Kumaon foothills of Nainital district, Uttaranchal
09 days/08 nights (6 days of trekking)
450 m to 2500 m
November to March
Trekking from Nainital to Corbett, spectacular views of peaks, Tiger sighting in open jeeps & elephant ride at Dhikala, rich Himalayan flora, altitude migrant birds and occasional sightings of endangered mammals like Himalayan Black Bear and Serow, Homestays and eco-tourism projects like Mahseer Conservation
Unlike most other treks that are done in summer for easier access, this trek is best enjoyed around winter months as high altitude birds migrate to lower regions and the forests are in bloom. This forest trek has great altitudinal variation, giving the whole region a diverse bird and mammal life. An astounding 650 bird species have been reported here and the assemblage of mammals is equally impressive, the most notable being the elusive Serow.
Highly recommended for beginners, this is a moderate trek through beautiful natural surroundings. You hike along old pony trails, camp at scenic spots or stay in colonial era forest bungalows. Starting from the right bank of the Kosi River this trek involves walking through dense broadleaf forest rich in wildlife, and forging through shallow streams. As we gain altitude, vegetation & landscape go through considerable change and you move on to conifer forests of oak and pine that open into scenic valleys & gorges. You finally end the trek at temperate forest higher up that offer spectacular views of the icy Himalayas along the way. What is quite remarkable is the ever-changing biodiversity, rich wildlife and the dramatic difference in forest types each day.
The hike takes you through forests dominated by dense undergrowth of Ringal, bamboo and ferns and you can encounter a variety of wildlife such as barking deer and pheasants. The forest stretch between Vinayak and Patahriya is of great ornithological importance as the once-considered extinct Himalayan Quail was reported here. You pass through small villages and hamlets, where you can see people lead a simple symbiotic life in harmony with their wild surroundings.
Day 1: Delhi - Nainital
Morning depart by surface for Nainital (260 km/6 hrs drive) and check in at the resort. In the evening, you can walk into the surrounding forest to observe the flora and fauna of the area accompanied by a naturalist. You get back to camp by sundown for campfire and barbecue. Dinner and overnight at the lodge
Day 2: Nainital
The main hub of Nainital is the Naini Lake, which according to a mythological story marks the spot where the Goddess Sati's eye (naina in Hindi) fell and thus reflects its emerald green colour. A temple dedicated to Naina Devi lies on the edge of the lake. While Nainital is a bustling township and offers many tourist distractions like boating on the lake and shopping in its busy streets, you must take time out to visit Guerney House, the place where the legendary Jim Corbett was born. Overnight at hotel
Day 3: Nainital - Pathariya
Early morning, you leave Nainital for Pathariya, your first camp perched at a height of 2200 m, which spectacular views of Nainital town. Overnight at Pathariya
Day 4: Pathariya - Vinayak (14 km/ 9 hrs)
This day's trek takes you through one of the finest patches of cedar forest, crisscrossed by streams to the highest ridge of Vinayak (2600m), with stunning views of the Himalayas. Here is your best chance to find the elusive Serow and while you do so look out for signs of the Himalayan Black Bear. The trail from Pathariya leads up to the popular Naina/Cheena peak (2600 m), from where you trek further on a narrow trail along the ridge to Sigri (2350m), Guhugu Khan and Pangot.
At Vinayak you stay in the beautiful forest bungalow or camp out in the compound of the nursery. Evenings are magical as the setting sun transforms the icy Himalayas across Vinayak into gold. Overnight at Vinayak campsite
Day 5: Vinayak - Kunjkharak (16 km/ 5 hrs)
From Vinayak the main trail runs east along the ridge to Kunjkharak, your next campsite. Though this is a motorable track, chances of coming come across any vehicle are very slim. Barely a kilometer before Kunjkharak you get a magnificent 380 km broad view of the Himalayan range. A unique feature of this moist temperate forest is the Khoola (Jhoola) moss that carpets the floor below. This moss absorbs water and helps in retaining moisture in the forest. Camp for the night at the clearing in the forest department compound of Kunjkharak, kharak in Kumaoni meaning pass. Overnight at Kunjkharak campsite
Day 6: Kunjkharak - Akashkhanda (9 km/ 6 hrs)
From Kunjkharak, the trek starts on a steep descent to the south, the temperature begins to drop and the views get spectacular. The trail takes you to dense temperate forests dominated by oak, chestnut and rhododendron. Birds commonly seen here include the colourful Jays, Magpie and Thrushes. Halfway through the trek you find some mountain streams with clear water, which are good places to stop for lunch. The campsite at Akashkhanda (1600 m) has a beautiful forest bungalow set amidst pine trees that offers complete solitude. On a clear day you get spectacular views of Nanda Ghunti (20,700 ft) and Trishul (23,360 ft) peaks. Overnight at Akashkhanda campsite
Day 7: Akashkhanda - Kumeria (16 km/5 hrs) - Vanghat
The trek from Akashkhanda is a sharp narrow decline to Mon through coniferous forests. The verandah at the primary school of Mon is a welcome site to rest for a while. You soon get on to the old district board road that meanders along the Kosi and leads to the village of Okhaldhunga (500m). From here a fire lane soon merges with a narrow broken trail that takes you to the relatively large riverside village of Kunkhet, finally ending on the other side of the suspension bridge over the Kosi at Kumeria. Transfer to waiting vehicle and drive to Marchula, for a 2-km trek to Vanghat, a riverside wilderness lodge on the periphery of Corbett National Park
Day 8: Vanghat River Lodge
Hemmed in between the Ramganga river and the Kalagarh Tiger Reserve, Vanghat can be accessed through various walks that descend into the Ramganga Valley. You have the advantage of doing nature hikes in the surrounding forests - something not permitted inside the Park - to explore prime wildlife habitats on foot. A walk by the river gives you a chance to explore the Mahseer pools, with scenes of fish eagles hovering in the air and the occasional tiger pugmark on the riverbed. Look out for well-concealed Ghoral (a rare species of goat antelope) in the steep rock faces by the river.
Day 9: Vanghat - Onward destination
From Vanghat, you can either leave early morning by surface for Delhi or do a wildlife extension to Dhikala.
Trekking Tours in India:
Trekking in Binsar
, Maneater of Mohan Trail
Corbett to Nainital Trek
, Nanda Devi Trek
Roopkund Kuari Pass Trek
, Sandakphu and Goechala Trek
Snow Leopard Trek India
, Tawang Trek Arunachal
Valley of Flowers Trek