Kashmir is fascinating trekkers and mountaineers from all over the world and has got the title of “ Paradise on earth ”. Kashmir great lakes trek is the most beautiful trek of the Indian Himalayas due to its vast green meadows, snow-covered mountain peaks, and amazing alpine lakes.
There are more than 2000 Alpine lakes in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the majority of them reside in the Kashmir valley but all of them are not meant for trekking purposes due to a number of reasons.
This awesome adventure starts from an elevation of 2700 m ASL and provides spectacular views of the alpine landscape from the start. The Kashmir great lakes trek will take you through the recurring views of pine forests, meadows covered with wildflowers, snow-capped mountains in the background, and witnessing the 7 breathtaking alpine lakes is the tag for Kashmir great lakes trek.
Himalayan landscapes reflect a luminosity that is not present on the plains. Kashmir great lakes trek is full of psychedelic scenes of mountains peaks, meadows, and feelings of distant planet emerges from the heart while witnessing the sunrise and dawn breaking over the alpine lakes. After crossing the tree line at an elevation of 2000 meters the route of the great lakes trek provide amazing views of cliff valleys, glaciers views with sweet flowing water streams, and the meadows which are full of wildflowers. Great lakes trek is listed among the 5 best treks of India and is permitted for trekking purposes during the right season only by the Department of Tourism Jammu and Kashmir. The popular trails heads for great lakes trek are Naranag and Sonamarg. If you are gonna start trek from Naranag (closest village to this trekking trail), it will end up at Sonamarg and vice versa. We the team of Himalayan Bird offer you an amazing all-inclusive trekking deal for this trek with fixed group departures apart from that we operate private treks on the trail throughout the season.
Harsh Weather Conditions, The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is not permitted before 21 of June and after second week of October by the Department of Tourism Jammu And Kashmir.
Kashmir does have only one commercial Airport which we can reach by a direct flight of 1 hour 30 minutes from Delhi (DEL) Airport. All the flights from other parts of India reach via Delhi to Srinagar (SXR), Kashmir.
Direct Bus service to Kashmir from different states of India isn’t available but guests are advised to reach Jammu using Red Bus or any other bus service. Tourist taxi, Public transport And UT Government Bus Service will be available easily from Jammu to Srinagar.
The train services can be used up to Jammu And Banihal only. Tourist taxi, Public transport And UT Government Bus Service will be available easily from Jammu to Srinagar. The distance of 270 Km from Jammu to Srinagar is usually been covered in 6 to 7 hours.
This awesome mountain journey starts from the popular and trending hill station which is Sonamarg. The first day of the trek is the easiest part of the trail. Our campsite for the Kashmir Great lakes trek is located at an elevation of 2500 meters above sea level on the banks of Sind river Sonamarg. Heading towards Shekdur, With the gradual ascent of one hour, we will be touching the tree line of pine forests. While looking behind an amazing panoramic view of Sonamarg, Tajiwas Glacier and surrounding snow-capped mountains make the view magnificent. The route seems to get to an end in between the tree line.
A narrow ridge that takes 30 minutes from its left corner to get into the beautiful meadow of Shekdur. This place is surrounded by different types of tree species like Birch ( Bhoj Patra), Boxwood (Shamshad), Deodar (Cedar), and Dogwood. This meadow is been used by gypsies and local shepherds for pasturing during summers. The gypsy houses and tents could be seen around the meadow. This mountain spot is a beautiful camping site too and by omission, the place is named Tabletop but in actual the name is given to the summit of the mountain nearby. Taking our early lunch break in this beautiful landscape makes the day memorable.
After the break, it is 30 minutes gentle descend through the birch forests and one and a half hour gentle up ascent trek to the Nichnai campsite. During this normal up ascent trek to Nichnai Valley, trekkers will leave the tree line behind. Following the riverside, the route provides mind-blowing views of small waterfalls, snow-clad mountains, wildflowers. Kashmir’s great lake trek is full of adventure and joy also holds geographical importance. As we go higher from the left banks of the Nichnai river, the stream gets out of vision but splashing sound is always there.
Nichnai Valley Campsite.
The landscape in the middle of Nichnai is mostly rough with rocky terrains and slopes so providing less land for comfortable camping. A green flat piece could be seen after leaving 2 parallel ridges behind. Sokhnai ( Valley of Rest ) is a small valley of the Nichnai Valley used for pitching tents. The great lakes trail remains covered with snow till the end of summer and the temperature remains around 8-15 degrees Celcius during the night. Nichnai is our camping site for tonight, Enjoy delicious and energy-boosting meals for dinner and sleep on time to stay fit. Tomorrow is going to be another day of thrilling adventure, explore different types of landscapes, and 2 breathtaking alpine lakes.
The trek from the camping site starts with a normal walk of 30 minutes and a moderate steep ascend of 180 minutes to get over the pass. The terrain towards pass is not too rough but due to high altitude and steepness in the up climb, it needs more push. The water stream of Nichnai comes to an end and the mind blowing view of lofty snow peaks provides the sense of the ore. The toughest part of the trek is over and we are at the elevation of 4114.8 MAMSL. (13500 feet.) The Herd of sheep grazing on slopes, small meadows, gypsy houses, and the mountain range of Zanskar is visible from Nichnai pass. This spot is named also Maggie point and the best match to relax, eat, and experience joyful views.
After crossing the pass the route turns right. Itis time to descend for the next 30 minutes with 2 hours of normal walk to cross the Valley of Vishansar Lake. The mountain peaks of this beautiful landscape remain under the convoy of clouds most of the time. A number of small snow-fed waterfalls mingle and form a crystal clear water stream that connects to the outflow of 2 great lakes. Small pebbles and stones fall down occasionally, due to the footsteps of folks of sheep and goats, grazing on the steep grass-covered slopes. Standing and walking in the valley of spiky mountain peaks fills the trek with the real wilderness. Walking parallel to the water stream will lead us to our campsite of Vishansar and Krishansar Lakes.
Right after taking some rest, we will be exploring the Vishansar Lake which takes just 15 minutes from the camp.
Next to this Lake, there is another lake named Krishansar, the lake is triangular in shape and is 2 times bigger than Vishansar Lake. These lakes are the main sources of the Kishanganga river. In between a major river flowing from Dras, Kargil joins the stream and changes it to one of the biggest hydroelectric power-generating rivers of India. The river later enters Pakistan and called with the name of the Neelum river. Such giant water resources are building blocks for vegetation, drinking water, hydroelectricity for a huge human population.
The Kashmir great lakes trek is considered a moderate + difficult trek but also trek itinerary does have a direct impact on your physical stamina. Camping a full day and 2 nights at two great lakes is enough time to acclimatize and explore. One more step from us which makes your trekking more moderate is that your rucksack (10-15 kg ) is being carried out by horses during the whole trail.
Today is going to be more amazing and adventurous. We are at the elevation of 3600 meters and getting to Gadsar pass (Elevation – 4200 meter) is the first part of today’s trek. ( In the Kashmiri language ” Gad ” means Fish and “ Sar “ means High altitude water body). Starting the trek with a normal walk of 30 minutes and 90 minutes of a steep climb up to the top of Bari (“ Pass” ). On every step towards the ridge, the view of the beautiful mountain range gets bigger and adds a new thrill to the adventure.
The most epic and popular view of the great lakes trail is from Gadsar pass. Two green bluish alpine lakes ( Vishansar and Krishansar ) in the lap of snow-capped peaks with the view of cliff valleys and snow dotted slopes in the background provide a breathtaking panoramic view. Such epic views of alpine landscapes are no were found in the whole world.
Alpine lakes covered with a vast zone of green lush grass and wildflowers are the next part of the trek. The route onwards the Gadsar pass is an almost normal walk through rolling slopes. Descending from the pass to 3500 meters, the route will take us to the third lake of the trail which is Yumsar. This high altitude water body is covered with wildflowers from the northern side and with solid rocky mountains from the other sides. Lake Gadsar is more than 60 minutes from a normal trek from Yumsar Lake. The surrounding landscape is a living habitat for Himalayan marmots and red foxes. The lake doesn’t provide optimum breeding conditions for trout fish, so they are not found in Yumsar.
We are walking parallel to a historic mountain village named Jabdoor. The village was one of the remotest villages of Gurez valley, connected through Tulail to district Bandipora of Kashmir. Till late 1990 Jabdoor was the closest village to the Kashmir great lakes trail, stretching to 2 square km. The village used to get hit by snow avalanches once in a decade. But the geographical phenomenon of nature changed and this human settlement got extremely dangerous avalanches in 1995. The villagers started moving to other nearby high altitude Villages and settled there. The remains of wooden structures and cemented bases are still there.
The trail bends and forms a traverse to a small valley known as Mengondob, leaving the river of Menandob behind will take us to Satsar Lakes. The Lakes are providing different scenic views which depend on the season. During the month of June and July, the mountains are partially covered with snow which adds glory to the Valley but very few trekkers trek during this season. When it comes to flora, Kashmir’s great lakes trek always remains with wildflowers and a number of herbal plants from the time snow melts till the end of September. Exploring Satsar Lakes right after providing identity proof at Satsar Amry Camp ( 3rd line of control ). Our campsite is going to be an isolated valley of Satsar Valley and getting free after delicious having delicious meals. Tomorrow is going to an epic day of adventure, clear sky can give us chances to spot the 8000 m Peak of Nanga Parbat from Zajiball Top. Get free after dinner and proper rest will keep you ready for another day of adventure.
View from Zojiball Pass.
Waking up in this part of the Himalayan region is an adventure in itself and today is gonna be an epic day of the trek. Getting to Zojiball top from the Satsar campsite will take up to 3 – 4 hours which starts with a gradual ascent and descends with a steep ascent. The 40 percent of trek terrain is tricky and needs a little bit more push. Going through boulder walk and gaining altitude through the rough rocky mountain ridges. Going through zigzag routes over ridges will take you to the summit. The view is mesmerizing from the summit of the Zojiball, a mind-blowing view of two alpine lakes Nundkhol and Gangabal Lake in the lap of Mount Harmukh 5146 m ASL.
Once you are on the top Zojiball, the trekkers will have the chance to spot one among 8000 m mountain peaks of the world which is Nangaparbat 8126 m ASL using Binoculars. After taking a rest at the top and enjoying 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape it time for a steep descend of 50 minutes with a gradual descent of 30 minutes. Our campsite for tonight will be on the banks of Gangabal Lake with a giant mountain in the front. The temperature remains around 7 degrees Celcius (44 degrees Fahrenheit ). The campsite provides options for a campfire in good weather conditions, it is not uncommon to rain in the Valley of Harmukh during the late evening. We are at an elevation of 3500 meters and camping next to the lakes provides a fantastic camping experience with the real wilderness of the Himalayas.
Kashmir Great Lakes Trek provides a lifetime adventure experience with picturizing views of Valleys, mountain passes, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls with exotic wildflower beds. Kashmir Great Lakes but it does have great history too. In 1856 by members of the Great Trigonometric Survey led by Thomas Montgomerie, Mt. Harmukh was climbed for the first time. Montgomerie and other British Climbers made the first survey of the Karakoram mountain range from the summit of this mountain. The climbers sketched the two most prominent peaks, labeling them K1 (Masherbrum) and K2 about 130 miles ( 210 km) to the north of Mt. Harmukh. The surroundings mountains had been part of early climbing expeditions even when Tenzing Norgay wasn’t born. During this period of time, advanced mountaineering was just about conquering 4000 and 5000 m peaks.
Descending through the slopes of Mt.Harmukh towards Trundkhol meadow is the easiest part of the whole trek. The meadow of Trundkhol is pasturing mountain land for nearby Gujjar tribes and Shepherds. A number of gypsy houses and a Hut of the Department of Forest Protection will pass through the trek. Facing the Amry Camp while getting to the end of the meadow where we need to provide our identity information. Right after the Amry camp, we will enter the tree line at the elevation of 2950 m. For the next 40 minutes, the trekking route is moderate normal decent and provides a broad view of alpine valleys and glaciers. There are a number of small waterfalls on the route which could be used as a drinking water resource. The Gangabal route remains busy with gypsies grazing their cattle and transporting their needs on horses. The route makes turn through the forest and takes you to a small meadow which is actually Budhseri top. At this mountain spot, a Tea stall is set up during the summers where Maggie, Tea/Coffee, and Snacks are available.
The remaining part of the trek to Naranag is just a normal descent through the zigzag route with steep descent over the small ridges. Mobile network coverage can be found at this point of the trek. The trail is surrounded by trees (Alder, Birch, and Deodar) on all sides. This part of Kashmir’s great lakes trek is a living habitat for a number of Himalayan birds including Himalayan Monal, Himalayan snowcock (Tetraogallus Himalayensis), Snow partridge (Lewa), and snow pigeons. Wangath river which originates from the Gangabal Lake and nearby Glaciers produces a melodious sound that makes the walk joyful. Due to the steep descent and roughness of the route the knees and toes get a lot of stress. Finally, a mountain village Naranag could be seen at an elevation of 2450 m ASL. The villagers earn their livelihood during summers by carrying loads of trekkers on their ponies. The number of local, domestic and foreign trekkers start the trek from Naranag to Ganagbal and return through the same route after spending a night or two at the Harmukh Valley. Naranag is a mountain Village and with ties to an archeological Buddhist site and the Temple of Shiva is also built at the same sight. Staying overnight in the guesthouses and relax with delicious food and traditional music ends the adventure. The trekkers will be transferred to the Airport or Srinagar on the next day and can also enjoy free Dal Lake sightseeing if departure is on the second half of the day.
The best time to do Kashmir great lakes trek is from July to the end of September. During this time, Kashmir Great Lakes Trek provides a lifetime adventure experience. The trekkers will able to explore picturizing views of Valleys, mountain passes, alpine lakes, glaciers, meadows, and cascading waterfalls with exotic wildflower beds. The route of Kashmir’s great lakes trek remains under the large scale of snow till mid of June.
Basically the best time to do trekking in Kashmir is from 15 May onwards but for the Great lakes trek, the perfect time is July to the end of Sep. During the month of June, the great lakes trekking trail is partially covered with snow, and the view is much different when compared to the remaining summertime. The trek can be performed during June also but needs crampons and some previous experience of high altitude trekking.
The mountaineers and frequent high altitude trekkers can do this trek in June also. When it comes to nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts the best time to explore this landscape is July to Sep. During the month of October, the meadows of Kashmir great lakes trek turn brownish and the temperature also decreases. During winters everything changes to magical white icing but only peak summertime is meant to witness the miracles of nature. We, the team of Himalayan Bird operate treks and adventure tours in Kashmir and Ladakh throughout the year from more than a decade. We operate private treks also got fixed departure dates for all short and multi-day treks in Kashmir and Ladakh.
If you are a nature lover or an adventure enthusiast but you have never done any high altitude trek, the Great Lakes trek is still moderate for you but always mental and physical strength is needed. If a physical workout is already in your schedule that is a plus point if not you must add walking plus running for 6 to10 km a day in your schedule. On an average trekkers will cover 6 to 7 km a day through the mountain route located in between the elevation of 3500 to 4000 m above sea level. Great lakes trek is an awesome lifetime experience but can be only difficult for those who are totally new to trekking onto the Himalayas.