Make the most out of spring with our handpicked hiking routes
Cool breeze and dense canopy at Nagarjun’s preserved forest make for a rather pleasant hike up to Jamacho’s Chhorten.
Civilization ends where this hike starts, so it’s suggested you stash food and water, and make your last-minute loo runs before you set off. Nagarjun gate, a kilometer off Macchapokhari (near Balaju) on the Kakani Highway, opens at 7am and under strict policy of the Army that protects the forest, we start hiking up stony steps through thick woods. The higher you climb, the more intense the sound of crickets get, and with elevation gain, your ears pop and you notice a change in vegetation with more bamboo shrubs now embracing the trail. There’s no hurry to reach the top, so maintain an easy pace, drinking plenty of water. Though the path is well maintained, it can be slippery as some parts get hardly any sun, thanks to the thick canopy overhead. Some 2 hours of walking up the stairs, we finally reach Jamacho where after a quick rest we climb to the observation deck. Surreal views of the city, that now feels like hundreds of miles away, and the colossal mountains farther afield will leave you awestruck. The place is completely desolate and you hear sounds of nothing but birds, crickets, echoes and the chilly wind blowing across your face. We pay homage at the small Jamacho monastery before heading back to Nagarjun gate on the same path.
Route: Macchapokhari – Jamacho – Macchapokhari
Duration: 5 hours
Trail: Climb up steps to Jamacho peak, retrace the path back
Bungamati - Satikhel - Pharping
The moderately challenging hike to Pharping through the countryside takes you amidst a dazzling array of yellow mustard fields, giant brick kilns, and reservoirs.
A bus ride from Nakkhu drops us to the ancient Newari town of Bungamati where we have a modest breakfast at the giant courtyard of Macchindranath Temple before starting our hike. Tiny stairs deviate from the paved road near the courtyard entrance, leading to fabulous vegetable farms with ethereal sights of hills and mountains to behold. Sway your way across a suspension bridge braving Bagmati’s stench in Satikhel shortly ahead to reach a small pig farm and follow jeep trails to find yourself dwarfed by enormous smoke stacks of brick kilns. We move on to find ourselves at a small hydro powerhouse, and see Neydo Tashi Monastery (Pharping) perched directly overhead. Huff and puff your way up on rocky steps to reach the absolutely stunning park at the Pharping Reservoir, your peace disturbed only by grazing goats nearby and your heartbeats that now pound near your ears. Under the warm sun, lay down on the fresh grass (goat poop alert!) next to Dashain’s giant bamboo swing still standing tall. Surrounded by shrubs, shade and mud houses, the last leg of stairways climb up to the Pharping Monastery where we catch a bus back to the city.
Route: Nakkhu – Bungamati – Satikhel – Pharping – Chalnakhel
Duration: 5 hours
Trail: Undulating farm trails and jeep tracks, with stairs on the final climb
Sundarijal – Okhreni – Shivapuri Peak
Dirt trails never seem to stop climbing in this challenging full day hike highlighted by lush woods, quaint villages, gushing rivers and the sheer sense of conquering Shivapuri.
Our adventure begins near the gushing waterfalls of Sundarijal, from where rocky stairs ascend towards the famous dam before reaching the motor road at Mulkharka. A left turn brings us to a bridge over one of Bagmati’s tributaries – which at this point is sparklingly clean – and a right deviation just before leads to a climb towards Okhreni village. Farmers toil endlessly on terraced fields and are surprised to see a hiker in such an off-beat place. They ask you if you’ve gotten lost. Soak in the freshness of the crisp, chilly air that’ll instantly make you forget you’re anywhere near the chaotic metropolis. Walking farther up the ridge, we muster all the strength to finally reach Shivapuri peak, where we’re greeted by a mesmerizing display of mountains floating atop the mist and haze over Rasuwa up north. Admire the majesty before heading down a long stairway that passes by Nagi Gompa, finally taking you to Pani Muhan gate near Budhnilkantha. You’ll be lucky to spot animals like deer and even the endangered red pandas (there are only 200 in the conserved forest!) on this hike that ends with a bumpy microbus ride back to the city from Pani Muhan gate.
Route: Sundarijal – Mulkharka – Okhreni – Shivapuri Peak – Nagi Gompa – Pani Muhan
Duration: 6 hours
Trail: Uphill from Sundarijal to Shivapuri peak, and a mix of stairs and jeep tracks down to Pani Muhan
Chobar – White House Daanda – Champadevi
This epic hike traversing the Chandragiri range via Champadevi temple is a test of guts and stamina walking through equally interesting towns and secluded outposts.
Starting with easy steps up Chobar past rich pine trees, we reach Shikhara-style Adinath and Gandharbeshwar temples atop the hill. Graced with striking views of Kirtipur and Khokana’s legendary farms below, we walk on narrow, rocky trails down to reach a stretch of green farms of Panga from where a backbreaking uphill hike takes us to White House Daanda. The trail spirals upwards on the hillock’s northern edge to finally reach the white-washed house, with a view of towering Chamapdevi overhead. There’s still a long way to go, so as stunning as the Himalayan panorama ahead looks, don’t give in to temptations of spending much time at this beautiful place and move on to Bosan village just a stone’s throw away. We reach the edge of this serene village with a fenced-in track that leads to the final steps up Champadevi. The lovely chirpings of birds and a breath of fresh air will do little to soothe muscles screaming in pain as you climb up unforgiving and seemingly never-ending stairs. We finally reach the small Champadevi temple and after some rest we head through a steep downhill track along the jungle ridge, admiring the city at its calmest from this vantage point. Making our way down to graveled roads to Rigon Tashi Choeling Monastery, we reach Dollu’s main road, en route to Dakshinkali, and take a bus back home.
Difficulty: Not your Saturday picnic
Route: Chobar – Panga – White House Daanda – Bosan – Champadevi - Dollu
Duration: 7 hours
Trail: Some stairs and flats till Panga followed by steep jeep tracks, rocky trails and steps to Champadevi
Swayambhu – Rato Gumba – Seto Gumba
Alternative routes to three hillocks towards the valley’s west make for a relaxing getaway marked by diverse landscapes and peaceful Buddhist monuments.
We inch up ominous stairways that take forever to reach the ancient stupa frequented by devotees, joggers, tourists and Ram Dev enthusiasts. After soaking in the Gumba’s mystic vibes, admiring the amazing view of the city below, dodging pigeon droppings and feeding obnoxious monkeys, head down from the rear steps, passing the peace pond, and on to cross Ring Road. A mix of dirt tracks and stairways up Ichangu’s hill instantly subdues the revving sounds of trucks and mobike engines, as we tread on lonely single tracks that wind up to the little known monastery of Rato Gumba, bordering Halchowk APF premises. Don’t plan on acting too suspicious here, and love graffiti is a big no-no. We descend down Rato Gumba’s slippery hillside and find ourselves walking through a gorgeous spectrum of colorful prayer flags, nursery flowers and green farms – beautiful massifs surrounding us on all sides – as we pass erratic rock formations and ponds on the right. We take narrow, barely trodden back routes up through corn fields, walking carefully to avoid stinging nettles. Half an hour up the hill takes us to Seto Gumba Monastery, our final destination, welcomed by soothing chants of praying monks. On a thick canopy of pine trees, we descend to Ramkot’s bus stop, bringing our rather enlightening day hike to a full circle.
Route: Swayambhu – Ichangu – Rato Gumba – Sitapaila – Seto Gumba - Ramkot
Duration: 4 hours
Trail: Mostly steps up Swayambhu, and descents followed by narrow trails up Rato Gumba and Seto Gumba