Your journey starts at Kathgodam, a town bustling with tourists headed in and out of nearby hill stations. It is the nerve centre for major tourist spots – Nainital, Ranikhet, Almora and Garhwal.
Kathgodam is the last railhead towards Chaffi, the base camp of the trek. From Kathgodam, take a shared cab to Chaffi, which is around 30 km away. Most cabs ply in the first half of the day. In case you don’t find direct cabs, break your journey at Bhimtal, which is 20 minutes from Kathgodam. From Bhimtal, take another shared cab to Chaffi. It is further 10 km away. If you’re trekking with Indiahikes, we’ll arrange transport from Kathgodam to Chaffi.
Chaffi is a picturesque little town that sits snugly in dense coniferous forests. With hills rising on all sides and the Kalsa river cutting through the heart of the town, it makes for a picture-perfect base for the trek. It is sparsely populated with a handful of houses and dhabas.
The beginning of the trail
Start the trek where the river forms a sort of pool. Cross the bridge over it. Take a left turn toward the concrete trail that passes through a few houses and a guest house. If you come to Chaffi a day earlier, this guest house is a good place to stay.
A few hundred metres into the trail, you enter a small village called Belwal. It has a few scattered houses and the Kalsa river zig-zagging through it. Around half a kilometre from here, you come across an old foot bridge. It was built during the British era and its architecture reflects that. The trail now continues on the riverside in the middle of the valley. The river is with you for a good hour. Stop to fill your bottle in the river. There are several water points ahead as well.
The initial walk is through small bushes, with forested hills on either side. The tall pine trees on the hills make them look taller than they are. Soon, you see a foot bridge across the river. Get onto the other side of the river. Around 300 metres from the bridge, the trail starts ascending gradually. On this ascent, you come across a resort called Rinarani on your left. The resort is accompanied by one or two houses.
Just after this resort, the pine forests begin. The trail becomes steep and climbs over a series of switchbacks. It is quite a climb and requires strong legs. It is the most difficult stretch on this two day trek. The steep trail continues for half an hour until you reach a dirt track. The dirt track goes to Paniyal, about 5 km from this point. To reach this point, you have ascended about 1,200 ft – from 5000 ft to 6,200 ft.
Start early to Thakoor Top. The general rule of a summit trek is the earlier you start, the grander your views. And the views on this trek are something that you do not want to miss!
Follow the trail on the right side of the hut. You start through a clearing. There’s a resort whose construction has been abandoned here. Walk north and you will be able to spot Thakoor Top. Soon, the clearing gets left behind and wilderness envelops you again. The initial walk is easy until the trail starts ascending and hits a road head. The ascent till the roadhead is about 700 ft.
This road runs through the forest – the closest towns are Padampuri – 6 km on the right – and Bhowali – 12 km on the left. This road can be used for evacuation and transferring equipment. After walking on this road for about 300 metres, you hit a dense jungle trail again with rhododendron and oak trees.
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