Resting at 4650 m and stretching over 65 km, Rupin Pass is a thrilling cross-over trek from Uttarakhand to Himachal Pradesh.
Every turn on the trail feels like a giant theatre curtain unfurling, revealing dramatic landscapes drenched in a mindboggling array of colors leaving you dumbstruck in its wake. Be it a hike through thick pine and rhododendron forests or meandering through a hanging village, crossing giant glacial valleys or trudging through the narrow and steep gully of Rupin Pass, glissading down snow chutes to Ronti Gad or making your way to the top of a waterfall, there is never a dull moment once you are on the trail!
Check out: Itinerary of the Rupin Pass Trek
There is just so much to see and experience on the Rupin Pass trek that one article is not going to justify the splendour that it beholds. Nevertheless, we are going to try and flesh out the variety of attractions on the trail in this article, so that you don’t miss out on any of them!
Highlight 1: Tracing the course and various forms of Rupin River
The best and our favourite part of the Rupin Pass trek is the Rupin River that accompanies us right from Day 1 until we cross the mighty Rupin Pass. Although the river remains in sight for majority of the trek, it likes to play a game of peek-a-boo occasionally.
On Day 1, as you travel from Dehradun to Dhaula, you will catch your first glimpse of the Rupin River beyond the village of Netwar (about 6.5 hours from Dehradun). The river can be seen burbling and making its way around the boulders under a canopy of oak and pine forests.
On the second day, as you begin the trek from Dhaula to Sewa, you get your first full view of the River swerving in the gorges about 500 M below. Over the course of the next seven days, the Rupin River stays a faithful companion all the way up to the Pass.
From Sewa, the trail runs through a narrow and uneven path crossing mixed farming fields and Oak forests. Here, you might lose sight of the Rupin for some time. Shortly after, the trail descends through the forest to converge with the banks of the Rupin - a promise made is a promise kept. By this time, you will be walking alongside the Rupin riverbed. The bed is full of rocks and scree and the water currents are moderately strong, so it is advisable not to go too close to it.
At a three hour trek from here, you will come across a tributary of the Rupin river. Slender but powerful, this marks the border of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Crossing this tributary is yet another highlight of this trek (that we will talk about later in this article).
The following day, as we trek from Jiskun to Buras Kandi, the Rupin River holds another surprise for the trekkers. This time the surprise takes the form of a delightfully vast snow bridge that appears quite suddenly after a long trek through the greens. Short while later, as you reach the verdant grassland of Udaknal, the Rupin River shifts shapes again. This time you will find the river ambling along gently in the middle of the grassland. An hour from here lay the meadows of Buras Kandi set in the backdrop of Rhododendron forests blooming in a flush of colors. The Rupin takes the form of a gentle rivulet, on the banks of which we will be spending the night in our camps.
Day 5 of the trek treats you to a rewarding view of the Rupin River. This time, it takes the form of a waterfall thundering down in three levels before reaching the giant U-Shaped valley of Dhanderas Thatch, our campsite for the day.
The view is overwhelming as hundreds of slender waterfalls can be seen falling from the mountains on the side, earning the campsite its name “The Land of a Thousand Waterfalls”.
On Day 6, we make the final touchdown to the origin of Rupin, who has been a beautiful companion for almost a week now. Leaving from Dhanderas Thatch, you will come across several streams on your way until you reach the base of the waterfall. From the base, you begin climbing upwards, to the top of the waterfall. The ascent here is challenging but also rewarding. At the top you reach a splendid meadow on the banks of the gently flowing river – this is the Upper waterfall campsite. Several streams flowing through the mountain ranges merge into the Rupin stream that reaches to the edge of the meadow only to fall into the valley as the Rupin Waterfall. The experience of seeing a waterfall from the top is surreal and not one many can claim to have seen!
Highlight 2: Cross the Uttarakhand-Himachal border on a wooden log bridge
The third day of the trek begins from the base village of Sewa to Jiskun covering a distance of 8 km in 6-7 hours. Two hours into the trek from Sewa, the trail deep dives into a vast forest of Oak and Fir trees. You will find yourself walking in the company of the Rupin River dribbling through the rocks in its way once again. Continue walking until you enter a thicket of Deodar and Walnut trees. The trails here are covered in green and brown leaves that rustle as you walk over them. You may even find Walnuts lying around in the spring-summer seasons.
Not far from here lies a wooden bridge made out of logs and stones. This marks the border between Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. A tributary of the Rupin separates the two states. While it may not be a grand crossing, it is memorable in its own sweet way. 2 hours after crossing the bridge, a steep hike for half a kilometer will lead you to the quaint village of Jiskun where we will be spending the night in a homestay.
Highlight 3: The Hanging Village –Jakha and an astonishing snow bridge
The 7 km long trail from Jiskun the next day is captivating as well as challenging. You descend to reach a wooden bridge stunningly set over a side tributary encompassed by lush Deodar and walnut jungles. The path from here is fairly narrow and zigzags alongside a cliff. Two hours into the trek, the trail ascends steeply through blue pine forests that eventually open up to spectacular views of the Jhaka village.
It is an incredible sight to behold as a portion of the village is startlingly set on a steep slope making it look as if it hanging from the cliff, earning it its name “the hanging village”. The people of Jakha embrace the lifestyle of Satsang and eat purely vegetarian food every day. Embellished with little shops and houses among the greenery of the trees, Jakha is the last and the highest village of the Rupin Pass trek.
Crossing the village, you will find yourself entering a thicket of magnificent fir forests, out of nowhere. Further ahead lays the second surprise for the day. A spectacularly vast snow bridge set atop the running waters of the Rupin in the middle of nowhere! This is, precisely, why the Rupin Pass trek is one of the best treks in India. It surprises the trekkers with changing vistas at every turn of the trail never letting the element of awe fade away.
This will be your first encounter with snow on the trek if you are attempting the trail in the early summer season. The bridge melts completely with the onset of monsoons.
Finally, after a moderately steep hike for a couple of hours and crossing the gorgeous clearing of Udaknal, you will reach the campsite for the day – Buras Kandi. “Buras” in fact, is the other name for Rhododendrons. The expansive glade of Buras Kandi is named so because of its perfect setting in the backdrop of plentiful Rhododendron forests blooming with a flush of colors. During the summer season, the trails of these jungles are covered in a stunning array of red and pink rhododendron blooms. In autumn, there are no blooms anymore. Instead, the forests are painted in various hues of green with bright colourful touches of fall everywhere. Enjoy sleeping under a starlit sky and take a rest for the next night.
Highlight 4: Camping in the prettiest meadows of Dhanderas Thatch
Located 5 km from Buras Kandi, the next campsite is the meadow of Dhanderas Thatch. Once again, you will be walking through a mixed forest of Oak, Fir and Rhododendrons that appear before you realize it. Patches of the sacred silver Bhoj trees are scattered throughout the route. The meadows along the way are bestowed with golden speckles of wild flowers lining a burbling rivulet creating a picture worthy landscape. After a 5 hour hike, you finally reach a vast clearing in the middle of a valley surrounded by bushes of wild flowers – this is Dhanderas Thatch.
The campsite is sensational in its setting. It is a strikingly vast clearing in the middle of a valley with an array of sights made to bowl you over no matter which direction you look in. The majestic Rupin waterfall thunders down in three stages on one side of the valley. Clumps of massifs frame either side of the waterfall forming a neat semi-circle. Slender streams of water run down these massifs tracing bright silver veins across the rock’s surface, each vein mimicking a tiny waterfall. This is the reason why the Dhanderas Thatch is also known as the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls”.
The campsite seems as if nature took the best features and put them together into a single campsite – this is the grandeur of Dhanderas Thatch!
Highlight 5: The Upper Waterfall Campsite
The next day is a short 3 km hike till the Upper waterfall campsite. It is the day when you finally reach the top of your all time companion, the dazzling Rupin River. After 1 km of a level walk, you will reach the base of the waterfall covered in several patches of snow. Climbing this steep trail of ice could be challenging.
But the arduous climb rewards you lavishly as it opens up to a spectacular view of an open meadow in the lap of the snow-capped Dhauladhar ranges – this will be our campsite for the day. The tender stream, flowing right through the meadow, goes to the edge and falls down the valley transforming into the majestic Rupin waterfall that you had witness just the previous day at the Lower Waterfall campsite. Appreciate the beauty of where you stand – for you are literally at the top of the waterfall!
Highlight 6: Crossing the perilous Rupin Pass gully and the adventurous Rupinpass
On the most awaited day of the trek which is also going to be the most strenuous one, we begin as early as 5 AM from the Upper Waterfall campsite. The trail, initially, is a snow-laden path with a steep incline posing a challenge soon after we start the trek. After an hour’s trek from the campsite, we reach the open grounds of Rati Pheri which is a vast expanse covered in snow for as far as the eyes can see.
The real challenge begins beyond the meadows of Rati Pheri, as the trail is quite steep and demanding. The snow in the early summer season is dense and may even be knee-deep requiring you to pull through at every step. All snow equipment and techniques will be tested throughout this section. The base of the Rupin Pass gully is three hours from here.
Take a quick break here and have a sip of water to hydrate yourself for the next stretch involves a thrilling climb of the Rupin Pass gully that inclines at a perilous 60-70 degrees. The gully is a half tube cut out of the mountainside. The trek through the gully gets tricky because of the loose stones and boulders perched on through the entire stretch.
It is a 200 M narrow and steep climb to the top of the Rupin Pass. The saddle-shaped Rupin Pass is adorned with hundreds of stone cairns and multicolor prayer flags all over the ridgeline. The snowbound pass opens up to terrific views of the sacred Kinner Kailash range in the north and the Rupin valley in the south. It makes you realize, yet again, what a tiny place we hold in this infinite universe.
The Rupin Pass trek stands strong on its promise to surprise you with mesmerizing landscapes – for now, it is time for you to glissade down the snow-chute, a delightful respite from the gruelling ascent you had just embarked on. Once you cross the snowline, be prepared for another sharp descent that takes you to an endless meadow – the Ronti Gad Campsite. Lying in the environs of towering snow-capped mountains and a stream flowing gently through the mountains on the other side, this campsite is yet another beauty to behold.
Ronti Gaad marks the penultimate day of the Trek. The next day, you will be descending all the way to Sangla bidding adieu to the magical land that is the Rupin Pass!
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