Gangotri is known to be a pilgrimage spot over a tourist one, even though this is correct to an extent, things have begun to change lately. There used to be a time when the region was visited only by the spiritual and devotional kinds, now you find adventure enthusiasts, bike riders, nature lovers and more. The scenic route from Rishikesh to Gangotri, trek up to the Gaumuk have been factors attracting these alternate kind of tourists to the region. Gangotri is a town in the Uttarkashi district, perched at an altitude of 3100 meters on the banks of river Bhagirathi. Known to be the originating point of River Ganga and other mythologies associated with it has made this town a major pilgrimage destination.
A source of Bhagirathi river is also known as “Gomukh” or “Gomukhi”, where the river originates from the Gangotri Glacier flows down to be later called the river Ganga. Gomukh literally means “Mouth of a cow”, the reason for being labelled so is that the snout of Gangotri glacier where Bhagirathi emerges is said to have looked like it in olden days. It is located at a height of 13200 ft and located at about 18km from Gangotri from where one has to only trek to reach here. Since it is intermittently challenging and of high religious importance, it is a sought after trekking destination by the pilgrims and adventurers alike.
The temperature at Gomukh and your trek will be on an average around 15°C to 16°C during summer, and around 5°C to 6°C during September, October, and November. So cover and carry gears accordingly. It snows heavily during the winter making the area inaccessible.
Best Time to Trek
Mid-April to June and again September to early November are considered the best times for the trek. The monsoons and flooding are not to be risked and that’s why July and August are excluded. Winters closes the place from late November to March. Well, if you would like to avoid the crowd then best times to trek Gaumukh spring (April), summer (May and June) and autumn (October).
It is required to obtain a permit to be allowed to trek to Gaumukh which can either be applied for at District Forest Officer in Uttarkashi or the forest office in Gangotri. It is on a first come first served basis which limits to a total of 150 permits in a day in total. Keep in mind that these permits are valid only for 2 days, which can be extended if you plan a further trek to Tapovan from there.
In Uttarkashi, you can visit the DFO office located close to Bus stand and open on all working days during the working hours just like any other government office. All you will have to do to fill out a form, attach your government issued Id proofs such as PAN Card, Aadhar Card or Voter’s ID with a fee of INR 150 per person. The process remains the same in Gangotri forest office too except for their working days and hours. On the brighter side, they are operational on Sundays too while on weekdays their timing is limited to 8.00 am to 10.00 am, and then 5 pm to 7 pm.
You can also apply for this permit online on their official page where you will have to fill in the required details and upload the scanned copies of your ID proofs. An email of your confirmation will be received which will have be shown along with your original ID proofs either at the DFO office in Uttarkashi or the forest office in Gangotri to obtain the permit. You can choose to pay online or directly at these offices too.
Things to carry
- Most importantly good pair of trekking shoes.
- Comfortable clothes according to the time of the year you are visiting.
- Water bottles, snacks/ dry fruits.
- Pair of sunglasses, hats, sunscreen with a higher SPF, moisturizers.
- First aid and personal toiletries.
- Flashlight (extra batteries)
The route will include these major points-
Gangotri to Chirbasa( 9km), Chirbasa to Bhojbasa (5km), Bhijbasa to Gangotri Glacier (4km) which constitutes a total of 18km.
It is a moderately challenging trek and steep at some points. The beginning of the trek is comparatively easier i.e the stretch between Gangotri to Chirbasa, the trek will get challenging as you proceed further. The beginning of the trek is usually from around 100 meters behind the Gangotri temple where you have to climb some steep steps to reach the starting point of the trek. Fiding the starting point is no big of a task, any local will also point out the direction for you. The checkpoint of the trek opens at 6 AM which is about an hour’s walk, so it is advisable to start your trek as early as possible. Initial walk for a couple of kilometres is an easy walk which will get you gradually warmed up and accustomed.
Gangotri to Cheerbasa- The entire trekking route from Gangotri to Gaumukh is well marked which won’t cause any trouble in navigating. The stretch between Gangotri to Cheerbasa is of 9km and takes about 4 to 5 hours to reach. The name means “abode of Pine trees”, named so because of the number of pine trees you shall see there. You may come across a small Dhaba here where you can refill your energy.
Cheerbasa to Bhojbasa- This will be the last stretch where you will come across some vegetation that will go on decreasing as and how you get closer to the glacier. It is a distance of about 5km which will take about a moderate or easy walk of 2 to 3 hours. Bhojbasa is at an altitude of 12,450 feet which acts as a stopover to those heading to Tapovan or even Gaumukh with a couple of accommodation options and camping areas. You can either choose to break your journey and continue the trek next morning or head further to Gaumukh which would take about 4 hours from Bhojbasa.
Bhojbasa to Gaumukh- The steeps and boulders will begin to emerge from here and your trek a bit challenging further. After about a kilometre of trek you will have a beautiful view of Shivling peak, Bhagirathi group of peaks and Gangotri Glacier. The trail gets even more challenging with many boulders to tackle on from here which calls to exercise more caution. About 3 hours into the trek you will arrive at the mesmerizing glacier from where you shall see Bhagirathi originating.
Plastic Cover Fee
There is a plastic cover fee applicable here which is a refundable deposit amount at the beginning of the trek. After your permits are checked, counting of all your chips packets, polythene, chocolate covers, etc will take place. If your count of these doesn’t match on your return, you will not be refunded the amount. It is a good way to regulate the place to remain free of polythenes and plastics.
Mobile Network coverage is nill at Gaumukh and a couple of kilometres into the trek from Gangotri you will be out of network completely.
There is only one place of accommodation in this route i.e in Bhojbasa offering you dormitory type accommodation in GMVN rest house or at the Ashrams. These places will serve you only vegetarian food and hot water will be provided if in need.
- Permits can be acquired through fax as well.
- Wear a good pair of sports shoes, If possible preferably go for an ankle-length trekking shoe.
- Light and good jacket must be sufficient if you are trekking in April, May or June. Weather is quite unpredictable with cold and chilly winds blowing.
- There are places quite prone to landslides such as Gila Pahar, so keep caution while around such places.
- Trekking is are not advisable during the monsoons because of the slippery route, the region also being prone to cloudbursts, landslides, and blockages.
- The trek after Bhojbasa can be slightly difficult for a few of you.
- Do not attempt to trek alone in this region, don’t trek under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants and do not attempt night trekking.
- Carry basic medical aids, first aid kit and your medication if any.
- Consult your doctor before undertaking the activity, if you are experiencing any of the mountain sickness symptoms on your way such as fever, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, chest pain does not continue the trek any further, instead head back to Gangotri before the condition worsens.
- Carry dry fruits, chocolates and other snacks that you would like to munch on, and also plenty of drinking water.