Kedarnath Trek

Rishikesh | India
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All You Need to Know About the Kedarnath Trek

If you are tired of the humdrum and bustle of your city life and want to embark on an enriching, meditative yet adventurous journey in the lap of the Himalayas, the Kedarnath trek will be the best bet for you. Despite being devastated by the unannounced cloudburst of 2013, the saga of the Kedarnath Dham has not stopped there.

As of 2022, the general footfall at Kedarnath has been steadily increasing for the past seven years, slowly approaching its past glory. Now, the trek may be slightly more challenging than before, but make a firm resolution not to be defeated in the increased difficulty.

Surrounded by the steadfast Kedarnath Dome (6,831 m) and Mt Kedarnath (6,940 m), the Kedarnath temple is a melting pot of spirituality and the raw beauty of Rudraprayag, emboldened by a lush forest area on the path. Read on to know the story of Kedarnath Yatraand how you can be a part of it.

An elevated island of spirituality and mythology

Situated in the Rudraprayag district at an elevation of 3,584 m above sea level and surrounded by the picturesque Garhwal Himalayas on all fronts, the Kedarnath temple feels like a sheltered haven for all who come to rediscover themselves. 

Another exciting thing to know before booking your Kedarnath tour package is the rich history. The Kedarnath Dham is inexplicably associated with one of the 'Char Dhams' or four holy Dhams dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Badrinath (3,100 m). A lot of people don't stop at Kedarnath or return from there. They continue up to Badrinath as it is the nearest Dham. The Kedarnath to Badrinath distance is 243 km by road.

Kedarnath is believed to be a homogenous form of Lord Shiva, the 'Lord of Kedar Khand,' the region's historical name. Believed to have been constructed about thousands of years ago by the Pandavas, the Kedarnath temple was refurbished and renewed by Adi Shankaracharya. Its precise architecture accurately manages to capture the zeitgeist of ancient India. 

With many placing the Kedarnath trek difficulty at easy to normal, it is a trek that aims to not challenge but awe. The trek is officially closed during winter, but daredevil locals often attempt the Kedarnath Yatra in winter, which becomes slightly more challenging to complete.

The magnificence of the Garhwal

Being surrounded by the mighty Mt Kedarnath and Kedarnath Dome, the rocky path of the Kedarnath trek is beautifully complemented by the lush Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary, home to reportedly one of the world's richest bio-reserves. Standing tall, the temple Kedarnath height amounts to 3,584 meters.

While selecting the perfect Kedarnath trek package, one must keep in mind to opt for the 16km trek from Gaurikund, as it offers the most scenic variety and beauty. The murmurs of the snaking Mandakini river and the snow-capped Himalayas make for apt companions in the quietude of the trek. 

Overview of the Kedarnath Trek:

Basic locational insights

Situated in the rich natural heritage of the Rudraprayag district of Garhwal, the Kedarnath trek boasts a series of rapid changes in terrain and temperature. During the start of the trek, the temperatures in summer hover around the 25-26°C warm mark, and by the end, Kedarnath temperature stands at around 13-14°C. The main trek starts at Gaurikund (1,982 m).

One can reach Gaurikund from Haridwar via Guptkashi. Haridwar can be considered the hub for the Kedarnath trek, with the Haridwar to Kedarnath distance being 250 km, which includes the last lap of 16-17 km from Gaurikund to Kedarnath. But before reaching Gaurikund, it is often advised to take a day off at Guptkashi if you are not traveling at a very tight schedule. There are many hotels in Guptkashi, so a one-day stay at Guptkashi is recommended. 

You should talk to your tour operator to see if your Kedarnath trek package contains at least one buffer day in Guptkashi to enable you to be in your best shape during the trek.

During this one day, you can also visit the local sights of Guptkashi, such as the Vishwanath temple and Narayan Koti temple, both situated at a mean height of 1350m above sea level. 

After your brief halt at Guptkashi, you must leave for Gaurikund, where the real adventure will start. From Gaurikund, the total Kedarnath trek distance is 16 km. 

Duration and budget

The round tour package from Delhi to Kedarnath, including halts at Rudraprayag, Guptkashi, and Kedarnath, a buffer day at Guptkashi to explore local attractions, is around 7-8 days long with a cost of about USD 160 to 175 (INR 12000 to 13500).

The budget fluctuates according to the accommodation, season, travel amenities provided, and any extra days demanded (if any). 

Network connectivity

If you want to ensure a continued cell-phone reception service, your best bet is to opt for the services of Jio, which provides a good reception throughout the majority of the trek. Other companies had none or extremely shoddy coverage during the Kedarnath trek. With good network connectivity, you can share your clicked images of Kedarnath trek with no ado.

How difficult is the Kedarnath trek?

Before 2013, the Kedarnath trek difficulty was easily manageable. It was a straightforward route trodden over countless times over the years. After the devastating flood in 2013, when the government reopened the temple, it mandated a new route for the penultimate 4 kilometers from Linchauli to Kedarnath base camp. 

Even if the Kedarnath trek distance remained the same, the difficulty slightly increased because the new route was not that well-known and was relatively remote. 

With an average height of 3,584 m above sea level, there is no substantial threat in the Kedarnath trek, except the dangerous slippery slopes during the monsoon season(which should be avoided altogether). It is, therefore, a perfect opportunity for newbie trekkers to gain the proverbial feathers in their caps. 

When is the best time for the Kedarnath trek?

Owing to the unpredictability of Kedarnath temperature and weather, most travel enthusiasts agree that the best time to visit Kedarnath is during the months of September-October.

The answer to why October becomes the all-time Kedarnath trek best time lies in the reason that the unpredictable Himalayan skies are primarily clear during this time, and the weather is very welcoming.

It is also the last time to visit the temple as the idol is moved to Ukhimath for 6 months from November to April to protect it from heavy snowfall and dangerously low temperatures like -6 to -10° C.

Summer (April-June) is optimal for travel, with the average temperature hovering around 14-18° C. However, the huge number of people queuing up to be the first visitors for the year makes visits to Kedarnath Temple too tedious during this time.

The monsoon season is also equally impractical and by far the most difficult time. The steep slopes during the trek become exceedingly slippery and give way easily to potential landslides. 

Kedarnath trek best time is generally dependent on a number of situational changes too. There can be a year with an unusually extended winter or monsoon. The dates of the visit should be adjusted accordingly.

Gear guide and checklist for the Kedarnath trek:

Apparel

As it will be a week-long tour with the hike covering two days, one might choose to extend the trekking part to a few more days or individual stops. If you belong to the group who want to complete this trek in one go, you may choose to pack your favorite t-shirts, jeans, hoodies, or sweatshirts as you please.

On the other hand, if you are part of the group who want to take their time exploring, remember to keep a travel-kit handy with you carrying all the necessary woolen clothes and extra accessories required to accommodate the drastic temperature change.

As your hands become more exposed to the cold, the risk of hypothermia rises during the nail-biting winter. Woolen gloves or mitts are ideal for this temperature. Woolen caps, beanies, and heavy fur caps are also recommended as they protect your vital organs from the clutches of frostbite.

You must also remember to wear pants or trousers containing many pockets to ensure maximum storage available to you, minimizing the load on your backpack if carried.

Footwear and other accessories

The foremost mantra for your footwear must be utmost comfort. In the various images of Kedarnath and its trek route, you might have noticed comfortable, breathable footwear on most visitors. Your footwear must also provide you with appropriate friction to combat the rocky terrain or occasional slips.

You will not need much if you travel in a more amenable climate. But if you are traveling during the winter, you will need specialized trekking boots with your footwear reinforced with hardy crampons to avoid losing your footing during the trek.

As you will have to traverse through a forest area, keeping your feet protected from unwanted insects, rocks, or boulders entering your shoes is crucial. To that end, a pair of soft yet thick cotton socks will protect your feet from harm and prevent unwanted feet odor. 

Besides your footwear, you must also carry a walking stick regardless of your age to gain that extra support in trying slopes or steep ascents. 

If you are an incessant power user and want to breathe easy knowing that your phone has enough juice to last the round-trip, you would need to bring a power bank with you, along with a USB Type C to Type C power adapter. 

You must also carry a personal flashlight with a fresh set of batteries in case you are walking in the dark. Along with this, you must take a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun. A set of personal utensils such as a metal dish, bowl, spoons, etc., a water bottle, or a rehydration pack will come in handy. Extra zip-lock pouches, some newspapers, etc., can come in handy at times. 

Backpacks 

As this is a short trek, you may or may not carry your backpack if you choose to trek during normal timings. If you decide to take a backpack, the capacity must not exceed 5 liters as the increased baggage might make your trip that much tiresome and difficult. 

It is encouraged to opt for a trouser with increased pockets to complement a daypack allowing for overall comfort. You must also remember to carry essentials like water food to be consumed on the way.

However, during winter, you must carry a larger backpack of around 25-30 liters containing more rations and scarves to stave off the extreme cold. You must also have waterproof covers for your backpack at all times to avoid your consumables or essentials becoming damaged by sudden unannounced showers.

Toiletries and other essentials

If you choose to space out your trip by staying at each halt, you might want to pack a few more stuff than initially intended for a 2-day trip. However, you would need to pack in a few mandatory supplies regardless of your decision.

Toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, biodegradable soap papers, hand sanitizer, face masks must be invariably borne. You must also remember to carry an insect repellant with you, as well as a moisturizer to nourish your dry skin. To prevent chapped lips, carry a lip balm tube or container.

You must also carry toilet papers, tissues, or wet wipes. However, you must remember not to litter and only dispose of them in designated waste bins allotted throughout the path.

Women should also carry sanitary pads, tampons, and other essentials during the trek to maintain menstrual hygiene and sanitary health.

One should entirely avoid dotting the trek path with plastic and must use and reuse bottles to their maximum utility. 

Medical kit containing first-aid essentials

One must never forget to carry within their backpack a small first-aid pack containing all essential ointments and medicines such as aspirins, paracetamols, antacids, crepe bandages, insect repellent cream, as well as a pain-relieving spray to ease the pain in the event of sprains or sudden injuries.

Along with this, you must always carry an emergency lighter to cauterize wounds in the event of major accidents or untoward happenings. 

Documents required

It is a very elementary trek, so you would not need any special permissions for the trek. All you would mandatorily need are :

  • Your aadhaar, driver's license, or any other identification certificate is to be perused by the forest guard before entering the wildlife protected zone.

Carry multiple photocopies of the same and a few copies of your passport-sized photograph. 

Kedarnath trek itinerary:

  • Day 1: Arrival in Delhi. Depending on your chosen travel method, you will arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport or Delhi junction. You can take the entire day off to explore the city and its myriad attractions before leaving.
  • Day 2: Arrival at Haridwar. You will then have to board a train from Delhi Junction to Haridwar Junction, which comes at a distance of 217.6 km. This journey will be about 6-7 hours long. After reaching Haridwar, you can have the rest of the day off in Haridwar. The main part of your journey will start the next day as you traverse the Haridwar to Kedarnath distance of 250 km.
  • Day 3: Transfer from Haridwar to Guptkashi. This journey is about 203.5 km long and will take about 6-7 hours to complete. After arrival at Guptkashi, you could take the rest of the day off. However, it is possible only when you are not traveling on a tight schedule, and your package has provisions for the same. You might also want to check whether your tour operator allows a buffer day to explore the different sights of Guptkashi, such as the Vishwanath Temple, Manikarnika Kund, Ardhanarishwar temple, Ukhimath, to name a few. 
  • Day 4: Arrive at Gaurikund and begin the Kedarnath trek. This is the main attraction of your trip as this marks the beginning of the trekking path. The total distance between Guptkashi and Kedarnath is 46 km. You can avail a local cab from Guptkashi to reach Gaurikund, with the cab distance being 29km. For the rest, you have to trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath temple, which is a distance of 16-17 km. You must remember to leave your luggage at your hotel in Gaurikund. After this point, bring only your trekking bag with your essentials. You can explore the Gaurikund temple and Gaurikund lake before beginning your trek. After you begin your trek, your first stop will be 'Jungle Chatti,' 4 km away from Gaurikund. You will need to trek through the Rambara bridge to reach this point. You will come across the forested area of 2-3 km past this point. Your second stop will be Bheembali, which lies at a distance of 3kms from Jungle Chatti. There are accommodations available here, and you can choose to spend the night here or carry on. Your third stop will be Linchauli, another 4 km away from your last stoppage in Bheembali. From this point, you are only 4 km away from your final destination, and the surrounding beauty becomes increasingly pristine with each step. Your fourth stop will be the Kedarnath base camp which serves as a base camp for those brave enough to scale the rugged terrains and gigantic heights of Mount Kedarnath (6,940 m). The temple is extremely close as you have traversed a distance of 4 km from your last stop. After a quick but difficult final ascent of 1 km, you will reach your destination, i.e., the Kedarnath temple. This part of your trek will have to be sometimes traversed over the snow as it remains largely inundated by snow in early April. You can then explore the divine temple to your heart's content, but you must remember not to litter carelessly in the temple premises. Stay overnight in a cottage or guest house near the temple and return to offer your prayers the following day.
  • Day 5: Trace your path back to Gaurikund. After your return trek of 16 km, you can either immediately leave for Rudraprayag or stay overnight in Gaurikund. Remember, your costs and budget will increase the more days you stay. Journey to Rudraprayag from Gaurikund. It is a journey of 79 km and will take about 6-7 hours, considering the steep and narrow roads newly reconstructed. Stay overnight in Rudraprayag. Again, If you are interested in going to the Badrinath temple, remember that Kedarnath to Badrinath distance is 243 km, which translates to a long journey through the winding ways of the Himalayas.
  • Day 6: Drive to Rishikesh from Rudraprayag over a distance of 135 km. The distance between Rishikesh to Kedarnath is about 230 km and can be covered in a single day if you are up for that much travel.
  • Day 7: You might want to have the next day off for sightseeing and rest.
  • Day 8: This is the day to bid adieu to the mighty Garhwal mountains thanking them for the memorable experience. You will have to journey from Rishikesh to Delhi over a distance of 213kms, slightly less than the distance from Rishikesh to Kedarnath. After reaching Delhi, board your train or plane and leave with a head full of memories and spiritual vigor. 

How to get fit for the Kedarnath trek:

The Kedarnath trek is elementary, requiring sound fitness and healthy normal breathing. If you are out of shape and want to get back in form for the Kedarnath trek, cycling, jogging, breathing exercises, aerobics, pilates, yoga would greatly help you in the process.

A few gym workout sessions will also not go amiss as all will count during the trek. It is a great idea to be in the best shape you can be before any trek, notwithstanding its difficulty. However, we must always prioritize our mental health and not forget to meditate or do restorative exercises like yoga before heading off for our Kedarnath Trek.

As we know, all good things inevitably come to an end some time or the other. Man's tryst with spirituality also comes to an end with the end of this trek. Even if many people come and go, the eternal Kedarnath temple will always stand like a silent guardian waiting for your next visit. Congratulations! With this, you are now part of the history of the divine Kedarnath temple.