Category Archives: Plan, prepare, research, trail info

Plan and organize better. Info about trails, routes, places, maps, GPS logs, tips, lifehacks, and so on. Pre-hike, on-trail, and post-hike events and activities.

Book Himachal Pradesh’s Forest Rest Houses Online

Himachal Pradesh’s two-third area is under forest cover. The forests provide sustenance to locals, weather buffering, tourism opportunities, wildlife preservation, and so on. To keep a watch over the forest resources, the state forest dept has always moved its personnel across the length and width of the state. The dept has a large network of inspection huts and rest houses that act as temporary accommodation for the staff.

Recently, the HP Forest Dept has created an Ecotourism society to focus on, amongst many things, livelihood generation through sensitive and meaningful tourism. The society also allows online booking of some of the rest houses. Note that all forest dept rest houses can be booked (conditions apply*) by reaching out to the booking offices.Himachal ecotourism website online booking option


 

Q. How do I book?

  1. Visit https://himachalecotourism.org. Click Book Online.
  2. Click Select Destination. Zero-in on a region/circuit.
  3. Provide dates. Click Check Availability. The available options are displayed along with tariff.

Q. What is the typical tariff like?
Rs. 480 to Rs. 1000. A few outliers are beyond this range.

Q. How do I find out the quality of the accommodation?

  1. When you see list of available options on the above step, Click More Info. You can read about the available facilities, see photographs of the place, and locate the place on a map. For example, see the More Info page of Prashar Lake FRH.
  2. Check online blogs for experiences of past visitors.
  3. Look for reviews of such places on travel websites like Tripadvisor.
  4. Look for geo-tagged photos on Google Maps or Google Earth, or just try a Google Image search.

Q. What amenities will be available at the rest house?
Typical facilities are decent parking, amazing location, clean bed, not-so-clean quilt, OKish bathroom and toilets, caretaker, electricity, and paid-for basic food.

Q. What are the related activities that can be done?
Relax’ orchard trip if a fruit plantation is nearby and the owners allow it; trekking; cultural explorations; and assimilating with locals and absorbing their culture.

Q. How to reach any of the rest houses?
Take public transport or drive down. These offbeat places require changeovers to reach. The last mile connectivity may be served through private taxis or on foot. Research/inquire in advance. Personal vehicle can go as far as rough road permits. Road conditions depend on the season.


 

Q. Whom to call in case help is required?
Nobody! Not to say that the forest dept officials are not accessible but you are choosing a secluded spot that offers serenity over luxuries. It is remote. They are charging peanuts. Such areas may not have good connectivity, including road, electricity, mobile, and Internet. By saying call nobody, I mean that go ahead and enjoy the solitude to the extent you can. When it goes overboard, return to the civilization as well. But do not call anybody, until of course it is a life threatening situation.

  • Do not call, if the geyser doesn’t work. The caretaker will provide hot water in a bucket.
  • Do not call, if you are out of fuel. You should have calculated, got a full tank when you can. Now seek local help.
  • Do not call, when you encounter wildlife. Understand the risks, research about the wildlife in the area, do not venture too far alone. Beyond everything, know that such things happen to local folks all the time and just bear it!
  • Do not call, when you face bad service! The same caretaker must have received 5-star rating from some other folks. Either those were accommodating or they did stuck a chord with the caretaker. Either ways, his job is permanent and we travelers are transient. So don’t complain and either learn the trick of stricking a rapport or quietly move on.
  • Do call when anything gets out of hand.
  • Do call when faced with a life and death situation.
  • Do call when a party is stuck due to inclemental weather conditions.
  • Do call when health of the children or the elderly folks deteriorate.

Call the appropriate local forest office or the DFO at the contact numbers provided at http://hpforest.nic.in/contactus or local police helpline. Save a few local numbers before traveling to a remote area.

 

Q. What is the cancellation policy?
100% refund if traveler cancels 3 days in advance. No refunds thereafter. When the dept cancels due to any ‘official exigency’, they provide alternative options during same dates, same rest house at different dates, full refund, accommodation in a nearby hotel, or an adjustment of money in any activities like trekking.

Q. What are the things to know before booking?

  • Do not expect good facilities. Be happy if you get them.
  • Drinking, non-veg food, bonfires, etc. are not allowed.
  • Local caretaker can be eccentric and you’ll have to find a way around it.
  • Food may not be available at rest house. If available, it’ll be basic and has to be paid for.
  • People of opposite genders may not share same rooms.
  • Electricity availability can be an issue.
  • Trust the locals about weather. If they suggest leaving the place, don’t take chances.
  • Public transport may be flaky or uncertain. One may get stuck if one doesn’t do their due diligence and check twice for options and timings.

Q. At what locations (on a map), can the rest houses be booked online?
If you make your travel plans using a map, then see the available options laid out on HP map. I’ve created it using Google MyMaps and is updated till March 2018. If you notice anything amiss, please leave a comment. Some rest house are not present on the maps, so I’ve added the village bus stop to the map (directions are easiest to get from here). The map is shared here.
Himachal forest rest houses for available online booking.png

Share your experiences of Himachal forest rest houses. Share photos to show the quality of the accommodation.

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Packing checklist for traveling, trekking, and road trips

For your average treks and road trips, I am sharing my packing checklist. Follow the list and be assured to have a good time! No more panicking with last-minute preparation or preoccupation with the what-to-pack thoughts. Adjust the quantity of the listed items according to your needs.

See it at bit.ly/checklistpacking.

Packing dry food on trek

Packing dry food on trek

Don’t pack it all: Use your judgement call because for some purposes and some weathers, the checklist may be an overkill.
Pack different: Do your due diligence and don’t just rely on my checklist, especially if you have unique needs.

Either way, do comment below and let me know what makes it to your backpack.

A map of forts in Maharashtra for trekkers near Western Ghats

The smart folks at trekshitiz created this compilation of forts in Maharashtra. I’ve laid them all on this Google Map for ease of reference and planning.

List of forts for trekking in Maharashtra and Western Ghats.

Happy trekking in the Western Ghats/Sahyadris.

Share your trek stories in the comments below.

Frequently asked questions for any hiking trail by organizers and trekker alike

The post lists the typical, frequently asked questions asked about any hiking trail to organize it, prepare for it, and understand it better.

Commute to base town, hire help, and find accommodation

  1. Reach the base village, say from Delhi
  2. Multiple trails to the summit.
  3. Cost of via personal car/bike and the cost via public transport
  4. Typical timings of public transport
  5. Book the bus/train tickets
  6. Teahouse trek or not
  7. Availability of gear on rent
  8. Distances between shelters or accommodations enroute
  9. Book accommodation, especially govt rest houses
  10. Cost of suggested accommodation
  11. Contacts of guides and porters
  12. Other local contacts like those of shopkeepers, rest house or guest house staff, bus inquiry, forest office, local police, local hotel in base village, etc.

Trekking and trail conditions

  1. A typical itinerary or two
  2. Child or elderly friendly
  3. Best approach if more than one approach
  4. Hike breakup and trek profile
  5. What to expect on the trail in each month like snow, lack of water, water crossings, whiteouts, wildlife, etc.
  6. Best time to be on a trail
  7. Typical night temperature in each season
  8. Packing depending on weather
  9. Sections that may need specific gear like crampons, shoes with ankle support, ropes, ice axe, etc.
  10. Distance and altitude difference between camping grounds and other waypoints
  11. Water availability
  12. Food availability
  13. Tricky portions and what’s required to negotiate
  14. Need a guide or not
  15. GPS logs
  16. Rating of trails on SAC scale

Safety considerations

  1. Time and milestone cutoffs on handy cards
  2. Local police contact
  3. Local shops
  4. Permanent, on-trail landmarks
  5. Water points on the trail
  6. Previously reported wildlife issues and season

Interesting facts and stories about the trek

  1. Geographic region and mountain range of the trail and summit
  2. Peaks and valleys visible from the summit and the trail
  3. USP and takeaway of the trek
  4. Any facts of historic, cultural, or political importance about the base village, the region or the summit
  5. Any mythological importance of the summit or the trail

Post-trek events

  1. Accommodation at the base village
  2. Public transport to return and where to book
  3. Timings of transport from nearest town and connecting conveyances
  4. Sync time to reach Delhi with office and metro timings
  5. Approximate breakdown of all involved costs

Leave your contact in comments if you want to based your frequently asked questions (FAQs) on this template. If you are a trekkers who finds it difficult to write a travelogue of your adventures, follow this structure.

Contacts of trek guides, porters, taxis, hotels, rental agencies, and other local service providers

A few of us trekkers have compiled contacts of local folks and services like porters, trek guides, cabs and taxis, and of accommodation, bus depot, etc. Please do your due diligence before agreeing to use the services. We do not recommend these folks in any way.

See the spreadsheet at bit.ly/travelcontacts. Locate the required info by using filters for type of service or trek.

If you wish to share the local contacts you have, please leave a comment or write to me at blackfog at Gmail. I shall list the contributors below for credits.

Thanks to the following folks for contributing to this list:

Trekking in Karsog and Janjheli valley and nearby

Mandi district is a hotbed for a host of activities. Karsog area near Mandi is a beautiful retreat for nature and culture lovers. The temples, the trails, the age-old architecture, the festivals, and the valleys makes me go here again and again. I am compiling a list of a few treks in this region.

The most popular treks in this region are to Kamrunag temple and Shikari Devi temple. A few lesser known hikes are also listed below and offer hiking through areas untouched by the crowds, at times good views of the snow-clad Himalayan ranges, and beautiful meadows.

  • Kamrunag temple or Kumarwah lake trek starts from Chail Chowk or Rohanda
  • Shikari Devi trek starts from Janjehli or Kataru
  • Budha Kedar trek starts from Bulah or Kataru. I wonder if it can start from Raigad for those who want to hike longer.
  • Mahunag temple is at a road head but there are trails to this temple that locals use
  • Dhamoon Tibba starts from Sainj Bagr
  • Jyuni Valley hike starts from Dhangyara, 20 km ahead of Chail Chowk
  • Janjehli to Karsog
  • Tungasi Dhar
  • Magru Gala hike near Chhatri
  • Gada Gushaini

Shikari Devi temple is a very long one-day hike or is better done with overnight stay/camping. However, others are easy day hikes with immense cultural exposure.

A few other hills in the region are less popular and are not accounted for in popular posts on the Internet. There is a good scope of local exploration. The typical starting points of the popular treks are Sundernagar, Janjehli, Rohanda, Karsog, and Chail Chowk. These places are within a few hours of road distance from each other and are well connected by local buses. From Delhi, you can board a Mandi-bound bus and then use some local transport.

A very good account of winter trek to Shikari Devi is available at Inditramp website. The GPS trails of Shikari Devi are here and of Kamrunag is here.

Doing Kamrunag and Shikari Devi treks in one go

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Kamrunag lake and temple

The two most popular treks in this region — Shikari Devi and Kamrunag — can be combined into a weekend. Given the shortness and ease of these hikes, it may be more fulfilling to combine these. It’ll also save time and money.

On day 1, reach Rohanda, do Kamrunag, reach Karsog, and spend the night.
On day 2, start early on Shikari Devi trail; finish by evening; reach Mandi by night and board a Delhi-bound bus at night.

Notice the important transport timings from planning perspective.

  • 0700 – first bus from Sundernagar to Rohanda.
  • 1400 – 1800 A few buses ply from Rohanda to Karsog. However, better reach Chail Chowk and take a bus to Janjehli.
  • 1500 – 1800 Can get a local bus to Sundernagar or Mandi.

Another possibility is to reach Shikari Devi directly from Kamrunag instead of coming down and taking buses to either Karsog or Janjehli. This requires a ridge walk of a few km to reach Shikari Devi from Kamrunag lake itself. It is a well-trodden trail and has water for most months. Accommodation options are available at both the destinations.

Please share your experiences, queries, photos, basic information, local contacts, GPS logs, blog links, etc. in the comments section below.

Child, elderly, and beginner friendly easy treks in the Himalayas

I am compiling a list of the child-friendly hikes and make this post a one-stop shop for all the trails that kids can accomplish. Of course, your kid’s mileage may vary so please do your due diligence.

This list, by its very nature, will always be a work-in-progress compilation. I’ve made public the incomplete details hoping these will help many folks. Leave your insights and suggestions in the comments section to update this best.

 

Trek Base city Accommodation* Distance to hike (km) Comments
Abott Mount Lohaghat Hotel, tent 5 Photos
Pangoot local hikes Pangoot, Nainital Hotel 3-12 A long trek, A short trek, photos
Barot local hikes Barot Hotel, tent 3-10 Jallan Guest House; Waterfall near the trolley tracks; Badagaon area
Bashleo Pass Shoja, Jaon Tent
Bijli Mahadev Hike Kullu Hotel 3 km from Chansari, 15 km from Kullu Info1, Info2
Chakrata Moila Tibba and Budher Caves Chakrata Hotel, tent 4
Chakrata Tiger Falls Chakrata Hotel 2
Dalhousie local hikes Dalhousie Hotel
Deoria Tal Sari, Rudraprayag Cottage?, Tent 2-3
Dugadda to Lansdowne Lansdowne Hotels 8
Hatu Peak Narkanda Tent 7 Photos
Jamu peak Renuka Ji Hotel, tent May get longish and heat may take its toll.
Kamru Nag lake Karsog or Rohanda Sarai, tent, hotel 4 km from Rohanda Listing; Photos
Kapil Muni’s hill Renuka Ji Hotel, tent
Lal Tibba Mussoorie Hotel
Mussoorie local hikes Mussoorie Hotel Info1
Rajagunda forest Bir, Billing Hotel, tent Hike from Bir to Billing on road; Billing to Rajagunda forest and alternatively to Badagran
Serolsar lake Jalori Pass Tent Info
Shikari Devi hike Karsog Hotel, tent 18 km from Janjehli; 1 km from road head if going in a vehicle Info1, Info2
Shimla TV Tower Shimla Hotel
Solan Tibba Solan Hotel
Taradevi Shimla Hotel 4 km from Tara Devi station on highway
Vaisho Devi Katra, Jammu Hotel, sarai

* Accommodation is categorized as ‘sarai/huts’ for basic roof (carry sleeping bag); personal ‘tent’ for camping trips; ‘hotel’ option for day hikes or short hikes where you can come back to the base city or reach the next town.

Please share the discoveries and the experiences of your kids or beginners with us in the comments section.