The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: An iconic shepherd trail from Sonamarg to Naranaag
“ perhaps the most beautiful walking trail in the country ”
There are some scenic slices of our heavenly Kashmir that are only accessible on foot. One such trail is the spectacular Great Lakes of Kashmir Trek. This adventurous voyage is a unique blend of local cultural rendezvous and a lifetime trekking experience. Starting from Srinagar, our journey first takes us along the beautiful Sindh Valley and Sonamarg for a curated local Homestay experience. From there we start a multi-day trek that follows age-old routes taken by the Gujjars and Bakharwals (the nomadic shepherd communities of Kashmir) looking for greener high-altitude pastures for their livestock. Over the next few days, we traverse some of the remote high passes and few hidden jewels in the Kashmiri mountainscape – the pristine, alpine lakes of Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar. Nundhkul and Gangabal. From rolling lush green meadows filled with colorful wildflowers, meandering trout-filled streams and secluded turqoise-coloured lakes to breathtaking views of rugged snow-capped mountains and thrilling crossing of high passes, this is a dream trail for every nature lover and adventure enthusiast out there.
Day 1: Srinagar to Shitkadi in Sindh Valley
- Pick up from Srinagar Dal Gate/TRC
- Drive from Srinagar to Shitkadi near the Sindh river (80 km | 2-3 hours)
- Overnight Camping at Shitkadi village
Day 2: Trek Starts: Shitkari (7,800 ft) to Nichnai ( 11,500 ft)
- Drive from Gagangir to Shitkari (30 Mins)
- Trek to Nichnai: 11 Km | 7-8 hours trail duration approx
- Overnight Camping at Nichnai
Day 3: Trek Nichnai to Vishansar Lake (12,000 ft)
- Via Nichnai Pass (13,100 ft)
- 12 Km | 6-7 hours trail duration approx
- Overnight Camping at Vishansar
Day 4: Trek Vishansar Lake to Gadsar (12,200 ft)
- Via Gadsar Pass (13,750 ft) – the highest pass of the trek
- Pass by the Kishansar and Gadsar Lakes
- 14 Km | 7-8 hours trail duration approx
- Overnight Camping at Gadsar
Day 5: Trek Gadsar Camp to Maingan Top via Satsar Lake (12,100 ft)
- Today is one of the prettiest meadow walks
- 10 Km | 5-6 hours trail duration approx
- Overnight Camping at Maingan Top
Day 6: Trek to Twin Lakes – Gangabal and Nandkol( 11,500 ft)
- Via Zach Pass (13,000 ft)
- 8 Km | 6-7 hours trail duration approx
- Overnight Camping at Nundkul
Day 7: Rest/Exploration Day at Nundkul
- Rest and soak in the mountain vibes camping at a meadow below the mighty Mt. Harmukh
- Hike around the lakes and explore the meadows
- Overnight Camping at Nundkul
Day 8: Trek from the Twin Lakes to Naranag and Drive back to Srinagar
- The entire trail is a descent to a heritage village called Naranaag
- 13 Km | 6-7 hours trail duration approx
- We hop on to our cars and drive from Naranag to Srinagar (60 Km | 2-3 hours)
1. Prettiest adventure in the himalayas
The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is considered by many as the most beautiful walking route in the Indian Himalayas. The soul-stirring multi-day trail takes intrepid travellers into one of the most gorgeous mountainscapes out there. During the season, trekkers traverse an inaccessible and old shepherd route on foot crossing bubbling streams, pine and birch forests, boulder-laden rocky terrains, massive rolling meadows teeming with wild flowers and especially the multiple turquoise-coloured glacial lakes located at the foothills of imposing snow-clad mountains.
This moderately challenging trail with some steep stretches and sections demands good physical and mental fitness including proper acclimatization. Along with hiking through some thrilling high trails, trekkers also ascend three exhilarating mountain passes with an average altitude of 4000m above sea level. The climb towards the passes is physically demanding and rain is a factor that remains unrpedictable in these mountains. All this makes the trek a unique but a rewarding challenge to complete.
Stunning sunrises and sunsets, breathtaking views from passes, reflections in the shimmering lakes, terrific night skies and some dramatic landscapes also turn the route into a photographer’s paradise. Staying under magical starry skies, a physical challenge in the remote wilderness, some of the most attractive campsites and the spectacular sceneries at every step of the way, all this makes the Kashmir Great Lakes trek an all-encompassing lifetime adventure.
2. The Great Lakes
Home to innumerable known and unknown high-altitude alpine lakes, the land of Kashmir can easily be termed as the lake country. Most of these lakes however cannot be approached by a four-wheel drive. Like rare natural gemstones, they lie hidden away deep in the inhospitable recesses of the mighty mountain ranges that criss-cross the paradise land.
On the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, we get a chance to come across few of these mesmerizing natural wonders. The stellar natural beauty of these lakes makes the trail even more captivating and is one of the primary highlights of the trail. Named Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, Nundhkul and Gangabal lakes, these glacier-fed water bodies are classified as alpine oligotrophic lakes. Each an astonishing shade of green, blue and turquoise, these lakes reflect the surrounding giant mountains on their crystal-clear waters. Some of them are also home to rare trout fishes including the Rainbow and Brown trouts.
The lakes on the trek are indeed some of the most scenic and picturesque lakes once can find in the region. The enchanting bird’s-eye views of Kishansar lake from13750 ft at Gadsar Pass, seeing a tiny iceberg float on the glistening waters of the Gadsar lake or camping on the meadows close to the sacred twin lakes of Nudhkul and Gangabal at the base of the majestic glacier of Mt. harmukh, are just some of the unforgettable experiences these lakes offer.
3. The margs of kashmir
The alluring beauty and breathtaking vistas of any Kashmir’s ‘margs’ or meadows attracts many tourists every year. Sonamarg, Gulmarg and Baisaran are some of the most popular meadow destinations in the valley. There are however hundreds of remote meadows spread throughout the region that are still unexplored and untouched.
The Kashmir Great lakes trek takes us to some of these alpine fields far away from these crowded touristy places. These are some of the lesser-known and pristine meadows that very few people get to see every year. From Shekdur to Satsar, from Nichnai to Nundhkul the trail passes through some very picturesque grassy slopes dotted with a variety of colourful wildflowers. Walking on such meadows surrounded by giant mountains is a complete bliss for nature lovers. During the summer, the fields are also home to the nomadic camps of Gujjar and Bakharwal community. These seasonal nomads visit and stay here for months at such high altitudes with their grazing sheep and livestock. In fact, the shepherds from these communities were the first ones to explore the Kashmir Great Lakes trek which eventually became synonymous with trekking in Kashmir.
During the season, this entire setting in these meadows presents a riveting picture and the grandeur of the whole trek gets enhanced with these rolling fields stretching for miles and providing the travellers a visual treat every day.
Kashmir Great Lakes TREK info / FAQs
Good question. With rise in its popularity, there are many operators nowadays who organise the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. At Eka, we believe an extraordinary trek like the Kashmir Great Lakes should be as comfortable as it is unforgettable. It should be trekked in style with the best arrangements possible in such harsh mountainous terrain. With top-of-the-line camping setup, expert guides, delicious quality food, all important safety equipment and personalized attention to detail, we ensure you not only accomplish a lifetime adventure but also do so in style, with a superior level of comfort.
From twin-sharing spacious camping in three-person , all-season tents to portable western seats in toilets; from all time availability of hot drinking water in camps to an extra evacuation horse; from comfortable Innova car Base camp transfers for small groups to all cutlery for dining without any need for dish washing in the cold – with all these elements and many more we ensure an exclusive, most comfortable and high-quality adventure experience in these harsh remote conditions.
Our wilderness-medicine qualified and certified mountain leaders plus our highly experienced local guides will hand-hold & guide you through the pristine meadows, wildflower-laden paths and breathtaking alpine vistas, while ensuring your safety and comfort at every turn. Join us to discover the magic of remote and unseen Kashmir and create memories that will last a lifetime.
The best time to hike on this route is from the beginning of July to the middle of September. The reason being in all the other months, the high passes on the route are engulfed in snow which makes them difficult to cross. Depending on the snow conditions on the trail we may also open this as early as the later half of June which generally ensures much less crowd and more pristine conditions compared to the later months.
The temperatures on the trek range from 15-20 degrees Celsius during daytime and may drop to 4-8 degrees Celsius in the night. If it rains, it may feel colder and so one needs to be prepared in terms of clothing and gear. The months of July to September is when the summers in Kashmir transition to Autumn and Kashmir is at its most vibrant during this period, exhibiting a diverse range of landscapes and the best shades of green with colourful wildflowers all over. Although rains are generally unpredictable in the mountains, it is definitely expected on this trail during this season and afternoon showers are more common offering a good window to trek during the morning.
Our trek base camp is at Shitkadi village which is about 80 Kms / 2-3 hours drive from Srinagar via Kangan and Gangangir. The trek’s end point as per our itinerary is the village of Naranag, situated at a distance of 60 KMs away from Srinagar.
We will arrange a comfortable car pick up for all the trekkers from a designated point in Srinagar. The car will directly transfer you to the base camp of the trek. At the end of the trek, we will again arrange transport to drop you back to Srinagar. These Base Camp transfers are included in our Trip Costs and travellers do not need to pay separately.
Srinagar city is well connected to all the major cities in India and can be reached by air, train or road. The most convenient way to reach Srinagar is via flight. Sheikh Ul-Alam International Airport in Srinagar (Code: SXR) is around 15 Kms away from the city centre. Srinagar Airport has regular flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Leh, Chandigarh and other cities.
The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi Railway Station which is at a distance of 250 kilometers. One can hire a taxi and take a road trip to Srinagar from Jammu Tawi Railway Station. Jammu railway station is well connected to the Indian railways network to all major cities in India by rail. Direct train services are available from Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum. By train one has to reach Jammu and then drive to Srinagar on road, which takes around 7-8 hours depending on road conscious and traffic. The upcoming new train stations and the extension of the railway network into Kashmir including the building of one of the highest rail bridges in the world will enable direct connectivity via trains without any need of road travel.
The Great Lakes of Kashmir is a gorgeous alpine trail that many people would like to experience. But one of the first questions that comes to their minds is that, is the Kashmir Great Lakes trek safe. Kashmir has indeed been a disturbed region for quite some time and disturbances, unrest and curfews have been common in the past. These have come down significantly and whenever nowadays a situation builds up, it is invariably far away from touristy places in distant towns and villages.
The kashmir Great Lakes trail starts from the famous Sonamarg area and goes deep into the remote mountains. The local economy and the residents there are heavily dependent on tourism and trekking and in their own interest always ensure complete safety for all travellers. The security is also heightened during the Amarnath Yatra times which coincide with KGL trek season. It is also important to note that the great lakes trail has multiple army camps and posts along the way. The alert army men do continuous and strict patrolling every day ensuring a safe passage for all trekkers every year. Thousands of trekkers have traversed this route so far and there has not been a single incident on this trail. The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is therefore completely safe and must be experienced by all nature lovers and trekking enthusiasts.
The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek typically takes around 7 days to complete(inclduign one rest/buffer day). The exact duration can vary depending on factors such as the trekking pace, acclimatization breaks, and private group preferences. The route covers a distance of approximately 65-70 kilometers in total trekking through picturesque valleys, meadows, high-altitude passes and ofcourse the pristine alpine lakes of the region.
The Great Lakes of Kashmir trail is considered a moderately challenging route. The multi-day camping trek involves covering a distance of about 70 Kms in 7 days (including one rest/buffer day), with an average trek duration of 6-7 hours daily. With 3 high-altitude Pass crossings, there is considerable altitude gain as well and requires proper acclimatization to be factored in the itinerary. The highest altitude reached on the route is 13750 ft above mean sea level.
The fairly long route coupled with average daily trek duration along with the altitude factor makes the KGL trek an adventure that should not be taken lightly or casually. It is ideal for hikers with prior trekking and camping experience but is also suitable even for the beginners or people who are just starting to trek, provided they have good physical fitness and have prepared well before the trek departure.
The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is a challenging trek. This high-altitude multi-day route requires the trekker to be physically and mentally fit without any serious medical conditions. It requires a reasonable level of physical fitness and stamina.
It is perfectly suitable for families who love to explore the outdoors and mountains, camp under the stars and enjoy trekking. But it is important to note that all members of the family should be fit and in good health. They should all be willing to make the effort and be prepared for the physical demands of the trek. Families including children (above 10) and seniors (below 60) must come well-prepared and preferable if they have any prior Himalayan trekking experience. Travellers also should not have any existing medical conditions such as Cardiac or BP-related issues, serious Asthma etc. For all interested trekkers, and especially senior elderly people, it is advisable to consult a doctor before signing up.
When visiting Jammu and Kashmir, it is important to note that prepaid mobile connections issued outside the territory do not work. Only local prepaid sims and Postpoaid connections will work. All postpaid connections of major network operators will have good reception and data connectivity in most destinations of the valley. Airtel, Jio, Vodafone and BSNL – all provide good connectivity and internet data networks in the main areas of the valley with BSNL having the widest coverage and Airtel having the strongest connectivity. Recently, Jio has penetrated well and is now offering great connectivity to even some very remote areas of the region.
Srinagar generally has decent phone connectivity with major mobile network operators such as Airtel, Jio, Vodafone Idea, and BSNL providing coverage. Wi-Fi is also available in many hotels, cafes, and restaurants. However, please note connectivity in remote areas or during certain weather conditions may be weaker or intermittent.
As we start the trek and move deeper on the trail, no phone network or internet connectivity will be available. The trek takes you through some of the remote and isolated regions of Kashmir, where the signal coverage can be sporadic or mostly non-existent. It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of no phone network or internet connectivity during all sections of the trek. Therefore it’s advisable to inform your family and friends back home about the potential communication limitations during the trek days.
While you may encounter limited or no phone network and internet connectivity during the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, the experience provides you an excellent opportunity to disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the surroundings.
There is no electricity available on the Kashmir Great Lakes trail. Access to charging options is possible till Srinagar. It is recommended that you bring battery powerbanks or solar-powered alternatives. Please charge all your cameras, required batteries and phones before the base camp arrival. It is advisable to prioritize essentials on the trail and limit unnecessary device usage.
For the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, it is important to pack properly before embarking on this adventure. All camping gear and equipment will be taken care of by us. You just need to pack your clothing and trek gear like Trek Pole, high-ankle trek shoes etc. It is recommended to pack lightweight and quick-drying trek clothing, including trekking pants/shorts, t-shirts, Warm/down/thick jackets and waterproof layers/ponchos. Other important accessories like white-brimmed sunhat, UV-protected sunglasses, handgloves etc. Carry personal essentials like sunscreen, personal medicines, headlamp. We will provide a list of all recommended things to carry and help you pack before the trek.
There are a few important and mandatory documents and forms to fill in and bring in order to process your trekking permissions:
- Original Govt. ID proof along with 3 Photocopies (Aadhaar/Passport/Driver’s License)
- Health Certificate/Medical Form attested by a doctor (We will share the format with you)
- Signed Copy of our Waiver Document (We will share the format with you)
- Trek Insurance document
These documents willl be required to process your mandatory trek permits. Documents submission and processing is a simple process. We will explain all the details to you on our Pre-Trip Call with all participants.
We believe food is one of the most important aspects of any travel program and along with the trek experience here, the food on our Kashmir Great Lakes trek will be as memorable and at times even more (as evident from our client reviews and testimonials). During the trek, the food provided by us focuses on providing the necessary energy and nutrition for trekkers.
All fooding is included on the trek. We take our own cooks and Kitchen crew who will trek along with us every day to prepare nutritious egg and vegetarian dishes on the trek. All four meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Evening Snacks and Dinner plus Tea/Coffee/Juice/fruits will be provided. During the trek, you will be given packed lunches plus dry food (chocolate bars/fruits etc.). So lunches will be packed on trek days while Breakfast, Snacks and Dinner will be hot meals.
We will also note down any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have. For private exclusive groups, we provide a curated and customized menu after discussion with the group members.
No, alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. Consuming alcohol on a high-altitude trail can cause severe dehydration and may have negative impacts on your health. It not only endangers your own health and safety but also the safety of the team. It’s advisable to refrain from bringing or consuming alcohol during the trek and to focus on enjoying the natural beauty and serenity of the trekking experience.
On the Trek, you can either choose to carry your own backpack or you can use our backpack offloading service free of charges, without any extra cost. It is important to convey to us your backpack carrying preference at the time of booking.
It is not recommended to trek independently without an experienced guide. The high-altitude trail passes through very remote and isolated mountain valleys and is dotted with multiple Army checkposts. An experienced guide who is knowledgeable on navigating the region, aware of proper safety support, weather conditions as well as altitude sickness remedies is a must on this challenging route.
Yes, there are several nearby attractions and places to visit after completing the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. Each place in Kashmir offers its own unique charm, natural beauty, and cultural experiences, allowing you to extend your exploration and make the most of your visit to the region. You can consider the popular spots of Sonamarg, Gulmarg or Pahalgam or go beyond these crowded places to venture out into some of our handpicked offbeat places in Kashmir. After the trek if you consider to spend your time leisurely, we can curate a separate tour for you in Kashmir or the neighbouring region of Ladakh. You can also check our Kashmir tour pages for some added inspiration.
TRAVEL REVIEWS AND TESTIMONIALS
For Trip Booking, Costs and More Details, Please Contact Us:
A personalized itinerary can be crafted based on your group’s interests, expectations, and preferred dates and time duration. For tailoring a suitable Kashmir Great Lakes Trek plan just for you, please Call/Whatsapp on +91 8951064013 or mail us at email@example.com