Alpather Lake is a picturesque small lake at the foot of the twin Apharwat Peaks, at a height of 4,390 meters. Also known as frozen Lake by the locals, it is one of the major tourist attractions in the small town of Gulmarg.
Surrounded by rocky mountains and lush green meadows that are covered with beautiful wildflowers, this lake is a sight to behold. It is not just the lake, to be honest, but the entire journey that you will take to finally get here, that is an experience in itself.
When you finally get to stand on the banks of a stunningly beautiful lake in the middle of nowhere, at the top of the highest peak around, you know that you are going to be talking about this trip for days to come.
In this article, I will discuss some tips and details on how you can visit Alpather Lake in a single day from Gulmarg. For other details on visiting Gulmarg, how to reach there, and what else to see, you can take a look at How to Plan your Trip to Gulmarg?
About Alpather Lake
The lake is very small in size, just a small body of water sitting at the top of a mountain. It is a glacial lake, fed by the melting snow from the nearby peaks. But the entire setting of the lake is just picture-perfect.
During the months of winter, in January and February especially, this entire lake freezes completely. So much that you could easily walk over it. It starts to melt in March but has chunks of ice floating in it and remains surrounded by plenty of snow well into the month of May.
Due to this very fact, the locals in Gulmarg refer to this water body as a frozen lake. Even I was thrown off by this mention initially; and thought that they were in fact talking about a different lake altogether.
Where is Alpather Lake?
Let me first start by covering a bit on where exactly the lake is located for a better understanding of how to get here. It sits at the top of a mountain, Apharwat Peak, in almost like a bowl-shaped formation in the small tourist town of Gulmarg.
The total distance between Gulmarg and Alpather Lake is 13 kilometers and it is connected to the town by three ways – a trek, cable car, and motorable road.
Yes, you read that right. There is in fact a motorable road that goes right from Gulmarg all the way to the top of Apharwat peak and runs right next to the lake.
But due to the proximity to the border, it is only used by the Indian Army and is not accessible to civilians. You will either have to trek or catch a Gondola ride.
How to reach Alpather Lake?
The first part of visiting the lake would of course be to get to Gulmarg. You will first have to get to Srinagar and from there, reach Gulmarg. Please read How to Plan a Trip to Gulmarg for further details on this part of the journey.
Once you reach Gulmarg, you can then reach Alpather Lake in either of the three ways I suggested above. Now since we were just talking about a road, let me first cover that.
Gulmarg to Alpather Lake by Road
The road from Gulmarg to Apharwat peak and the lake was actually built by the Indian Army and gets used only by their vehicles. It is the same road that first reaches Bota Pathri from Gulmarg and then climbs up the mountain.
But due to the sensitivity of the region, Civilians are not allowed to travel on this road and you will be stopped at the check post the moment you start driving up.
On a different note, the road is way too steep and way too bad. It is only doable by 4×4 vehicles. Any other car, even a 2×4 SUV, will not be able to make it out here.
Even if you were allowed to travel, you will still need a strong car with great ground clearance, excellent driving skills, and nerves of steel to make it to the top.
Alpather Lake Trek
This of course is for the adventurous type, people who are fit enough and are into trekking. Why do I say that? Because the trek is 14 kilometers of a steep climb on rocky terrain.
I walked only the last 3 kilometers of it and it left me exhausted completely. So much that I had no energy left to trek back and hoped into an Army truck for our journey back to the Gondola station. So if you have done some trekking, have good enough stamina then yes, you can try trekking to Alpather lake.
If you are going to do that, there are 3 things that you must keep in mind. First is that you will need a local guide, available in plenty in Gulmarg. You cannot do this trek on your own. You will end up getting lost which considering that it is a sensitive area close to the border is not really a good idea.
The second thing is that you must start early from Gulmarg, possibly by 5 AM or the first light of the day. This is not an easy trek and will definitely take you some time to complete. So in order to be back before dark, start early.
The third is that there are no eateries on the way. So ensure that you are carrying water, some biscuits, and snacks along.
To give you an idea of where the lake exactly is, let me post a picture taken from Gulmarg. The mountain in the picture is Apharwat peak.
- 1 is where the Gondola ride starts from
- 2 is the middle point, phase 1 of the Gondola ride, also known as the Kungdoor station.
- 3 is the endpoint of Phase 2 of the Gondola ride
- 4 is where Alpather lake is located.
Once you get off the Gondola at Phase 2, look towards the right side. This is the peak that you will see. Just start climbing up in this direction.
The green building in the picture below is the Gondola Station.
Soon you will also see this road. Just keep climbing towards the top and continue gaining height.
The Gondola station is at the far end of where the road is ending.
As you gain height, you will notice this mountain. The lake is on the other side of it.
After that, just climb down to the lake.
Best Way to reach Alpather Lake
The best way to get to Alpather Lake from Gulmarg is by Gondola. I am calling this the best way because it offers you a little bit of almost everything.
You get to catch a Gondola ride which is a great experience in itself. Then you get to do some trekking a well to add to your adventure tale. And then finally you will be standing at the banks of Alpather Lake without stressing yourself too much.
So how do you reach the lake by Gondola? It’s quite easy really. From Gulmarg, catch a Gondola ride for Phase 2 which will cost you about Rs. 1,600 per person.
When you get down at the Gondola station, come out and start walking towards your right. It can look a bit confusing because there is no clear trail, just a bunch of huge rocks.
But towards your right is the top of the Apharwat peak so just start climbing up towards the top and you will eventually get to see the lake after about 3 kilometers.
If you want to see the trek but don’t think you can make it on foot, then another way would be to catch a pony ride. You can sit on the pony and ride it all the way to the top of the mountain and then to the lake.
Do remember though that this can be a bit too scary for some people as the pony starts to climb up. Another thing is that this will also be expensive. It will cost you even more than the Gondola ride.
Also Read: How to Plan a Journey to Aharbal?
Time Needed for Alpather Lake Trek
By road, you cannot definitely go so that is out of the picture. If you were planning to trek the entire 14 kilometers from Gulmarg then it will easily take you about 12 to 14 hours at least, depending on your physical stamina.
If you were going by Gondola, however, then it will take you about 2 to 3 hours from Gondola station to go to the lake and come back. Either way, it is at least a day’s affair from Gulmarg.
Can you Camp at the Lake?
Absolutely not. There are no hotels or campsites nearby and you cannot even camp on your own. As I mentioned, this area is way too sensitive and you will be in trouble if Army caught you camping here. Do not attempt camping, make it a day’s trip and go back to Gulmarg.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Doodhpathri?
Alpather Lake Trek Guide
In a few simple words, you don’t need one. The only time you may need a local guide is if you were trekking in the months of January, February, or even March, to help you navigate your way through all the snow.
For the rest of the months, you don’t really need a guide. The lake is very easy to reach from the Gondola station, all that you need to do is climb up towards the top of the peak.
The entire town of Gulmarg is swarming with guides. These guys will lie between their teeth and try to make a fool out of you. They will tell you that the trek is difficult and only they can show you the way.
I understand that they are poor people and competition is tough. I wouldn’t even mind giving a small amount to help but the problem is that they don’t ask for small. The usual charge is Rs. 1,200.
A guide at top of the Gondola station asked me for Rs. 2,500 to show the way to the lake which I ended up finding on my own. There is no way that I am paying that kind of money let someone walk with me.
So unless you went visiting in winter, you don’t need a guide and should save yourself some money.
Best Time to Visit Alpather Lake
All times are the best time to visit the lake, to be honest. It presents a different color in every season. The picture posted above was taken in August when the entire area was lush green after the monsoon. Let me give you a breakdown of how the lake looks each month.
- Alpather Lake in January – Covered in snow and completely frozen. Extremely cold with snow all around. Must wear war woolens and a heavy windproof jacket and come with a guide.
- Alpather Lake in February – Same deal as the month of January.
- Alpather Lake in March – Same as the previous two months. The only difference is that the snow starts to melt around this time.
- Alpather Lake in April – Spring arrives. Lush green all around with some snow still left. One of the best times to trek to Alpather Lake.
- Alpather Lake in May – Lake would have melted completely. There will be some snow left on the hills around though.
- Alpather Lake in June – No snow. A complete blue water body. Plenty of chances of sudden rainfall.
- Alpather Lake in July – Same as June
- Alpather Lake in August – Lush green all around and a sight to behold. Another great time to trek here.
- Alpather Lake in September – The weather will be the same as in August. Chances of rain will be less though.
- Alpather Lake in October – Winter will start to settle in and it can snow here anytime.
- Alpather Lake in November – The lake would start to freeze. There will be occasional snowfall in the region.
- Alpather Lake in December – The entire area will start to turn white and the lake would be partially frozen.
I hope the information above on the Alpather Lake trek was of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer. You can also follow me on Instagram and chat with me live there or subscribe to my YouTube channel and ask a question there.