Location – Parvati Valley, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh (India)
Elevation – 2,960 m
Trek difficulty – Moderate
Trek Route – Barshaini – Nakthan- Rudranag – Kheerganga
Best Season – May to November
One of the most scenic treks in Himachal, you will find everything from waterfalls to alpine forest trails and mystical woods to hot water springs here. The trek trail runs along with the Parvati River that keeps bellowing throughout this 12 km long trail.
The starting point of the trek is Barshaini, which is also the last motorable point. From here, the uphill climb leads to Nakthan, the last tribal village of Kullu district. This is the best place to take refreshments/supplies. You can spot lovely apple orchards and quaint houses here at Nakthan along with a few options to stay. Alternatively you can continue with the trek until Rudranag, a spot with a waterfall that resembles a water snake, hence the name Rudranag. From this point onwards, you will reach even closer to the thick alpine forests and the views to die for!
Around midway across a makeshift wooden bridge, the supersonic confluence of the Parvati river gushing through the valley at your right and the roaring waterfall in the front will leave you speechless. The views around with beautiful Chinar trees shedding leaves as well as moss covered alpine trees will make you stop to soak up the mystery around. Trust me, it would be no less than some Hollywood fiction or Mirkwood for that matter (Remember Lord of the Rings).
From this point onwards, the climb becomes steep with couple of water streams running through the woods on the left. You need to be extra careful here with the muddy and slippery patches especially in the rainy season. Through the thick forests and gradual steep ascent, you will finally reach the flatland or meadows of Kheerganga. You can spot a couple of cafes here serving you international cuisine as well as options to stay. You can locate a camping site if you plan to stay overnight in a tent or simply rent any available lodge/room. The main highlight of Kheerganga is the Hot Water Sulphur Springs. Find them adjacent to the temple / Kartik Gufa there and soak yourself into the invigorating natural hot waters that will make you forget any aches or pains. There are separate bathing areas for males and females.
According to the legends, Lord Shiva meditated at Kheerganga for around 3000 years. Some other stories say that Kartikeya, the eldest son of Lord Shiva meditated here too, hence a cave or Gufa by the name Kartik Gufa is located in the temple vicinity.
You can easily get rooms in approx. 300-400 INR (the prices may escalate in the peak season though) and if you wish you can stay at Dharamsala of the temple for free. I stayed in the tent overnight here which cost me around 400 INR. Sleeping under pristine night sky with million stars and clear views of the Milky Way is probably the best thing ever! More than that, the hot water springs were such a blessing! It is revered site for Hindu pilgrims and the water of the hot springs are said to have healing properties.
This trek should be on the ‘to-do list’ of every trekkie or adventure enthusiast. The trek has so much to offer let alone the pristine mountain views. You can continue to trek further up to Mantalai Lake (4116 metre) and Pin Parvati Pass (5319 metres). This is a much difficult trek which will involve at least 4-5 days with gradual pit-stops and complete trekking gear.
So fellas get rolling and do share your experiences /inputs in the comments below