Imagine scrolling through your Facebook feed and stumbling upon your friend's mesmerizing Himalayan trek photos. Inspired, you decide to take the plunge into trekking. But you are plagued by the big question, "Where do I even start?" You want an adventure but not one that's too easy and also not one that is very difficult. After some research, you find the Bhrigu Lake Trek in the Himalayas, and instantly think to yourself, “Ah! A perfect match”.
You set off from Manali, kicking off your journey with lush meadows and ever-expanding mountain views. Camping beside a babbling stream, you learn tent pitching and sleeping bag tricks. As you gain altitude, the excitement builds. The real challenge? Conquering the snowy climb to reach Bhrigu Lake at 4,267M. It's no walk in the park, but the reward is breathtaking, leaving you with stories to share, a beaming smile, and the satisfaction of achieving something remarkable on your very first trek – all in just a matter of 3 days.
(Read, Highlights of Bhrigu Lake Trek)
If you are a beginner and are looking for the perfect Himalayan trek to start your journey into the world of trekking, the not-so-hypothetical scenario described above makes Bhrigu Lake seem like an ideal choice. And it is! From its duration, accessibility, ease and the generosity with rewards, it is true that Bhrigu Lake is a perfect first trek!
BUT…Yes, there’s a but, all right!
It is also true that the things that make Bhrigu Lake a perfect trek also make it one of the most crowded trails in the Himalayas. Last couple of years has seen an alarming increase in the number of trekkers visiting this trail, especially in the holiday season. The massive numbers put a disproportionately high burden on the trail of this trek.
We are enthused by the fact that more people are heading outdoors and that these spaces are becoming increasingly accessible. But, we also believe that we need to do our part in making the outdoor ecosystem healthy for the environment as well as our outdoor community.
(Read more about how we, as an organization, are trying to manage the problem of overcrowding on Himalayan trail here).
In the interest of making the world of outdoor adventure as environmentally sustainable as possible, we want to suggest a few alternatives to the Bhrigu Lake trek that are matched in their beauty and level of difficulty but are far less commercialized and hence less crowded.
If you are a beginner looking to try out your very first Himalayan adventure, here are some lesser-explored, off-beat treks that you can choose from:
1. Chandrakhani Pass
Nestled in the high villages of Kullu Valley, the Chandrakhani Pass trek is a 4-day adventure that gives you mixed flavors of nature, culture, and spirituality. While treading through pine and deodar forests and lush green meadows you are likely to feel the heart of the valley, beating in sync with yours. It would not be surprising if you feel a tingling sensation of divinity as you tread through the ‘Valley of Gods’. The experience only gets deeper as you interact with the locals who call these beautiful valleys their home. Besides the memorable journey, the trek climaxes with the generous offering of a clear view of the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges from the Chandrakhani Pass at 3,660M. The Malana and Parvati Valleys also reveal themselves, adding to the visual delight.
This off-beat trail is perfect in case you are on the lookout for some peace and quiet.
2. Patalsu Peak
If you want the taste of summiting a peak on a beginner-level trek, you should definitely try the Patalsu Peak trek in Manali. As the landscape shifts from sprawling greenery to ankle-deep patches of snow in a single day, the trek quickly advances upwards to bring you to its highest point at 4,200M. This 4-day short trek is one that is packed with natural surprises. As you reach the summit, an endless sea of milky white mountains await. Apart from the bragging rights that come with reaching the top of a mountain, witnessing the changing colors of sunlight playing with the snow on mountaintops is quite satisfying as well. What’s best is that you get all this on a beginner-friendly trail. The scanty crowds and the untrammeled trail leave you and mother nature undisturbed to forge deep bonds.
3. Bashleo Pass
If a perfect representation of the word unexplored existed, it would definitely be the Bashleo Pass trek. The trail for this 5 day trek is hidden in the pristine jungles of Tirthan Valley in Kullu district. It is a biodiversity hotspot with a wide collection of unique plant and animal species that you may never even have heard of. The diverse flora can definitely keep a botanist busy for a while. While taking you through a leafy paradise, the trek also introduces you to the culture of mountain villages in the area. Watching the local children walking up steep paths to get to their school can make you push your limits! Going up to 3,800M, the difficulty level of this trek makes it an ideal choice for beginners. You get to explore your trekking skills while walking through a quiet, unexplored trail in the mountains.
4. Ali Bedni Bugyal
If a ‘land of meadows’ had to have a name, it would be Ali Bedni Bugyal for its massive expanse, majestic views and some of the best vantage points on easy terrain, friendly altitude, and an overall welcoming ambiance all year around. This beginner-friendly trek has some of the best offerings you could ask for in the Himalayas all packed in 5 days of easy trekking that brings you to a maximum altitude of 3,535M. Thick forests, massive mountains, open lands, colors of choice, water streams, mountain villages, green fields, curious cattle; you name it, this breezy trek in Uttarakhand has got it.
5. Phulara Ridge
In a stint to explore new places in the Himalayas, we recently stumbled upon this gem. Phulara Ridge is a heavenly corridor that gracefully extends between lush meadows, valleys, and peaks of the Sankri Range in Uttarakhand. Set at 3,700M, this unusual ridge is still untouched. It has some great scenic surprises for beginners and avid trekkers alike. Usually, ridge traverses on Himalayan treks are small and short. But, on the Phulara Ridge Trek, it is a long and extensive one. The Phulara ridge is not only astonishing for its 360-degree vistas but is also kind enough to introduce you to the massive peaks - Swargarohini (6,252M) and Kala Nag (6,387M). If there is a box office for the Himalayan mountains, this 5-day trek is sure to get a 5-star rating from all its visitors.
The Snow Climbing Checklist
6. Sham Valley
If you want a unique landscape, Ladakh should be high on your list of places to explore on foot and the Sham Valley trek is the perfect way to start this journey. This 5-day adventure, also called the baby trek of Ladakh, goes to the Sham region in the lower part of Ladakh to reach a height of 3,875M. The unique Ladakhi culture, monasteries, mani walls, and the naked mountains of the region together introduce you to a whole new world in the Himalayan range which is far different from the lush green mountain faces you are used to seeing in Himachal and Uttarakhand.
7. Mukta Top
This stunningly isolated trail in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand starts from the small village of Kuflon. It takes you to a maximum altitude of 3,603M in 6 short days. Known for its lovely meadows, diverse wildlife and staggering mountain views, the sparing slopes of this beautiful trek make it a worthy contender for a beginner. The beauty of this trail doubles in winters making it your ideal winter escape.
These are only some of the countless number of trails you can choose from as you look for the perfect Himalayan adventure for you. While we love all our Himalayan trails equally, we’d suggest it’s time to choose the one less traveled. See you in the mountains!
This article was originally written by Dhaarna Kukreja on 19-05-2017.
It was edited and updated by Neeti Singhal on 15-11-2023