This is arguably one of easiest treks to get to, for a weekend escapade. At the outset I’d like to make it clear that trekking is not the only way one can reach Parashar lake. As of May 2017, there is a very-doable-motorable road leading right up to the lake. However, the trek is shorter, prettier, and more intrinsically rewarding.
Here’s the story of how the 4 of us went about it. Hope it helps!
The route: Delhi — Panipat — Chandigarh — Kiratpur Sahib — Swarghat — Bilaspur — Mandi
We took our car from Delhi, and drove straight to Mandi. The road after Kiratpur Sahib, all the way up to Bilaspur was being renovated at the time, so it was not a pleasant drive at all.
We crashed friday night at Hotel Manjul (booked beforehand). It’s a budget hotel, and if you want to spend more than just the night, I’d recommend looking for a more comfy one. However, here you still get amazing food. Top of the line chicken dishes, and refreshingly home-like rotis. Perfect end to a day’s worth of un-enjoyable driving.
Saturday morning we left for Bagi (बाग्गी) village in our car, which is about 40 km from Hotel Manjul in Mandi. On the way to Bagi, we saw a lot of peach blossoms, and made the crossing across the Uhl river (at IIT Mandi), which is really picturesque. Do make sure you enjoy your time here because after this you will not see flowing water until your return!
On reaching Bagi, we made arrangements at the Krishna cafe in Bagi village, for keeping our car safe for 2 days and for providing us with a guide for the trek. The people at Krishna cafe are really warm and helpful. Everyone who passes through Bagi seems to know them, and every traveller knows that this is the place they should charge their phones, top up their water bottles, and pack up some lunch for the 6 km trek uphill.
Trekking up through the woods without a local guide would be foolishness. Firstly, because although the trek starts from Bagi through thick forest cover with a decently-enough visible trail, it might be covered under a foot of drying leaves. Secondly, this is nothing like Triund or Kheerganga, where you can just ask another trekker for directions. Here, chances are, there isn’t a living soul within a 3 km radius.
If you’re trekking in summer, you’ll need a lot of water climbing uphill, easily 3 litres per person. The amount of elevation you’re required to make in such a small distance will dry you out of your body’s water stores, and there is no stream or creak on the way to refill your water. As you reach higher and higher, the sweating will slow down, but you’ll start feeling the chill in the air. My advice: Put on a fleece layer while you’re still feeling warm.
At exactly the 4.5km mark, the woods suddenly vanish and you are thrown out into the meadows, with the Sun shining down upon you, ever closer, at ~7000 feet. This is a good point to sit down, gather your breath and have the lunch the the dudes at Krishna so lovingly packed for you.
After this, the 1.5km trek is all through open meadows, yet still as steep as the first leg. The more you ascend, the cooler and windier it’ll get, so be prepared with your scarves and caps!
Parashar lake is one hell of a sight. Even if you’ve seen a ton of pictures, seeing it first hand, with the cool 9000ft wind blowing in your sweat soaked hair, is a feeling beyond articulation. This is one trek that culminates not at a summit resounding with solitude, but a lake and campus reverberating with tourists. So here you can just lay back in your shack chair, order hot rajma chawal, maggi, tea, whatnot, and look on into the Shivaliks. However, do not forget to roam all around the park and look at the lake from a thousand different angles! Also, let the exact location of the island seep into your head, as it is claimed to have magical abilities that allows it to change its location ‘at will’.
The 4 of us were (collectively) a moderately fit group of trekkers, and we did it in about 3.5 hours.
The area around the temple and lake is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and is considered to be even outside the jurisdiction of the Indian government, by some. It is the temple trust of Parashar Rishi that runs the place, and is responsible for its safe-keeping and law and order. Maybe that explains why alcohol is not permitted within the fence, but hash is openly consumed by locals and travellers alike.
The permanent structures of eateries, souvenir shops and washrooms mean that there will be no compromise in human comfort, even though you’re in the middle of the wilderness. The temple is really old, quite visibly. They let out some of the rooms in the temple campus for travellers to sleep in, but do not count on that, because they are quite often reserved for members of the temple trust. Your safest bet for overnight accommodation is tents that you arranged for, from Mandi or Bagi. That’s what we did, and our contact at the lake was a certain clinomaniac Anil Bhai.
The food that Anil bhai provided Saturday night was again, mind-blowing. How do they get the drive to cook such awesomeness in the cold for just 7 people is beyond me. But good job, folks.
The lake looks amazing on a full moon night, if your luck is right and the clouds stay away. We went on the 2nd day of the waning moon, but it stayed overcast, so it was no use picking the dates (Urgh).
Next morning, we woke up to find that the island had moved to the other end of the lake. Whether by mystical forces, or simple science, I would not be too quick to guess, but yeah, checks out. It moves, guys.
We also discovered that 2 of our trekkers had lost a shoe sole each, so we just decided to hop onto a truck that would take us down to Bagi. The 20 km ride down took us barely an hour, and we didn’t mind chilling in the back of an open truck with the snow covered mountains all around us, especially when we had 500km of driving to do later in the day.