Capture the views of 5 lakes in Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

Kashmir great lakes trek is one of the most beautiful treks of India and a rare one where we get to witness alpine lakes. I did this trek with my friend’s travel company – Gulmarg riders in July 2021. Monsoon is the best time to do this trek because a plethora of different species of flowers bloom over the entire trail at this time. The total trek takes about 7-8 days covering approximately 60+ kms reaching a maximum altitude of 13,750ft.

Every day is a surprise here because of the views, lakes, flowers, and terrain. But this is no easy trek as each day you have to trek for approximately 12kms which takes around 7-8 hours or even someday 10hours on days of pass crossing. Hence graded as Moderate-Difficult. I just LOVE all the pictures from this trek which reminds me I did get a chance to walk through paradise.

Why this trek?
This is one of the very few treks in India where you will get to witness 5-7 high-altitude lakes in just one trek! Hidden among the lush green meadows of Kashmir, the stunning mountain views you get to witness are just magical. This trek has everything starting from small villages, beautiful meadows, vegetation, and forests, camping beside the lakes, crossing rivers, and ascending rocky ridges. Also, these trails are not accessible via roads, hence is truly a trekkers’ delight!

Day-wise trek itinerary:

Day 1: Reach Shetkadi from Sonamarg (Altitude 7800ft)
The trek starts a few kilometers ahead of Sonamarg in Kashmir. In these high-altitude treks, it is always advised to reach at least a day in advance to acclimatize. Drive from Sonamarg to Shetkadi which is usually the base camp of this trek and it takes about 4-6 hours. We camp at Shetkadi which is located very near to the Sindh river and took in the good views nearby.

Day 2: Trek to Nichnai (11kms – Altitude 11,500ft)
Begin the trek at the 3 km mark from Sonamarg on the Srinagar road. Somewhere around this point, you can spot a Dhaba where you can buy all the food items required. Proceed onto the jeep trail which can be found right next to the dhaba which after a while diverts upwards. Here take a diversion to the left into the green meadows where you can view the whole of Sonamarg town from above. Other members of our group started the trek early morning around 7 am so that they could reach around lunchtime to Nichnai.

Keep walking and you can see lots of Pine and Maple trees. Here while walking across the meadows we can find lots of small Gujjar huts. Spot the Shekdur meadows on the right surrounded by Bhoj trees. You can have lunch here before proceeding towards Nichnai. Continue on the trail going in the middle of the forests which is a gradual descent for about 45 minutes after which you will arrive at a river valley. Continue upstream towards rocky patches and about 30 minutes later you will be glad to spot a green meadow opening up. Here is where the tents are pitched.

But for me, I didn’t get enough leaves at my work and had to arrive the same day as the trek. So my group left in the morning for the trek whereas I arrived around 3.30 pm and started the trek. Halfway I had to ride on Khacchar (Mule) so that I could reach there before dark. This way I was able to complete the 6 hours trek in 3 hours and reached the campsite by 6.30 pm.

Day 3: Trek to Vishnusar Lake (12km – 12,000ft)
As usual, we woke up at 7 am and began trekking at 8 am to give ourselves sufficient time to enjoy the meadows and not rush through the trek. We reached the Nichnai pass by crossing a river. Then we had a one-hour gradual ascent to the pass. All through this trail, we could see the Nichnai pass in between the two snow-clad peaks at a distance.

Now the further trail is a descent from the pass through the rocky trails which gives way to green patches of grass. We could see a river flowing in between the mountains surrounded by red flowers. After about half an hour we had to cross this icy cold river onto the other side. Further, we spotted another stream that originates from Vishnusar lake that is at an even greater height and cannot be seen from here. We camped close to the stream.
Make sure not to pollute the stream/water sources as it is used for cooking.

Day 4: Exploring Vishnusar and Kishansar lakes
Today was a kind of acclimatization as well as exploration day since we were camping really close to the lake. We walked for a few minutes and reached the Vishnusar lake – our first ever high-altitude lake on this trek. The reflections of these lakes are so perfect that they resemble a mirror. This lake was also so huge and peaceful that we forgot about the time we spent over there!

Now just 0.5 km ahead is the Kishansar lake which is at an altitude 500m higher than Vishnusar. On the way, there are multiple trails so choose the one which is suitable for you as all of them go towards Kishansar itself. We went back to the campsite and rested for the day.

Day 5: Reach Gadsar (14kms – Altitude 12,000ft)

This is one of the toughest days on this trek. We traversed through the same path which was trodden the day before – besides the Kishansar lake. From here the trail gets very steep and rocky for an hour more & then ascends higher to reach the Gadsar pass at an altitude of 13,750ft which is also the highest altitude you will reach in this trek. From here you can catch the stunning views of both the pristine lakes- Vishnusar and Kishansar. Photos from this place are mind-blowing.
From here the descent starts after an hour through which we can spot the Yamsar lake on the left at the beginning and later a small lake. This trail continues to be a walk along the flat meadows where you can also spot a variety of flowers during monsoon. This trail was seeming never-ending as we were already tired of climbing the pass and also this was the longest day in terms of distance. Finally reached the campsite around 4 pm and called it a day. There was a stream flowing next to the campsite which also had kind of a natural pool structure – so we took a dip there and enjoyed ourselves for some time & all the pain seemed to vanish away 🙂

Day 6: Trek to Satsar (9kms – Altitude 12,000ft)
We began the trek by crossing the stream and following the trail going upwards. This was a tough ascent as it was just never-ending in the scorching heat. There were many people on the trail and everyone was trekking at their own pace on this path which spirals upward. We continued the gradual ascent until it led to a river valley.

Once we reached the meadows it was green everywhere and very beautiful! Then it was more of a flat meadow trail till we reached a stream crossing. Here a stunning scene unfolded in front of us that was surrounded by mountains and craters on the right. This place is called Maengandob.

We had to walk further to cross Satsar army checkpoint and our campsite was located 10 mins from there. To see the Satsar lake we had to trek for around 45mins full of boulders – a few from my group went but I was too exhausted the same day to explore more. Also, visibility was reducing this day because of bad weather and we hardly could see nearby – which turned worse indicating the chances of heavy rain the next day.

Day 7: Trek to Gangabal twin lakes (11kms – Altitude 11,500ft)
This day was the toughest day of the entire trek which mostly includes ascent and it rained heavily which made it more difficult. It started by boulder hopping where there is no definite trail and many groups were just navigating in the rain. The rocks were very slippery and trek poles have no use on stones making the scene even more tricky. After the boulders, the ascent starts to Zaj pass at 13,400ft where it was so foggy that we couldn’t get any views.

Then the trail descends till you spot forest and then continues towards a zig-zag path to reach atop a ridge overlooking barren mountains on one side and green patches on the other. You should be able to spot the twin lakes clearly from here. Not only these two bigger lakes but you can also spot two tiny lakes at a distance. The biggest of them all is the scenic Gangabal lake and the next biggest is Nandkol lake. Again we missed these beautiful views because of the rain and fog and were just running to reach the campsite as soon as possible.

To reach the lake we have to go through a steep stony descent and a stream crossing in between. Always make sure to have a refreshing drink of the natural stream water and I’m sure you would not have drunk such pure water in your entire life! After an hour and a half, we were traversing among the meadows. We crossed a small ridge and later a bridge to find ourselves on the banks of Nandkol. We can see the Harmukh glacier hanging on the sides of the mountains.

We then proceeded towards Gangabal lake which is about 20mins from Nandkol. To reach there we had to cross a heavy flowing stream (cross this stream only when the water is very less or else move towards the left where you can find a man-made bridge to cross). I struggled a lot on crossing through the wooden log because the river flow here was high, the log is very small and I have fear of water due to which my legs start shaking. So I sat on it and somehow dragged myself across.

Day 8: Trek ends at Naranag (15kms – Altitude 7,450ft)
This day was like a snake-and-ladder board game, with a lot of ascents and descents testing our leg endurance – which had already become sore from continuous days of trekking. It started with a gradual ascent followed by a steep descent and we continued to walk along the ridge till we reached the meadows.

We had to cross an Indian army checkpost where again checking/enquiry takes place. Post which the trail was full of Pine trees and we traversed along the right side of the forest. After an hour or so we had to do a steep descent through a muddy path for about an hour. This path is common among locals who usually trek to Gangabal as a weekend trek as a result of which the trail is well laid out. There is a dhaba here serving Maggi, Omelette, and tea/coffee where we had something to eat. We reached Naranag by afternoon and visited a dilapidated Shiva temple there. Again hogged nicely in a hotel over there as if we hadn’t eaten for days :P. The same day we traveled back to Srinagar by evening in a shared cab.

KGL still remains the most beautiful trek I have ever done and recommend seasoned trekkers to go for it at least once in their lifetime. A big thanks to my group of trek mates-turned-friends for making the trek fun and a great experience. Do let me know in the comments if you liked the blog or any feedback on the same 🙂


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