Ascending the Verdant Heights: Chopta Trek
Written By : Pratyush

Ascending the Verdant Heights: Chopta Trek

 

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas lies Chopta, a quaint hamlet in Uttarakhand's Rudraprayag district. Surrounded by meadows carpeted with flowers and forests of oak, rhododendron, and pine, Chopta is a paradise for nature lovers and trekkers alike. The Chopta trek, in particular, is gaining popularity among enthusiasts looking for an offbeat Himalayan sojourn.

 

The allure of the Chopta trek stems from the breathtaking vistas it offers of some of the highest Himalayan peaks. The trail takes you through verdant burials (meadows) and dense forests, with views of Chaukhamba, Nanda Devi, Nilkantha, and several other snow-capped mountains. You also get a glimpse of the Tungnath temple, one of the Panch Kedars, ancient shrines of Lord Shiva situated across Uttarakhand's Garhwal region.

Reaching Chopta 

The trek to Chopta generally starts from the hill station of Ukhimath, located about 40 km drive from Chopta. Ukhimath is well-connected by road and you can take buses or private taxis to reach here. The drive from Ukhimath to Chopta takes you through steep mountain roads offering spectacular views of the Mandakini River valley. It’s a bumpy ride but the scenery keeps you enthralled.

The Trek 

The Chopta trek can be divided into two phases - the forest trail from Ukhimath to Dugalbitta via Mandal village, and then the high-altitude meadow trail from Dugalbitta to Chopta.

The first phase of the trek winds through dense oak and deodar forests with amazing bird life. Mandal village falls en route, where you can see traditional houses of stone and wood. Local women can be seen working outside the houses, carrying huge bundles of grass to feed their cattle. Trek further through the woods and you reach the Bugyal or meadow of Dugalbitta, perched at 3,408 m. From here, the second phase of the trek starts, which opens up to stunning high-altitude Himalayan views.

As you climb up the meadow trail, the forests make way for green undulating bugyals dotted with wildflowers like seabuckthorn, torch lily, buttercups, and daisies. This is a great spot of nature that provides a perfect picture of everything. The arduous ascent seems worthwhile when you finally see the first glimpse of the snow-covered Himalayan summits from Dugalbitta. The Chopta trek now gently winds up and down several smaller bugyals like Tungnath Bugyal, Chandrashila Bugyal, and Devariya Taal before culminating at the tiny hamlet of Chopta at 2,680 m.

The meadows surrounding Chopta offer picture-postcard views of Nanda Devi, Chaukhamba and Neelkanth mountains. Situated on the Gopeshwar-Ukhimath road, Chopta forms the base for treks to Tungnath (3,680 m) and Chandrashila peak (4,000 m) which are also important pilgrimage destinations.

Top Experiences on the Chopta Trek

 

  1. Panoramic mountain views

Watching the first rays of the sun touch the snowy summit of Chaukhamba or soaking in a sunset throwing shades of vermillion and amber on Nilkantha, from one of Chopta’s green meadows - this is a soul-stirring experience. On a clear day, you can see up to 300 km of the Himalayan range from here.

  1. Varied trails 

The route offers an exciting variety of scenery - from thick oak forests frequented by pheasants and deer to colourful meadows swathed in wild flowers with cold desert-like terrain beyond Tungnath. There are many pretty streams and waterfalls crisscrossing the path making for perfect rest stops.

  1. Spiritual stop at Tungnath Temple 

Believed to be over 1,000 years old, the Tunganath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva lies at an altitude of 3,680 m. It is the third temple to be visited in the Panch Kedar pilgrimage circuit and the highest. The temple is closed in winter due to heavy snowfall and reopens only in April end of the summer.

  1. Visit Chandrashila Peak 

Trek further up about 1.5 km from Tungnath and you reach Chandrashila, meaning ‘Moon Rock’. At 4000 m, it offers a 360-degree spellbinding panorama of Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi, Trisul, Kedar Peak, Bandarpunch, and Chaukhamba. Chandrashila is a vantage point to see gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.

  1. Spot exotic Himalayan flowers 

During spring, the entire trail comes alive with rhododendrons, orchids, blue poppies, and many other exotic flowers as well as aromatic herbs. The months of March to June are ideal to see the meadows blooming with flowers.

  1. Sight rare Himalayan birds 

The varied landscape and climate of Chopta is home to nearly 200 species of birds. Some bird life commonly spotted here includes the Himalayan monal, lammergeier, Himalayan griffin vulture, crested kingfisher, red-billed blue magpie, and many more. Early mornings are ideal for bird-watching.

Where to stay in Chopta 

Chopta offers budget to mid-range accommodation in small guest houses, lodges homestays run by locals. Ukhimath, 16 km downhill, has more staying options. Camping on the meadows under star-studded skies is also a great experience. Remember to carry your own tents.

When to go 

The best season for the Chopta trek is March to June and September to November. The pleasant weather during these months offers amazing mountain sightings along flowering meadows and lush forests. Winters from December to February witness heavy snowfall with temperatures dipping to subzero levels. Summers from May to August are wet with chances of landslides. Avoid monsoons from June-end to August.

Fitness requirements 

The Chopta trek usually involves 4-6 hours of walking over a 30 km uphill trail so you need an average fitness level. There are some steep sections around Dugalbitta and Tungnath with heights ranging between 2,800 m to 4,000 m. So work on your cardio before the trek and get a health checkup done. Carrying basic medicines, good shoes and layered woollens is a must. Acclimatise properly and maintain a steady, slow pace.

While an easy trek compared to many arduous Himalayan trails, the Chopta trek rewards you with gorgeous meadows filled with flowers and herbs, quaint mountain villages, pine forests and some breath-taking Himalayan magic! So gear up for this quintessential spring-summer trek in the Kedar valley. Revel in nature’s abundance as you make your way through green bugyals to reach Chopta’s verdant heights.

 

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