One January afternoon, in the middle of a dull workday I just sat staring at my laptop screen somberly, thinking about how badly I needed to switch off, take a break and run back to the mountains. Almost as if reading my mind, Facebook threw up memories from my last trekking adventure, mocking and enticing me at the same time. It was as if the mountains were calling to me. Seconds later, someone sent me a quote which told me, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”. Call it a coincidence or a sign, but those were the very words I needed to hear at that very moment, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. So, with those thoughts, I decided to go on my first snow trek. With a busy work schedule, I only had a 2-day window to plan a snow trek. Was that even possible? Which one? With these questions in my mind, I did a quick search, and almost instantly zeroed down on the Prashar Lake trek.
Snow clad peaks, white carpeted trails, a frozen lake, and an enchanting forest – The perfect cocktail to experience the high of a winter wonderland in just one weekend! That is the Prashar Lake trek for you. Itching to make a dash to the mountains but no long weekend insight? No problem! You don’t need it for this one. Yes, you read that correctly, you don’t need to wait for a long weekend to head to this alpine paradise. Prashar Lake is the perfect winter weekend getaway from Delhi which will teleport you to a paradisiacal land and have you back just in time with dreamy memories to ponder over for a long time.
It is a short 1N/2D trek taking you to the summit of the beguiling Prashar Lake perched at an altitude of 2730m. It does not require you to take a single leave from work (unless you want to) and can easily be squeezed into your schedules while giving you a lifetime of beautiful memories! Now that’s uncommon, right? The distance covered is approximately 8 Kms each side, covering a total of 16 Kms.
Like many lakes in India, this one too has mythological history and is regarded as sacred. Sage Parashar is believed to have meditated on the banks of this lake, hence the name Prashar (Parashar lake). In another version, the locals believe that while Pandavas were returning from the Kurukshetra war, Bheem, one of the strongest Pandavas rammed his elbow into the mountain, creating a dent which is now known as the Prashar lake. Interesting, isn’t it? There is also a 3 storied pagoda temple built dedicated to sage Parashar built on its banks, and as the legend goes again, it was built in the 13th century by a baby using the trunk of one tree!
What is even more fascinating about this lake is that to date, nobody has been able to determine the depth of the lake! The locals claim to have seen full-grown trees drown in the lake after a storm without a trace on the outer surface! The lake houses a perfectly round floating island that constantly revolves along the circumference of the lake. In every Prashar lake photo you look up, the location of the island will be different 😀 Try it!
Best time to visit Prashar Lake
The best time to trek to the Prashar lake is from December – February. During these months the lake and the trail will be carpeted with snow giving you postcard-worthy shots and an otherworldly feel of the Narnian land. I did the trek in the middle of February with day time temperatures soaring up to a comfortable 12-13 degrees (if the sun gods are pleased), and falling to 0-1 degree at night.
Tip: By the middle of February, the snow begins to melt and becomes soft, hence making it relatively treacherous to walk on. If you want a relatively easier walking experience and don’t mind the colder temperatures, then plan to do this trek in January or first half of February 🙂
How to Reach Prashar Lake
It starts with taking an overnight bus from Delhi to Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. You can take a semi-sleeper Volvo bus for a comfortable night so that you wake up fresh in the morning, raring to take on the mountain!
Reach Mandi early morning at around 6-7 am and take a private or shared taxi or a Himachal Pradesh roadways bus to reach the Baggi village which is 30 kms from Mandi and is the starting point of the trek. If you are taking a bus, it will take around 2 hours and if you are taking a taxi, it will take about an hour to reach Baggi.
Upon arrival, you can stop at Krishna Cafe for a scrumptious breakfast of aloo parathas and hoard up on the much-needed carbs for the trek. You can freshen up at the cafe and change into your hiking clothes. Also, it is a good idea to get your lunch packed to have it on your way up. After a satiating meal, the trek begins. The trek begins from the cafe itself. The first few hundred metres of the trek takes you through a gradually inclining Kucha path, wide enough for a small car to pass. As you keep moving along this trail you’ll come across many little rivulets with crystal clear water glistening in the sunlight.
After about a Kilometre and a half, the shaded path gives way to an open landscape brimming with boulders of all shapes and sizes. Be careful to navigate your way through the boulders as you don’t want to slip and twist your ankle! After some careful walking, you will reach a primary school which is also the last point to fill your water bottles before you reach the camping site, and also to use the washroom.
Tip: The washroom is a part of the school property and is usually locked. If you want to use it, you will have to enter the school premises and request the caretaker to open it for you 🙂
This is where the easy part ends, and the strenuous and the most rewarding part of the trek begins as you enter the thick Rhododendron forest. From here on, for about 4 kms it is a steep hike along a winding trail. A winding trail so beautiful and serene, under an umbrella of thick canopies with the sunlight playing hide and seek and euphonic chirping of the birds. It is an experience to behold.
After about 2 hours of diligent trekking, you enter a clearing which serves as an ideal place to slump and take a break to eat your lunch. Relax! The most challenging part of the trek is now over! This is also the place from where you can see your camping site in the distance and also the summit of Prashar Lake! After some lounging and finishing your meal, it’s time to get back on your feet. From here on, the remaining part of the trek is a gradual ascent. With renewed energy and the destination insight, you’ll feel like making a dash for it!
View of the summit from the trail
As you start walking, you will finally be able to see the captivating sight of the Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal, and Kinnaur mountain ranges. Soon, you will cross the snowline and the most fun and exciting part of the trek begins! The snow is bound to get the child out in you, and in no time you will find yourself hurling snowballs at your friends or trek mates!
Dhauladhar range in the background
In about an hour and a half from the lunch site, you will reach your campsite where you can either stay in a tent or a wooden room with mattresses. The campsite is called Krishna camps, run by the same people who run the cafe in Baggi. They will provide sleeping bags and set up bonfires at night for you to huddle around and interact with fellow trekkers. The campsite is beautiful and gives you a chance to explore the adjacent snow-white hillocks to play in the snow and catch the beautiful sunset from!
A hillock next to the campsite
After having breakfast, you proceed towards the Prashar Lake summit. It is a more or less flat walk from the campsite to the lake taking about 45 mins to 1 hour. The whole path will be blanketed with snow and you will get to witness some of the most spectacular views around you. Everything is white, right from the land to the sky with clouds looking like a work of art. The scenery is jaw-dropping!
Tip: Don’t forget to take sunglasses, the light reflection from the snow can be blinding!
Enroute Prashar Lake
Enroute Prashar Lake
As you reach Prashar Lake, all the things you read and the photos you saw before going come to life! There lies the beautiful and the most aesthetically pleasing oval-shaped lake with a perfectly round floating island covered in snow. You can also visit the Parashar temple and sit along the lake to absorb the tranquility. One of the best things about doing this trek in winter is not just the snow, but also the lesser volume of people who come to visit, declogging the trails and the summit. There is a small hillock right next to the lake which you can climb to get an aerial view of the lake and its surroundings and some of the most beautiful shots! and come sliding down the slope 🙂
The Prashar Lake and the temple
There are 2-3 small cafes at the summit where you can grab a quick lunch before you start the descent. After having lunch, you start your descent from a different path, not the one you came from. The total time to descend is approximately 3 hours. Descending on snowy trails can be tricky and most fun, especially when the snow is soft. It’s a delightful sight to see everyone trotting down, falling in the snow laughing and giggling, but it’s also important to tread carefully. Finally, the trail joins the same Kucha path which we had initially taken in our ascend, and within a few minutes, you will find yourself landing at the same Krishna cafe you had breakfast in what may seem like an eternity ago.
Tip: Cannot emphasize the value of wearing proper hiking shoes. They are a boon in helping you walk on the snowy trails, reducing your chances greatly of slipping and hurting yourself, especially during descent.
Have your well-earned meal at the cafe, freshen up and change if you need to and take a taxi and come back to Mandi from where you can catch an overnight bus from the ISBT back to Delhi. If you get to Mandi in a good time, you can have an early dinner in one of the many restaurants opposite the ISBT.
Reach Delhi early morning at around 5-6 am. Will again recommend a semi-sleeper Volvo for a restful night.
Sounds like a perfect weekend, doesn’t it? Now that you have a mental picture of this dreamy paradise and are raring to go, check out the Prashar Lake Trek organized by Plan The Unplanned and let them make your experience seamless and smooth as butter!