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Chopta Tungnath Chandrashila trek takes you to the highest of the Panch Kedar, Tungnath is estimated to be 3,660m above sea level. Ironically, it is also the easiest to reach. You can have a breakfast at Chopta (3,000m), tread steadily up the impeccably maintained cheh-footiya (6-foot wide trail), have your darshan and be back for lunch. But that’s not definitely not making full use of a splendid opportunity to enjoy aerial views of the alpine meadows around Chopta, to admire the stone sculpture around the medieval temple, or to extend your walk up to the Chandrashila Peak, which, at 4130m, is a vantage point any eagle would vie for.
Equally pertinent, unless you have already been walking in the region, these are respectable altitudes, and trailhikers would suggest you to invest a couple of days in acclimatising instead of rushing on and off them. You could take long rambles in the wild meadows and forests near Chopta and observe the wonderful bird life (76 species have been recorded in this area).
Chopta (8 hrs from Haridwar)
Dehradun Railway Station
Jolly Grant near Dehradun
Even if you are moderately acclimatised, you can make to the temple in 3 hrs. It is a delightful walk, with the feel of a day picnic. The first half-hour climbs through a forest of conifers and rhododendrons, ferns and lichens, and the smack-on view of Bandarpoonchh, with the Kedar massif off to the west is quite surreal. As the switchbacks begin, and the forest recedes, you get a feel of the Chopta meadows you have left behind. On both sides of the path, there are broad swathes of grassy slopes, with tiny clusters of gorgeous white flowers, wild rosemary and berries. Half way up, there are a couple of shacks where you can stop for a tea and a packet of biscuits. From here on, the path drives steady gradient up the western flank of the hill. In the distance, you can see the cluster of buildings below the path. This is a research centre for aromatic plants that lies off the path, which now begins to double back urgently, to make the final descent to the temple.
Just before you get to Tungnath, there is a tiny Ganesh Temple perched on a rocky spur. Right after the monsoons, the hills are covered with forget-me-nots, buttercups, anemones and wild strawberries. As the path flattens, a flight of about 50 stairs veers sharply off to the left. At their head, a small kund signals that you have reached hallowed ground. You then pass through a corridor of eating and dossing houses before arriving at the temple courtyard, through the arch decked with bells. Built of solid granite slabs, the Shiva Temple at Tungnath resembles the ancient temple of Bageshwar and Jageshwar. Guarding the entrance is Shiva’s bull, Nandi. Images of the Pandavas and Adi Shankaracharya grace the sanctum sanctorum. ‘The arm of Shiva’ sits bang in the middle, a dark one-foot high lingam. Outside, there are two smaller temples dedicated to Parvati and Vyas.
A few lodges offer basic accomodation but, if you want, the grasslands below the temple offer infinite camping possibilities.
Start early and climb as fast as you can for the views before it gets cloudy. Backtrack down the stairs to the Chopta path, and turn left (north-wards) on the clear trail. No longer paved, it narrows as it rounds the Tungnath hill, and, you have to clamber a bit as the terrain gets rocky. But it’s not dangerous in any way, and suitable for all ages. In fact, even in autumn you can find tiny icicles in the shadows. Soon the grass reasserts itself, and you can head off the beaten track and walk on soft soil, exploring the various views on either side. The path, always visible, heads straight up. You should crest the tapering slope in less than 2 hrs out of Tungnath. Legend has it that the deity Chandra (Moon God) spent a long time on the peak in penance. Lord Rama, too, is supposed to have meditated here to atone for killing Ravana, a brahmin. But even if you are a non-believer, the place offers many rewards. Chandrashila Peak is a broad summit, strewn with cairns, and offering plenty of ledges for a gentle lie-back, a sharing of chcolates, and, above all, deep, high and wide views of the Mandakini and Alaknanda valleys and the white giants that water them: Chaukhamba, Bandarpoonchh, Kedarnath, Nandadevi, Gangotri, Neelkanth and several other peaks.
You can roll down the hill to Tungnath in an hour, have tea and breakfast, and return to Chopta in another hour and a half. The day is still wide open, and you have ample time to explore the Mandal Valley, or Deoriya Tal. Or head back to the Mandakini Valley road on the route back to the plains via Rudraprayag. Alternatively, stay in Gopeshwar for the night, or keep the Mandakini company for one more night at the Suyal Saur GMVN, 45 km away on the Guptkashi-Rudraprayag Road. The Duggalbitta PWD Inspection Bungalow is beautifully located but difficult to get bookings.
Getting There & Out
From Rudraprayag to Gopeshwar, it’s 74 km/3 hrs by car or 3 1/2 hrs by bus. From here, Chopta (39km) lies on the crest of a road that runs from Gopeshwar via Mandal down to Okhimath, before meeting the Rudraprayag-Kedarnath route. A jeep-taxi should have you there in 1 1/2 hrs and a bus in 2 hrs.
Rudraprayag to Okhimath is 42 km/1 1/2 hrs by taxi. From Okhimath, Chopta is 30 km via Dugalbitta, 1 hr by taxi or 1 1/2 hrs by bus. There are two buses from Gopeshwar to Chopta (12:30 and 1:30 pm) and two from Okhimath to Chopta (7:30 and 8:30 am).
Return the same way from Gopeshwar or Okhimath to Rudraprayag. Buses leave Chopta for Gopeshwar (9:30 and 10 am) and Okhimath (1:40 and 2:30 pm).
Yes, it is absolutely essential to take a guide for this trek whether you are trekking solo or in a group.
The best season for Chandrashila trek is Oct to Dec and March to April
It is ideally recommended for 5+ age kids.
Yes, in fact all the Himalayan trails are quite safe for women & solo travelers. People of the region are very warm, caring & hospitable in nature.
Camping tent accommodation (2-3 per tent).
Guides & porters in the region will never demand any tip money from you. They just need their daily wages paid by the trek operator. However, it is always encouraging if one can give a little tip to them if they provide good services.
Indian currency is accepted