Pabbar Valley Trail – Offbeat Excursion in the Apple Belt of Himachal
Pabbar Valley is ahead of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh (India) and located in the still non-touristy mountains amongst the most prosperous apple orchard belt of India, with deep forests of deodar and oak. The route for Pabbar Valley branches off the national highway NH22 (the old Hindustan-Tibet Road) from Theog, and heads towards the Pabbar Valley and beyond.
Lying in the lap of virgin nature below the breathtakingly beautiful Chanshal mountain range, the Pabbar Valley is a haven for offbeat travelers and lovers of nature and adventure. At 4220 m / 13,926 feet, the Chanshal Pass remains open from May to early October. Known after the name of its major river Pabbar with numerous tributary streams, once rich in trout fish, it stretches from the southern boundaries of the legendary land of Kinnaur to the borders of the sacred land of Uttarakhand. The Pabbar, rising high in the snow-capped mountains and fed with glacial ice, meanders its way to join the Tons at Tiuni to ultimately feed the waters of the Yamuna.
Our road trip to the Pabbar Valley was really exciting. We fell in love with its deep emerald valleys, undulating hills, innumerable apple and cherry orchards, forested mountainsides, sparkling streams and rivers, quaint villages with wooden houses enhanced with pretty shale roofs, ancient temples; the Pabbar Valley which peaks at the snow clad Chanshal mountain range. We had gone there in late October and were able to drive upto Chirgaon just 33.5 kms short of Chanshal Pass as the road ahead was snowbound and not in very good condition. Instead of Rohru, we stayed the night at a beautiful homestay in an apple orchard in Shelapani, midway between Rohru and Narkanda.
However, with better planning, more time at hand and choosing the right month, we think the below itinerary would have been more suitable.
Reach Park Woods Forest Retreat, Shoghi (near Shimla) in the afternoon.
For nature lovers and / or adventure seekers, there is nothing to compare with Parkwoods – 18 kms short of Shimla. Cottages with all modern facilities in the middle of a pine forest on a ridge. The locale is surrounded by untouched countryside with panoramic views, numerous village treks, jungle walks in pine, oak and rhododendron forests. Also on offer are numerous activities. A perfect juxtaposition of comfort, safety and serenity.
Overnight at Park Woods Forest Retreat, Shoghi.
Park Woods – Shimla – Kufri – Fagu – Narkanda, 85 kms, 11 AM – 4 PM
After a leisurely breakfast move out to Narkanda.
Enroute, in Shimla, stop at the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge first. There is also a small Pheasantry and Bird Park nearby. If interested one can go till The Ridge – one of the most “happening places” in Shimla!
Continue on the offbeat trail to Kufri climbing upto 8600 feet. As you approach the hamlet, do not miss the verdant deodar filled emerald forested slopes on the right. Kufri with its pony rides and mini zoo (though crowded in season) is a must do!
Carry onwards crossing Fagu on the way, as you get enchanting views of the Himalayan ranges and snow capped peak on clear days.
Soon after, reach Narkanda at 9240 feet. With its calm and serene surroundings, the area is lush green with pine and rhododendron forests and splendid views.
Overnight at Narkanda.
Narkanda – Hatu Peak – Jaubagh – Kotgarh – Tani Jubbar Lake – Narkanda, 40 kms, 11 AM – 5 PM.
Wake up at leisure and just take in the splendor and beauty of nature all around – verdant forested valleys, emerald rolling meadows, misty mountains. Today you discover the best of what the mountains have to offer.
Drive upto the Hatu Peak at 11,152 feet. The 8 km jeep track is interesting and will take you through pine, oak, deodars, silver fur and rhododendron trees with a wild profusion of flowers and herbs. Midway you pass a small water-body and gujjar hut at Jhamunda. It is a nice viewpoint and a camping site.
Hatu hillock provides beautiful and majestic views of the Himalayas on clear days and also of the surrounding pahari hamlets. First step for urban dwellers towards nirvana!
Hatu is also famed for the Hatu Mata Temple which was restored a few years back. Intricate celestial carvings of the Hindu pantheon are a sight to behold and much more for the devout.
The believers will be enthralled by the sight of the huge rocks popularly known as ‘Bheem Ka Chulha’; the Pandavas presumably spent some time here during their Agyaat Vaas and this was part of their kitchen on which they kept huge utensils for cooking their meals!
From Hatu, those interested can take a short one hour round trek upto the alpine meadow of Jaubagh. The perfect place for a picnic lunch.
In the late afternoon, drive to Kotgarh – you pass by apple orchards – one of the things Himachal Pradesh is best known for. During the summers you can see the beautiful rosy pink flowers blooming on the apple trees and August onwards the orchards are laden with green and red apples. In the evening, spend time at the Tani Jubbar Lake.
As dusk sets head back to Narkanda.
Overnight at Narkanda.
Narkanda – Baghi – Tikkar – Pabbar Valley – Rohru, 75 kms, 11 AM – 3 PM.
Today drive to Rohru, through the winding mountain road with lovely vistas passing through one of the best Himalayan tropical forests.
As you cross Baghi – breathtaking views of apple orchards stretching across the deep and vast valleys, the landscape become even more spectacular with the imposing Chambi Peak summiting the mountains across.
As one approaches Tikkar, the road opens up and you hit small green meadows – a nice place to stop and enjoy your picnic lunch. Soon after, you are mesmerized by a silver thread down in the valley below – the Pabbar River gliding through the valley. It is a great sight with conifers by the white river bed and the waters shining in the sun. Unending photo ops! Crossing this reach Rohru.
Rohru, by itself is a typical bustling, outback hill town by the Pabbar River. Though it can get to be warm during the summers, it is the best base for visiting Chanshal Pass at 13296 feet with stupendous views of the Himalayan ranges. Rohru used to be on the beat of every angler worth his salt but sadly much of the trout has been dynamited away.
Rohru – Hatkoti – Rohru, 30 kms, 4.30 PM – 6.30 PM.
15 kms from Rohru on the right bank of the river Pabbar, the classical temples of Hatkoti, executed in the nagara style are a major attraction. The primary temple is that of Devi Durga in her form of Mahishasuramardini, the slayer of the demon Mahisha who stalked the world in the form of a buffalo – and the Devi is locally known as ‘Hateshwari’. The central image is exquisitely molded in brass. The adjoining Shiva temple is of the lattice type and has same remarkable wood carvings. It is believed that Pandavas lived here for a while.
Overnight at Rohru.
Rohru – Chirgaon – Larot – Chansal Pass – Rohru, 100 kms, 9 AM – 6 PM.
Today is the ‘summit day’!
15 km from Rohru, scenically enchanting, Chirgaon has a trout hatchery. Good fishing spots in the area are Seema, Mandi, Sandhsu, Tikri and Dhamari. Larot is another attractive spot near Chirgaon. This is the base for treks to Dodra – Kwar, the Sangla Valley and to Sarahan via Tacklech and to Nichar. From Larot to Chanshal the road is narrow and rough but the vistas awesome. Finally reach Chanshal Ghati and in early summers there is plenty of snow here.
After spending a couple of absolutely prisitne hours and enjoying a picnic lunch in the shadow of the mighty Himalayan ranges start back around 2 PM in the afternoon and stop at Chirgaon on the return. Spend time by the Pabbar river and explore the ancient temples.
Overnight at Rohru.
Rohru – Hatkoti – Jubbal – Kharapathar – Kotkhai – Theog – Shimla, 130 kms, 11 AM – 4 PM.
Today drive back to Shimla. However, you return by a different route and after driving up 25 kms reach Jubbal and the old palace designed by a French architect in the 1930’s which is a remarkable and picturesque mix of European and indigenous styles. The Jubbal area also has some splendid temples with excellent examples of local craftsmanship. About 35 kms further on, hit Kotkhai – one of the most prosperous apple belts in the whole of Himachal. Connect to the highway at Theog and stop for lunch at Fagu. The last stretch is either 6 kms (Kufri) or 21 kms (Shimla) and you reach your abode for your last night in the mountains!
Overnight at Kufri / Shimla.