The intoxicating scent of pine, oak and rhododendrons. Dried leaves crackle under your feet. These form the first indelible memory of the hike. Simply because you always start your Himalayan hike with a step into a forest.
They set the mood and prepare you for the cathartic experience of stepping onto an expansive meadow with majestic mountains on the horizon. It is the forests – how they begin and how they end – that set the mood of the hike.
But not all forests are created equal. Different tree species, the path, the height – everything influences your experience in the forest. Some forests stand out. Here we have listed forest sections that haunt us long after the end of the hike.
Oak forest near Chitrakantha, Tali and on the way Auli – Kuari Pass Trek
Kuari Pass Trek – A path in the middle of the magical, snow-covered oak forests. Image by Sandhya UC
Of all the Himalayan treks, this hike up Kuari Pass is the most popular stretch of forest by Indiahikes’ co-founder Sandhya UC.
She says: “The Kuari Pass has one of the most beautiful sections of pure oak forest that you can find on any of our hikes. Most of the other hikes with great oak forests such as Roopkund, Dayara, Brahmatal only focus on one thing: climbing. Here the forest sections are wavy and gently gain height. You can see and feel the forest. Oak forests generally have very clean soil. A walk on a flat forest floor with only a brown carpet of leaves under tall, old oaks is one of my most unforgettable experiences that I get back from the Kuari Pass. “
From Syalmi to Baniya Kund – Deoriatal Chandrashila hike
There are a total of 187 species of rhododendron in the Indian Himalayan region. A path surrounded by Rhodes on the way from Deoriatal to Syalmi. Image by Yogesh Shinde
Deoriatal-Chandrashila Trek is known for its rhododendron forests. But here is the section to look out for.
From Rohini Bughyal, turn right towards the connecting ridge. Observe a tall rhododendron tree just a five-minute walk from the campsite.
Enter the forest of the upper Rohini Bugyal and reconnect to the old path to Chopta. Follow the path that gradually climbs to the top of the forest ridge. It takes 30 minutes to reach the top of the ridge, which is covered by thick forest.
Locals call this place Tikidi Khal.
Rhododendron forest from Bekaltal to Tilandi – Brahmatal Trek
Now it gives the dense forest from Bekaltal to Tilandi a surreal shimmer. Photo courtesy of Vishwajeet Chavan
Brahmatal has fascinating forest walks. You can wander through centuries-old forests of oaks and rhododendrons. What is particularly close to my heart is the special section of the rhododendrons! Directly outside of Bekaltal you get a clearly demarcated section of the rhododendron forests.
The Rhodo forests are a feast for the eyes. The logs twist and turn in shapes and forms. The trunks are usually bare and smoothly forested. The trees are not too tall and form a beautiful canopy at the top. They are close enough to form a perfect green roof over your head.
You see this all year round. If you come here in March and April you will get a pink flower canopy. If you come here in winter, you get a white, snow-covered carpet!
Maple and rhododendron forest from Nayata to Raithal – Dayara Bugyal Trek
A fascinating mix of maple, rhododendron and pine on the Dayara Bugyal Trek. Photo credit: Anuja Gupta
From the base camp to the breakout from the forests into the meadows, the path is in good shade with beautiful forest cover. The biodiversity is high. That’s why you hear a lot of bird calls. While we’re talking about the meadows, don’t miss the forest.
Not many know that rhododendrons thrive on this section of the Dayara Bugyal trek as well. You will also see maple and green oak. Together these form an interesting combination of trees that are suitable for the biodiversity of the region.
When we talk about hiking at Indiahikes, forests always get a special mention for the mood they set. So watch out for the nearest forest on your trail. Watch the trees, the sounds, or the silence as you wander through them. It changes how you look at your hike.
Although this blog is nearing its end, our conversation about forests has only just begun. Tell me – do you have a Himalayan forest that is dear to you? In which section and how did you find it? Write your answer in the comments to share it with us and we will post it on the blog.