If you love trekking, India has many kinds of trekking routes to offer. The best of these Indian trekking routes are the ones that stand out during winter. After all, when it comes to trekking the more to see and feel the better it a trek is going to be.
During winter the myriad and unique landscape of the Himalayan part of India becomes an adventure zone for trekkers. The beautiful landscape provides innumerable routes, which provide some of the best trekking routes. In fact, during winter the rolling hills of North East and the Ghats of south India also offer distinct and awe-inspiring trekking routes for all kind of hikers – beginners, moderates and experienced.
Whatever be your level of trekking experience, when you trek it is not just the routes, it is the camp experience, the buddies you make and the memories you take back with you.
For now lets trek through snow fields, frozen rivers, oak meadows, quaint tribal villages, gushing waterfall and behold the marvels of the nature. Let us take a look at the best winter trekking routes in India –
#1 Chadar Trek, Ladakh
One of the most difficult and one of the best winter trekking treks in India, the Chadar Trek comprises of walking on the frozen Zanskar River (also called ‘Chadar’ that literally means ‘sheet’ in Hindi) which is situated in the Zanskar valley. Subzero temperature as low as -25 degree and a path extending for 105 km presents an intriguing and challenging trek. The river completely freezes in the month of January – February providing a chance to walk on the icy sheets. Hilly walls on both sides, which barely allow any sunlight, surround the route. When the sunlight does pass through, the whole valley becomes a kaleidoscope of colors enchanting the trekkers with breathtaking scenery and beauty. This Himalayan trek has various camps set up at scenic spots so it isn’t just the walk that’s electrifying. Do make sure you carry enough warm clothing on your trek.
#2 Hampta Pass trek, Himachal Pradesh
The Hampta Pass trek is a fairly easy trek usually undertaken by beginners and trekking moderates. For folks who are starting off on trekking, the Hampta Pass trek is one of the best winter trekking routes in India. It spans for around 35 kms. It starts from Hampta village in the Kullu valley and finishes at Chatru in the Lahaul, Spiti valley. The Hampta pass trek is an ideal trek for anybody planning their first high altitude trek. This trek offers varied picturesque landscapes from thick deodar forests in the beginning, through snow clad valleys and finally through the unique and scenic barren landscape of Lahaul and Spiti. Trekkers also camp at Lake Chandrataal in the night which provides mesmerizing views. The maximum altitude is around 4400m and it takes 4 to 5 days to complete this trek. Best time to undertake this trek is from June to mid-November.
#3 Roopkund Lake Trek, Uttarakhand
One of the finest trek routes, Roopkund lake trek is very popular among both Indian and international hikers. It is also known as the Mystery lake of Uttrakhand. Its popularity is justified by its combination of pristine high altitude lakes, meadows (bugyals), spectacular mountain views, alpine camps, secluded villages and pristine Himalayan oak and rhododendron forests which leave a trekker – beginner, moderate or experienced – spell bound. No wonder we have this trekking route high up our order in the best winter trekking routes in India list. To experience all of this you will have to battle several adversities common to the Himalayas trekking routes.
Roopkund Lake is a glacial lake at an altitude of 5029 metres which lies in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in NDBR (Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve). It lies in the lap of Mt Trishul mastiff in which the Trishul I is highest mountain with a height of 7120 metres. The trek starts from Kathgodam and usually takes 8-9 days to complete. The Roopkund lake has many human skeletons adding to the spooky factor and attracting more people. You might want to go and find for yourself why there are so many skeletons. During this trek you can decide to stay at camps, tents or guest houses – just choose your tour operator accordingly.
#4 Valley of Flowers Trek, Uttarakhand
Valley of flowers trek along with a trek to Hemkund Sahib is an easy/beginner to moderate trek of around 55 kms. The Valley Of Flowers is an 11 kilometre valley full of high altitude Himalayan flowers which blossom during the short period of the monsoon. The Himalayan peaks surround this Valley of Flowers situated at an altitude of 3,858m. During the monsoon period the Valley Of Flowers changes color every fortnight. This enchanting valley untouched by the hustle and bustle is abode of some fascinating flowers and draws many trekkers. Best time to visit is July to September during the rainy season when the flowers are in full bloom. We recommend a camp stay because what is a trek which doesn’t include a stay at a camp with other trekkers.
#5 Goechala Trek, Sikkim
Kangchenjunga – the third highest mountain in the World provides an inspiring backdrop for the Goechala Trek. Until the discovery of the height of Mt Everest in the 19th century, Kangchenjunga was considered to be the highest mountain in the world. Viewing its huge flanks rising high above the foothills, it is not hard to understand why its an impressive panorama. The trekking trails lead from steamy, subtropical forest with bamboo, luxuriant ferns and orchids to temperate forest bands with ancient oak and rhododendron trees before heading to the alpine meadows that afford uninterrupted views of the East Ridge of the mighty Kangchenjunga and makes it one of the best winter trekking treks in India. The Rathong Chu River on the way adds more charm to the Goecha La trek. The total trekking distance is around 90 kms. If you are a beginner trekker don’t worry because this route is mostly covered on a ten day tour. Since this is a difficult trek, if you plan to take a porter remember that they will mostly carry only 5Kg per porter. This means, you will have to pack for this trekking route miserly.
#6 Markha Valley Trek, Ladakh
Ladakh is one of the driest regions in the Indian Himalayas. Also called the cold desert, this region has Buddhist culture thus earning the name “Tibet of India”. The Markha Valley trek is certainly one of the best winter trekking routes in India. It crosses two high Himalayas Mountain Passes over 15000 feet. It is one of the most diverse treks in the Western Himalayas. Markha Valley trek trails wind past willow groves, alongside patches of wild roses and through canyons decorated with multi coloured Tibetan prayer flags rising and falling in the breeze. The Markha Valley Trek goes inside Hemis National park and gives an opportunity to meet the nomadic families as they herd their yaks. The Stupas, Tibetan multi coloured prayer flags and monasteries denote the region’s immersion in Buddhism. August to October is the best time to undertake the journey. While on this trek, the camp stay in between the mountains is something to die for.
#7 Kuari pass trek, Uttarakhand
Kuari which means “doorway” is a Himalayan high mountain pass situated in the Garhwal region of northern India, south of the Tibetan border and on the western rim of the “Nanda Devi Sanctuary” Biosphere Reserve. It falls in the Chamoli district. The Kuari Pass trek is known as The Curzon Trail (named after the former British Viceroy Of India “Lord Curzon”). Winter Kuari pass trek is famous for its amazing views. The views on the winter Kuari Pass trek are often cited as the best in the Indian Himalayas and it’s one of the best winter trekking treks in India. If you google for images of the Juari pass you will understand why it is considered one of the finest winter treks in the Himalayan regions of India. To the north of the Kuari Pass is the Chaukhamba Range, while the summits of Mana (7272m), Kamet (7756m) and Abl Gamin (7355m) extend to the Tibet border. In the middle foreground, a number of spectacular peaks including Dunagiri (7066m) and Changabang (6864m) enclose the Nanda Devi Sanctuary while to the west the snowcapped ranges extend to Gangotri. The camping experience on this edition will stay in your memory for ages.
#8 Stok Kangri Trek, Ladakh
The Stok Kangri peak is considered the best trekking experience in the Himalayan Mountains of Ladakh. Trekkers of all kinds – flock from different parts of the world just to trek here. Stok Kangri is the highest mountain range of the Himalayas in Ladakh region. The nearest station to Stok Kangri is Leh. Leh can be reached from Delhi by air or from Manali or Srinagar by road. The Stok Kangri Peak trek is considered one of the most challenging treks on Himalayan Mountains. The final altitude that is achieved in the trek is 20,080 ft, which is almost 70% height of the Mount Everest. One must be mentally and physically fit and prepared to attain this one of the best winter trekking treks in India. Since at this height the air has much less oxygen, there are usually two or three days given to the trekkers to acclimatize themselves. This Indian winter trek is for the experienced, and advanced trekkers only. Enjoy the camping experience on this expedition as well.
#9 One Tree Hill Trek, Matheran, Maharashtra
One Tree Hill is a rare trek that is so close to the city, yet untouched and serene. The trail is easy and can be attempted by trekkers of all age groups, during any season and that’s makes it one of the best winter trekking treks in India. Each season brings in a different flavor and a vivid experience. Matheran at 800 m (2,625 ft) is a popular hill station, accessible by road and train. Matheran is a protected forest area where only emergency vehicles are allowed inside its limits. The trail to One tree hill from Ambewadi is also called the Shivaji ladder route. According to local legend, Shivaji rode up this route on horseback. From here, it’s 500m to the top, up a stream bed that’s dry except during the monsoon.
#10 Kodachadri Trek, Karnataka
Karnataka is blessed with diverse flora and fauna combined with exhilarating scenery in the form of the Western Ghats. Amongst such incredible landscape lies the Kodachadri Peak. At 1343 mtrs, it is the 10th tallest peak in the state and is a Natural Heritage sight. Situated in the heart of Mookambika National Park, it provides adventure seekers with diverse flora and fauna which is a visual treat. Kodachadri trek boasts of compact forests, beautiful waterfalls en route gorgeous jungle trails and picturesque landscapes. The peak is also home to a stunning range of Biodiversity such as Malabar Langoor, Malabar Pied Hornbill and Indian Rock Python among many others. This is an ideal trek route for a beginner and a moderate trekker for it is easy and can be finished in just two days.
Important Note: Please take notice that whenever you pay a tour operator for any of these treks, most of the time the cost covers accommodation, meals while on trek (mostly veg), trekking equipments, any permits which may be required, first aid medical kit, oxygen cylinder if required, experienced trek guide, and support staff during the trekking expedition. The price quoted by most tour operator for your trekking expedition will almost always never cover insurance, porter to carry your bags, and any other personal expenses.