Hiking - Destination

Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: Trek to Alpine Lakes in the Himalayas

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Kashmir Valley is every trekker’s paradise. From spectacular views to challenging routes, it is the perfect destination to curb your trekking spirit. One such beauty of Kashmir Valley is the picture perfect- Kashmir Great Lakes trek, also known as the Kashmir Alpine Lakes trek. The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is your answer to which is the prettiest trek in India and one of the best treks in Kashmir. More commonly called as ‘KGL’, there are many treks which contest with one another and come close to being pretty but there is nothing which can beat the views and beauty of this amazing trek. The USP of the trek? Well, the highlight of this trek is that you will get to see 5 Alpine lakes on this trek and each of them being prettier than the previous one. Every day you will see a new lake which is more like an encouragement for the trekkers to just keep moving forward. The uniqueness of these Himalayan lakes is that they are surrounded by patches of snow. At times, you also see the snow melting from the mountains and getting into the lake waters! Here, you will get to see icebergs float on the blue waters of the lake and it is a delight to watch! 

This isn’t it, you also see a lot of lush green grasslands and colourful floral patches surrounding the lakes. The stunning scenery of Kashmir is a sure treat to your eyes. You will also come across the very famous meadows of Kashmir on this trek and as mentioned before the beauty of this trek just keeps increasing with each passing day of your trek. You will come across forests and patches of Pine and Maple trees, you will see a lot of valleys with horses and sheep grazing and you will also see a lot of unique flora and fauna on every new day of your trek! Hence, this just adds on to the fact that the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is the most beautiful trek in India. 

The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: An Overview

Know More Here:

kashmir great lakes
Gleaming Jewels of Himalayas (source)

Region: Jammu & Kashmir 
Duration of the Trek: 
8 days 
Difficulty of the Trek: Moderate to Difficult 
Trail type: Trail through the meadows and passes
Highest Altitude: 13,800 feet.
Best Time to Visit: July – September 
Approx. Trekking Kilometers:
72 kms
Livingit Rank: Enthusiast- Elite

About the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

This trek is known for showcasing the beautiful and blissful lakes in the Himalayan Kashmir region. You will come across the various exotic water bodies – Gadsar, Gadsar, Kishansar, Vishnasar, Satsar, Gangabal, Nundkol Lakes. On the way, you will also come across a few unknown lakes which are no less pretty than the famous ones! You will pass a lot of small villages in this 8-day long trek and enjoy mesmerizing views of Kashmir.  Apart from the lakes, you will encounter majestic Kashmir mountains giving way to green meadows, Pine and maple forests, silver Birch trees making you believe that you have visited the ‘Heaven on Earth’. 

The stunning views will boost your spirit with every move you take forward in this trek. The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is a must do in every trekker bucket list as it is an ideal form of hiking one can ever think of. The lakes on this trek are so surreal and untouched that it is more like a calendar view that one sees while walking on the paths of this trek. Snow-clad mountains, rocky terrains, green meadows, gushing streams and picturesque views are what this trek offers. 

kashmir great lake trek
Hidden gems in Kashmir

Best Time to Visit Kashmir Great Lakes

It is ideal to visit this paradise during the monsoon months of July, August, and September. Ideally, trekkers prefer Kashmir Great Lakes trek in September when the lakes look gleaming after the rainfall. The rains add a charm to the meadows, trails, forest bringing a fresh touch to the postcard landscape. During the monsoon season, the Kashmir weather does turn pretty chilly, but that’s the feeling which you ought to experience. The temperatures in Sonmarg (the base camp) range from 9°C to 30°C.

Average temperatures

Day:17°C-20°C; Night: 3°C-4°C

Kashmir Great Lakes Map

Follow this route master to the stunning lakes and have a hassle free trip

kashmir great lakes map
Map to the Serenity (source)

Reaching the Kashmir Great Lakes Base Camp

The starting point of this trek is Sonamarg. You will have to travel from Srinagar to Sonamarg. Srinagar can be reached via Delhi and other major cities in India via, railways or airways. 

sonmarg route
Route to the Meadow of Gold

By Road

There are many bus services from Delhi to Srinagar or Jammu as well. Once you reach Srinagar, you can either book the state-run buses or the deluxe buses that travel to the base camp of Kashmir Great Lakes. The distance between Srinagar to Sonmarg is 80 km.

By Rail

The rail routes from all the major cities are well connected to Srinagar railway station. On reaching the Jammu station, you can either drive or book a taxi or bus and reach Sonmarg.

By Air

You can book a flight to the Srinagar airport and from there take a taxi to Sonmarg. 

Livingit Tip-
It is always recommended that you reach Srinagar 24 hours prior to your trek so that you can get acclimatized to the environment. 

Short Itinerary

Day 1: Reach Sonamarg from Srinagar. 

Day 2: Sonamarg (7,780 ft) to Nichnai (11,838 ft); 9.6 km, 6.5 hours

Day 3: Nichnai (11,838 ft) to Vishnusar (12,011 ft); 12.5 km, 7 hours

Day 4: Explore Vishnusar and Kishansar Lakes

Day 5: Vishnusar (12,011 ft) to Gadsar (12,200 ft) via Gadsar Pass (13,850 ft); 11.5 km, 7.5 hours

Day 6: Gadsar (12,200 ft) to Satsar (12,100 ft); 8.6 km, 4.5 hours

Day 7: Satsar (12,100 ft) to Gangabal (11,651 ft); 9.5 km, 6 hours

Day 8: Gangabal (11,500 ft) to Naranag (7,450 ft) and drive to Srinagar; 11 km, 6 hours. 

Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: 8 Days of Sheer Bliss

Day 01: Arrival in Srinagar | Srinagar - Sonamarg

Altitude: 7,800 ft.
Duration: 4 hours
Distance Travelled: 80 km

You will arrive at Srinagar via land or air and you need to move towards Sonamarg. This will be a three-hour drive. The views on your drive are mesmerizing!  You can spend your day at Sonamarg and relax! Enjoy the natural beauty of this place and get accustomed to the climate. 

sonmarg views
Breathtaking views of Sonmarg

Day 02: Sonamarg – Shekdur – Nichnai

Altitude: 7,800 ft. to 11,500 ft.
Duration: 6 hours
Distance Travelled: 9 km
Trek gradient: Moderate. 3 hours of steep ascent followed by descent for an hour. Final 2 hours, a gentle ascent to Nichnai.

You need to start early and find yourself a place to eat a good breakfast at a local restaurant before you start the trek. Remember this will be the only place which you will find before the trek ends as there are no eateries on the way of the entire trek. You will then have to reach the banks of the Nallah Sindh, which is a tributary of the river Jhelum.

This is the starting point of your trek. 

The altitude will begin to rise from the start of the trek itself. Walk straight for ten minutes and then turn left to reach rich green grasslands and an alpine meadow. You will now hit a gentle climb which will continue for 30 minutes. This is a beautiful climb passing through Maple trees and Pine forests. Once you reach the top of this climb you will be able to see the panoramic view of your starting point and the entire city of Sonamarg. You can stop here for a while and look at the beauty of nature. Mountains, small hills and a lot of streams that you cross to reach here are truly mesmerising. Start walking downwards from the climb till you reach a scenic brook. Once you’ve reached here, you will again start the climb and this time you will only pass the dense forests of Maple which look extremely beautiful. You just need to walk straight without taking any diversions as they lead to small villages. Keep walking straight for almost 1.5 hours. 

Once you reach the top of this climb you will see beautiful meadows and a ridge. This meadow has no trees and has a lot of gentle slopes which look spectacular. Walk a little ahead to find shepherd huts and birch trees. These are built on flatlands. As you trek further in the day you will reach Shekdur. This can be identified by the various snow-covered mountains that surround this region. 

You can eat your lunch here take a short break and march ahead to reach Nichnai. After an hour, you will reach a valley. You will also pass a brook and a steam which will be going uphill. Cross this beautiful valley surrounded by huge peaks. Be careful as the walk is slightly uneven and very rocky. This terrain will continue for an hour. Walk ahead till you reach a meadow with gentle slopes. You need to walk till you spot three gorgeous mountains which have snow on their peaks. Once you reach here, you’ve come to your campsite for the night! Stay here, relax and enjoy the beauty of mother earth! 

Sonmarg base camp
Journey begins here (source)

Day 3: Nichnai to Vishnusar lake

Altitude: 11,500 ft. to 12,000 ft.
Duration: 6 hours
Distance Travelled:12 km
Trek gradient: Moderate. 1.5 hours of gradual ascent followed by an hour-long climb to the pass. Steep descent from the pass for about an hour easing off into a flat walk.

On this day, you will have to walk for long hours but it is an amazing experience that you will gain. Walking through challenging meadows and witnessing some amazing scenic views is what you will see today. Get an early start say about 8 am so that you have enough time to enjoy and keep taking breaks as you reach your destination for the day. As you start your walk, the first thing you will pass is the Nichnai Pass or the Vishnusar Berry. This place is visible at a distance from your campsite. It is a 30-minute walk and you will have to cross the river. Once you reach the end of the river stay to its left. For an hour continue your walk to the left of the bank. 

You will notice that you have started ascending to a meadow. Next one hour is a climb to the pass. The Nichnai pass lies at an altitude of 13,500 feet. and is a moderate climb. You will have to do a short descent to reach the Vishnusar Lake. This is a deep blue lake and can be spotted from a distance because of the colour. 

This pass is slightly deceptive so you need to be careful with the route you take. The trail turns inwards, twice till you reach the Nichnai Pass. You can see the Sonamarg valley from here and the views are spectacular. If you are using a BSNL network then you will get your phone networks as well. 

When you reach the Nichnai pass, you will feel as if you have reached a tunnel. On your left, you will see a lot of snow clad peaks on your right you will see high land raises. You will start feeling the altitude rise as you are 13,500 feet above sea level. But worry not, from here the trail will descend. For the next one hour, you will be crossing heavy grasslands which will have bright red flowers all around. 

You can stop here for a while and enjoy the mystic views. You will see a huge waterfall to your left gushing with a lot of water that joins the river. On your left, you will see snow-clad Himalayan mountains and to your right, you will see the barren but exemplifying Ladakh mountain ranges. You need to walk straight between the two ranges on the green meadows. Stay to the left of the stream. The water is ice cold so be careful. This is a long walk. You will reach a valley after 1.5 hours of walking straight. The stream that you are walking along originates from the Vishnusar Lake. As you reach a flatter land make that your campsite. The Vishnusar Lake is further ahead and is on a height and cannot be seen from the campsite. 

vishnusar lake
Trek to the stunning beauty (source)

Day 4: Explore Vishnusar and Kishansar Twin Lakes

The Vishnusar Lake in Kashmir is located at a height of 100 feet from the campsite. You need to walk towards the left of the stream (without crossing it) and keep moving forward. Once you reach the lake you will see it nestled in four huge mountains. In the lake, you will see the reflection of the Kishansar Peak which looks very amazing. The unique part about this lake is that its colour will depend on the time of the day and the clouds in the sky. If you reach here during sunrise, the water is colourless. The lake gets its colours as the sun gets brighter. When the weather is absolutely clear and it is sunny you will see the colour of the lake as blue. As the day progresses towards the dusk, the lake has a melange of blue and green shades. Whatever be the colour, this lake looks extremely pretty at any given time of the day. 

vishnusar and kishansar lakes
Treat to eyes and soul (source)

Next, you now need to explore the Kishansar Lake. This is 500 feet higher than Vishnusar Lake. It is located at the base of the Kishansar Peak, the reflection of which can be seen in Visnusar Lake. It will take you around 45 minutes to an hour to get here. Though it’s an easy climb. Stay to the right of the stream. You can choose many trails here as they all have their own uniqueness and they all lead to the top. 

This lake too is a pristine blue waterbody and has a huge meadow to its right. You will see a ridge which divides the lake and meadow, this is the Gadsar Pass. You can spend time here in looking at the amazing views this spot has to offer! It is a photographer’s paradise. 

kashmir great lakes
Masterpiece of God (source)

Day 5: Vishnusar to Gadsar via Kishansar Lake and Gadsar Pass

Altitude: 12,000 ft. to 12,500 ft. via 13,800 ft.
Duration: 5 hours
Distance Travelled:10 km
Trek gradient: Moderate. 1.5-2 hours of steep ascent followed by 1 hour of a steep descent, easing off into a level walk.

Now you need to start climbing on top of the ridge. You will see a thin line going towards the mountain side. You need to follow this track. This climb is close to 1.5 – 2 hours. Another 45 minutes of climbing up you will see an unimaginable view – both the lakes, Vishnusar and Kishansar in full view. This view will be with you till you reach the end of the pass. This pass is called as the Gadsar Pass. It has an altitude of 13,800 feet. which is the highest point in the entire trek. You will now witness a steep ascent for 2 hours which will be followed by a gentle walk in the meadows. 

On the opposite side of the pass, you will see some small pretty lakes as well. Further ahead of these lakes you will see some snow – clad peaks at a distance. These peaks lie outside our Line of Control (LoC).
You need to keep walking down straight. As you walk further you will come across a lake to the left called Yamsar. This lake is associated to Lord Yama. Some locals will also tell you a few stories about this lake! As you walk further, you will see another pretty, pristine lake. As you walk more for an hour you will reach the meadows. You will see a narrower valley now covered with multi coloured flowers. You can also see the pretty purple Iris flower here. There will be a point where you will see a purple bed, this is the Iris bed and is the prettiest point in Gadsar. Gadsar is at the base of many snow clad mountains. There are blue/purple flowers on one side and snow on the other side. Gadsar is at 12,500 feet high. This becomes your campsite for day 5. Not a lot of people camp here but this is a beautiful place to rest. You can also find an abandoned army shelter here. 

If you are not comfortable in camping here, you can move further and reach the Gadsar Army Camp. You need to walk downwards for 30 minutes to reach this place. This place is close to a small blue lake. The altitude now isn’t very high. If you walk further below, you will come across some shepherd huts. You need to walk for 30 minutes more, to reach the army camp, your campsite. You will see around 6-8 army men here. You cannot move ahead from here if you don’t have the permission. If you want to move ahead, you can get the permission from the headquarters which is around 5 kms ahead of the army camp. This headquarter has a satellite phone as well which is used by the army. 

gadsar pass
The highest point of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek (source)

Day 6: Gadsar to Satsar 

Altitude: 12,500 ft. to 12,000 ft.
Duration: 6 hours
Distance Travelled:12 km
Trek gradient: Moderate; 1.5 hours of steep ascent followed by a level walk.

You need to cross the stream and take the trail which goes up to the mountain. This trail resembles the western ghats. It is covered with a lot of trees. Walk for around an hour and you will be higher than 1000 feet already. The trail will move left in a circle as you cross the river valley. The trail now becomes flat. You will see deep craters to your left. This place is called as Maengandob. Ahead lie huge mountain ranges and to your right, you will see a small ridge. You camp here if you chose to camp at the Gadsar Lake previous day. However, if you chose to camp at the army HQ, then you can move a little more forward and camp near the first Satsar Lake. Satsar has seven lakes. Most people find 4-5 lakes covered with water and remaining are dry or covered with snow depending on the season. 

On your right, beyond the ridge is the army check post, Satsar. This is the 3rd line of defence from the LoC. You will have to go through a process of identity checking and questions here as the previous one. About 15 minutes from here is the first Satsar Lake. This is a big lake filled with water and looks gorgeous. This is your campsite for the day. 

satsar lake
Serene Satsar lake (source)

Day 7: Satsar to Gangabal Twin Lakes

Altitude: 12,000 ft. to 11,500 ft.
Duration: 6 hours
Distance Travelled: 9 km
Trek gradient: Difficult. 30 minutes each of gradual ascent and descent followed by a steep ascent for about 45 and then by a steep descent. Similarly, ascending and descending trail all the way through.

This trail has some steep descends and ascends with a lot of twists and turns. Half an hour from your campsite you will reach the biggest lake of Satsar. You will see a lot of boulders here. In fact, that is the only thing which is visible here. The biggest of the Satsar lakes is also the last in the sequence. Once you reach this lake your trail will descend. On your left, after walking for half an hour you will see a forest. The right-hand side is a ridge line which is about 1000 feet higher than your existing altitude. You are currently at 11,800 feet. You will need a minimum of an hour to reach this ridge. You will see two more ridges from here. The trail is barren and full of rocks. You will see many Gujjar huts on the opposite side along with a lot of pine trees. This is a mix of barren lands and greenery. After 2 hours of walking, you will reach the top of the third ridge. This is at an altitude of 13,400 feet. The view is surprising as 2 lakes lie next to each other when seen from here. 

Gangabal lake
Home to wildlife and flora  (source)

You will also see a stream which will take the water from the higher lake passing it down to the lower one. You will also see 2 small lakes at a distance from here. Their names are unknown by are biggest amongst the set is the Gangabal. Gangabal is 1400 feet below you. You can take pictures here before you start to move downwards. You can fill in your water bottles here. Now comes steep descent for about 1.5 hours. You will see a meadow to your left. You can see the destination when you reach down but it is still pretty much a walk! You will now reach a wooden log bridge which is on the shores of Lake Nandkol. This is not as pretty as the other lakes. It is one of the most common campsite and hence the beauty of this place has gone down as a lot of people trek up from Naranag to Gangabal and go back as a weekend getaway. This lake lies at the base of the Harmukh peak. The lakes Gangabal and Nandkol are famous spots for fishing Trout. Gangabal lake is 20 minutes away from Nandkol. You should use the bridge and not cross the stream here.The bridge is man-made. 

gangabal and nandkol lake
Lake at the base of Harmukh peak (source)

Day 8: Gangabal to Naranag

Altitude: 11,500 ft to 7,450 ft
Duration: 6 hours, 
Distance Travelled:11 km
Trek gradient: Moderate. A mix of ascents and descents for 6 km followed by a very steep descent all the way down.

This is the last day of your trek and has a lot of steep descent. It can put your toes and knees in a situation too! You need to move downwards from the Gangabal campsite towards the tree line. Some mobile networks work here so you can finally get in touch with your loved ones and share information of your well-being. After an hour, you will reach a place which has some civilization. You will see homes made from logs here. You will also see a forest, don’t walk into it. You are going on a zig-zag trail for a while playing around with altitude until you finally enter the Pine forests! Now the major descent begins. It’s a muddy, well-defined trail.  After walking further, you will reach Narang. You can drive to Srinagar from here and stay there for the night. 

camping at gangbal lake
Make this your home (source)

Things to Carry for the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

Following things are a must for this trek:

  • Trekking shoes: You need to carry good quality and comfortable trekking shoes. These should have a good grip as the terrain has high ascends and descends. 
  • 40 – 60 litres backpack: This is a must because it is an 8-day long trek. The backpack should be sturdy and easy to carry
  • Woollens: As you will be travelling on high altitude woollens are a must. 
  • Thermals: You can wear thermals and go because the temperatures of this trek are low. This will also be less weight on your back. 
  • Jacket/ Sweater: You need to carry good warm jacket or sweater on this trek. This will help you keep warm throughout.
  • Trek pants and Tees: Carry 2- 3 pairs of each because this is a long trek and involves passage through a lot of streams and lakes. It is always good to have an extra pair of clothing for emergency purposes as well. 
  • Sunglasses and Caps: Carry a pair of sunglasses and cap to keep you away from the tan and sunburns. Sunglasses with a good UV protection are good to avoid snow blindness and help you with a clear vision
  • Hand gloves: Carry a pair of good grip hand gloves to protect you from the cold. 
  • LED lamp or Torch: This is a must on any trek. You should also not forget to carry extra batteries along.
  • Socks: Carry 3-5 pairs of socks so that you never run out of them! 
  • Toiletries: As this is a long trek you need to carry your own personal stuff. Always remember to carry sunscreen – SPF 40+, moisturizer, light towel, lip balm/chapstick, small soap, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste and hand sanitizer. 
  • Cutlery: Carry a mug, plate, bowl and spoon for sure on this trek. Water bottles (minimum 2) are required on this trek. 
  • Medical Kit: Prepare a medical kit of medicines which you will need or should have when you go on this trek.

Getting Fit for the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

The preparation for getting fit for this trek needs to start at least 45 to 60 days prior to the trek. You need to focus on strength, cardio and flexibility to do this trek with ease. Look out for exercises which strengthen your core, build your stamina and make you move your body with ease. You need to focus on strengthening your legs, your abs and build muscles. This can be done by doing regular exercise, jogging, squats, cycling or swimming. Make sure you start exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes in a day and reach up to 60 – 90 minutes till then time your trek day has arrived. 

Summing Up

There are a plethora of trekking places in Kashmir, but trust us, the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is a beautiful journey in the valleys of nature. Every trekker has returned with tons of memories and experiences worth sharing. In fact, Kashmir trekking routes spoil you with spectacular views and paths that will make you stay in the lap of the Mother Earth. This trek is known for its trail and the abundant mountain ranges and water bodies present on the route. You cannot fall in love with nature and the heaven on earth – Kashmir, even more, when you are on this trek. The KGL trek is a must do and should be the top priority of your trek bucket list because if you have not done this then you are missing on to some great trekking experience. 

So it’s time you take a break from work and plan a vacation with your travel buddies to this gorgeous and much-talked trek in India. 

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