For a complete set of pictures from my trek to Kareri Lake in June 2014, please visit: Kareri Lake Trek Pics

While most tourists in Dharamshala / McLeodganj flock to Triund for a short hike, Kareri Lake is a charming  destination relatively unknown to most of them which can easily be wrapped up in less than 3 days. Within last one year, I had tried reaching Kareri Lake twice, but both times had to turn back from halfway without getting a glimpse of the lake. The first failure was due to my lack of preparedness for heavy nonseasonal downpour which continued for days. The second time, while we spent a night at Kareri village in April, it rained heavily at the village and snowed for over 12 hours at the higher reaches. The locals strongly advised us not to venture in deep snow without a guide and we dejectedly turned back from the village.

View from Kareri Village

The first week of June provided me an opportunity where I could take Friday off from work and attempt Kareri Lake again. So few of my friends including couple of first time trekkers and I planned to do the trek independently and be back in Delhi by Monday early morning.

Day 1: Delhi – Dharamshala – Kareri Village – Camp site

Like always, we booked our bus tickets from Delhi to Dharamshala in a Volvo bus. We left Delhi on Thursday 8 PM and reached Dharamshala on Friday 7 AM (make sure to get off at Dharamshala as all the buses head to McLeodganj after for their last stop). With enough of bus ride already, we immediately found us a taxi willing to take us all the way to Kareri Village for Rs. 1200 or 1000 if you are deft at bargaining. There are also local buses from Dharamshala to Ghera village (4,350 feet) starting at 8 AM every morning but they go only till Ghera. Although the total distance is just 30 kms, it takes 1-2 hours to reach Kareri village from Dharamshala via Ghera. The road initially descends for half hour before gaining height over a woefully managed ‘road’. Ghera is also the last point where there are a few shops stocking on very basic supplies you might need for the trek ahead.

Dense forest after Naholi village

You may also choose to hike from Ghera to Kareri village which takes roughly 2-3 hours and the trail is pretty straight forward with many villagers using it every day. Cross the massive bridge after Ghera and take any of the various trails going up the hill as long as you are heading north.

Kareri village (6000 feet) is a charming little village straddled on a sloping ridge and adorned with terrace fields at the outer fringes. To the east, the peaks of Dhauladhar range washed in snow are standing on constant guard. The idea of staying a night in this village can never be wrong! You may choose to stay at the Forest Rest House situated about 200 feet above the village or allow yourself to be pampered with selfless hospitality offered by villagers if you wish to spend the night in their house. Ask around at the village for a room and you can get one for as cheap as Rs. 100-150 a night including 2 sumptuous meals and tea. Kareri Lake lies to the North East behind the forested ridge as seen from the village.

Camping next to Nyund river

Now take the uphill trail going inside the village while crossing various small houses and cattle sheds. There is water tap installed at the end of the village where you can refill your bottles. Keep following the trail with occasional stretch of stairs for 20 minutes till you reach a man made bridge. The trail keeps climbing after the bridge for about an hour till you can see the stacked terrace fields below to your left. Keep your eyes open throughout the hike and almost certainly you will spot the gorgeous Asian Paradise Flycatcher – a medium sized bird with a long and impressive tail that moves with true elegance whenever the bird glides to hunt for insects.

Well marked trail outside Naholi village

From this point on, the trail levels and descends for 30-45 minutes before approaching a cement bridge to cross the tumbling Nyund River. After crossing the bridge, take left and a level walk will bring you to the tiny nondescript Naholi Village. Ask locals for directions while making your way through the plastered houses and more terrace fields at the end of the village. As soon as the open fields end, the trail drops suddenly and you approach a man made water reservoir to your right. There is an isolated stream next to the reservoir to refill your bottles. The walk after the reservoir initially climbs steeply but then gradually starts to ease. The trail remains well defined and 30 minutes later, it turns into a 10 feet wide path. Few minutes later, the trail takes a sudden U-turn to the right and slopes downhill. The wide path again turns into a bridle trail and in 30 minutes you reach a ‘T-point’ on the trail where a trail goes to the left, while the other goes to the right. Take right and brace yourself for the unrelenting uphill slog for the following 2 hours.

The beginning of the climb is through some beautiful stretches of mature jungle hugging both sides of the valley. Most of the hike is over boulders and stones acting like stairs which made the climb sheer and sticky under the blazing June sun. Hear the roar of the river gradually increasing as you gain height and get closer to it. The river eventually appears to your left, but then a series of boulder hopping about 15 minutes later places it to your right. From here on, Nyund river stays by your side all along the trail to the lake. The trail is still clearly marked and follows the river for an hour till you approach a decrepit bridge to cross the river yet again. The pathway is straight forward from here and sticks to the bank of the river till you reach a campsite 4 Kms before Kareri Lake. We decided to spend the night here and make a dash for the lake and back to Kareri village the next day.

Approaching the first camp site

This campsite is nestled between the walls of the wooded valley and unfortunately offers no wide sweeping views. The only consolation is the calm river splashing its way downhill which makes it a picturesque campsite. There is a small shop open here from June to September to cater to the large groups of trekkers frequenting this trail during season. Expect to find very basic snacks and beverages here but no cooked meal. There is plenty of space to pitch your tents next to the river and a good stream for potable water lies just 200 meters on the trail uphill from the campsite.

DAY 2: CAMPSITE – KARERI LAKE – KARERI VILLAGE

Next morning we left early and continued entering deeper into the valley. Keep a lookout for the peculiar Himalayan Cobra Lily growing close to boulders strewn all around. A number of times you would be required to skilfully hop over large boulders to cross the various streams, although the trail remains well trodden. Ninety minutes out of the campsite, spot a lone shepherd hut and this is when you know that you are barely couple of hundred meters away from the lake! Ten minutes later a much larger shepherd hut appears and the valley turns to the right revealing the distinct mountains of Dhauladhar range. Feeling revitalized with such an impressive sight before you, make the last 15 minute steep uphill dash to the lush open grasslands surrounding the lake. A small temple dedicated to Shiva comes into appearance before you get to see the lake in its entirety.

Kareri Lake (9700 feet) is a large but shallow oval shaped lake surrounded by small meadows and wooded patches on one side and towering peaks caked in snow on the other. Beaten down by the scorching sun, I wasted no time in going for a swim in the glacial waters of the pristine lake. The soft grasslands surrounding the lake provide ample dreamlike space to camp for the night. If you are not carrying tents, you can talk to the priest of the temple and he may help you in finding shelter. There is also a shed next to the temple where a lot of trekkers prefer to stay for the night before making their way to Minkiani Pass to cross over to Chamba valley.

After spending couple of hours swimming and then idling at the shores, we made our way back to Kareri village. We retraced the same trail we took yesterday and reached Kareri village by 4 PM and decided to spend the night there.

Kareri Lake

Early Sunday morning, we made our way down to Ghera village aiming to catch the 9.30 AM bus to Dharamshala. The first bus from Ghera starts at 7.30 AM followed by one at 8.30 AM and the last one at 9.30 AM. A bus at 3.30 PM also leaves from Ghera but it would have been a gamble since we had our bus at 6 PM from McLeodganj for Delhi. In spite of maintaining a quick pace, we missed the 9.30 AM bus but found a lone taxi parked near the shops at Ghera. The driver readily agreed to take the 6 of us all the way to McLeodganj for Rs. 1200.

Optional Trek: Kareri Village (6000 feet) – Triund (9800 feet) – 7-8 hours or Dharamkot / Bhagsu

If you have an extra day, you can also hike from Kareri village to Triund via Guna Devi temple. To do this, follow the wide motorable road out of Kareri village and keep following it downhill for about 30 minutes till you spot a small tin shed sitting about 10 feet above the road. At this point, the road takes a hairpin turn to the right but you need to spot a bridle path heading down towards the fields below. The idea is to keep going downhill till you reach the bridge about 30 minutes later which allows you to cross the gushing stream. The entire path is very well laid out and crosses few houses in between. Cross the bridge and follow the cemented path cutting across a village and slowly but steadily turning steep. About an hour of gradual climb later, the cemented path gives way to boulder-turned-stairs and goes straight up the wall of the valley through thick foliage. The climb is steep and takes roughly 2 hours till you reach the crest of the ridge where Guna Devi temple is situated. There are also few shops here where you can buy snacks and beverages.

Camping at Triund

Now take the cemented trail that heads out of Guna Devi temple and this marks the beginning of another downhill walk for about an hour till you again reach a bridge. Cross the river and follow the sole trail climbing uphill in a series of switchbacks. The trail continues to ascend through thick forest and couple of hours later you reach Galu temple which sits at the upper crest of Dharamkot. From here, you get commanding views of McLeodganj, Bhagsu and Dharamkot spread out in the valley below. There is a small shop where you might want to take a break and contemplate if you would prefer to head to Triund which is roughly another 7 Kms (3-4 hours) uphill trek or head down to the backpacker’s den of Dharamkot / Bhagsu just 10 minutes away.

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