Uttarakhand, nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, is a trekker’s paradise. Home to some of the most iconic peaks and trekking routes in India, Uttarakhand offers a myriad of winter treks to suit all adventure levels.
Winter is an excellent time to explore Uttarakhand on foot. The snow-clad slopes and valleys transform into picture-perfect winter wonderlands that will take your breath away. The cold weather, clear skies and less crowds also make it easier to fully immerse oneself in the splendor of the Himalayas.
This guide will give you a comprehensive overview of the best winter treks in Uttarakhand. Whether you’re a beginner setting out on your first winter hike or a seasoned pro looking to conquer an icy summit, Uttarakhand has a winter trek that’s tailor-made for you.
When is the Winter Trekking Season in Uttarakhand?
In Uttarakhand, winter lasts from around December to February. This is the prime time to explore the snow-clad slopes and frozen trails of the region. These are the best month to visit uttarakhand.
The period from late December to January is ideal for winter treks as the weather is usually cold, dry and stable. There may be some snowfall in December but the trekking routes are still accessible. January offers the quintessential winter wonderland experience.
By February, days start getting warmer especially at lower altitudes. Higher altitude treks may still have deep snow. Avoid late February or early March as the snow starts melting, making routes slippery and prone to rockfalls.
Popular Winter Treks in Uttarakhand
Easy Winter Treks
Here are some of the most popular easy to moderate winter treks perfect for beginners:
- Brahmatal – Scenic lake trek with spectacular views of Mt Trishul.
- Nag Tibba – Short weekend trek with panoramas of the Gangotri ranges.
- Har Ki Dun – Stunning valley trek along glacial rivers and conifer forests.
- Kartik Swami – Mythological trek to the revered Kartik Swami temple.
- Kuari Pass – Walk along the Curzon Trail with views of Nanda Devi.
Challenging Winter Treks
More demanding winter treks for seasoned adventurers include:
- Roopkund – Trek to the mysterious skeletal lake at over 5000m.
- Pindari Glacier – Trek across icy moraines to the tip of the glacier.
- Kedarkantha – Summit climb through snow to sweeping Himalayan vistas.
- Chadar Frozen River – Unique walk over the frozen Zanskar river.
- Bali Pass – Cross the rugged Bali Pass at 4800m on the way to Har Ki Dun.
- Deoriatal-Chandrashila – Summit Chandrashila after a lake trek.
Short Winter Treks
For short 2 or 3 day winter treks, check out:
- Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila – Walk through rhododendron forests to sacred Tungnath temple and further up to summit Chandrashila.
- Prashar Lake – Encircled by snow clad peaks, this sacred himalayan lake has an old pagoda temple beside it.
- Dayara Bugyal – Expansive meadows and magnificent views of the Himalayas.
- Dhanaulti – Mussoorie – Walk from Dhanaulti’s alpine meadows to the hills of Mussoorie.
- Auli – Joshimath – Ropeway ride and hill walk from Auli to Josimath with great Himalayan views.
Top 5 Must-Do Winter Treks
If you had to pick just 5 winter treks in Uttarakhand, go for these breathtaking journeys:
- Kuari Pass – Walk on the historic Curzon trail with epic views of Nanda Devi and the Himalayas.
- Chopta – Chandrashila – Tranquil trek from rhododendron forests to the lofty summit of Chandrashila.
- Har Ki Dun – Lush valley trek to quaint villages with views of Swargarohini.
- Kedarkantha – Challenge yourself on this summit climb through snow-covered landscapes.
- Roopkund – See the fascinating skeletal lake set amidst religious mystery.
When is the Best Time for Winter Trekking in Uttarakhand?
December to January end is the ideal period for winter trekking in Uttarakhand when the weather is usually stable, dry and cold. Days are crisp and sunny, perfect for trekking but you can expect sub-zero temperatures at night.
December has less snowfall at lower altitudes. January is perfect for getting the true winter wonderland experience with snow-laden trails and landscapes. By February, the snow starts melting rapidly except at higher altitudes above 4000m.
Avoid late February to early March. The melting snow makes routes slippery and prone to rockfalls. The summer monsoon starts by mid-March shutting down higher altitude treks.
For specific treks, do check the recommended season, as some high altitude treks may only be fully accessible by January once the snow has set in.
How Difficult are Winter Treks in Uttarakhand?
Winter treks in Uttarakhand range from easy to strenuous:
Easy Winter Treks
Low altitude treks below 4000m like Nag Tibba, Kartik Swami, Chopta-Tungnath and Dayara Bugyal are perfect beginner winter treks. These involve 4-6 hours of walking daily on snow-laden trails that are relatively straightforward. No technical climbing skills needed.
Moderate Winter Treks
Moderate treks like Kuari Pass, Har Ki Dun, Brahmatal, Dodital and Deoriatal involve 5-7 hours of daily trekking. The trails are more rugged with some steep sections. Basic fitness and some prior trekking experience recommended.
Difficult Winter Treks
Treks like Roopkund, Kedarkantha, Pindari Glacier and Bali Pass are graded difficult due to longer trekking distances, sustained steep ascents and high altitude terrain. Require very good fitness levels and high altitude trekking experience. Technical gear like ice axe and crampons needed.
Chadar Frozen River trek has the unique challenge of walking over frozen Zanskar river. Prior river crossing experience essential.
When picking a winter trek, consider your fitness level, high altitude experience and skills carefully.
Permits and Registration for Winter Treks
Most winter treks in Uttarakhand require permits and registrations which must be secured well in advance:
- Forest permits mandatory for treks entering protected areas like Nanda Devi National Park, Valley of Flowers National Park and Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. Obtain from forest department office of respective region.
- IMT permits required for certain inner line treks like Roopkund, Har ki Dun and Pindari Glacier. Apply via Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
- NIM registrations needed for high altitude treks above 5000m. Done at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.
- Local village fees applicable for some treks. Paid directly to village committees.
- Wildlife fees needed if passing through Jim Corbett National Park.
Confirm permit requirements for your trek and apply 1-2 months in advance. Carry printouts during trek.
How to Reach Winter Treks in Uttarakhand
Major access points to reach winter treks in Uttarakhand are:
- Dehradun – Gateway for Mussoorie region and Yamunotri, Har Ki Dun, Dodital, Kedarkantha treks check dehradun facts.
- Rishikesh – Starting point for many Garhwal Himalayan treks like Valley of Flowers, Roopkund, Kuari Pass.
- Joshimath – Base for Auli, Kuari Pass, Valley of Flowers, Gomukh treks.
- Uttarkashi – Access for Gangotri, Gomukh, Har Ki Dun, Bali Pass treks.
- Pithoragarh – Basepoint for P