Hirpora Lakes is the largest cluster of alpine lakes in Kashmir. There are 30 lakes in and around Hirpora. And among them, 20 lakes are relatively closer to each other. The lakes are well fed from glaciers. The mountain ranges form part of three districts of Jammu and Kashmir – Shopian, Rajouri, and Poonch.

Hirapora has remained famous for the Wildlife Sanctuary it holds. The sanctuary is famous for Pir Panjal Markhor. This markhor is critically endangered and became the prime reason for the establishment of this sanctuary.

The Hirpora Lakes Trek starts from Pir Ki Gali of Shopian District. This is a drive of around 90km from Srinagar. The drive to Pir Ki Gali is scenic. As the drive winds from Srinagar, it goes through gorgeous orchard fields that stretch to a seemingly unfinished length. After covering the orchards of the Shopian district, the road takes an uphill path while going up to Pir Ki Gali. The road is a traditional road called Mughal Road.

Pir Ki Gali itself is a beautiful location. This offers a panoramic view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. It is precisely from Dongi Marg where this trek is mostly started.

The gradient of the trek is difficult. It in no way is for beginners.

Handu sar lake of Hirpora lakes trek
Handusar Lake. Pic taken by Inayatullah Bhat

Why do we call Hirpora Lakes Trek the Marathon Trek of Alpine Lakes?

This trek takes you to the 20 high-altitude alpine lakes. The concentration of these lakes is in the middle of the mountain ranges that connect the Shopian, Poonch, and Rajouri districts together. In a single day, you will be seeing more than 5 lakes around which is not what we get to see in all of the treks here in India.

This is probably the first-ever trek that has as many as 20 lakes accessible. Given more days to the itinerary, one could explore more lakes in its vicinity. The lakes are other-worldly. The trek also gets you to see the third-largest alpine lake of Kashmir called Baghsar Lake.

Sonasar lake
Sonasar Lake. Pic taken by Inayatullah Bhat

Short Itinerary of the Hirpora Lakes Trek

Day 1: Srinagar to Pir Ki Gali

The first day of this trekking journey is a long drive from Srinagar to Pir Ki Gali. The drive is rewarding and goes via apple orchards after leaving Srinagar city. The road winds up through the famous Mughal Garden until it reaches the breathtaking pass of Pir Ki Gali. The pass is motorable and used to be a traditional road for shepherds and local nomads.

We will reach Pir Ki Gali by evening. After a short hike for about half an hour, we will reach our campsite. The campsite is at an altitude of 3485m.

Day 2: Acclimatization Day

This is an acclimatization day. You will be hiking around the day, relaxing and preparing yourself for the next day. Your trek leader will give you a detailed talk on the trek and its terrain and how safely we will be able to finish it.

Day 3: Pir Ki Gali to Handu Valley

This is our first trekking day. The trail kick starts from a lush meadow and gives you a good feeling about the entire trek. The vastness of this valley will amaze you. The unending mountain ranges and the blue sky above is a treat to the eyes. However, the trail turns quite rough and rocky throughout the day. The gradient of the day is difficult. The total distance of the day is around 20km.

The first lake you will see is Chandansar. After Chandansar one has to cross a pass called Jaddi Gali. The altitude of Jadi Gali is around 4100m. The trail then winds to Handu valley. We will see on the way lakes like Sonasar, Handu Sar, Barnai Sar and Lukhsukh Sar. From the edge of the mountain of Sonasar Lake, we will see another lake called Kadchi Sar. We will return to our camp at Handu Valley.

The traverse has another mountain pass called Kadchi Pass. The altitude of the pass is 41600m.

The campsite at Handu Valley is at an altitude of 3910m.

Day 4: Exploration of Lakes from Handu Valley

Again, the gradient of the day is difficult. The terrain is rocky and has pass crossings. The ascends and descends make this day quite tiring and challenging. The total distance we will cover is around 17 km.

This day we will be going towards Barnai Sar, the lake we already saw the previous day. We will cross the Bagh Pass which stands at an altitude of 4150m. Then push forward and see the day’s first lake called Baghsar Lake. This lake is the third-largest alpine lake in Kashmir. Enjoy the breathtaking view of this lake and take a short snack break here.

We will push forward and take a trail that goes into Pada valley. This beautiful valley falls in Rajouri District. In our first 3 days, we will be in Shopian District. In Pada Valley, behold the Pada Sar Lake. And adjacent to it is another lake of the same name. However, the second lake is smaller than the first one. We will take a right towards Chambara Pass which has an altitude of around 4200m.

From the top of the pass, we will see two lakes called Chambara Lakes. The lakes sit cozily as you look down from the pass. These lakes fall in Poonch District. From the pass, we will descend back and not go towards the Poonch side. We will take a trail that goes towards Dhakiar Peak. This peak reaches an altitude of 4660m. As we will be trekking towards the base of this peak, we will first cross the famous Neja Pass which is at an altitude of 4350m. Towards the left of this pass, we will see a lake called Neja Sar.

We will return from the lake towards Neja Pass and descend towards Dhakiar Peak. Once we descend, we will reach a beautiful valley called Beliyan valley. Here two gorgeous lakes are sitting by the name Beliyan Lakes. From these lakes, we will take a trail that takes us to Dhakiar Pass. On the other side of this pass is the famous Dhakiar Sar Lake.

This is the farthest point of the day. We will traverse the same trail without any detour and reach back to Handu Valley. The trail goes beside Jaddi Nallah. This is the tiring and challenging day of Hirpora Lakes Trek.

Overnight camping at Handu Valley.

Day 5: Handu Valley to Nandansar (Exploration of Poonch Lakes)

We will cover a distance of around 22km today. We will reach back to Chandansar and take a left turn towards Katori Sar lake. After seeing the lake we will have to cross a pass called Katernal Pass which has an altitude of 3900m. However, we will only reach till the top of the pass. From the top, we will see the beautiful lake called Katernal Sar lake. This lake is in the Poonch district. However one doesn’t have to reach the pass to see this lake. We can avoid this pass and go by around the bottom of this mountain and can see the lake quite closely.

Once we have seen the lake, we will come back to Katori Sar lake. The trail goes through fields and then reaches the two more lakes called Deing Sar and Neil Sar lakes. To see one more lake we will have to take a near-circular trail to reach Kalditchni Sar lake. From here, we push a climb of about 150m that takes us to the famous Nandansar Lake.

We will camp in the vicinity between Chandansar and Nandansar Lake.

Day 6: Return to Pir Ki Gali to Srinagar.

This is the last day of the trek and we will leave towards Pir Ki Gali via Nanga Pahad which is at an altitude of 4200m. The total distance of the trek is around 15 km. From Pir Ki Gali we will drive to Srinagar.

Beliyan Sar
Beliyansar Lake. Pic taken by Ahsan Mohsin

Frequently asked Questions about Hirpora Lakes Trek

What is the best time for Hirpora Lakes Trek?

The best time for this trek is summer. In winters the entire range is covered in snow and lakes are inaccessible.

How difficult is Hirpora Lakes Trek?

This is a difficult level trek and it requires quite a fair level of fitness. This trek is not for beginners or those who live a sedentary life. Further, this trek has quite a rough terrain. It has rocky and boulder sections and goes over many high-altitude passes.

How many kilometers is this trek?

This trek is around 85km.

Baghsar - Hirpora lakes
Baghsar Lake – the third largest alpine lake of Kashmir. Pic taken by Inayatullah Bhat

Inputs: Inayatullah Bhat.

Note: This is from our series of an exploration of offbeat and traditional treks. We don’t run any fixed departures for these treks, however all the groups we take for such offbeat treks are customized. Please contact us if you want us to organize this trek for you.

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