Most people tend to think that the Himalayas are all about fresh white snow. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Himalayas are as much about colour as they are about snow! And what better time than autumn to witness this magnificent colourful canvas!
The months of October and November are a brilliant time to trek the Himalayas, for mainly three reasons.
First, the forests – they’re an absolute treat to the senses. The trees turn from green to earthy shades of brown and orange. Shafts of sunlight pierce maple leaves, carving out their edges and giving them a charming glow. With each step, you can hear the crisp crunch of leaves underneath your feet.
Second, the views! By God the views cannot be better than in these months! Trekking in autumn is like getting the best seats at the theatre. Since monsoon takes away with it the summer haze, it leaves the sky squeaky clean! You can see crystal clear views of mountains as far as the horizon can stretch.
Which makes it the best time to trek for photographers! That would be the third reason. During the day, the blue of the sky will put a sapphire to shame. And during the night, you’ll see more stars than black sky. So here, after much debate, we have put down six of the best treks to do in autumn.
Duration: 8 days
Region: West Bengal
If you ask me, Sandakphu is the trek to do in autumn. Considering this trek is all about majestic mountain views, there’s no better time to do this trek! And the word majestic is definitely not used in vain. You see Mt Everest towering over its companions at 8,850mts. Right behind the Everest are Lhotse and Makalu, the fourth and fifth highest peaks in the world! Kanchenjunga and its family stray away from the clan. They join Mt. Kumbhakarna and others to form the Sleeping Buddha. This gorgeous view alone is enough to do the trek. This view stays with you for a long time during the trek.
Not only that, the subtropical forests on the trail turn a golden brown, almost as if they are preparing you for the colourful monasteries. The clear desirable weather increases your chances of spotting the coveted Red Panda.
Duration: 6 days
This trails runs through the Nanda Devi Biosphere. Which is enough reason for it to secure a place on this list. The view of the Mt. Nanda Devi on this trek right from Day 1 and especially from Auli and Gorson Bugyal is unprecedented!
As you get into Chitrakantha, oak trees loom high above you, shedding a bed of leaves on the ground. These oaks are home to several rare Himalayan birds. You hear them tweet as you wind across the forest, encouraging you through the ascent.
Just as you break out of the brown and yellow canopy, you enter Gorson Bugyal and which offers outstanding views of India’s highest peak, Nanda Devi. Apart from it, you see Neelkanth and Chaukhamba to the north, Ghoda and Hathi Parvath to the north east, and of course, your companion throughout most of the trek, Mount Dunagiri. Autumn is the season for photographers to capture this grand peak as the rains have wiped out everything between the lens and the summit!
Duration: 6 days
This trek is laden with Rhododendron forests which, in this season, are competing in a league of their own. The red Rhodo flowers wither away as the leaves start to take on their colour, and become the sensation of the trek. Take a break from crunching numbers on your desk to crunch crisp, brown leaves on this trail.
The grand Deoriatal Lake is complemented by the Chaukhamba massif and Kedar Dome. The unique shape of Chaukhamba can be seen clearly. You have an entire day here. You can climb up the watch tower and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains. Needless to say, the view from the Chandrashila summit is almost incomparable at this time of the year! As night falls, you can spend time star gazing as you can see an array of constellations in the night sky. With no clouds, it looks vast and grand, with the stars stretching out until they hit the silhouettes of the mountains.
The Rohini Bugyal campsite on the other hand is a clearing in the forest. Surrounded by Rhodo trees, you are peeking into the night sky which is an experience in itself.
Duration: 8 days
This trek needs no introduction. It is extremely close to our heart and it is so with abundant reason. The Neel Ganga whistles its way through the valley along which the Rhodo and Oak forests start to age beautifully, turning into a variety of autumn shades.
Add to that the meadows! If one were to believe that the earth is flat then Ali and Bedni Bugyal would be the reason. The bugyals deceivingly stretch all the way to the skyline. Which also makes the campsites perfect for star gazing. The lack of trees is a blessing here!
No peeking from the corner of your eyes can distract you from the endearing view of Mt.Trishul from Bedni Bugyal. The trek reaches a crescendo at Junargali (which is in fact more accessible in autumn than in summer), where you can see the Trishul right from its bottom to the tip, alongside Nanda Ghunti. This trek is perfect in every way possible.
5. Har ki Dun
Duration: 8 days
The Har ki Dun trek hasn’t seen much human footprint, leaving many birds and animals to thrive in this region. You can spot Langoor families near Puani Garaat. The chances of you spotting Black bears, wild boars and Barasingha amongst other animals is increased thanks to the good weather and complete absence of haze. The trail lets you enjoy their habitat of pine forest at its colourful best.
This is the only valley from where you can see Swargarohini – I, II, III, Bandarpoonch and Blackpeak, all together. Getting such a clear view of Swargarohini, makes you feel like a Pandava ascending to the heavens. You can also see the Ruinsara Peaks. Often you are accompanied by swollen streams that flow mellifluously down the hills.
Duration: 10 days
I don’t think Goechala needs no introduction. This is one of the few treks in India where you get so close to such big mountains. You can see the Kanchenjunga in all its glory! It’s a sight that you can’t take your eyes off! Not only that, you see Mt.Pandim right behind you at the Dzongri campsite. These views alone are worth the effort you put in to get it!
Another thing that will strike you is the forest trail. This trek houses few of the oldest forests of the region – especially rhododendron forests. The moss laden forest floor sends out a wet aroma, leaving you intoxicated by the very essence of nature.
But keep in mind that Goechala is a difficult trek. All the rewards that you receive from this trek come after months of hard work!
Being up in the mountains in such clear, clean air is a blessing. Everything seems more enhanced – the colours, the smells, the scale… They say an uncluttered home can bring clarity to the mind; an uncluttered trek in the Himalayas can do just that a 1000 times over.