Anyone who has done just 1 or 2 treks anywhere across Himalayas in India would have heard about the Har Ki Dun trek. Har Ki Dun is a very popular and well-known trek among the entire trekking community. Trekkers have been coming to do this trek for at least last 5 decades. There are good reasons why Har Ki Dun is such a popular trek. The experience of doing Har Ki Dun trek has so many different elements that everyone happens to love it. Har Ki Dun trek can be done almost throughout the year except the core monsoon season. It is a suitable trek for people of almost all age groups who have reasonable fitness level and who stay physically active in their daily life.
Generally Har Ki Dun is a 5 days trek from Sankri to Sankri or it can also be done in 6 days with more time available for excursions. There are several different places that can be visited along with Har Ki Dun trek and that makes the trek even more complete in every sense. The local culture and village life is also a big attraction of this trek.
We will discuss all these things in detail in a point-wise manner and compare them with the Kedarkantha trek but first, lets talk something about the Kedarkantha trek too.
Har Ki Dun valley partly covered in snow with Har Ki Dun Gad (river stream) in the month of April
The Kedarkantha Trek has also become hugely popular specially as a winter trek in last 10 years. During the peak winter season every year, from December to March, thousands of trekkers come to experience Kedarkantha trek. Generally, Kedarkantha is a 4 days trek from Sankri to Sankri. But it can be done in 3 or 2 days as well. The main attraction of Kedarkantha trek is the snow-laden trail going through the forest. The trekking trail of Kedarkantha is quite steep all the way from Sankri to the Kedarkantha summit but it is not a very long trail. It is 12 KMs long from the base to the summit. Kedarkantha is a good trek in its own capacity but from last few years, it has started getting a bit overcrowded.
Let's now discuss all the points in detail and compare both the treks in various aspects. Then we will be able to conclude which trek is better among these two treks.
Sunrise from the summit of Kedarkantha in the month of December
Kedarkantha is a Seasonal trek while Har Ki Dun is a All Season Trek
Kedarkantha trek can also be done throughout the winter and summer season. But it is preferred only in the peak winter season from December till March. Because the biggest attraction in Kedarkantha trek is trekking and camping on snow. It is true that during the winter season, Kedarkantha trek is very beautiful when the whole trek route, campsites and all the mountains around are completely white and covered by snow. Without snow, its just an ordinary trek and many experienced trekkers might not even do it, including me. It gives the same kind of experience every season and there is no change or variety in the experience.
On the other hand, Har Ki Dun is a all season trek and can be done in the winter season, in summers and also during the post-monsoon months of autumn. Ven in the monsoons the tyrek is beautiful but its due to the uncertainty of road travel that this trek is not done in the monsoons. Overall, Har Ki Dun trek is open for at least 8 months every year while Kedarkantha trek is only enjoyable for around 4 months of winter and springs. The advantage we get due to this, is trekking to Har Ki Dun in different seasons gives a completely different experience to trekkers. Due to this, you can even do the Har Ki Dun trek more than just once in different seasons. Post-monsoon, Har Ki Dun trek opens from the month of September. At this time, you can see the maximum green cover in the valley and on the route, the waterfalls and the river will have ample water and it is the best time to experience the flora of this region. The Har Ki Dun trek remains open till the end of December before the onset of the harsh winter season. At this time, the valley becomes a little dry but snow starts falling from October so it has all the elements and beauty associated with a winter trek. After the peak winter season is over, Har Ki Dun trek opens again from around mid-March. The whole valley, the land, rivers, trees and the people are seen as if they are reborn after the winters. Everything gets a new lease of life when snow melts and the melting snow also gives the gift of water and more fertile lands. So again, this season is a very unique time to experience the beauty of Har Ki Dun trek. The trek remains open till the very end of the summer season in June and the weather becomes very pleasant at this time.
Har Ki Dun takes you very close and beneath those Giant Peaks which we see from Kedarkantha Peak
The whole area of Sankri valley, Har Ki Dun trek and Kedarkantha trek come under the Garhwal Himalayas. The Garhwal Himalayas have a sub-range in this region called Saraswati sub-range. This Saraswati sub-range has some of the tallest and most beautiful mountains of this region which are Black Peak or Kalanag (6387 meters), Swargarohini mountain with 6 peaks (tallest at 6252 meters) and two peaks of Bandarpunch mountain (tallest at 6316 meters). All these mountains are above 6000 meters and each one of them is amazingly beautiful and awe-inspiring.
You can see all these mountains from the summit of Kedarkantha but from a long distance. On the other hand, the Har Ki Dun trek takes you extremely close and right beneath these ranges. In fact, if you walk towards Jaundhar glacier from Har Ki Dun valley, you walk right beside the Swargarohini mountains. When you can't take your eyes off of these giant Himalayan peaks from a distance, imagine how exciting it must be to go and view the same mountains from close proximity. The experience is just unbeatable.
Har Ki Dun Peak, Haata peak (1st picture), Bandarpunch west and east (2nd picture; in the middle) seen from Har Ki Dun
Har Ki Dun is much less crowded than Kedarkantha Trek
When anyone plans to do a trek in the Himalayas, they want to do it with at least some solitude. There is a difference between trekking and other kinds of tourism activities. Trekking doesn't feel like trekking if there are few hundred people camping at the same place. This is exactly what happens on Kedarkantha Trek during the peak winter season. While the trek itself remains as beautiful as ever, but unfortunately more popularity during a particular season and more crowd makes it less attractive.
We at Himalayan High believe that trekking is a kind of tourism but it is also a sport and a good trekking experience in solitude can lead one to a different path in life. We all must try to trek in the Himalayas the way it is supposed to be done; in solitude, without leaving anything behind except footprints and not causing any sort of damage to nature. Har Ki Dun fulfils all these expectations. Even if there are more people doing this trek at the same time, there are so many different places available for camping that you'd never feel that the trek is crowded.
Experience of the local culture on Har Ki Dun trek
The Har Ki Dun trail passes through several local villages of this region. These villages are Taluka, Dhatmir, Gangad, Puoni, Seema and Osla. Osla is the largest, most populous and the last village in this valley. All these villages are together called Borasu villages. These have a very distinctive local identity and culture. While trekking through this route, one can experience a small slice of the local life. The trekkers also pass through the farmlands of these villages. There are local temples in all the villages but the most important one is Lord Someshwar Devta temple in Osla which was earlier called the Duryodhana temple. There is also an option available of staying in a local village homestay during the Har Ki Dun trek.
All these aspects are missing in the Kedarkantha trek as Kedarkantha trail doesn't pass through any village. It starts from Sankri and then the entire trail is in the forest and open areas.
Lord Someshwar Devta temple (Duryodhana temple) in Osla
The hanging villages of Osla, Puoni and Gangad
These villages on the Har Ki Dun trek route when seen from the valley, look exactly as if hanging in the sky on the side of the mountain. These are very unique villages and such villages are usually not seen anywhere else even in the Himalayas. Specially the village of Osla is an attraction in itself. So this is another important thing not to be missed on the Har Ki Dun trek.
As already said above, Kedarkantha trek route doesn't pass through any local village.
Gangad village on Har Ki Dun trek route
More vibrant & vivid nature on Har Ki Dun Trek
On Har Ki Dun trek route, there is just so much variety in nature and landscape that it feels and looks like a new trek even if you do it more than once. As discussed in the first point, the view of the nature and the valley also changes with changing seasons. The trail passes through the valley, pine and deodar forests, villages, across the Har Ki Dun Gad (river stream in the valley) and over the small river bridges and mountain slopes. The variations of the Har Ki Dun trail don't end just here. When you reach the Har Ki Dun valley, the tall and daunting peaks of Har Ki Dun, Haata and Swargarohini just completely capture your attention. The wide open expanse of the Har Ki Dun valley with tall mountains all around is just something that can't be compared with anything else in the Himalayas.
Kedarkantha trek route comparatively is quite monotonous and it has less variations and changes in scenery and the trail.
Flora & Fauna on Har Ki Dun Trek
The flora and fauna that can be experienced on Har Ki Dun trek route is also a big advantage over Kedarkantha trek. At the beginning itself, going from Sankri to Taluka, you drive through a very dense forest of Pine, Deodar, Sal, Oak and Rhododendron. The same kind of dense forest continues beside the trail and around the villages till Osla and beyond. You will also see many walnut trees on the trail. It is not just big trees seen on the trail, in fact, the smaller plants, shrubs, bushes and wild flowers and berries are even more interesting to the experienced eyes.
Due to this dense forest cover and variety of flora, the fauna in this region is also quite abundant. This whole area is a part of 'Govind Pashu Vihar National Park'. It is a reserved forest area with strict rules imposed by Uttarakhand Forest Department. Among the large mammals found in this region are Asian black bear, the brown bear, the common leopard, the musk deer, the bharal, the Himalayan tahr and the serow. Apart from this, the mammal called The Ghost of the Himalayas, the Snow Leopard was also known to be found in this region but it has never been sighted in last one decade.
The chances of sighting some large or small mammals in this region are always rare but there is still a higher possibility of this happening on the Har Ki Dun trek due to its remoteness and wilderness.
Some wild flowers seen on Har Ki Dun trek route
Chance of visiting Ruinsara Tal with Har Ki Dun Trek
Ruinsara Tal is in the adjacent valley to Har Ki Dun valley. Ruinsara lake is relatively unknown but totally worth visiting. It is a large Himalayan lake with Swargarohini, Kalanag and Bandarpunch mountains in its vicinity. In the winter season, the lake gets frozen. This lake is also enroute the Bali Pass trek route going towards Yamunotri. The chance of going to visit and camp at Ruinsara Tal must never be missed with Har Ki Dun trek. This is probably the most beautiful location to camp at in this entire region and both valleys of Har Ki Dun and Ruinsara. Its beauty can not be described in words, it can only be experienced.
We have a much more detailed article available on Why shouldn't you miss Ruinsara Tal with Har Ki Dun trek.
Ruinsara Tal adjacent to Har Ki Dun valley
Chance of viewing Jaundhar glacier from Har Ki Dun
If you have never seen a glacier before, you must experience it at least once. We trek around 3 KMs ahead of Har Ki Dun valley and reach the Jaundhar glacier viewpoint. From here, we can see the Jaundhar glacier quite clearly. The view of this massive moving river of ice spread across a length of many kilometers and surrounded by high mountains is something you will never be able to forget.
Kedarkantha trek does not offer any such views to the trekkers.
Better camping experience on Har Ki Dun Trek
The whole trail of Har Ki Dun trek has many different places available for camping. These places are by the river in the valley or higher up on a flat area on the mountain slopes. Some places like Kalkati dhar and Boslo are completely surrounded by thick forest cover. If you trek to the adjacent Ruinsara valley, camping near the Ruinsara tal is the best camping experience in the entire region. Apart from this, it is also possible to stay in local village homestays sometimes in Osla and Gangad.
Kedarkantha trek doesn't offer so many different options of camping and homestay to the trekkers.
While we are not taking anything away from the Kedarkantha Trek, because it is also an absolutely stunning trek especially during the winter months and when the trail is covered by snow. But owing to all the above points we have discussed in detail, it can be safely concluded that Har Ki Dun is really a better trek than Kedarkantha winter trek. The variety of landscape, the flora & fauna, the nature of Har Ki Dun trail and local villages & villagers, all of these things together give just the right mix of nature, culture and the amazing Himalayan views to give you an unforgettable trekking experience. A visit to Ruinsara Tal along with Har Ki Dun trek also makes this trek complete in every sense and it must not be missed by any trekking enthusiast.