Day 1: Delhi - Rishikesh
Day 2: (Pick-up Day): Reach Sari
Sari, the base camp of the Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek, is an 8-hour drive from Rishikesh. The journey is picturesque, as you pass through Devaprayag, the confluence of rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi to form river Ganga. The entire journey traverses the mountainside, with the river flowing below you. A quick tip: Pick the window seat on the right to enjoy the views! Sari is a small village with around 100 houses. If you reach Sari when the sun is still out, go down to the village and walk around. The paddy fields are so prettily laid out that they almost beckon to you. There is a small school amidst the fields. This school was built in 1947 and is the only school at Sari. The views around the village are gorgeous. This is also where you’ll get your first glimpse of the summit of Chandrashila!
Altitude: 6,601 ft (2012 m)
Time taken: 7-8 hours drive from Rishikesh. Transport from Rishikesh at 6.30 AM.
Devprayag, the confluence of Bhagirati and Alaknanda. Picture by: Vishwas Krishnamurthy
Day 2: Sari to Deoriatal
Altitude: 6,601 ft (2012 m) to 7,841 ft (2,390 m)
Time taken: 2 hours, 3.5 km
Trek gradient: Easy. The day starts from the village with climbging a few stairs, followed by a gradual climb on a well-defined rocky trail. It becomes steeper after the first 20 minutes. A short walk on even terrain after an hour of climbing takes you to the campsite.
Water sources: None. Carry around 1 litre of water from Sari.
Green Trail Hotspot: You will find a lot of litter around Deoriatal. Keep your Ecobag ready.
The adventure starts at Sari. There is a sign-board indicating the trek route to Deoriatal in the heart of the small market in Sari, next to Hira and Murali Singh Negi Tourist House. The signboard says Devariya Tal, which is an alternative name for the lake.
It’s called so because it’s believed that devis (Goddesses) once came to the lake to take a dip. Alternatively, one can also start the trek from Ukhimath by taking another trekking route over the mountain for an 8 km steep incline trek to Sari. However, if you are short of time, this can be avoided. You can instead proceed to Sari via road.
The picturesque village of Sari. Picture by Samitha Vivek
A well-defined rocky trail is laid here. This trail begins with a gradual climb up the mountain. After approximately 15 minutes, you will come across village houses and an old local temple. Take in the pretty view of vast farmlands from here.
Ten minutes into the hike, the trail starts to become steeper. The forest has been cleared here, so you will get a good view all around. At the valley facing end, you can see the summit of Chandrashila and below it, the holy Tungnath temple. You may need binoculars to spot the temple.
| Note: Tungnath temple opens only in summer and closes by Diwali.
The trail is well-defined all the way to Deoriatal. Ensure that you take the trail towards the left.
From here, you will need to follow the trail that winds up the mountain ridge. After a steady uphill trek for about 20-30 minutes, you will reach the first view-point. The Forest Department has constructed a hawa ghar for the travellers here. This spot is ideally located to relax and feast your eyes with a grand view of the mountains and the valley.
The Deoriatal Lake surrounded by snow.
From here, take the trail that goes by a beautiful rhododendron and maple forest. After a steady hike of ten minutes, you will reach the second viewpoint.
Now, at 7,434 feet, Sari is no longer visible. With only a kilometre left, you will find yourself at the backside of the mountain and you will get a view of the Ukhimath side of the valley, though only for a while. You are now nearing your destination.
Another 20 minutes later, you reach a dhaba. Deoriatal is just two minutes away from here.
After a very short downhill trek, your surroundings open up to a grand view of Deoriatal, with Mt. Chaukhambha massifs looming in the background.
A clear night at the Deoriatal campsite. PC: Parimala Dawara
You have almost the entire day to yourself. That’s great because this is a picturesque campsite, a treat for the shutterbugs. You can go around the campsite and explore the trails around. The forests around here are lovely. You’ll be able to see and hear several rare Himalayan birds.
| Photo point: There’s a watchtower close to the lake that gives you grand views of the surrounding mountains.
Camp beside Deoriatal for the night. The beauty of the view generally intensifies in the morning, when the clouds have cleared to offer unreal views of the hills.
Day 3: Deoriatal to Syalmi via Rohini Bugyal
Altitude: 7,841 ft (2,390 m) to 7,710 ft (2,350 m)
Time taken: 6-7 hours, 10 km
Trek gradient: Moderate. Initial 15 minutes of gradual ascent followed by 45 minutes of steep descent, easing off after an hour of ascent to reach Rohini Bugyal. After 10 minutes of graduate ascent, comes the steep descent for 90 minutes to Syalmi campsite.
Water sources: Carry 2 liters of water from Deoriatal. No water sources along the way
Walk along the left side of the lake towards the Forest Guest Lodge. Pass by a watchtower and proceed from behind the Forest Lodge from your right. A lovely forest trail awaits you. Full of rhododendron and maple trees, the trail is a picturesque one. Every now and then, the Kedar Dome and Chaukhamba peaks peek at you through the trees on your left.
The forest section is an absolute visual treat with treetops sprinkled with snow. In early March, rhododendrons are in full bloom. Picture by Yogesh Shinde
After 15 minutes of forest walk from the guest house, look for a small clearing as you exit the forest. In front of you, the Chandrashila peak is visible. Below, towards your right, you can see Sari village again. Observe the open expanse and a view of the forested ridge. This is the logical route of the forest ridge trek to the base of Chandrashila Peak.
Take the ascending trail ahead of you as you get much better views from both sides of the valley. Towards your left, you can see the mountain ridge, from where a trail to Madhmaheshwar and Nandikund trek passes.
| Photo Point: After 15 minutes of climbing the ridge, look out for the highest point of the ridge nearest to you. This hill-top has a flag post. This is Jhandi Dhar (N 30°31.580, E 079 °08.515).
In the month of March and April, the trail is blazing with red and pink flowers of rhododendron. After 15 minutes of following the laid trail, you reach the top of Jhandi Dhar. The ridge has a small flat ground with unobstructed views from all sides. The forest continues to thicken throughout the trek. If you thought the forests until now were dense, you haven’t seen the start of it.
From here, proceed and take the trail that descends rapidly and connects with the forest ridge below. The descent is sharp, but pleasant. After 10-15 minutes, the trail takes an eventful turn as you enter the forest ridge from the left. The flora of the region is stupendous.
Every now and then, you might come across small shrines with bright yellow flags tied to them. These are all made by tourists and locals. You can use them as landmarks to ensure you’re on the right trail. Also, keep an eye out for wild animals such as foxes and leopards.
Keep walking on a leisurely downhill trail inside a generous cover of the forest, which will give you respite from the late morning sun. This is a quiet section of the forest with an abundance of birds. The Himalayan woodpecker and Verditer Flycatcher can easily be spotted here. Walk for another 20 minutes, until you see three trails branching out.
Take the center trail that ascends gradually. This is the trail to Rohini Bugyal.
After 20 minutes of gradual ascent, you’ll walk on level land for around 10 minutes. From here, the trail opens to small pasture land. You exit the forest even as the view of Chandrashila peak greets you upfront. Just before you, you see the second forest ridge that needs to be traversed.
Take the trail from the right side of the connecting ridge. It passes by a small grassland. The trail ascends sharply as you re-enter the forest once. This part of the forest has some of the oldest oak, maple, and rhododendron trees of the Kedarnath Sanctuary.
Another 20 minutes of trekking will have you reach the next landmark of the day, which is next to a small temple. This is known as Bhagdwal by the locals.
By now, you have trekked approximately 5 km. There are three trails branching out from here. The one towards the right descends sharply and reconnects with Sari Village. The one that descends from the left goes to a local village near Ukhimath. Take the center trail and walk for 15-20 minutes till you reach a small meadow.
From here, you can see Kala Parvat, which is a peak located on the right of Chandrashila peak. Below Kala Parvat is a small glacial lake, called Bisuri Tal. Legend has it, the Pandavas hid their weapons here.
The trail from here is a leisurely walk ahead for about 30 minutes as you pass a small rivulet. The stream is the only source of water and it is advisable to fill your bottles here. Rohini Bugyal is now only a 40 meter climb up from your right side.
| Photo Point: Rohini Bughyal (N 30°31.026, E 079 °11.702) is a small meadow surrounded by beautiful rhododendron forest and a view of the Kedar dome and the Kala Parvat peaks. The sunset view from here is incomparable!
The Syalmi campsite is across the small valley that’s just in front of the Rohini Bugyal campsite. It takes another 20-30 minutes to reach the campsite.
Day 4: Syalmi to Baniya Kund 6 km
Time taken: 4 hours, 6 km
Altitude: 7,710 ft (2,350 m) to 8,562 ft (2,610 m)
Trek gradient: Easy-moderate, an hour of descending till Akashkamini river, followed by a steep ascent through dense forest. And after an hour of climbing, you will see the first chaniya and from there, it’s a series of ascent and descend till Baniya Kund.
Water sources: Lots of water sources on the way.
Next, you traverse the ridge of Rohini Bughyal to enter the meadows of Bhrujgali. From Rohini Bughyal, proceed towards the connecting forest ridge from your right. Observe a tall rhododendron tree, which is just a five-minute walk from the campsite.
Enter the forest of upper Rohini Bugyal and reconnect with the old trail to Chopta. Follow the trail that ascends gradually all the way to the top of the forested ridge. It takes 30 minutes to reach the ridge top, which is covered in dense forest cover.
The locals call this spot as Tikidi Khal. From here, there are two trails. One goes straight ahead towards Kala Parvat. This trail goes all the way to Bisuri Tal and Nandikund.
| Photo Point: The other trail takes a sharp right turn and descends rapidly all the way to Akash Kamini, a rivulet coming from Chandrashila. Pause here and take some photos by this gurgling stream.
Take the second trail and descend 500 ft to reach the stream crossing. It takes 20-30 minutes to reach the stream. It’s a good idea to refill your water bottles here. There is a small bridge that needs to be crossed.
Baniya Kund in winter is a whole new experience. Picture by Avijit Jamloki.
From here, take the trail that now ascends gradually with a series of three scissor bends. As you climb up, the view of the valley gets better and better. Around 20 minutes of the steady climb will take you to a small meadow.
There is a series of shepherd huts here made of stones. In summer, you will find locals occupying the huts with their livestock. As you enter the meadow, look for a path that diverts towards your right and around 20 minutes of descent through a jungle trail, you would come upon a road head. Walk for about a kilometer to reach the Baniya Kund campsite.
Day 5: Baniya Kund to Chopta by car. Trek to Chandrashila Peak via Tungnath and back to Baniya Kund
Altitude: 8,562 ft (2,610 m) to 12,083 ft (3,683 m)
Time taken: 5-6 hours, 8 km
Trek gradient: Gradual ascent to Tungnath (3 km) followed by a steep climb to Chandrashila for about 60 minutes. The descent on the same path takes around 90 minutes.
Water sources: None. Ensure you are well hydrated and carry 2 litres of water while starting from Chopta
Green Trail Hotspot: There is a lot of footfall of pilgrims around the Tungnath temple. Be prepared with your Ecobag to pick up litter from this area.
Start the trek early, preferably before sunrise, so that you can treat yourself to a sunrise view from Tungnath and the Chandrashila peak. The trek from Chopta to Tungnath is accessible via a cemented pilgrim trail. From your campsite, take this trail. It ascends sharply via a series of 11 scissor bends. The walk is pleasant but is a very steep climb.
The trek up to Tungnath temple is approximately 3 km. After you reach the 10th scissor bend, look for a flag and a small open temple towards your right side.
Tungnath temple – the highest abode of Lord Shiva shuts after Diwali
You can now see Chandrashila peak and Tungnath temple complex at the base of the peak. The views from here onwards are incredible. A connecting peak leading to Chandrashila, known as Ravanshila, is visible to your right. Tungnath temple is only half a kilometre away from here.
Towards your left, overlooking the valley is a section of Birch trees (Bhojpatra). This is a haven for birds like Monal and Griffin vulture. Take the 11th and last bend to reach the famous and holy Tungnath temple. The temple is closed in winter and you will find snow here from late December until around April.
| Folklore: Tungnath temple is the third of the Panch Kedars. These are 5 temples believed to have been built by the Pandavas to atone for the sins of killing their kin and Brahmins in the Kurukshetra war in the Mahabharata. Lord Shiva, whose forgiveness they sought, disguised himself as a bull. Parts of this bull appeared in 5 different places, each of these identified as a Panch Kedar. Tungnath is where his hands and chest are said to have appeared. This place has the distinction of being the only temple in the world to be located at such a high altitude (12,083 ft).
Chandrashila peak is 1.5 km above the temple complex. The route to Chandrashila peak is from behind the temple complex. Pass by the local dormitories and take the trail that winds from the right side of the base of Chandrashila peak. A trail goes by from here and takes a series of scissor bends.
During winter, expect this trail to be completely buried in snow. Those planning to do a winter trek here are strongly advised to carry crampons/micro-spikes and an ice-axe. The climb from Tungnath to Chandrashila is a 600 ft ascent and is a very steep climb.
After you negotiate a series of switchbacks, you will reach the upper base of Chandrashila Peak. From here, the summit of Chandrashila is visible. The climb up to the summit takes 30-45 minutes.
The Tungnath temple is believed to have been built by the Pandavas. Picture by Shradda Tamore.
Once at the top of the peak, you get a 360-degree view of the mountains of Garhwal and Kumaon. Walk past a temple and see some great mountains of Uttarakhand, like Nanda Devi, Trishul, Nandaghunti, Kamet, Dunagiri, Chaukhamba, Kedar dome, Thalaysagar, Gangotri ranges, Jahanukut and more.
| Photo Point: The sunrise view from this spot is the best you will get to see in all of the Himalayas.
At Chandrashila, you find another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is believed to have been built by Rama to atone for the sin of killing Ravana. This temple is open from April to October.
The deity is moved to Ukhimath in winter.
The trek back to Chopta is via the same route taken to reach here. It takes 20-30 minutes to reach Tungnath and another 60 minutes to reach Chopta from Tungnath.
Day 6 (Drive-back Day): Depart to Rishikesh
Chopta also has a few private guest lodges. Board your jeeps from here for a drive back to Rishikesh. You will reach Rishikesh between 6.00 and 7.00 pm. Cab costs will be approximately Rs 6,000 per vehicle on the way back as the drive from Chopta increases distance by 20 kms.