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The Dodi Tal trek

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The relatively short Dodi Tal trek, which links the Gangotri and Yamunotri regions without straying into high glacial terrain, is one of Garhwal’s all-time classics. It’s not a difficult hike, but local villagers are keen to offer their services as porters or guides, and you should definitely avail yourself of their help if you want to wander off the beaten track and visit the villages. Carry as much of your own food as possible, and also your own tent. The best maps for this trek are the Ground Survey map of Garhwal, and Leomann map (sheet 7 in the India Series), both available from major Uttarakhand Tourism offices.

The trek is described below from east to west, starting from Uttarkashi on the way to Gangotri, and ending at Hanuman Chatti, 14km south of Yamunotri.

On DAY ONE, catch one of the three daily buses or an hourly jeep from Uttarkashi to Kalyani (1829m) via Gangotri (the first is at 7am; 1hr). From Kalyani, it’s a gentle 7km climb through fields and woodland to Agoda (2286m), where the Tourist Bungalow at the far end of the village is currently in a state of disrepair, so you will have to put up a tent for the night.

On DAY TWO, the trail from Agoda climbs beside a river and then zigzags steadily upwards through lush pine and spruce forests, with a couple of chai shops en route. After 14km and a final undulation, it arrives at Dodi Tal (3024m), a lake set against a backdrop of thickly forested hills. Near the basic forest bungalow in the clearing are chai shops and areas for camping.

Some trekkers consider the full 18km from Dodi Tal to Shima on DAY THREE too long and arduous, and prefer to split it into two days. Follow the well-marked path along (and often across) the stream that feeds Dodi Tal, which can get steep and entail scrambling; continue straight ahead, ignoring tracks that cross the trail, until you emerge above the treeline. After a further 1.5km the trail heads left to a small pass then zigzags up scree to Darwa Pass (4130m), about halfway to Shima. This is the highest point of the trek, providing superb panoramas of the Srikanta Range. If you’re ready to rest here, a leftward path beyond the top leads to camping and water. The main route goes down to a valley and then climbs sharply again. It takes about four more hours to reach Shima, where you rejoin the treeline. There’s basic hut accommodation, but bring your own food.

The beautiful twelve-kilometre trail down from Shima on DAY FOUR kicks off with a steep 1.5km scramble alongside a stream, then eases past forest and bugyal, where shepherds have their huts. A well-defined rocky path drops steadily through two villages and zigzags down to the Hanuman Ganga River. It emerges at Hanuman Chatti from where buses run via Barkot to Uttarkashi, Mussoorie and other points in Garhwal. The Dodi Tal trek can easily be tied in with hikes in the Har-ki-Dun and Yamunotri areas.

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