Maximum Altitude: 13051 ft
Duration: 2 days
Let’s talk the most famous weekend trek of Himachal. If you live in north India, chances are that you have already been to Kheerganga. And if not, you have atleast heard the name or seen pictures of your friends on the trek. The Parvati Valley is one of the most picturesque places in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh. Places like Kasol, Tosh, and Malana keep popping in conversation when someone wants to travel to Himachal. But to explore the magnificent landscape of the valley, you should definitely go for the Kheerganga Trek. The journey to Kheerganga requires you to traverse the stunning terrains, pass through quaint villages and perennially have the snow-capped mountains as the backdrop. While the splendid waterfalls are the highlight of the trek, the mystical hot springs of Kheerganga are worth exploring too. A dip in the hot spring is said to take away all the tiredness of the mind and body.
There are many mythological stories attached with this place. Kartikeya, son of Shivji and Parvati, chose Kheerganga for his meditation and prayers. When his parents decided to visit him, Parvati wanted to cook for her son. Thanks to the presence of hot water springs in the region, legends have it that Parvati would cook rice pudding (Kheer) in this water itself. Hence, the greyish color and the milkfish complexion of the river is because of this. The other one says that in Satyug, Kheer appeared out of nowhere when Shivji and Parvati Ji visited this place. However, Parvati Ji asked Purushotam to convert the Kheer into the water, knowing that people of Kalyug (aka us!) would fight over it.
The popularity of Kheerganga trek can be known by the fact that on the top, permanent settlement of restaurants and makeshift tents could be found till a couple of years back. From nice comfy readymade beds to wood fired pizza, you name it and it was there. These establishments however were illegal and the swarming crowd was also not helping. With the boom in tourism, you could see plastic lying everywhere ruining the beauty of the place. In 2018, the Himachal government removed the illegal huts and tents. There was an extensive cleanliness drive to remove the garbage as well. You can still hike to the top, but for camping you’ll have to take permission from the forest department. And no littering is tolerable. You will have to collect and bring back your own trash from the trek. This step was extremely necessary and was welcomed by everyone. It is sad to see how we are destroying the nature. Mountains are not our personal dumping grounds and I hope we all understand it without any bans from the government. Being responsible is a necessity.
How to Reach
The starting point for the trek to Kheerganga is Barshaini, which is around 22 km from Kasol. Many local transports and private cabs are available from Kasol to reach Barshaini.
By Air: The nearest airport to Kasol is the Kullu Manali Airport in Bhuntar. The flights to Bhuntar are pretty limited, and apart from the frequency, weather also plays a major role and many times the flights are cancelled or rescheduled. Here, taxis and buses are available for your onward journey. The next closest airport is Chandigarh, at a distance of approximately 300 km.
By Train: The nearest railway station is Joginder Nagar railway station. You can hire a cab from here and you can reach Kasol in under 4 hours.
By Road: Overnight buses from Delhi and Chandigarh are readily available. Total driving time from Delhi to Kasol is about 12 hours, covering approximately 565 Kms. You can also hire a cab for a comfortable journey.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Kheerganga is from April to November when the climate stays wonderful. But you should avoid the monsoon months as the trail can become really slippery during that time and it is hard to trek.
Kheer Ganga is around 9-10 kilometers from Barshaini and there are three different routes you can take:
Nakthan Route: This one is said to be the easiest and most popular route among the trekkers. It is also the quickest and you can reach Kheerganga in around 4 hours with an average speed. Once you reach the Barshaini Bridge, you’ll take a left and start on your way up to the Nakthan Village, leading you from the left side of the Parvati River. Since this is the most popular route, it is well marked and also has a tonne of tourists climbing up the hill.
Kalga Route: This route is the most picturesque one out of the three. From the bridge, take a right to hike up and reach Kalga village. From Kalga there is a different trek route to go to Kheerganga, although it joins the main route halfway on the trek. This route passes through dense forests and it is quite possible for people to lose their way on this trekking path to Kheerganga so takinga guide along is advisable.
Tosh Route: Another path goes from the popular Tosh Village which joins the original route near Nakthan Village. This route is mostly opted by people who are staying in Tosh for the night and want to go for trekking in the morning. You will get to witness the Tosh river here that ultimately meets the Parvati River near Pulga.
Although the Nakthan route might be the first choice of many trekkers, I say you go via Kalga. The route is a bit lengthy but you will enjoy the journey as much as the destination. The dense forest will aslo help in providing shade during the summer months when the sun is shining brightly over your head. While descending you can opt for either Nakthan or Tosh route.
The beginning of the trek is a short gentle climb and crosses through apple orchards. Nakthan is the center point near where all three routes would join. It is a traditional Himachali village with small wood and stone homes and also has a few cafés for travellers and trekkers. From here, Rudranag Temple is only a short walk away. You’ll see a beautiful waterfall near the temple where you can cool off and rest for a while.
The trail gets slightly difficult after the halfway mark. The journey starts getting slightly tougher from here on out. It is a continuous climb, and although the path is well marked, it can be strenuous for first-time trekkers. The climb is tiring, so please walk at your own pace and enjoy the nature around you!
Your tiredness will vanish once you reach the top. The view is spectacular. You can spend hours just lying in the grass and looking at the beautiful mountains in the distance. But the first thing to do here is taking a dip in the hot spring pool. It feels especially good after the strenuous climb and the warm water serves as the best remedy against the low temperatures of Kheerganga.
You can return to Barshaini the same day but I recommend that you spend a night at the camp, tucked amidst the majestic mountains. The night sky looks magical with countless shining stars. And don’t get upset if the night is coming to an end. Morning comes with a view that looks directly out of a fairytale. You will fall in love!