Nature adventurers can now put their trekking skills to the test through wild and pristine Kashmir routes amid gushing streams, serene glaciers, lakes and vast grasslands surrounded by pine and kail forests, as many new routes have been opened to J&K.
Most of these 75 routes are unusual places in Jammu and Kashmir and trails in the heart of the forests offering an exciting experience for adventurers, trekkers and tourists who are the wilderness aficionados.
The uniqueness of these tracks does the trick for tourism in Kashmir as they are slowly attracting not only local nature lovers but tourists as well.
Conservator of Northern Forests Irfan Rasool said the basic purpose of opening these trails is that people should visit these offbeat places. “Our motto is to popularize these beautiful places. Apart from local backpackers, this also targets a specific group of tourists who love adventure travel. It will also create livelihoods in forest edge villages through homestays, nature guides, trek operators, food stalls and forest souvenirs.
Rasool said forestry staff accompany the groups for free at the moment and facilitate their movement. “It’s currently free. Gradually, we want to train locals to help hikers,” he said.
These 75 tracks have been identified by the forest department of Jammu and Kashmir divided into six circles, Srinagar, South, North, East, West and Chenab circles, each circle having more than 10 trekking routes identified with maps and everything . The Northern Circle includes Baramulla and Kupwara districts and has the highest 26 identified roads – some close to the Line of Control.
Similarly, Srinagar and the southern circles have more than 20 routes, some trekking routes are in the city – located on both sides of the Jhelum River and surrounded by mountains and crossed by hill ranges. The Mughal Gardens of Srinagar lie at the foothills of the Zabarwan Range.
In Jammu Division, 24 trekking routes in the forests of Jammu, Kathua, Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur, Kistwar and Doda have been identified. In addition, along the tracks, the department has provided all the information on these route maps as well as on nearby tourist sites.
Jalal Jeelani, a trekker from Kashmir who is part of a renowned Pathfinder trekking group, called the opening of new trails a commendable step in the right direction.
“For regular hikers, nature hikes through alpine forests have many benefits,” he said, adding that in addition to physical, mental and social health benefits, hikers also become guardians of the forest in different ways. “Whether it is a deterrent against destructive human activities or whether it is to prevent the smuggling of timber, to ensure the prevention of forest fires, land encroachments, the prevention of drug abuse and other anti-social activities.”
Jeelani, who also makes short trekking films, said trekking also transforms people into wildlife warriors, habitat saviors and animal lovers while traversing the forests. “Once you reach a mountain peak, you are filled with a sense of miracle and curiosity. The tangible endurance in nature, where all else falls, you continue to observe the designer’s design, the uniformity , the variability, the multiplicity and the experience of what surrounds you becomes a life.
Another avid trekker, Mohammad Afzal Lara called it a great opportunity for all trekking clubs from J&K and other states. “Being a nature lover, this is one of the best measures taken by the government. This will motivate our younger generation towards trekking and nature exploration.
A forest officer said that in addition to trekking, people can explore, hike, bird watch, observe wildlife and cultural heritage.