Chopta Chandrashila Deoriatal is a window into Himalaya’s spring color vibrancy. A well-loved trek for mountain goers of all kinds, it is flourishes with blossoms, especially rhododendrons red and pink, in summer time while winters are a hazy shade with enough scopes to have a ball in spilling snow. The whole tour covers a swoop to the Chandrashila Peak, passing by the enchanting Deoriatal lake side, and opens up a gallery of stunning snow peaks all the way. The highlights of the trek range from awe-inspiring summit views to warmth of the forest greens, piquing up interests in all sorts of mountain lovers. You could be a nature treasurer, bird watching amateur, or a shutterbug with a dream of capturing the drama in the highlands, Chopta-Chandrashila-Deoria Tal is a trek for all and fails none.
The first big stop on the trek comes with Deoriatal. Situated at a good height of 7,800 feet, the lake is gripped with forests all around. At a short distance ahead, the Chaukhamba massif glistens and the reflection of it is caught in the crystal-like waters of the lake. The effect is striking. The site is steeped in myths. As goes the story, the five pandava brothers from the Mahabharata, once thirsty, had come to the waters of Deoria Tal and faced a test of wisdom. Camping here the first night under a stardusted sky makes the mellowest of memories on a trek. Next up on the line are the extensive meadows that turn to snow fields along the way to Chopta and then you move to Chandrashila which means the "Moon Rock''. It is located at a height of about 4,000 meters (13,100 ft) above sea level. Chandrashila peak provides a spectacular view of the Himalayas, especially Nanda Devi, Trisul, Kedar Peak, Bandarpunch and Chaukhamba peaks. There are various legends associated with this place. According to one of the legends, this is the place where Lord Rama meditated after defeating the demon-king Ravana. While on this trek you can also visit Tungnath Temple - The highest Lord Shiva Temple. The trek is easy and very much doable on your own.
Day 1: Drive from Haridwar to Sari (6,600 ft).
After getting down at Haridwar, get a taxi to Sari Village. If you are planning to go by bus make sure you get the early morning bus to Ukhimath, from Ukhimath you can get a taxi to Sari. Sari is a small hamlet near Ukhimath. One has to take a 4 Km detour after 10 Kms from Ukhimath from the state highway which goes straight to Gopeshwar via Chopta. It’s a 6-7 hr road journey to Sari. Stay in a Hotel/Guest House. Distance from Haridwar to Sari by road is 220 Km.
After having a hearty breakfast at Sari, Start your trek to Deoriatal. It’s a short 2 Km hike from Sari and will not take more than 2 hours at a relaxed pace. Total altitude again during the hike is about 1000 ft. It’s a safe hike as you can meet a lot of hikers and locals during the entire route till late in the night. Sari is visible throughout from the trail and there is no way you can lose your way as the entire trail is paved. After about 800 meters from Sari, there is a small ancient Shiva temple on your right which is an important landmark that points out you are mid-way, after another 300 meters from the temple there is a spot where the forest department has put up some benches where you can relax for a while. View from this spot is breathtaking. There is a small hump at the end of the trail, once you get over it you have to cover another 300 meters downhill to reach Deoria Tal. Deoria Taal is a beautiful lake situated at a height of 7,800 ft covered on one side by a beautiful bugyal (grassland) and other sides by a thick forest. On the North side across the lake, you can see majestic Kedarnath Range. Register yourself at the forest outpost which is at the entrance of the camping ground, entry fees are 150 per person. Most of the time, mountains are a great place to experience Sunrise and Sunset but don’t chase them here at Deoria Taal. Instead, spend morning and evening time at this pristine lake. All of us have seen those famous photographs of reflection of Chaukhamba and other Kedar peaks in the pond, there is a platform built on the south end of this lake just below that is the ideal location for taking those photographs in the morning.
Today’s trail will familiarize you more with the Chaukhamba massif and Mount Kedar summit, rising closely as you process. Rhododendron and maples eclipse the forest path, spreading a cool and rejuvenating vibe.
The trail is sprinkled with little shrines that stand out in the greenness by the red and yellow flags tied on them. After crossing a clearing in the forest lined we are directly up an ascending path towards Rohini Bugyal and Chopta. A resplendent view of the Chandrashila awaits on the other side of the forest margin. After the level-land, you will have to re-enter the forest now characterized with old oaks and maple besides the rhododendrons. This forms part of the Kedarnath Sanctuary, and with some luck, trekkers can spot red fox and other small wild things.
More 25 minutes of trekking in the Kedarnath Sanctuary trail and you will reach the Bagdwal temple. This is a junction point for three trek routes. One connects to Sari village, another towards Ukhimath, and the central one descends to the meadows of Rohini Bugyal. Along this line, Chandrashila and flanked by the adjoining Kala Parvat Peak gain prominence. You can find the way bending from here to Bisuri Tal lake and a small tarn named Nandikund, situated at the base of Kala Parvat. Further down as you progress, a silvery rivulet coming from Chandrashila meets your way. Here, you can fill your water supplies and move on taking a small wooden bridge on the stream. A little way up, the meadows start.
Today’s the last and final day of our hike and to make most out of it we will follow a very simple process “Wake up Early''. We will start our day at 03:30 AM. After morning rituals and some hot tea we will start our “Yatra'' to Tungnath. Do remember to carry something to eat on the way as it’s very difficult to have breakfast at this hour of the day, not because it can’t be prepared, but because one doesn’t feel like having something. A well paved trail starts from Chopta taxi stand and has a large gate where you can see “Tungnath 3.03 Kms'' written on the gate itself. The climb to Tungnath is pretty steep and can take anywhere between 1 ½ to 2hrs for the average trekker. The entire trail is paved and has small tea shops which would be closed, off course at 4:00 AM in the morning. Tungnath is an ancient temple dedicated to lord Shiva and is one of the Panch Kedars. You may frown upon it being a common pilgrimage route but what you can’t take away from it is that the entire trail is mesmerizingly beautiful and the views are simply breathtaking. Last section of climb to Tungnath is a long steep climb of about 300-400 mts long. Once you reach Tungnath take some time to admire the beauty of architecture and hard work put in by those Artisans who built it a millennium ago when there were no modern tools and facilities available in the remotest part of the world. “A job is not over till it’s over” once you reach Tungnath there is a feeling that you were not able to get the 360 Degree view of those snow covered peaks, so go ahead and climb to Chandrashilla which forms the backdrop of Tungnath Temple on eastern side. It takes an hour to reach the peak from here and the distance is around 1 Kms. The climb is not very steep but the altitude makes it little difficult to make quick advances to the summit. But if you keep on climbing without too much rest in between you still have a fairly good chance of making it to the top just before or after the sunrise. You get an entire 360 view from this spot with Chaukhamba again being the most prominent one.
At Chandrashila, you find another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is believed to have been built by Rama to atone for the sin of killing Ravana. This temple is open from April to October.
The deity is moved to Ukhimath in winter.
The trek back to Chopta is via the same route taken to reach here. It takes 20-30 minutes to reach Tungnath and another 60 minutes to reach Chopta from Tungnath.
Chopta also has a few private guest lodges. Board your jeeps from here for a drive back to Rishikesh. You will reach Rishikesh between 6.00 and 7.00 pm. Cab costs will be approximately Rs 6,000 per vehicle on the way back as the drive from Chopta increases distance by 20 kms.
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