The Har Ki Dun Trek is a ladder to paradise that will make you fall in love with its splendour. It is a winter wonderland and a trekkers joy. The fact that it is accessible in both the summer and winter seasons adds to the appeal of the trek. Har Ki Dun valley, located on the western edge of Garhwal in Uttarkashi district, is a popular destination for hikers and climbers alike. The Har Ki Dun valley is a nice trek with spectacular views of the Swargarohini group of hills.
Har Ki Dun is a key source of the Yamuna River System and the principal source of the Yamuna’s greatest tributary. It leads you through some of the most beautiful alpine meadows and pine woods in the world, which is a visual delight. During the winter, when the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, the snow-covered trails become captivating.
The Magical Valley
The ‘Valley of Gods,’ one of the oldest treks in the Himalayas, is thought to be the same route used by the Pandavas in the Mahabharata on their ascension to heaven. The vista of Swargarohini—the snow mountain that dominates this trek—bears a resemblance to the mythological ladder to heaven. Camping alongside a running river is a lovely experience; the woodland here is rich in flora and fauna, and it has its own captivating mood.
One can see all Swargarohini – I, II, III, Bandarpoonch, and Black peak from here. The Har Ki Dun route takes you past some of the 2,000-year-old ancient communities. It gives you an inside look at the life of the people who reside in the valley. This hike is ideal for nature enthusiasts, adventurers, and photographers. You can even see a variety of bird species that call this area home. On the route, take some incredible photos that will last a lifetime.
Other sights include the Duryodhana temple at Osla, which was built by Saur residents and is dedicated to Duryodhana. Sankri, on the steep mountain trail to Har Ki Doon, is about 13 kilometres away. It is a 5,000-year-old creation of finely carved wooden chambers. Har Ki Doon’s challenge, aside from the long hours of walking for 6 hours, is dealing with the constant rain. This walk is best in the summer when there is a lot of rain, rather than in the winter after a snowfall.
It’s a magnificent experience to walk among lush foliage pouring with raindrops, but hikers must be well prepared. Rain trekking essentials such as a poncho, waterproof coverings, anti-diarrhoea medicines, and water-resistant trekking boots are required before embarking on this adventure. Whatever the weather, this walk will give you the feeling of being in a magical place.
Trekkers believe that treks like Rupin Pass and Buran Ghati are among the best in the world. When we tell Ruinsara about Har Ki Dun, they think of it as a poor relative. That is a major blunder. Ruinsara’s Har Ki Dun walk is one of the nicest all-around treks we’ve seen. It boasts a rich old culture, breathtaking mountain vistas, woods, grasslands, meadows, rivers, streams, and even an alpine lake. This walk is not strenuous on the legs, making it an ideal summer experience when compared to other summer hikes. A good trip turns amazing when Ruinsara is added to Har Ki Dun Trek. One of the most comprehensive treks you will ever undertake. Most trekkers know Har Ki Dun for its culture and history, therefore they just walk to Har Ki Dun, missing out on the Ruinsara Tal’s beauty and variety.
I’ve included a list of some of my favourite sections from the walk below. They cover both the cultural and aesthetic aspects. However, reading about it is one thing, and experiencing it is quite another. As a result, I strongly encourage any mountain enthusiast to take this walk to experience this unique combination firsthand.
Har Ki Dun has a lot of things that I admire about it, and these are few of them:
1. The journey
This is one of the trek’s most underappreciated sections. You’re on an uneven track right beside the Thamsa river in less than five minutes after starting your trip. You’re always surrounded by lush greenery. Old wooden bridges that span the river appear out of nowhere, providing excellent photo opportunities. This trek allows you to travel miles without breaking a sweat. As you progress, you’ll notice that the coniferous forest becomes denser. For an hour, the short trail twists through this dense, gloomy forest before opening up to the first signs of civilisation – the ancient settlement of Gangad. The same thing I experienced when I was trekking to the Vijay Top previous year. On treks, I’m not used to such lush beginnings. It was nearly like taking a stroll through a picture-perfect pine forest. I savoured every moment of it.
2. The meadows
On the Har Ki Dun hike, no one ever talks about the campsites. Kalkatiyadhar, like everyone else, I assumed was either a small settlement or close by. Kalkatiyadhar, contrary to my expectations, turned out to be a big green field. The valley’s vastness took my breath away. We were positioned at a vantage height in the middle of multi-level cricket-field-sized meadows.
The trail climbed to the Swargarohini peaks, which were just visible on the horizon to my left. Dense jungles surrounded me on my far right, with mountains rising behind it. This was the Ruinsara trail. A field surrounded by pine trees was to my right across the river. I could see the Kedarkantha mountain miles away behind Kotgaon and follow the trail all the way down to Seema. Such vast settings in the highlands above 10,000 feet, with trees, meadows, rivers, and large mountains all in one frame, are not something you see on every hike.
3. Legends about old villages
The ancient communities of Har Ki Dun have been the subject of much discussion. These towns, spread out on the mountainside with houses seemingly hanging in the air, are visible from afar. I couldn’t wait to climb up to them and discover what was on the inside. Spending the night in the village home transports you hundreds of years back in time. The stories of the village elders and the grins of the children are something you want to photograph and bring back with you. The settlements bring the Har Ki Dun adventure to a close. You will stay in at least two separate villages during our walk — Gangad and Osla.
4. The trek’s best-kept secret
The best-kept secret of the entire Har Ki Dun – Ruinsara path turned out to be Devsu Thatch. Except when you’re inside the meadow, you can’t see much of it. Pine trees have effectively encased the secret! The meadows were my favourite since they ran 600 meters from top to bottom and spanned nearly 2 kilometres. In the spring, flowering plants line the meadows, and tiny multicoloured flowers sprout from the ground practically everywhere.
One can find the nice views of the triangle valley here, as it is higher than its counterpart Kalkatiyadhar on the opposite side of the valley.
In the evenings, I remember sprinting from one end of the meadow to the other to get my sunset photographs, as each corner appeared to provide a different perspective.
5. The gorges
The two valleys that this trip honours are Har Ki Dun and Ruinsara Tal. These are, without a doubt, the most gorgeous parts of the walk. The vastness of the Har Ki Dun valley drew me in. Everything works in the valley’s favour. Massive snow-capped mountains rise out in front of you. A large river runs through the centre. Lovely lush pastures are everywhere throughout the landscape. I could spend the entire day just staring at this scene. Ruinsara Tal, on the other hand, appears to be from another universe. Isolation engulfs you. You, the mountains, and the lake are all you have. The sight of the mountains reflected in the crystal blue lake was quite relaxing to me. Ruinsara Tal felt like the peak of a trek to me, despite the fact that there was no genuine summit.