Bhowali Trail Hiking. View near Gagar
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Keep Walking: Walking/Hiking @Bhowali Range

March 2024 was another month in the hills, with two days for remote work (WFH – Work From Hills) and remaining five days for trekking, hiking, and long walks. Himalaica website had some details of nearby trails and the caretakers were also familiar with the area (though they were a little surprised with our appetite for walks).

First Day

On the day we reached, we had only half a day, so we stuck to the main roads. Uttarakhand State Government seem to have made some attempt to grow tea in the hills and there was a worn out tea estate (a tiny fraction of a tea estate) that was kept more as a tourist park. Realising it was not worth our time, we set out on the road to Gagar. We were keen to find the starting point for the Maheskhan Forest Rest House Trail, in the Bhowali Range. Though we found it, a ‘No Permission’ board at the entrance made us turn back.

Hiking Trails in Bhowali Range
Through the main road

Second Day

On the second day, we hired a cab to Gagar, with a plan to hike to Kulethi–Jhandidhar peak. A shopkeeper at Gagar directed us. A little over 200 meters through the road and we took the mud trail that climbed up. Soon there was yet another fork, and we took the turning that appeared more steep. A judgement that went wrong for a right reason. Instead of Jhandidhar peak and temple, we reached some other peak and a temple. With the help of Runkeeper map and Google map, we ventured further through the forest trail that seemed to be descending forever towards Jhandidhar, but after a couple of kilometers, we realised we were actually walking away from the spot that we identified as Jhandidhar on the maps. We decided to return, and found yet another trail that took us to Gagar, with some really steep descent.

Bhowali Trail Hiking. View near Gagar
From Gagar Trail
The trail around Gagar

The next plan was to find the trekking route for Tagore Top trail from Gagar, but for some reason Google map showed the trek starting point from Ramgarh, a good 10 km from Gagar. Soon we were in Ramgarh and set out on the trail. We planned to walk for around 1.5 km and return, unless we really find a trail up. With hunger pangs and dropping energy levels, we returned only to mark a 3-km trail on Runkeeper. After lunch, we headed to Nainital, to be tourists. A good walk around the lake counted another 4.5 km. A total of 12 km for the day. [Ramgarh area perhaps is not strictly in Bhowali Range].

From Gagar Trail

Fifth Day

On the fifth day, the first half was spent on a short, but a little strenuous trek to Naini Peak, near Nainital. In the second half, we returned to Bhowali range, to explore Maheskhan Forest Trail. Through some contact, we managed to get in touch with the forest officer and ensured that walking inside was allowed. We parked the car on the main road, at the entrance, and headed for a forest walk. Thankfully, it was mostly flat and an easy walk. At about 3-km point, we decided to return as the dawn set in. A good 6-km trail walk, after a strenuous trek in the morning. Not a bad day at all. A total of 14.5 km for the day!

Bhowali Range Maheskhan Guest House Trail
Maheskhan Forest Trail

Seventh Day

On seventh day, the day of our return, we decided to explore the forested trail just behind Himalaica. Navin, our caretaker mentioned that it will take us to Jhandidhar peak. We set out early, at 6.30 am, since we wanted to return in 3–4 hours. Within the first 15–20 minutes, we were inside a jungle and lost our way. With thorny shrubs at our height and no visible trail, we assumed that this is a trail that is hardly used. Thoroughly disappointed, we returned.

On our way back, some good sense prevailed and we started looking for any upward trail that we could have missed. Indeed there was! A steep trail went up the hill, which we overlooked in the beginning. Thus began a tiring steep climb! At the top, we could not locate any temple or a trail. The only trail that was a descent and it eventually took us back to the main road, a little ahead of Himalaica.

After coming down, we crossed the road, went ahead on the Tea Estate road, looking for any trails that might lead us to the lower reaches of Maheskhan forests. And we found one, which descended to a stream. Opposite to the stream was a steep climb to nowhere. Our movements startled a lone deer and it scampered up the hill. Contemplating for a while whether to climb up or not, we returned the same way, only to follow a flat trail to a village. Then that became our destination. Another 2–3 km and it was time for return. An 8.5 km trail, with some ascents, and some exploration. A good day to bid good bye to Bhowali (and Bhowali Range).

The 8+ km trail on last day
Behind Himalaica

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