The main trekking areas in Himachal are the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges, routes over the passes between the Shimla region and the Kullu valley, the numerous treks out of Kullu and select treks in the trans-Himalayan regions of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti. Most trekking areas are between 1,500 metres and 6,000 metres.
With well over two hundred defined trails, the variation in terrain is also enormous. Low scrub-land and paths through paddy fields, give way to trails strewn with pine needles. Then come the woods of oak and flowering rhododendron, which merge into forest of Himalayan cedar - 'deodar' - and spruce. On most trails, small pastoral hamlets dot the way. Cunningly hidden between the high mountains are passes which were once known only to migrant shepherds and dare all traders. These lead to the fabulous wastes and swift rivers of the arid trans-Himalaya. A host of combinations and variations take the trails through changing countryside. The degree of physical output can also be changed to suit your requirements. For example, the same trek can be developed from a week to last longer. Or, the two ends of a trek can be the same, but the trails can be designed to be taxing, or gentle.
There are several agencies that conduct treks. Guides, equipment, porters, pack animals and maps are available at major starting points. The old forest 'dak bunglows' that are strategically placed along many trek routes, add a considerable measure of nostalgic charm and convenience for trekkers. Practically all have an aura of the past, and lie nestled in deep woods. In addition, the State Electricity Board and the PWD also have rest houses. Most of these are marked out on trekking maps and advance booking is possible. The Forest Rest Houses are booked by the area's Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) and the PWD and Electricity Board ones are booked by the concerned Executive Engineer.
Training facilities, with basic and intermediate courses are available at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali (Kullu), Ph: 01902-250337, 252342, 252206 and at its Regional centres at Dharamsala (Kangra) Ph: 01892-221787 and Bharmour (Chamba) Ph: 01895-225036, Mountaineering sub-centre Jispa (Lahaul & Spiti) Ph: 01900-233230. Excellent camping facilities exists at these points.
Trekking equipment checklist
• Comfortable walking shoes with a good grip on the ankles
• Waterproof warm jacket. Woollen / tennis socks and stockings
• Sunglasses, headgear, rucksack and other bags too if you plan
to hire porters and ponies
• Swiss army knife
• Sleeping bag and foam ground sheet
• Medical and first aid equipment
• Photographic equipment
• Torch and batteries
• Cooking equipment
• Food and rations
Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and milk are rarely in short supply along the trails apart from the higher reaches and parts of the Trans Himalaya.
Travelling to Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti?
Drink plenty of fluids and eat regularly to avoid dehydration and altitude sickness. Petrol pumps on the route are at Shimla, Theog, Narkanda, Rampur, Powari, Recong Peo, Kaza, Keylong, Sarchu and Manali. If driving, essential spares and extra fuel are recommended, a sturdy vehicle is suggested. Government hospitals are at Recong Peo, Kaza and Keylong. Dispensaries are available elsewhere. Prescription medicines and sun screen lotion should be carried along. If crossing the high passes, good health is essential. The best time to travel to these areas is between April and October. While planning your trip, it is suggested that you check on general road conditions and confirm if the high passes are open to traffic. Foreigners visiting the upper reaches of Kinnaur and Spiti require a permit. For details regarding this, please contact any office of Himachal Tourism.