Celebrate the spring festival with these easy mountain nature trails
This year, it’s a holiday bonanza for the Holi weekend. Between March 23 and March 27, five full days of fun and frolic are possible. You could stay at home and relax, or you can take advantage of this and quickly get to the hills and mountains closest to you and have a grand adventure in the lap of nature! What better way is there than to celebrate spring! Here are five quick getaways that are tailor-made for your region.
Himachal Pradesh: Trek to Triund
The dramatic and gorgeous mountains of the Dhauladhar range and the verdant Kangra Valley are one of the easiest places to reach from the northern plains. We suggest you head up to Dharamsala and trek up to Triund, and beyond to the snow line for the perfect Himalaya-in-a-nutshell experience. Take the trail to Triund from Dharamkot village above McLeodganj. It’s a leisurely trek of about 9km up to the high-altitude alp of Triund, poised dramatically above the green carpet of the Kangra Valley. Starting from the small white-washed shrine to Galu Devta, the trail climbs steadily for a little over 3,000ft through forests of rhododendron, juniper, pine and oak to reach the Triund ridge. Stay at the Forest Rest House, or the many camps and tea stalls on the ridge and enjoy fantastic views of the towering granite peaks of the Dhauladhar range. The next day, climb further up to Laka Got (got is ‘camp’ in the local Gaddi language), another 2,000 feet higher to get a final glimpse of the snowfield before it melts for the summer. Once you’re done with your trek you’ll still have enough time to relax in McLeodganj and make your leisurely way back home.
Karnataka: Climbing Thadiyandamol Peak
Thadiyandamol, Coorg’s highest peak at a shade under 6,000 ft, has been something of a cult favourite, its charms talked about among connoisseurs of the Western Ghats with a knowing smile. However, recently, the gorgeous nature trail that leads up to the peak has become much more widely known. So, while you might find a fair number of trekkers purposefully arching up to the summit of this lovely mountain, we suggest you take a longer, more leisurely walk up through the forests and meadows on the slopes of the mountain. It’s a short trek to the peak, about 9km from the Virajpet bus stop and past the Nalknad Palace. However, if you’d like to get a better feel of the mountain and its lush, verdant surroundings, then we suggest you take the longer route from the Honey Valley Estate. You’ll need a guide for this route, as well as permission from the estate. The trek is a nature lover’s delight. Look out for the tiny drosera, a carnivorous plant, the wildflowers of the grasslands, and, if you’re lucky, the beautiful kurinji flowers that bloom once every 12 years. Track the golden-headed cisticola, a pretty but elusive bird; and gaze upon the sweeping panorama of shoal forests. The last stretch is steep and rocky, and the views from the top are phenomenal.
West Bengal: The Singalila Trek
This trek is the crowning jewel of the Darjeeling district, and your best bet to get up close and personal with the third highest peak in the world, Kanchenjunga. The trek begins at Maneybhanjyang, about 25km from Darjeeling. Much of the route, which is also roughly motorable, lies through the Singalila National Park that straddles the long, high ridge that forms the border between Nepal and India. In spring, the trail is ablaze with bright red rhododendrons. There are stands of bamboo, oak, silver firs, and the hills echo with birdcalls, some of which, like the blood pheasant and the yellow billed blue magpie are absolutely lovely. The trek to Sandakphu, the highest point on this ridge, passes the Nepalese border village of Tumling, and the Kalipokhri lake, an object of worship by the locals. There are log huts and bungalows along the route, so you don’t need to camp. The high point, literally, is the unobstructed view of Himalayan giants like Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and, of course, the Kanchenjunga massif.
Kerala: Silent Valley
Mountainous north Kerala is of the most beautiful places in the country, and it doesn’t get more beautiful than the Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad. One of the most bio-diverse spots in the country, the core area 89 sqkm park is closed to tourism. However, you can take the park’s bus through the buffer zone of Silent Valley from Mukkali to Sairandhri, a distance of 23km. If you’re up to it, you can trek this stretch as well. This is a better option as you will be able to enjoy the forests better, and catch a glimpse of spotted deer, sambar and elephants. The vegetation ranges from broadleaf forests to evergreens and shoal forests, interspersed with greasslands. Sirandhri has a watchtower, from which you can get some great views of the park. A 3 km trek from Sairandhri leads to the Kunthi river, which marks the beginning of the core area of the park. If you’re lucky, then you might encounter the Malabar giant squirrel and the lion-tailed macaque, two of the most the distinctive species found in the valley. The park is a birder’s delight, home to over 200 species. You can catch sight of rare birds like the black-crested baza, the rufous bellied hawk eagle, the Nilgiri laughing thrush, the Ceylon frogmouth and the peninsular scops owl, among others. You can apply for permits to trek in the core area as well, although these are difficult to come by. If you’re interested, you can also trek in other areas of the buffer zone, like the 5km trek through an abandoned teak plantation from Mukkali to the Keerippara grasslands and the 5km trek from Mukkali to the Karuvara waterfalls.
Maharashtra: Trek the Sahyadris
The Sahyadri range that makes up the northern end of the Western Ghats is one of the most beautiful— not to mention the most bio-diverse—mountains in the country. There’s no one trek that we can recommend. Instead, there are multiple options, each one more interesting than the last. Even a legendary mountaineer like Harish Kapadia holds that he can get as much pleasure from a weekend in the Shyadris as from a week in the Himalaya. There are many short treks around the hill station of Matheran, as well as treks to the Konkan Kada massif, Malshej Ghat, the medieval forts of Nane Ghat and the ancient Buddhist caves of Bhor Ghat. One of the best treks is to Kalsubai, the highest peak in the Sahyadris, as well that to Thal Ghat. A great new option is the Vasota trek, which passes through the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and ends at the Kaas Plateau. It’s a great trek for stargazing as well. This year, it’s a holiday bonanza for the Holi weekend. Between March 23 and March 27, five full days of fun and frolic are possible. You could stay at home and relax, or you can take advantage of this and quickly get to the hills and mountains closest to you and have a grand adventure in the lap of nature! What better way is there than to celebrate spring! Here are five quick getaways that are tailor-made for your region.