For hundreds of years, shepherds in the Himalayas talked about a beautifully abundant meadow where they bring their livestock to graze. Stories of this meadow, covered in grass and flowers and cradled by the Bhagirathi, Bandarpoonch, and Black peaks, it has now become arguably one of the most beautiful treks in India. This enchanting place is called Dayara Bugyal.
Dayara Bugyal is found in the Indian state of Uttarakhand set at the foothills of the Himalayas. Treks to the meadow begin at the base camp in Barsu, which is an 8-hour drive from the capital of Dehradun. The drive itself is a scenic journey through forest stretches and right beside the Bhagirathi river. If you leave in the morning, you approach Barsu with a view of the setting sun and orange hues over the John Lee and Draupadi ka Danda peaks.
There are several rest houses one can stay in at Barsu. A good night’s sleep is necessary to prepare for the trek ahead, which can take up to five days.
The path towards Barnala is 4 kilometers long with a slight ascent. You start with open fields and you will pass several clearings. After around half an hour into the trail, you will pass a herbal garden maintained by the local government. Past the garden, you will go through the last clearing Mathi Hoda, before the forest thickens Rhododendrons, Silver Oak and Deodar forests. From spring to autumn, the foliage of the trees is thick enough to hide the sky above. There is a well laid-out stone path towards the ridgeline, which will take an hour of trekking.
The trail gently slopes down after you pass the ridgeline. From here, you will see the Gujjar huts and a big clearing with tall pine trees circling the periphery. From this clearing, the trail goes up towards the stretches of green prairies or ‘Bugyals’, marking your destination of Barnala. During winter, the tree-lined meadow of Barnala turns into a ski slope. There is also the Barnala Lake where you can fully appreciate the beauty of this sanctuary.
Here, you will set up camp for the night.
The trek to Dayara Bugyal is a 5 kilometer-ascent to an elevation at 9.980 ft. The climb here up is steeper than the climb to Barnala, but the path is well laid-out. After an hour and a half of climb through trees and forests, you break into a clearing and start walking through a meadow. Here you will finally catch a glimpse of Bandar Poonch and Black peak.
The Dayara Bugyal meadow stretches out far and wide ahead and will likely take you a day to explore. Campsites are situated at the edge of the Bugyal where fresh water is also available. As you walk across the meadow, the Bugyal dips and raises while you bask in the clear skyline of the setting sun. , but the camping areas are limited to the fringes of the Bugyal, where there are good sources of water.
Either on the same day or the following day, you can make your way to Bakaria Top, which is the highest point of the meadow at 12,000 feet above sea level. While the views are expansive in the meadow, heading to the top gives panoramic views of snowy peaks, lush valleys, and flowing streams.
From here, you can cut your trek short and head to Pichkiya, or take the longer route for three more days of trekking towards Siyaari.
The trek to Pichkiya is a gradual descent to an elevation of 7,873 feet. The trek will take around 6-7 hours with some occasional ascends. The path will take you through alpine meadows, dense forests, and little rivulets. The trek has to start early morning to reach the campsite before night. Fortunately, the views at Dayara Bugyal at sunrise with miles of undulating meadows stretch in every direction is worth the effort. If you do the trek around May to June, thousands of yellow, violet and white flowers sprout across the meadows. In winter, you see miles and miles of powdery snow.
The trail from Dayara Bugyal leads you out of the meadows to the north-western edge. It descends sharply through a cluster of rhododendrons, then climbs again to a flat ridge of Devikund. It is a small junction that signals the end of Dayara meadows. From here, a trail climbs upward and opens out to a walk that reveals views of Badarpoonch. You will reach a ridge flanked by Oak trees and where you can also spot Barsu from thousands of feet above.
The trail curves to the left and right through rhododendrons and ends at the base of the climb towards Surya top. The climb is short but steep, then flattens out to a descending trail to the Gidara Pass. Take the trail to Pichkaya and you will reach the campsite after a short while.
If you choose to extend your trek, take the trail that leads to Gidara Bugyal in the opposite direction from the Pichkaya trail.
The trail hops on to the ridge overlooking the Dodital valley. From here, the trail descends on the ridge towards a shallow. From here, there are no fixed trails to Gidara, but numerous sheep trails descend to the valley floor. Follow these trail and you will find a perennial stream that cuts through the bottom of the valley from one end to the other. Here you have reached Siyaari, and you can set up camp anywhere near the stream.
You can take short excursions to the various hill tops that surround the campsite. In the evening, the views are beautiful to gaze at the snow-peaked Himalayan range. In the morning, the sun rises from behind Mt. Srikanth and bathes the mountain ridges in a bright yellow glow.
Whether coming from Siyaari to Pichkaya, the trail is descending and narrow, but easy even after days of trekking. The trails are well-marked and surrounded by thickets. Halfway towards Barsu, you will pass by adjoining settlements where you can explore and interact with locals. Upon arrival at Barsu, you have completed your trek through the Dayara Bugyal.
The Dayara Bugyal Trek is a popular trek because of its relative ease and endless views. Expansive, undulating meadows set against the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas makes for a postcard worthy view in a span of five days. While the trek is usually done on foot, it is also possible to hire mules to go through the trek if you are with less fit companions, or if you are carrying a lot of equipment. The trails to be followed would be more or less the same, except for the return to Barsu from Siyaari. Since the descending trek from Siyaari are too narrow, the mules will have to retrace their steps towards Gidara Pass and then down through Pichkaya.
In the end, a peaceful hike through India’s most beautiful meadow is an experience every adventurer should have at least once in his life.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!