Uttarakhand Trekking Information
Uttarakhand formerly known as Uttaranchal is another place in the Indian Himalaya where it is fairly easy to trek on your own. The Himalaya in Uttarakhand falls into two regions, Garhwal and Kumaun. As the source of India's most sacred rivers including the Ganga, Garhwal has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. The flow of pilgrims into the region meant that a significant amount of roads and other infrastructure was built high into the mountains to service the pilgrims. For the trekker this means that one can hike into a very high alpine environment in Garhwal on relatively short treks.
Best Season: April-May and September-October (most areas), July-August (Valley of Flowers for blooms)
Base Cities: Rishikesh/Hairdwar (Train service from Delhi), Munsiyari (Train service Delhi to Kathgodam transfer to bus), Joshimath (Bus service from Rishikesh)
Guide book/Maps: Lonely Planet Trekking in the Indian Himalaya
Trekking Practicalities :
While in many areas of Uttarkhand you are free to trek as you like, there are some annoying regulations governing trekking in some regions of Uttarakhand. The number of people per day allowed to trek above Gangotri to Gaumukh, the source of the Ganges, as well as further up to Tapovan is restricted. This is a good thing to take pressure off the region, unfortunately there is also a two tier pricing for the permit where foreigners pay significantly more than Indians (I'm waiting for the day when India realizes it doesn't have to stoop to the level of Nepal and African countries such as Kenya and Tanzina which have no other source of income except to extract as much money as they can from tourist of so called rich countries, China got rid of official dual pricing years ago. So the question is does India aspire to be more like Nepal and Kenya or China, South Korea, and Japan. If you go by their tourism pricing structure they appear to be lumping themselves in with Nepal and Kenya). The permit can be obtained in Uttarkashi on the way to Gangotri. The office is on the road to Gangotri 2 to 3 km outside of town. Ask locally for specific directions. The Har Ki Dun valley, as well as the Valley of Flowers are also both National Parks and require a dual priced entry fee to visit. Trekking above Joshimath to the Kuari Pass requires a permit as well. This would not be that big a deal if the Forest Department would issue permits to trekkers unfortunately they require guides and only issue the permits through travel agents, despite the fact that a blind man would have a hard time getting lost on the way to the Kuari pass making a guide completely unnecessary. As a result the independent trekker has two options hike around the check point at the top of the ropeway above Auli or pay a travel agent to put them on a permit for an inflated price. Trekking inside the Nanda Devi Sanctuary is completely prohibited. Some treks near border areas require interline permits.