A Himalayan trek that takes you to the source of the Holy River Ganga should be one of the most sought-after treks and yet The Gaumukh Tapovan Trek remains extremely underrated.
The term Gaumukh means the “mouth of a cow” and the glacier is named so because of its seeming resemblance to the snout of a cow. It holds extreme significance as it is a holy Hindu pilgrimage site that many devotees visit along with Gangotri.
Nestled at an altitude of 14,600ft in the Uttarkashi district of the state of Uttarakhand, the Gaumukh Tapovan Trek offers a spectacular view of the Garwhal Himalayas with Mt.Shivling and the majestic Bhagirathi massif being the most prominent ones.
Stretching to an expanse of 46 Km, the trail leads you to Gaumukh which is the terminus of the Gamukh Glacier as well as the source of the Bhagirathi River. The Bhagirathi river along with the Alaknanda river comes together in the Devprayag region of Uttarakhand as the holy river Ganga.
The Gaumukh Tapovan Trek starts from Gangotri and takes you through the Gangotri National Park which is abode by the rare snow leopard along with many rare species of flora and fauna.
An 8-day trek that is a blend of spirituality and adventure, The Gaumukh Tapovan trek is a moderate-difficult trek that takes you through steep ascents, rocky formations, grasslands, and lush green forests to offer you some of the most glorious views you’ll ever get to witness.
The trek starts from Gangotri which is often called the source of Ganga even though in reality it simply leads you to Gaumukh which is the actual place from where the holy river originates from. The mythological significance of the Bhagirathi river that flows from the glacier is that upon the pleadings of King Bhagirath, Lord Shiva requested Goddess Ganga to purify the ashes of his sons. The concept of the river Ganga washing away all your sins and cleansing your soul comes from this story. This is also the reason that so many pilgrims visit Gangotri as well as Gamukh.
Gangotri is a 10-12 hr drive from Dehradun and en-route route you get stunning views of enchanting valleys and the majestic Himalayas. The actual trek starts when you head to Chirbasa from Gangotri.
The Chirbasa trail goes through lush green forests and offers a stunning view of Sudarshan Parbat in the backdrop along with many other Himalayan peaks. The trek from Gangotri to Chirbasa is easy as the trail gradually inclines and has many water resources to keep you energized throughout the stretch of 10 km that the trail is made up. After crossing many streams and rivers, the valley opens up its arm to you, speckled with silver and birch trees all around.
All along the trail of the Gaumukh Tapovan trek, the Bhagirathi river roars below you. The trail is enclosed by the Gangotri Nation Park which is why you’d also be getting glimpses of wildlife and blooming flowers here and there. Near the end of the trail, you’ll be passing through the check post by the Forest Department which would signify your arrival at the Chirbasa campsite. Chirbasa offers a view of both Bhagirathi peaks as well as the Gaumukh Glacier.
The next day, you’ll head out to Bhojabhasa. The trek from Chirbasa to Bhojbasa consists of a gradual ascent but with scarce water resources. As soon as you embark on the path to Chirbasa, the valley opens up even wider offering you stunning views of snow-capped peaks. The trail consists of boulders and sedimentation which is why caution is advised especially in case of loose rocks falling from above.
The tree line starts disappearing the closer you get to Bhojbasa and the valley widens to a stretch of open land offering you views of Mt.Shivling, the Gaumukh Glacier, and the Bhojbasa valley. Birch trees are in abundance here around the campsite which is how it got its name as well. Nestled at an altitude of 12,415 ft this campsite is one of the most beautiful halt points on the Gaumukh Tapovan trek with the crystal clear skies above you and vast expanse of grasslands ahead of you with the glorious Himalayan peaks beckoning you closer to the backdrop.
The trail to Gaumukh is narrowed and hence it seems as if the valley is closing in on itself but as you keep walking on the ascending trails, you’d reach your first glacial river crossing with Mt. Shivling standing tall as ever on your right side. Once you cross over the rock face that you’d be coming across while on your way to the glacier, you’ll finally be able to see the Gaumukh Glacier. The trail to Gaumukh at first is lined with sedimentary rocks but as you cross the second glacial river, the trail becomes defined.
To get the best view of the Gamukh Glacier, you’ll have to climb up the rocky patches and from the vantage point, you’d be able to see Gaumukh in all its glory. After witnessing the wonder that the Gamukh Glacier is, you’d be required to return.
The next stretch of the Gaumukh Tapovan trek is perhaps the trickiest one as it consists of steep ascents that fall under the moderate category and glacier walks. Not to mention that you’d be trekking towards an altitude of 14,203ft which poses a challenge in itself.
A few minutes of a walk after leaving the Bhojbasa campsite will lead you to the Bhagirathi river that you’d be crossing by using the trolley that has been installed by the forest department. The initial stretch of the trek is an easy walk with stones and boulders lining the trail. After that, the gradual ascent begins. You’ll have to cross some large rocks and boulders and once you’ve done that a steep climb will take you to Tapovan.
A high-altitude meadow that stretches to an expanse of land, the campsite at Tapovan blesses you with the experience of witnessing some of the most magnificent Garwhal Himalayas like Mt.Shivling, Meru, Sumeru, and the Bhagirathi peaks. You can explore the grounds and observe the valley from different vantage points.
Staying at Tapovan is considered to be one of the most peaceful retreats that you can undertake especially since renowned sages from all over the world continue to come here to meditate.
In a Nutshell, The Gaumukh Tapovan Trek is a one-of-a-kind trek where you get to see nature in all its raw glory in the form of the Gaumukh Glacier and the Bhagirathi river flowing from under its terminus. Apart from the glacier, the views of the Garhwal Himalayas that accompany you throughout the trek are breathtaking and, simply get better the further you trek.
The Gaumukh Tapovan trek is a seasonal trek which means that it is accessible only for a few months. The best time to do the Gaumukh Tapovan trek is the months of September, October, and November which is basically when the entire country is experiencing the autumn season.
Although the trek tests your endurance by making you cross rivers and rockfaces, the Gaumukh Tapovan Trek can be done by beginners. However, they will need to get fit for the trek by undertaking cardio exercises and going on long walks to get their body used to all the challenges they will face.
The Gaumukh Tapovan trek is also one of the best post-monsoon treks to do in the Himalayas, with winter just around the corner and shades of autumn taking over the landscape.
In a nutshell, The Gaumukh Tapovan trek is one of the most beautiful Himalayan treks that is both thrilling and peaceful, with its roots going back to mythology and its trails leading you to some of the most spectacular views of the mountains.
Day 1: Drive from Dehradun to Gangotri (241 Kms, 8 Hrs)
Day 2: Acclimatization day in Gangotri
Day 3: Trek from Gangotri to Chirbasa (9 Kms, 6 Hrs)
Day 4: Trek from Chirbasa to Bhojbasa (5 Kms, 3 Hrs)
Day 5 : Trek from Bhojbasa to Tapovan (9 Kms, 7 Hrs)
Day 6 : Trek from Tapovan to Bhojbasa via Gaumukh (9 Kms, 6 Hrs)
Day 7: Trek from Bhojbasa to Gangotri (14 Kms, 8 Hrs)
Day 8: Drive from Gangotri to Dehradun (241 Kms, 8 Hrs)