Welcome to the Kuari Pass Trek, an adventure that unveils the splendour of the Garhwal Himalayas. In this pristine region, Kuari Pass stands tall at 4264 meters, offering a front-row seat to some of the Himalayas' most majestic peaks.
Among the top three treks, alongside the Deoriatal and Sandakphu treks, Kuari Pass holds its own as a captivating journey through nature's wonders. Located in the Chamoli district of the Himalayas, the true magic unfolds in the lush Himalayan meadows known as Bugyals, with Gorson Bugyal being a standout.
Walking through enchanting forests filled with Deodar and Oak trees, you may even encounter the footprints of Himalayan black bears and elusive leopards. This trek, while not overly strenuous, rewards you with unparalleled vistas of the Himalayan Range, with the Nanda Devi Massif stealing the show.
If you are craving an adventure that weaves through meadows and snowy slopes, pack your essentials and make your way to nature's grandeur.
Kuari Pass Trek - History
Before we delve into the details, let's explore the history that makes Kuari Pass even more intriguing. This trek gained fame in 1905 when Lord Curzon and explorers Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman embarked on a pioneering expedition through this region. It is no wonder that the trek is also known as The Curzon Trail. Lord Curzon himself improved the path for this remarkable journey.
The trek takes you through the heart of the Himalayas, where you will cross several lesser passes like Vinayak Pass and Tali Top, as well as five major rivers: Pindar, Kaliganga, Mandakini, Bheriganga, and Dhauliganga.
About Kuari Pass Trek: Details
Duration: 6 Days and 5 Nights
Distance: Covering a distance of 33 kilometres
Altitude: Reaching an elevation of 12,516 feet
Level of Challenge: Rated as Easy to Moderate
Temperature: Expect daytime temperatures between 13°C to 18°C, while nighttime can drop to -3°C to 4°C
Ideal Time for Kuari Pass Trek: Plan your adventure between March to mid-June and from mid-September to early November
Closest Railway Station: Haridwar stands as the nearest railway station
Airport: You can fly into the Jolly Grant Airport, located in Dehradun
How to Get to Kuari Pass?
To commence your expedition towards the enchanting Kuari Pass, your gateway is Rishikesh, and you have three distinct routes to reach this starting point:
Overnight Train/Bus to Rishikesh: Opt for a comfortable overnight train or bus ride directly to Rishikesh.
Overnight Train/Bus to Haridwar and Onward to Rishikesh: Alternatively, you can choose to take an overnight train or bus to Haridwar. From there, embark on a 35-minute drive to Rishikesh, assuming normal traffic conditions.
Flight to Dehradun Airport (Jolly Grant Airport) and Travel to Rishikesh: If you prefer a quicker journey, catch a flight to Dehradun Airport (Jolly Grant Airport). From the airport, it's a 20-kilometre, 30-minute drive to reach Rishikesh.
Once you have arrived in Rishikesh, your next leg of the adventure involves catching a state transport bus that will transport you to Joshimath. This picturesque journey typically spans 7-8 hours. Upon reaching Joshimath, settle into a cosy guest house for an overnight stay, gearing up for the exciting expedition that awaits you. Now, let's delve into the four primary trekking routes that will lead you to the mesmerizing Kuari Pass:
Scenic Auli Route (Route 1): Commence your trek from Joshimath, traverse the picturesque Auli, and venture into the lush green woodlands amidst the grand Himalayas always in sight. Trek through Gailgarh to reach Kuari Pass in just five days, relishing campsites on rolling slopes covered in lush greenery.
Mirag Exploration Route (Route 2): Embark on your expedition from Joshimath, passing through Tugasi, Mirag and Khulara on your way to Gailgarh and the Kuari Pass. Ideal for those who prefer to skip the Gorson and Auli meadows, this 5-day trek offers a unique perspective of the journey.
Tapovan Valley Route (Route 3): Initiate your trek from Tapovan, located 16 kilometres from Joshimath along the primary route to Malari. This route takes you through the magnificent Tapovan Valley, connecting with the third route at Khulara. While it's the shortest route, be prepared for a strenuous ascent; descending via this path is often recommended.
Curzon Trail Route (Route 4): Begin your journey in the welcoming village of Ghat, nestled in the Nandakini Valley, a mere 19 kilometres from Nandprayag. The path leads you through Ramni, Sarkot, Jhenjipatni, Pana, Irani, Sanatoli, and Domabhiti, culminating at the Kuari Pass in 6 days.
The Terrain of Kuari Pass Trek
Referred to as Lord Curzon’s Trails, this route was discovered by the British Viceroy himself. Hiking along this route rewards you with a breathtaking 360-degree spectacle of the splendid Himalayan mountain range. Among them stand giants like Chaukhamba (7128m), Kamet (7756m), Nanda Devi (7817m) and Trishul (7120m). Countless others grace the horizon, including Hathi Ghoda Parbat, Mukut Parbat, Rishi Pahad, Dronagiri, Nanda Ghunti, Mana, Neelkanth, and Changbang.
Starting from Joshimath in the Chamoli region, this trek takes you through a region enriched with perennial rivers, including the Panch-Prayag (Devprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag). En route, you will encounter remote hamlets, providing insights into the mountain culture.
Himalayan bears and leopard tracks add a touch of wilderness to the journey. Walking through Himalayan meadows, locally known as Bugyals, is a surreal experience. The Gorson Bugyal, an undulating expanse of green pastures, is truly remarkable.
Along the way, you will traverse lesser passes like Vinayak Pass and Tali Top before reaching the pinnacle – Kuari Top, at 13,990 feet.
Itinerary of the Trek
Here's a day-wise itinerary to guide you through the Kuari Pass Trek:
Day 1 : Commencing the journey from Rishikesh and arriving at Karchi.
Time Spent on the Trail: Approximately 4 hours
Distance Covered on Foot: Roughly 2.5 kilometres
Elevation Rise: An impressive ascent of around 1,729 feet, taking you from 9,265 feet to a lofty 11,014 feet.
Level of Challenge: A harmonious blend of simplicity and moderate exertion, a gradual climb to the enchanting Khullara.
Your journey into the Kuari Pass trek begins at Karchi, but before you dive headfirst into this adventure, you will embark on a lengthy 9-10 hour drive from the serene town of Rishikesh.
The road winds along the mountainside, revealing Garhwal's lush forests and valleys below.
One of the key highlights of this drive is the opportunity to witness the famous Panch Prayag of Uttarakhand. These sacred confluences - Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag, and Vishnuprayag - are like stepping stones on your journey into the Himalayan wilderness.
Karchi itself has its own stories to tell, from soothing hot springs to the iconic Mt. Dronagiri peering at you from the horizon. If you arrive a day early or have time after the trek, don't miss the chance to explore the region of Lata, Reini, where the Chipko movement, a pivotal moment in India's environmental history, first took root.
Day 2: Trekking from Karchi to Akhrotghetta
On this day, your adventure takes a more intimate turn as you leave behind the wheels and put on your trekking shoes. The day starts with a 40-minute drive, setting the stage for a 5-hour trek covering 2.75 kilometres.
This leg of the journey Includes a gain in altitude from 6,175 feet to 9,265 feet, offering a delightful mix of challenges. The trek commences with a gentle ascent for the initial 20 minutes, followed by a steeper 45-minute climb through the enchanting forest. As you delve deeper into the woods, the terrain oscillates between gradual and steep ascents.
About a kilometre from the start of your trek, you will find yourself enveloped in a forest of pine, oak, and maple trees. It begins with a carpet of fallen pine cones and maple seeds, creating a forest floor rich in textures and colours.
As you venture further, keep your eyes peeled for a lone walnut tree, a sign that you have reached your campsite for the day, Akhrotghetta. Nestled in a clearing, this campsite is adorned with views of towering peaks, including the prominent Hathi Gauri and the ever-watchful Mt. Dronagiri. Don't forget to wake up early to catch the first rays of sunlight caressing the peaks in the morning.
Day 3: Trekking from Akhrotgetta to Khullara
Day three promises to be a journey through nature's masterpiece. Over 4 hours and 2.5 kilometres, you will experience an elevation gain from 9,265 feet to 11,014 feet. The trek is graded as easy, with a moderate ascent to Khullara.
The forest comes alive with golden oaks, adding a touch of elegance to the green and brown tapestry. As you walk, keep an eye out for streams that can turn treacherously slippery in winter, thanks to the formation of hard ice known as verglas.
Dwarf Rhododendrons mark the next stretch, leading you to your next campsite in Khullara. With Mt. Dronagiri to the left and the regal Hathi Ghoda peaks in sight, this leg of the journey promises a visual feast. On a clear day, you might even spot Kamet, Neelkanth, and other peaks gracing the horizon.
Day 4: Journey from Khullara to Tali via Kuari Pass
As you enter day four, you are about to embark on one of the most exhilarating stretches of the Kuari Pass trek. Over 8-9 hours and 7.65 kilometres, you will experience a variety of terrains and altitudes, with an ascent to Kuari Pass and a descent to Tali.
Your day starts with a steep ascent out of the forested area surrounding Khullara, leading you to a ridge that's a stretch of Lord Curzon's trail.
Neelkanth, Nilgiri, Chaukhamba, Hathi Ghoda, and Dronagiri peaks grace the horizon on one side, while Trishul and segments of Nanda Devi beckon straight ahead. The trail leads you to the upper grasslands of Kuari Pass, marked by a shrine.
Upon hitting the ridge, the grandeur of Pangarchulla Peak comes into view, offering adventurous souls a challenging climb during the Spring season. From the ridge, it's a moderate climb to the Kuari top, offering a 270-degree panoramic view of the Greater Himalayas, with nearly 22 peaks in sight.
Descending from Jhandi Top, you will arrive at Chitrakantha meadows in about 1-1.5 hours, with dense oak forests enveloping you. Your destination for the day, the Tali forest camp, awaits about 40 minutes ahead on this trail.
Day 5: Trekking from Tali to Auli
Day five ushers in a visual extravaganza that culminates your trekking adventure. A 7-8 hour trek covering 8.1 kilometres awaits, with a descent from 10,890 feet to 9,390 feet.
The day begins with a modest climb to Tali Lake, a 30-40 minute endeavour. At this point, you have left the tree line behind, offering you sweeping mountain views once more. The highlight of the day is undoubtedly the breathtaking sight of Mt. Nanda Devi, a sight that can make even the strongest knees go weak.
A steep 20-minute climb from Tali Lake leads to an overhanging trail cutting through a cliff. As you walk along this ledge, you can spot the villages of Lower and Upper Tugasi nestled far below in the valley. After 40 minutes of moderate ascent, the trail takes a U-turn, leading you to Gorson Bugyal.
Gorson Bugyal treats you to wide mountain vistas on the right and behind you, a feast for the eyes. In about 2 to 2.5 hours, you will arrive at Padiyar. As you proceed, the path leads you into a beautiful oak forest. Within just 15 minutes, you'll come across the serene Padiyar temple. After your visit to Padiyar temple, the trail continues its descent.
You will spot Upper Auli, where ski lift number 10 finishes its route, in just a short 10 to 15 minutes. Auli itself lies around 1,000 feet below this point. You will eventually arrive there by strolling through the picturesque meadows for about 1 to 1.5 hours.
Once you reach Auli, the next leg of your journey involves driving down to Dhak. Your final destination for the day is a campsite at Karchi, where you will be staying.
Day 6: Homeward Bound - Karchi (Joshimath) to Rishikesh route
On the final day of your adventure, it's time to bid farewell to the Himalayan wilderness and head back to civilization. You will embark on a 9-10 hour journey covering 250 kilometres, driving from Karchi (Joshimath) to Rishikesh.
An early start, ideally before 6:00 AM, is recommended due to the lengthy journey. The journey back also holds a special treat in the form of the famous Panch Prayags. These sacred confluences, a symbol of Himalayan spirituality, mark the final moments of your extraordinary adventure.
Best Time to Visit Kuari Pass
When it comes to visiting Kuari Pass, timing matters a lot. Let's take a look at the best times to plan your journey:
The best time to go on the Kuari Pass trek is during the summer months, from April to mid-June. The trek becomes more enjoyable and truly fun with pleasant and calm weather during this period.
However, the monsoon season, with its unexpected and sometimes heavy rains, can make the route to the Pass slippery and muddy. This can dampen the mood of trekkers, making it an unfavourable time for planning your vacation.
The Kuari Pass trek is suitable for all adventurers from mid-September to early November. During this season, you will find the Pass surrounded by lush greenery, making it a great time for exploration.
For those who don't mind the cold, some travellers even venture to explore the Kuari Pass during the winter months despite the bone-chilling temperatures.
Things to Carry for the Trek
To ensure a safe and comfortable trek, make sure to pack the following essentials:
Durable Backpack: A rugged backpack is essential for carrying your gear and personal belongings comfortably.
Insulated Apparel: Pack warm clothing, including a cosy down jacket, insulating thermal layers, and waterproof outerwear to combat changing weather conditions.
Climbing Harness for Safety: Utilize a climbing harness to secure yourself to the rope, providing an added layer of safety while ascending.
Crampons for Traction: These are indispensable for maintaining solid footing on snowy and icy terrains.
Dynamic Climbing Rope: Opt for a dynamic rope that can handle both your weight and the equipment you are carrying.
Powerful Headlamp: Be prepared for early morning starts and late-night hikes with a dependable headlamp, and don't forget to pack extra batteries for extended use.
Rugged Hiking Boots: Ensure you have sturdy, waterproof boots offering excellent ankle support and compatibility with crampons.
UV-Blocking Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and blinding snow glare with a quality pair of sunglasses.
Waterproof, Insulated Gloves: Keep your hands dry and warm with waterproof gloves that provide both dexterity and grip.
Extra sock wear: During your trek, it's smart to carry an extra pair of socks. They can be a real game-changer if you run into unexpected rain, need to wade through water, or your feet get too sweaty.
What is Famous in Kuari Pass?
Kuari Pass is famous for its:
Scenic Places: Offering panoramic views of the Chaukhamba Range, Mana, Kamet, and more, along with the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and the Gangotri region.
Flora and Fauna: The trek takes you through rich forests, and you might encounter Himalayan wildlife like the elusive snow leopard or the playful Himalayan tahr.
Historical Significance: It's the same trail Lord Curzon once traversed, adding a historical charm to the trek.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Kuari Pass Trek easy for beginners?
Yes, Kuari Pass Trek is of moderate difficulty, making it an excellent choice for beginners.
What is the best time to do the Kuari Pass Trek?
The best time for the Kuari Pass Trek is from mid-November to mid-February during the winter season and from mid-February to mid-April in spring.
Are there any age restrictions for the trek?
While there is no upper age limit for trekking in India, it's advisable for children to be at least ten years old and for all participants to be physically fit and prepared for the challenging terrain and altitude.
Is it possible to do the trek solo, or is a guide necessary?
While going on a solo trek is feasible, we recommend considering the services of a knowledgeable trekking guide. Their familiarity with the route, weather dynamics, and steadfast focus on your safety make them an indispensable companion.