rarest full flank view that you see of any mountain in the world.
Trekkers on the way to Chandrashila summitIn the last week of December, when the first bout of snow has fallen, another winter trek turns wondrous. The Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek in Uttarakhand climbs gently to a partially frozen lake. Across the lake, stretched across the horizon are views of the entire ranges of western Uttarakhand. They pop so suddenly that I have seen many trekkers just standing there, gaping. The effect is powerful. Climbing to the top of the Chandrashila summit on snow is a thrill no doubt, but what steals the show is the flawless view of all the highest mountains of India. Name a mountain and you’ll see it from the summit, including Nanda Devi, India’s tallest mountain. Though the full view of Mt Chaukhamba is what will stagger you the most.
Of all winter treks in India, Kedarkantha is perhaps the most popular one. Do the four-day Kedarkantha trek in western Uttarakhand for its pretty camp sites. The settings of the campsites are worth giving up your right hand for. Every campsite is a wonder. You camp in clearings surrounded by giant pine trees, you lie amidst 360° views of mountain ranges and you pitch tents on vast meadows. If that’s not enough, the summit climb and the descent through an enchanting forest finishes off a trek, the taste of which lasts long after the trek is over. The trail is easy enough for first timers, which makes it an even more perfect a winter trek. Keep it on top of your bucket list.
The Har Ki Dun winter trek is another in the same vicinity as the Kedarkantha. It is a tragedy that the trek is hardly done in winter — though we see an increasing traffic over the past two years. The trek snakes through a pretty valley that connects ancient Himachali villages. The architecture of the villages, apart from being fascinating, is rarely seen. At Har-Ki-Dun with civilisation behind you, majestic snow peaks rise on either side of the valley. At the end of the valley it is like you have arrived at an amphitheater of the gods. Walking through this snow laden paradise is a scene straight out of a fairy tale.
When trekkers discuss about the most beautiful meadow in India – Dayara Bugyal is often placed at the top position. Now imagine the meadows covered under endless stretch of undulating snow. Even before you get to the meadows, the snow covered clearings and forests of the trek make the trek a delight. The government is pushing it to be an alternative ski slope to Auli in India. Before it becomes one, head to it. The joys of the trek are there to be taken without another soul around.
For all winter treks prepare adequately. 5 layers of warm clothes is what you require. Thermals, two light sweaters, a fleece jacket and a warm padded jacket. Don’t forget a pair of water proof gloves and a balaclava.