Trekking the Kashmir Great Lakes Trail

13 June, 2021 | Reccy Guide

The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is one of the most challenging hikes in the region. This, combined with the fact that it only recently opened to the public, means you'll be able to enjoy the stunning views of the mountains in total peace for a large portion of the journey. 

Explore trip itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

Over the course of the seven-day trek, you will make your way through some of the most diverse terrain in the Himalayas. Dense pine forests dissolve into endless stretches of lush grasslands, broken up by dramatic mountain passes and glacial lakes. If you’re looking for breathtaking mountain vistas, dramatic valleys, and crystal clear streams, this is the trek for you. 

On the first day of the trek, you'll hike 9km from Sonamarg to Nichnai by way of a steep three-hour climb, followed by a moderate four-hour ascent to Nichnai. This is where you will camp for the first night, and after such a challenging start, you will likely appreciate the rest. 

The second day is when things your hard work really starts to pay off. The trail will lead you across the Nichnai Pass, which provides the first glimpse of Kashmir lake's clear blue shores. The scenery in this section is breathtaking, with lush grasslands studded with wildflowers, stretching for miles. You will also trek through a thick forest of Himalayan birch trees, which provide soothing shade from the blistering sun. Over the course of seven hours, you will hike through rippling meadows and plains, ascending and descending as you make your way towards Vishnusar Lake. Camping on the lake's shores is prohibited, but there is a pleasant campground nearby, situated on a grassy plain. Rest well because day three is one of the toughest sections of the journey. 

Starting out the eight-hour hike to the next camping spot, you will climb to 13,750 feet to reach the Gadsar Pass. Be warned: this section is not for the faint of heart. Besides being physically challenging, the climb requires good scrambling skills. At the top you will enjoy one of the most spectacular views of Vishnusar and Kishansar lakes, which slice through the rolling meadowlands like sapphire splinters. From here, you will descend through more grasslands, which offer a refreshing respite from the pass. You’ll also be treated to a gorgeous waterfall spot, which is a great place to pause and bathe. As you make your way through the endless grassy plains you will spot bands of horses and flocks of Himalayan griffin. 

After an overnight break not far from Gadsar, you’ll have the chance to recoup your strength from the previous day with a relatively easy section of hiking. You’ll hike for around four hours before reaching the Satsar Lakes, where you’ll set up camp for the evening. The trail leads you through dramatic valleys and over a particularly impressive glacial bridge, which offers 360 degree views of snowy mountain peaks and expansive green meadows below. 

On day five you’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular views of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. During the six hour journey you’ll pass by the Gangabal and Nandkol twin lakes, and glimpse stunning panoramas of the ridged landscape as you cross the Zach Pass. In this section, you'll ascend to 13,500 feet. After another grueling day of climbing you’ll be treated to the most exciting camp on the trail, situated on the shores of a crystal clear mountain lake. This is the perfect spot for star gazing, and on particularly cloudless nights you will be able to see the milky-way in full glory. 

The sixth day begins with a treacherous scramble down a rocky trail. This section cn be slippery, and although you’re going downhill, requires a great deal of strength to descend. Once you reach the bottom, however, you will be rewarded with a hike through a fragrant pine forest. Having trekked through expansive grasslands for several days, this section is a welcome change of scenery. After a two-hour break from the meadow scenery, you will emerge from the trees and descend a rocky path. This section is coated in sand, making it particularly slippery, particularly if it’s been raining. Despite this, the surrounding scenery makes it an enjoyable hike, with lakes, snow capped peaks, and flower studded meadows unfold around you. 

Finally, after 11km of trekking, you will reach the finishing line at Srinagar, where you will be greeted by enthusiastic locals. Drink hot chocolate while you enjoy the views and rest your aching feet. From here, you will take a three hour car ride back to Srinagar.

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