Unfrequented mountain trails crisscross Kinnaur, offering treks ranging from gentle hikes to challenging climbs over high-altitude passes. The routes along the Sutlej Valley, punctuated with government resthouses and villages, are feasible without the aid of ponies, but away from the main road you need to be completely self-sufficient. Porters can usually be hired in Rampur, Rekong Peo and the Baspa Valley except in early autumn (Sept/Oct), when they’re busy with the apple harvest.
The Kinner-Kailash circuit
The five- to seven-day parikrama (circumambulation) of the majestic Kinner-Kailash massif, a sacred pilgrimage trail, makes a spectacular trek for which you won’t need an Inner Line permit. The circuit starts at the village of Morang, on the left bank of the Sutlej, served by buses from Tapri or Rekong Peo. A track, passable by jeep, runs southeast from here to Thangi, the trailhead, and continues through Rahtak, over the Charang La pass (5266m) to Chitkul in the Baspa Valley. The trail then follows the river down to the beautiful village of Sangla, from where a couple of worthwhile day-hikes can be made – to Kamru fort behind the village, or the steep ascent to the Shivaling La pass, from where there are superb views of Raldang (5499m), the southernmost peak on the Kinner-Kailash massif. The final stage passes through the lower Baspa Valley, via Shang and Brua to Karcham, which overlooks the NH-22 highway. The best time for the Kinner-Kailash parikrama is between July and October; August is the most popular month with local pilgrims.
Kafnu to Kaza, via the Pin Valley
This challenging route across the Great Himalayan range, via the Kalang Setal glacier and the Shakarof La pass, is a dramatic approach to Spiti and the Pin Valley, and no restrictions apply. The trail, which is very steep, snow-covered, and hard to follow in places, should definitely not be attempted without ponies, porters, adequate gear and a reliable guide. It starts in earnest at Kafnu village, now connected to Wangtu on the main road by a paved surface, continuing via Mulling, Phustirang (3750m), and over the Bhaba Pass (4865m), a gruelling slog through snowfields, before dropping down into the beautiful and isolated Pin Valley. You can then trek onwards or get a vehicle to Kaza. More of this route may become paved as the delayed Wangtu–Mudh road project painfully progresses.
Chitkul to Har-ki-Dun
This ten-day trek to Garhwal passes along the edge of the Inner Line and is subject to restrictions. Starting from Chitkul and crossing the River Baspa to Doaria, the route then climbs up a side valley to follow a lateral moraine up to the Zupika Gad and then a steep ascent – the final section of which is up a crevassed glacier – to the Borsu Pass (5300m). The other side of the pass is down a steep snow- and boulder-field requiring some scrambling; you arrive a few days later in the beautiful valley of Har-ki-Dun in Garhwal. A guide is essential.
The old Hindustan–Tibet road from Kalpa to the Rupa Valley
Another route to consider is the relatively easy five-day trek starting at Kalpa and following the old Hindustan–Tibet road through the remote hamlets of upper Kinnaur (permits needed), past Shi Asu to the Rupa Valley. The views along the route are superb and the villagers are extremely hospitable. The road, now crumbling in places, is also ideal for mountain biking.