Trekking forms an integral part of the adventure sports flourishing in the Vale of Kashmir. The Vale of Kashmir 129 km long and 40 km wide, is surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains. In the south-west, the Pir Panjal rising at places to 5,000 metres separates the valley from the plains.
The principal pass in this mountain range is Banihal through which vehicular traffic flows into the valley from the Jammu area. On the north-east, the valley is flanked by the Pangi range, the principal summits of which are Harmukh and Mahadeo, both close to the capital 16 city of Srinagar. To the north is the majestic Ladakh range, and the Lidder Valley is protected by the Kolahoi massif.
A potpourri of lakes, rivers, high altitude meadows, fruit orchards and snow capped peaks, Kashmir offers unlimited variety for those who look for un spoilt natural beauty. Modern infrastructure has made Kashmir a lot more accessible and enjoyable than in the past. Good quality hotels, houseboats, air links, bus services, golf courses, trout fishing beats, heli-skiing, water sports and mountaineering are just a few of its outdoor possibilities. But, for the adventure lover, trekking remains the most popular way of exploring Kashmir.
Trekking in Kashmir does not mean just walking over forested mountains as it combines nature and the local culture. As the trekker climbs higher, the landscape changes. Chinar and poplar trees are replaced by fir, pine and oak and finally Burch trees, the alpine meadows and a profusion of colorful wild flowers. The simple villagers in the plains with their fruit orchards and paddy fields are replaced by migrant families of Nomads / Gujjars, herdsmen who cross the high mountain passes with their cattle in search of greener pastures.
The main areas of attraction for the trekker in Kashmir are the Sind & Lidder valleys which support a number of high altitude meadows. The townships of Sonamarg and Pahalgam are the main trekking heads, both for short hikes and longer treks in the Himalayas.
Sonamarg means a ‘meadow of gold’. The most important township in the fertile Sind valley, Sonamarg is the last major township in Kashmir on the road to Ladakh. Sonamarg is also the staging point for some of the most popular treks in the higher altitudes.
A pleasant one day excursion from Sonamarg is to the Thajiwas glacier, 8 km away, and approachable by a pony over a well maintained track~ The most popular trek originating from Sonamarg is the Kashmir Lake Trek. It covers the lakes of Gangabal, Vishansar, Kishansar, and close to the Harrnukh peak.
The trail first crosses the Nichinai Pass (13 ,387 ft) and then enters the alpine valleys that eventually lead to the Gangabal Lake. Vishansar, Vishnu’s Lake, is just over 12,000 ft and slightly larger than the 12,500 ft Kishansar, Krishna’s Lake. Gangabal Lake is the highlight of this trip. Protected by the three peaks of Mount Harrnukh, Gangabal is 5 miles in circumference and offers the finest trout fishing anywhere in Kashmir.