Trekking Trails, Darjeeling: In India, Trekking for recreation in an organized manner started in Darjeeling it is said. Perched at an altitude of over 7000 feet above sea level and surrounded with endless hectares of lush green tea shrubs and other hilly plants such as rhododendrons, magnolias, primulas, orchids and ferns, Darjeeling offers one of the loveliest Trekking Trails in India and not to mention the bird-rich forests on the slopes of the Himalayan Mountains offering breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga – world’s third highest mountain.
The following are the organized Trekking Trails from Darjeeling:
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 1:
Darjeeling > Ghoom > Pokhari > Sukhia > Maneybhanjyang > Tonglu > Gairibas > Sandakphu and return the same way (Total 118 kilometres in 4 days)
Offering views of the Kanchenjunga Mountain and other peaks around it in Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, this trek is the most popular among domestic and international trekkers, especially those with less than a week allotted for this sport. Jeeps and buses can also take you from Darjeeling up till Manybhanjyang which would take less than 90 minutes to cover the 26 kilometres. From Manybhanjyang (at 6000 feet elevation) to Tonglu (at 9800 feet elevation) is a steep climb with a little over moderate difficulty for about 3 hours. Enroute at Meghma, a small village, is a small Tea House run by the locals who sell freshly brewed Tea and snacks. Tonglu being a part of the
Singalila range offers a great view of the Nepalese valleys and of the plains of North Bengal with the snow fed Teesta on the east, the Koshi on the West and a number of smaller rivers between them, on a clear day. Pitching tents and camping around the Trekkers hut at Tonglu at 9800 feet from where the snow-capped peaks of Kanchenjunga Mountains are clearly visible is a major attraction and crowd puller.
From Tonglu, Garibas is a steep downhill for 9 kilometres dropping to 8600 feet and this route entails walking through tall shoots of bamboo which appear to be touching the sky from that high mountain-top.
Gairibas to Kalipokhri is a climb of 6 kilometres up to 10,400 feet elevation which takes 6 hours. Kalipokhri which means Blackpond got its name from its black coloured pond which is muddy and never freezes and where trekkers break for Tea.
From Kalipokhri the road descends to Bikhaybhanjyang- known as the valley of poison as the Aconite plants grow in this place which trekkers avoid touching and inhaling. From Bikhaybhanjyang to Sandakphu is a steep one-hour climb for four kilometres where you would find a Trekker’s Hut to stay at.
You would reach a whopping 12,000 feet altitude at Sandakphu which is 58 kilometres in total from Darjeeling. This point offers spectacular panoramic views of Mount Kabru (24,000 feet); Mount Jano ( 25,000 feet); Mount Pandim (22,000 feet) and the highest of the – Mount Kanchenjunga (28,169 feet). On a clear day, you can also view the Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world. That’s how close this trekking trail takes you to the Himalayan Range. On the Tibetan frontier on the east from here, a cluster of three mountains – Narsing, Dongkya and Chola are visible. The snowy mountain ranges of Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal which span more than 300 kilometres, is visible from here.
From the first week of April till the first week of June, the best time to trek up, bright purple and pink rhododendrons and yellow primulas bloom in abundance simply blanketing the whole area giving it a ‘Gulmarg’ appearance.
If you pick up speed then you can return to Maneybhanjyang in 2 days with a break at Garibas. Whether onward or back, commence trekking at dawn or as early as possible.
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 2:
Darjeeling > Ghoom > Pokhari > Sukhia > Maneybhanjyang > Tonglu > Garibas > Sandakphu > Phalut and return the same way (Total 160 kilometres in 6 days)
From Darjeeling to Phalut, you would have to cross Ghoom, Pokhari, Sukhia, Maneybhanjyang, Tonglu, Gairibas, Sandakphu enroute and is actually an extension of Trekking Trail # 1. From Darjeeling, to reach Sandakphu, follow the Trekking Trail # 1.
From Sandakphu to Phalut (also called Phalilung by the local) is a slight ascend to 12, 200 feet to one of the loftiest peak in the Singalila Range which falls 80 kilometres northwest of Darjeeling. The stretch from Sandakphu to Phalut comprises burned silver-fir forest which makes it a rare and beautiful sight that city-dwellers never get to see. You would be trekking parallel to the Himalayan Mountains on your left with the Kanchenjunga straight ahead. 4.5 hours of trek from Sandakphu would lead you to a roofless stone house atop a small ridge – area called Sabarkum - which is an important landmark on trekking trails as this point is the base for two trekking trails and is often referenced by trekkers. From Sandakphu, Sabarkum is 14 kilometres.
14 kilometres from Sandakphu is a Trekkers Hut to stay at or break the journey at. North from here the trail ascends through a meandering and undulated trail for half an hour to the final peak – Phalut. The interesting convergence of Sikkim, West Bengal and Nepal is visible from here. Kanchenjunga is less than 50 kilometres as the crow flies from Phalut but it appears much closer and larger. You get the feeling of being on the Himalayan Range atop one of those shiny snowy peaks.
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 3:
Darjeeling > Maneybhanjyang > Garibas > Sandakpu > Phalut > Sabarkum > Rammam > Rimbik and return the same way (Total 130 kilometres in 6 days)
In order to embark upon this route, follow the trekking trail from Darjeeling up till Sabarkum as mentioned in Trekking Trail # 2. At Sabarkum, go left of the roofless house which winds down through the forest for 16 kilometres and takes about 5 hours to Rammam.
In order to trek up to Rimbik, take the right-side trail from Phalut and head to Srikhola where the trail climbs up to Daragaon and climbs down to Rimbick – total of 25 kilometres from Phalut covered in 8-hour trek. From November to March sun sets by 4 pm in this region so trekking during these months is not advised.
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 4:
Darjeeling > Maneybhanjyang > Garibas > Sandakpu > Phalut > Gorkhey Khola > Samandian > Rammam and return the same way
To go on this trail, follow the Trekking Trail # 2 up till Phalut and from here take the trail that descends the ridge through the chestnut, hemlock and pine forest and meets the convergence of the two river-streams – Gorkhey Khola – tributary of River Rammam. This is the most picturesque point of the treks – river streams trickling down lush green forests and splashing on small rocks and pebbles where you can step into the cool and fresh Mountain water and gape at the Himalayan Mountains around you while you wade through. This is a very filmy locale which is yet to be tapped by the Bollywood.
From this point the trail continues up the climb to Samandian – a cozy small forest village on a small clearance in the forest from where the trail descends through the forest to a small stream and again ascends for an hour and a half to Rammam. From Phalut, this trail is 15 kilometres and takes 5 hours to cover it.
From Rammam the initial 9 kilometres road is a level walk which descends to Srikhola and again ascends steeply for a kilometre and levels out till Rimbick. From Rimbick Bazar, buses are available to take you back to Darjeeling.
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 5:
Darjeeling > Rimbick > Sandakphu and back the same way (Total 123 kilometres in 4 days)
From Darjeeling you can either trek up or take a bus to Rimbick which is 54 kilometres away and takes about 5 hours’ drive time. Buses depart at Darjeeling between 12 - 12:30 pm.
This trail entails walking up hill through fir, hemlock, chestnut and rhododendron forest for 6 hours which turns very colourful with thousands of wild flowers and lively with many birds chirping. A good spot to see some rare migratory birds. This trail through the forest meanders through Kalipokhari and Bikharbhanjang to the Sandakphu main road. You can return to Darjeeling the same way back or return via Gairibas and Manybhanjyang and Ghoom.
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 6:
Darjeeling > Ghoom > Maneybhanjyang > Tonglu > Gairibas > Sandakphu > Gurdum > Srikhola > Rimbick (6 days trek)
To go on this trail, follow Trail # 1 from Darjeeling to Sandakphu which is 58 kilometres away. From Sandakphu 3.5 hours of trekking takes you to Gurdum and an hour from there takes you to Srikhola. Being a cool and a lovely locale, it is recommended that you stay the night either in the private accommodation at Gurdum or in the Trekkers Hut at Srikhola. From Srikhola, Rimbick is 2 hours trek and from Gurdum, Rimbick is 4 hours trek.
Darjeeling Trekking Trail # 7:
Darjeeling > Tiger Hill and return the same way (26 kilometres in 1 day)
There are 2 trekking trails from Darjeeling to Tiger Hill – both of which offer great views of the forests and the snow-capped mountains.
A. Chowrasta > Toon-Soong > Aloo-Bari Village > Ghoom > Tiger Hill
The Tenzing Norgay Road in Darjeeling starts from Chowrasta and passes through the three villages on a level road with minimum vehicular traffic towards south and reaches Jorebungalow at Hill Cart Road from where the trail ascends 5 kilometres to Tiger Hill. At Aloo Bari, watch out for the old Monastery. On this trail you would go through small villages inhabited by the Rais, Tamangs, and the Bhutias who are of Tibet origin. You could take a break here and try the Tibetan delicacies like the ‘momos’, ‘gundruk’ with rice or dum aloo with roti.
B. From the Planters Club Motor Stand, Gandhi Road which runs parallel to the Hill Cart Road converges with the Hill Cart Road at Ghoom from where the trail ascends 5 kilometres to Tiger Hill.
As Darjeeling is a perennially green hill station on undulated terrain, it offers a lot more avenues for unorganized trekking which you can explore with your own group.