An offbeat weekend destination tucked inside a forest!
Devban is one of the lesser known destinations of Uttarakhand. It is part of a reserved forest in the Kanasar forest range bordering Himachal Pradesh. It has a beautiful forest rest house located at an altitude of 2865m built in 1963. The forests are typically broadleaved Oak, coniferous Pine, Fir, Devdhar as well thorny shrubs; especially near the rocky outcrops. The nearest road head is Chakrata, 16 km away. Chakrata is an old British cantonment town. The old stone houses with towering chimneys take you back to the British era. Most of Chakrata is inaccessible due to army restrictions. Geologically this region is part of the Shiwaliks and is mostly made of loose sedimentary and limestone rocks. In some places quartz rock bands are visible. Geologists have found a few limestone caves in the lower reaches of the hills. The locals speak the Jaunsari language and many Gujjar huts can be found along the slopes of the hills.
There is a motorable road all the way up to the forest rest house but in winters the snow makes the place inaccessible by road. This gives an opportunity to trekkers to walk along the old forest trail through the dense oak and devdar forests of this area. Chakrata is at an altitude of 2200m and the trekking route till Devban climbs up to 3000 m.
The day starts from Dehradun. We follow the route to Vikasnagar via Indian Military Academy, Forest Research Institute and Institute of Petroleum. Next on the way is the industrial and educational town of Selaqui. This is the main road to Saharanpur/Shimla/Vikasnagar/Paonta Sahib and hence a lot of traffic is seen on the road. We turn right from Herbertpur Chowk towards Vikasnagar. The road now ascends towards Kalsi which is the major forest division in this region. Plenty of plantations of teak and eucalyptus can be seen along the roadside. Kalsi is a very ancient town and is mentioned in ancient texts as well. A very famous Ashokan Rock Edict is found here. It was discovered by a Britisher in 1895 and is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The language on the edict is Pali and the script is Brahmi.We cross the Yamuna at Kalsi and reach Chakrata after 2 hours via the village of Sahiya. We have breakfast at one of the dhabas in chakrata.
The trek starts from the forest chowki 4 km after Chakrata. However we would recommend walking all the way from Chakrata. The road winds among dense devdhar trees with babblers, nut-thatches, thrushes and tits to give you company. There is a small museum near the forest chowki. The views of the higher Himalayas along the way cannot be ignored. The sun rays weave through the upright trees creating a beautiful geometric pattern on the road.
The trek now moves from the tar road to a bridle path which the locals often use. The gradient is comfortable upto the small stop way of Badrikhal. This place has a dhaba run by a Nepali family and a few houses scattered around. Badrikhal is located along the saddle of the ridge which overlooks the watershed of the famous Tiger falls below Chakrata. The village of Mohna just above the falls is visible from here. The route continues till the army rock climbing institute. This camp is aptly named spider colony. It is headed by a very able army man of Tibetan origin who has climbed Mt Everest twice apart from conquering Ama Dablam and Mt Lhotse. Photography is strictly prohibited here. The trek continues along the tar road for a while. The views along the Chakrata-Tiuni road are unending. This road leads to Kanasar (30 km from Chakrata) which is a majestic open field set among large devdhar trees. In fact Kanasar has the largest diameter (girth) devdhar tree in Asia. Although no rivers are visible in the valleys, the intersecting spurs of the hills make for a beautiful vista. The campsite for the night is located amidst tall fir and pine trees and is protected from the chilling wind. A starry sky wishes you good night.
The next day we start our trek post breakfast and walk towards the FRH of Devban. Packed lunch is provided for the journey. We take a detour from the main road and walk along the forest trail. The main road follows a winding path till a Y-point with one end going to the Devban FRH and the other continuing for a further 24km upto the skiing slopes of Mundali. Mundali has one of the best FRH in all of Uttarakhand. We follow the forest trail which was used before the tar road was built. The trail rises upto the ridge and then curves behind the vertical rock patch. The forests here are very dense and you get a feeling of being watched all the way. Since very little sunlight reaches here most of the snow will still be 1-2 feet deep. The trail ends right at the main entrance of the FRH. The meadows in front of the FRH are beautiful and the green fence gives it a postcard feel. After having tea at the FRH we proceed to Vyas shikhar which is the highest point on the ridge. At a height of 3005m it gives a mesmerizing view of the Himalayan vista. The peaks of Kandariya Mahadev, Goshupishu, Koshni, Swargarohini, Ranglana, Banderpoonch, Shrikantha, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Dunagiri, Nandadevi and Trishul are visible from here. There is a stone marker indicating all the peaks seen from here. After finishing our packed lunch we head back to our campsite. We pack our bags and proceed back to Chakrata. The rest of the day can be spent sight-seeing around Chakrata. The famous Tiger falls can be visited and the Chintan-haran Shiv temple can be paid a visit. The main bazaar of Chakrata is called the Sadar bazaar and is a small place. There are small viewpoints built all around chakrata for tourists to sit and soak in the views. The army has done a wonderful job to keep the town clean and the construction regulated. Most of the official government buildings continue to be housed in old British colonial architecture style bungalows. The most prominent among them is the police Thana. We leave Chakrata and head for Dehradun.