Mcleodganj is famous among travelers for various reasons. Some find the culture intriguing, some like it’s food, some go there for peace and serenity, and some just revel in the beauty of Dhauladhars. But those who love to walk and hike those mountains, it is an absolute paradise out there. Innumerable hikes and treks emerge from Mcleodganj and Dharamshala.
Dhauladhar mountain range situated in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh is pristine, snow-clad (most time of the year), and full of beautiful treks. I believe walking in the mountains is the best way to experience the locale in its raw form.
Although some treks can be easily done even by the novice trekkers and some fall under a moderate level of trekking. There are some difficult treks as well, which shed the romantic notion of walking in the wilderness as the actual act of hiking surfaces.
Nevertheless, amateurs to professionals, all levels of walkers are sure to enjoy the beautiful vistas that the Dhauladhars offer. In this article, I am going to encapsulate a few treks around Mcleodganj and Dharamshala, to help you choose which one to go for during your next visit there:
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Let's quickly dive into the details:
Sunset Point (6,300 ft.)
This one will find a place in your list of ‘most beautiful sunsets in my life.’ It is not just about the actual sunset, but what makes this place magical is the sight of mighty Dhauladhars on the opposite end.
You would walk through the scenery of Dhauladhars to reach the sunset point, and as the sun is setting, the golden orange glow will lit up those mountains situated exactly opposite the sight point. You wouldn’t be able to decide which one to click first!
The point is located on Naddi road with a couple of eateries to keep you nourished with tea and Maggi as you wait for the sun to go down. The road itself is gorgeous to walk on, even post-sunset, – especially if you have a nice company.
From the Mcleodganj market square sunset viewpoint is a little over 4 km. The entire stretch is driveable. If you choose to walk the entire trail, it crosses through the town, up to the Naddi road presenting majestic views of snow-clad Dhauladhars.
Bhagsu Nag Temple, Bhagsu waterfall and Shiva Cafe (7,000 ft.)
Bhagsu is located at the upper Mcleodganj and is one of the main tourist attractions here. A 2kms trek from Mcleodganj town center leads to Bhagsu Nag temple and Bhagsu waterfalls (over 1km hike from the temple). It is an easy trek, and people of all ages can make it.
There are tea shops and small cafes along the trek (near the temple); if you are not able to move ahead, you may relax in one of those. The surrounding view is beautiful; stairs have been built for the most of trek, which is covered with railings.
The temple is dedicated to lord shiva, and it is believed that He visited this temple during the ancient period. This legend makes it a famous religious spot, locals revere this place.
The ancient 18th-century temple is built in stone and its walls still contain some beautiful carvings and inscriptions. There is a pool inside the premises of the temple which is open for the public to take a dip into.
If you wish to visit the famous Shiva Cafe, you will have to trek a little further from the falls. Path to Shiva cafe is not well carved and is a little rough, but the journey is worth the effort, which you would realize after reaching Shiva cafe.
It is quaint, beautifully done, and located well up in the mountains. The ambiance is serene, and you will find people chilling in different moods here. They serve good food. Try their sumptuous Israeli breakfast, fresh juices, and much more.
Galu Temple and Waterfall (6,700 ft.)
A couple of kilometers above Mcleodganj is located Dharamkot, all major treks of Mcleodganj belt start from here. Dharamkot village has a character that imbues a cosmopolitan yet Himalayan vibe. The place isn’t for tourists on the plan; it is for people who like short walks through meadows, treks, meditation, and food 🙂
Gallu Devi temple is a 2kms short hike away from Dharamkot. It is also a spot for the official beginning of the Triund trek. There are a few tea shops and guest houses offering food and stay to trekkers. From Gallu starts a broad trail to Triund.
And a little narrow offshoot from Gallu leads to a serene waterfall, which is devoid of the tourist rush that you encounter at Bhagsu waterfall. The waterfall, stream, and pools of water are extremely tempting to take a dip.
The trail to this waterfall is a little rough, with smooth and slippery patches too. So wear comfortable shoes and carry a walking stick.
Guna Devi Temple (7,500 ft.)
Guna Devi is a small shrine located 8 km away from Mcleodganj. The Gaddi community reveres the temple, and a deity is a form of Kali. This stretch can make for a short and easy day hike. The trail is scenic, and views from the top are excellent, especially the panorama over Bhimaghasutri pass.
Two trails are leading to the Guna Devi temple. One trail can be started from Dal lake (Mcleodganj), crossing Naddi village, Bhated stream, and Balgaon. Alternately, you can trek from Galu Devi temple to Guna Devi, which forms a 7 km trek (one way) and takes 2-3 hours.
Triund (9,350 ft)
This is the most famous trek from Mcleodganj should not be missed because it takes you to the interiors of Dhauladhars. Strolling among cloudy trails, locating herds of sheep, seeing the stunning evening sky are just a few rewards while going to Triund.
The trek level is easy, and it passes through the forest with some of the steep ascents and a few rocky sub-trails. You may choose to camp at Triund for the night and watch the beautiful sunrise the next morning or plan your return the same day.
There is a forest rest house at the hill for which you will have to make the booking in advance (FRH booking article link). You can get all the details about trekking to Triund in this previously published article on our website ‘How to plan a trip to Triund trek over the weekend?.’
Ilaqua Got/ Snow line (10,800 ft.)
From Triund, you may further trek to snow line (there is a cafe which goes by this name ), or Indrahar Pass for much more magnificent views and greater solitude. Many Triund trekkers go up till snowline these days. If you decide to do so, plan for an overnight stay at either snowline cafe or camp for the night. The wide-open pastures right ahead of snowline are called Ilaqua Got.
Dharamkot to Triund trail is of easy level but post-Triund the trail becomes a little rough. The path is marked and tracked, but it gets rocky and steep at some points. Ilaqua is famous for the panoramic view of Dhauladhars; here, you feel closer to Dhauladhars as compared to Triund and, it gets better at Indrahar pass.
A significant part of the route from Triund to snowline (3 km) is rocky, narrow, and during winter it becomes treacherous. It is advised to go here with an experienced guide if you haven’t attempted a winter trek before.
Indrahar Pass (14,000 ft.)
Indrahar pass connects Kangra valley and Chamba. The trail has been used by shepherds from the Gaddi community to trudge their livestock across the pass to the greener meadows in the Lahaul region. This trek is a moderate level trek that passes through Triund, meadows of Ilaqua, and Lahesh caves.
Amongst the breathtaking views that you would witness on the trek are Manimahesh peak and Pir Panjal ranges. After spending a night at snowline or Triund, attempt the Indrahar pass the next day. It takes approximately 4-5 hours (9 km from Triund) to reach Lahesh caves, which call for the night camp at the site.
The trail gets steeper and demanding from Lahesh caves till the pass. Snowfields of Indrahar pass are enchanting but tricky at times. To sum it up, it is at least a 4-day trek and could get a little trying for first-timers. But the views are more than rewarding for all the trouble.
Kareri Lake (9,600)
For nature-lovers and seekers of solitude, this trek serves the purpose. Kareri lake is nestled in Dhauladhars towards the west of Mcleodganj. Dhauladhars’ glaciers feed this tranquil Himalayan lake and its water outflows in a stream called Nyund.
This is a long trek which starts from Kareri village (11.5 km away from the lake), Nyud stream runs alongside the trail. The difficulty level is moderate but there are few steep stretches.
In winters the Kareri lake freezes and the trek level graduates to ‘difficult’, as the trail receives 1-2 meters of snow. In addition to that, wild animals (mostly leopards) come down to the trail in search of food. That’s why the best time to attempt this trek is April to June.
For spending a night at the lake there is a temple with few rooms which are provided to travelers free of cost. There is a Forest Rest House also near the lake, for which you should make the booking in advance. If you can, carry a tent with you because there are many scenic spots near the lake where you would love to camp.
Minkiani Pass (13,100 ft)
Minikiani pass lies in western Dhauladhars, further ahead of Kareri lake. The two treks can be clubbed together. Minkiani pass trail is comparatively difficult than Kareri lake and requires a guide. With an altitude of 4000 meters and a round trek of 14 km (from Kareri lake), this walk can get arduous.
Prepare for the steep climb and high altitude while opting for this trail. Trekkers get rewarded well for the effort as they cross a number of streams, rivulets, beautiful villages, and dense forests.
One can cross over Minkiani Pass and Baleni pass, further from Kareri lake and continue the trek to Chamba. Indrahar pass trek also leads to Chamba, after crossing Kuarsi.
Manimahesh Lake (13,750 ft.)
Manimahesh is a high altitude lake situated in the neighborhood of Dhauladhars, the Pir Panjal range. The lake holds religious significance for Hindus, almost next in stature to the Mansarovar lake. Manimahesh peak frames the background of this Himalayan lake.
Trek to this lake from Mcleodganj takes almost 8-10 days and is categorized as easy to moderate. However, the entire trail covers other smaller treks mentioned above (Kareri lake, Minkiani pass, Lam Dal, etc.). Officially, the trek can be started from Hadsar town in Bharmour district.
The Motorable distance between Mcleodganj to Hadsar is 232 km. If you choose to start the trek from Hadsar, then it can be done in two days covering a distance of 13.5 km (one way).
These are some of the gorgeous nooks and corners of Dhauladhars. A trip to Mcleodganj should not only be limited to the towns, cities, food, and monasteries when the neighborhood holds so many possibilities.
Dhauladhars are one of the most exciting ranges of Himalayas. They are inviting and intimidating at the same time. So take your pick, and during your next visit to Dharamshala, spare some time for one of these treks. I bet you won’t be disappointed.
For detailed information on Dharamshala, Mcleodganj, and Dharamkot refer to my previous write-ups.
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