Kedarkantha Trek – A Comprehensive Backpacking Guide for Trekkers

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Kedarkantha trek is in one of the most significant religious areas, especially in the Hindu Mythology. The Temple of Lord Kedarkantha (Shivji), which sits at the base of the summit, has stood the test of time and is revered amongst spiritual believers. Millions of pilgrims move mountains to offer their prayers and seek blessings of the Hindu Deity each year.

The temple itself lies at the base of the Kedarnath Peak, facing the Kedar Parvat. A beginner level trek, Kedarkantha is especially beautiful in the winter months. One of the most remarkable crests in the Himalayan region, both nature lovers and ardent trekkers tend to enjoy the experience.

History of Kedarkantha

In general, Uttarakhand is splattered with great religious sights. Lord Shiv’s Bull avatar wandered in the region. He attained the form to escape from the Pandavas and meditated in the valley in his disguise. But, once his peace was disturbed due to the locals, he fled from Kedarkantha to Kedarnath.

Also, local hearsay says that the Trishul of the Lord, erected in the valley, keeps the place safe from destruction. There was ample proof in their belief in 2013 when the valley suffered great losses due to the massive floods in the region, but the Kedarnath temple was not harmed.

Long way to go, peak with golden glow is the summit
Long way to go, peak with golden glow is the summit (PC: Vinod Raman)

About the Kedarkantha Trek

This is one of those treks where you can climb the summit in the harsh winters. It’s a four-day beginner trek in Uttarakhand, which takes you to the frozen Juda ka Talab and the snow-clad paths. The magical sunrise from the 12500 ft Kedarkantha summit seems like heaven. You can also get the views of various peaks like Pangarchulla and Har Ki Dun from the summit.

The need to connect with your greater purpose and the belief in faith is such a connecting factor that even if you’re not a Hindu, you can feel the credence all around you. It sets the mood for when you start your climb.

The forested floors of the massive mountain peaks, with meadows of Pine Trees and possible snow kissing the hills, makes for a stunning backdrop to your communal journey. Also, right after the base camp, you’ll start witnessing stunning panoramic views all round of famous mountain summits along with the river Tons, which is fed by glaciers.

Kedarkantha Height / Altitude

Kedarkantha is an altitude of 3800 meters in height and offers a 360-degree view of Pangarchulla, Har ki Doon and Swargarohini peaks of the high Himalayas.

Best time to visit Kedarkantha trek

Although Kedarknatha trek can be done at any time of the year, it’s preferred in the winters from the months of January to March as the trek is covered in the blanket of snow and offer some stunning snow packed views.

It is one of those treks in India where you can easily find snowfall near Delhi in winters. Also, the trek has the most gorgeous campsites. Hence, do not forget to take your own camping gears and camp in the wild on this trek.

Weather

In the summer months of April – June, the temperature varies from 3°C to 8°C in daytime and -5°C to -1°C at night. Post monsoon season of September to December witnesses’ temperature of -4°C to 6°C in daytime and -8°C to -15°C at night. For January till April, the weather is -6°C to 2°C in daytime and -10°C to -18°C at night

Views of Swargarohini from Kedarkantha Peak
Views of Swargarohini from Kedarkantha Peak (PC: Vinod Raman)

The Beginning Point – Sankri Village

You’ll have to first reach Dehradun from Delhi either by bus, train, flight or personal transport. After that, you head to Sankri – from where the trek begins. The overall distance of the trek from Sankri to Kedarkantha peak is approximately 25 Kms, covered in a total of 4-5 days along with Juda Ka Talab.

Delhi to Sankri by road

Sankri is a small village 200 km away from Dehradun where trekking for Kedarkantha, Har Ki Dun Trek, and Rupin Pass starts. The route from Dehradun to Sankri is Dehradun – Purola – Mori – Naitwar – Sankri. The journey takes approximately 7 hours by road.

The drive is a very scenic route. Sankri village itself is steeped in natural beauty and a night stay here is a requisite. Enjoy the small hamlet!

By Public Transport

Of course, you might want to take public transport to begin your trek – for the same there are multiple options to reach your starting point.

By Bus

Two buses run directly from Dehradun to Sankri, one at 5 AM and one at 8 AM from the Mussoorie Bus stands in Dehradun. Bus fare is around Rs 300/- and takes around 10 hours to reach Sankri from DEhardun. Buses run from the Mussoorie Bus Stand which is 4 km away from ISBT and a half km away from railway station. Dehradun is well connected with Delhi by buses anyways.

By Air

The Nearest airport is Dehradun from Sankri and then you can book a private cab or follow the bus options as mentioned in this article.

By Cab

A cab costs around Rs 5500/- and can accommodate four to five people. You can book a cab from Dehradun.

By Train

You can take a direct train from Delhi to Dehradun in the night and then catch a bus to Sankri in the morning. The best option is to take Nanda Devi AC Express which leaves at 11:50 PM and reaches at 5:40 AM in Dehradun.

Standing besides Juda Ka Talaab on Kedarkantha Trek
Standing besides Juda Ka Talaab on Kedarkantha Trek (PC: Vinod Raman)

Suggested Itinerary for the Kedarkantha Trek

The best way to experience a trek, is with a plan that has some room for movement. The Kedarkantha Trek ideally takes around 4-5 days and encompasses some of the greatest views and the most magnificent campsites along the way.

On most days you won’t be trekking longer than 4-5 hours, giving you ample time to relax and enjoy the beauty along with bonding with your friends. Of course, I would strongly recommend getting a guide for easing your planning requirement.

If you’re not traveling through a package tour – you might also need to carry your own camping gear. However, the Kedarkantha Trek is fairly doable, and beginner friendly. So, dear trekkers, don’t fret and take one step forward!

A beautiful Sunrise on the Kedarkantha Trek
A beautiful Sunrise on the Kedarkantha Trek (PC: Arun Hegde)

DAY 0 – Starting off

Take an overnight bus from Delhi to Dehradun in the night and reach Dehradun as early as you can in the morning. You can choose to spend some time exploring Dehradun – but honestly, there is so much awaiting you that it is best to push for Sankri. Try reaching before sunrise (taking into consideration your pitstops and leisure time in between). A must is to have your lunch/snack break in Mussourie. The views are insanely green and purely perfect.

DAY 1 – Reaching Sankri

Take the first bus/ drive over to Sankri, which will take around ten hours to reach. If you miss the first bus then you can take a bus to Purola or Mori whichever is available and then take shared cabs to reach Sankri. There is a forest permit which is needed before you enter Sankri. You’ll have to fill up the details and have a photocopy of your ID. After reaching Sankri, get a room or find a whole package for the trek as per your choice.

You should also check the Trek to Gaumukh – A Step by Step Guide

Day 2 – Sankri to Juda ka Talab

The first campsite is Juda ka Talab which is around 4 Km from Sankri. The starting point of the trek is local Sankri road, through an extension called Sor and then entering into the local trails. This is the road leading up towards Kedarkantha. Initially, the climb will test you by making you climb multiple bridges through a densely forested area.

From the sharp contrast of your city life, this view will be guaranteed have you mesmerized. The trail is a little steep at certain points before ultimately entering into the dense forests of Himalayas. A Common sight, especially in the remote villages along the way, is of local folks carrying wood & dry leaves on cattle for domestic usage.  

Juda ka Talab is based at an altitude of 9100 ft and the total time it would take you to achieve this milestone is ~4 hours. Around here, you will also sport Langoors swinging about in the trees. They often like to keep to themselves and might vanish before you register their presence. While winter will have a deeply majestic brown & snow around the region, summer months will witness lush greenery and hilly flowers unique to the region.

There are two tea shops between the trek where you can have breakfast. Juda ka Talab campsite is frozen in the winters and gives some astounding views. It takes around 3 hours for a fit person to complete this part of the trek.

Aerial view of Juda Ka Talaab
Aerial view of Juda Ka Talaab (PC: Vinod Raman)

Day 3 – Juda ka Talab to Kedarkantha Base camp

Kedarkantha base camp is also four km away from Juda ka Talab and takes roughly around 3-5 hours of time to trek, depending upon your fitness and skill. The trek starts from pine and oak trees and then enters into the open highlands. The trail is wide and visible, making for great sightseeing and daydreaming (Can you daydream about what you’re currently experiencing?).

At some points, you will cross some deeply dense forests and steep ridges. With views of shepherd huts in stretched out meadows, and now becoming a common fixture of the views, you make your way towards the base camp. Views include Bandarpoonch, Swargarohini, Kala Nag, and Ranglana – be prepared to be mesmerized.

Kedarkantha peak is visible from the base camp. Kedarkantha base camp is at a height of 11,250 ft in open highlands. This campsite is the finest campsite of the region and gives picturesque views of Dhaulandhar ranges. Since you’ve gained considerable elevation in your 3 days, it is important to rest and acclimatize yourself as the next day is the summit day.

You should also check the Tungnath – Chandrashilla Trek – A Step by Step Guide

Sliding on the Descend from the Trek to Kedarkantha
Sliding on the Descend from the Trek to Kedarkantha (PC: Vinod Raman)

Also, it is mandatory to stargaze – the sky to crystal, the night will enchant you no bounds. However, remain cozy and bundled up throughout and spend the night INSIDE your tents to ensure fully-swinging health.

Day 4 – Kedarkantha Base to Summit; back to Hargaon campsite

So, today’s the day – let’s conquer come mountain peaks, y’all! You’ll be climbing from 11250 Ft to 12500 Ft today while reaching back to 8900 Ft at Hargaon Campsite. Since it’s a long day today, as you’ll have to make it to the summit and then back to the Hargaon campsite, it is imperative that you start your day EARLY (some might argue it is not even the next day. But, oh well, such is the life of a traveler – next day begins when you wake up). Overall the journey is 6 km and should be covered in 7-8 hours.

The trek starts with the gradual ascent which offers some magnificent views of the snow-covered mountains. You’ll have to cross three hillocks to reach to the peak and the trek becomes around 75-80 steep at some points. This part of the journey is relatively easier in comparison to the previous days. However, near the end of your climb, you will find the trail becoming more challenging.

Devils at Kedarkantha Peak
Devils at Kedarkantha Peak (PC: Vinod Raman)

Normally, in the winters sunrise takes place at 7 AM in the morning. Start early as can in the morning around 3 AM so that you can reach in time to witness the most beautiful sunrise of your life.

At the TOP of Kedarkantha!

Kedarkantha summit offers 360-degree arresting views of Himalayan ranges mixed with white and dark blue clouds. There is a small temple dedicated to Shivji and Goddess Parvati, with a small shrine for Lord Ganesh. Take your time, relax and soak in the magnanimous views to your heart’s content – it is hard to describe in words the sights only your heart can capture.

You should also check the Trek to Deoriatal – A Step by Step Guide

After watching the sunrise and spending some time at the summit, get back to the Kedarkantha base camp and then trek down to the Hargaon campsite. It takes around 1:30 to 2 hours for a normal person to reach from base camp to Hargaon. The trek is further amplified thanks to the multiple clearings in the dense forests that lead you to breathtaking views all around.

I would suggest getting to your campsite at Hargaon and if permissible arrange for a bonfire to mark the end of your spectacular journey. Be a responsible traveler when making the bonfire and follow/respect the forest rules.

Around midway to Juda Ka Talaab
Around midway to Juda Ka Talaab (PC: Vinod Raman)

Day 5: Hargaon to Sankri

Sankri is 6 km from Hargaon campsite but it does not take a lot of time as you’re mostly descending. The journey can be easily covered in 2-3 hours. This final leg will take you down from 8900 ft to 6400 ft. The trail is well marked paved route in between the beautiful nature.

In between the trek from Hargaon to Sankri, you get some splendid views of Har ki Dun valley. Your target should be to reach Sankri by 12 AM. And if you’ve booked a cab then you can leave immediately for Dehradun. If you’d like the public transport option, then you can stay one more night and catch the bus in the morning for Dehradun. There are two direct buses from Sankri at 5 AM and 7 AM and take 10 hours.

Accommodation along Kedarkantha Trek

There are various cheap homestays which you can find easily on the trek. Most of the times homestays are easily available but there might be a problem in the peak season.

If you are taking any package, then that agency will provide you the stay itself and if you are doing this on your own it’s better to book it online. You can get rooms as low as INR 500s and high as INR 2000.

Starting the trek to Kedarkantha Peak early morning
Starting the trek to Kedarkantha Peak early morning (PC: Vinod Raman)

Campsites

The trek is so beautiful because of the especially beautiful campsites that help you in rejuvenating. This is a unique trait for the region. The Akroti Thach campsite is surrounded by walnut and pine trees and is so alluring

Also, the Pukhrola campsite is literally in an open meadow with the summit in clear view – such an absolute delight. You’ll remember your sleepovers almost as much as your trek itself. Stargazing is a must in the meadow

Food options on Kedarkantha Trek

While there are various food options available in Sankri, on the trek, there are very few tea shops which provide basic food. There are two shops before the first campsite which provide tea and Maggi and one on the Kedarkantha base campsite.

If you are trekking on your own, carry food of your own. Also, ensure you carry your own water bottle (Let’s please note pollute the Himalayas- there are no cleaning crews climbing up our pristine hills – let’s vow to keep ‘em clean!) and fill it up when possible/available.

At Kedarkantha Summit
At Kedarkantha Summit (PC: Vinod Raman)

Other Important Tips

Of course, there are some other considerations for any travel we might be planning – some are as below:

ATM availability near Sankri

There are no ATM’s available in Sankri. The last place where you’ll find ATM is Purola. Hence, make sure you are carrying enough cash with you.

Mobile Network at Kedarkantha trek

There is only BSNL network available in Sankri and as you move above on the trek there are no networks available. Of course, I am a strong believer that this is how it should be – when you’re trying to connect with yourself/ nature and be more present – why do you need cellphones to distract you and unwarrantedly take your attention?

Other Things to keep in mind

  • Availability of guide is must for the Kedarkantha trek unless you are a professional. Mountains can be harsh sometimes so please take a guide with you.
  • There are very few water sources on the Kedarkantha trek and the chances are you might miss most of them. This is why the guide is most important on this trek.
  • Do keep proper trekking gear for this trek. In the winters, temperature drops to -10 degrees C. Carry a lot of layers which can keep you warm in the high temperatures.
  • Proper hiking trekking shoes are must to do this trek. Forclaz 500 is one of the best shoes which I’ll suggest.
  • Please take all your trash back with you to Sankri. Let’s keep these mountains clean for our future generations.
  • Normally, travel agencies charge from INR 6000 to INR 9000 for four days of trekking for a roundtrip from Sankri, covering the Kedarkantha Trek and back to Sankri.
  • You can get all the trekking equipment like tents, sleeping bags, trekking shoes also on rent from Sankri if you want. The shop is at the front when you enter Sankri.
  • You’ll have to take your own tent and food if you aren’t traveling with any travel agency.
  • Crampons and Gaiters are must need for this trek in winters.
Kedarkantha Basecamp Luhasu
Kedarkantha Basecamp Luhasu (PC: Vinod Raman)

Conclusion

It is a magical experience, getting to complete the Kedarkantha Trek. I hope the above information will help you plan your trek to Kedarkantha. Be safe and have an amazing trek. If you have any other questions about this trek then you can ask them in the comments and we’ll try to help you in every way possible.

Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.

In case any of your friends or families are planning to undertake this trek, please feel free to share this article with them.

Happy Trekking!

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About Author

Shefali spends most of her time day dreaming about her next big vacation. A happy-go-lucky personality, she is an amalgamation of all the places she’s lived in and experienced! She is always confused as to where to call home, having lived in Chandigarh, Shimla, Dehradun, Mumbai, Hyderabad in India and Vancouver, Abbotsford in Canada. Her love for travel is only challenged by her love for reading and eating delicious food! In order to sustain her dreams, she brought out her inner geek, got an MBA and has a job in the corporate world crunching numbers. Do follow @nomadstoryteller on Instagram for updates on her next great adventure.

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