What are the attractions of the Himalayan trekking trails?

As a result of wide altitudinal, latitudinal, and longitudinal diversity and extent, the Himalayas is a home to an assortment of physical and cultural landscapes. Many of these landscapes are challenging and unique due to remoteness and lack of modern infrastructure. These “backward” or, I should say, non-urbanized areas offer numerous picturesque trails with interesting themes. While selecting a trekking holiday consider the following seven factors to maximize the trail choices:

  1. Altitude,
  2. Grade,
  3. Main destination,
  4. Popularity,
  5. Region,
  6. Season, and
  7. Theme.

The permutations and combinations of these seven factors would produce a variety of trails to match your fitness standards and tastes.

For example,

Ancient pilgrim trails lead to temples and other religiously important places.

Pilgrims walk the narrow trekking trail connecting Nauti and Kansuwa, two important destinations along Nanda Raj Jat, a pilgrimage that takes place once in twelve years in Uttarakhand, India.

Bird watchers’ trails move along the favorite spots, migration zones, and nests of the birds.

Fair and festival trails end up at the event venues. These may meander through villages or uninhabited areas.

Forest trails reside completely within luxuriant forests.

High altitude trails expose you to the area beyond snow line that is free of any kind of human settlements except seasonal shepherd huts or defense posts in some parts.

Lake trails end at big or small natural water bodies of religious importance and / or of natural beauty.

Low altitude trails lie below tree line.

Meadow trails take you to meadows / pasture lands dotted with beautiful alpine flowers during the season.

National park trails are marked within the periphery of the park.

Snow covered trails allow you to enjoy walking through snow.

Sweeping view trails lend themselves to panoramic and/or 360 degree views of the picturesque Himalayan ranges and the snow covered summits.

Village trails connect the villages in valleys and mountains.

Wildlife sanctuary trails pass through the animal-specific sanctuaries, giving you an opportunity to meet the animals…

Which trail grading system is followed in the Himalayas?

There is no standardized trail grading system. However, you will find two different types of grading nomenclatures in online and offline trek route descriptions:

Nomenclature 1

  1. Soft Treks
  2. Medium Treks
  3. Hard treks

Nomenclature 2

  1. Easy Trek Routes
  2. Moderate Trek Routes
  3. Demanding Trek Routes

These arbitrary systems share features for all three categories.

Soft / Easy Treks

The trekking routes cover a flat piece of land and / or the area where altitude does not change much. Since these routes are frequented and well-marked, navigation does not pose any challenges. Generally you can walk these routes on your own.

Medium / Moderate Treks

These longer trails consist of steep ascents. The trail sections may not be well-marked. Basic navigation skills would be required. You may also need a well-informed guide.

Hard / Demanding Treks

The longest routes involve trekking long distances in tough terrain every day. The change in elevation would be substantial. Theses steep climbs would make a lot of demands on your heart, knees, and mind.  A large part of the trail may lie beyond the tree and snow lines, where you will need expertise in navigation skills to find the route. Survival skills are equally important along these routes.

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