Nepal Trekking Season: The Breakdown
The intent and passion are there. You’ve got your pack tripped out with all the gear you’ll need for the journey. You’re ready to hike your face off! The awesomeness of trekking is being outside, checking out the landscape and the surroundings of a new area, and moving at a pace slow enough to take it all in. We’re not doing this as a flyover, right?
No one wants to be held up for days or weeks because of bad weather. While trekking is always a challenge, it’s supposed to be enjoyable and fun as well. You don’t want to be climbing to the Everest base camp in a blinding blizzard if you can avoid it. The time of year is as important as having a pack strong enough to carry all of your supplies.
Tourism is the country’s largest industry and with the high alpine environment that brings in the people, seasonality is definitely a big thing in Nepal. Samir took a break from singing traditional Nepalese songs to break down the best Nepal trekking seasons based on weather, crowds, and views, as he called them, which include not only the countryside but the plants and wildlife you’ll spot that time of year.
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Weather is going to be an issue as you head over mountain passes and across ravines. So enter ‘Nepal Trekking Season.’ The times of year where the weather is most likely to be on your side, adding to the beauty and surreal-ness of the journey instead of stalling the process.
What to look out for:
- Are the lodges you plan to stay in going to be open?
- What type of pace does our group need to keep?
- Will snow at high altitudes affect the trails?
- How often will it rain?
For the best treks in Nepal, the seasons to go are Spring and Fall. More specifically, March-April and September-November. The two seasons are vastly different. The Spring season features blooming wildlife fed by rapid snow melt and warming temperatures.
Spring (March and April)
March and April are also the best time to head over the mountain passes, as the snow has begun to melt. Springtime can see dusty trail conditions and occasional rain, but overall it’s a great time to go. There are plenty of trekkers out this time of year, many who are experienced and can offer advice as well as provide some great stories over tea after a long day on the trail.
Pros of trekking in Spring:
- Flowers everywhere! Snow has begun to melt, bringing the floral landscape into full bloom. “In March and April, it’s beautiful because there are flowers everywhere. The views are pretty. Both flora and fauna are really nice. We can see lots of different kinds of birds.”
- Rising temperatures make trails drier and easier to pass. “It’s right after the winter and the weather has a chance to warm,” Samir says. Take your time, walk slowly, and stop frequently for photos. This time of year, there is no rush.
- The best mountain views.
- Tourist season is in full effect, meaning lodges will be open and you’ll have plenty of chances to interact with people from all over the world.
- 95% of all treks are booked in the spring season. It is by far the most crowded time of year in Nepal.
By May, the snow is melted. The peak season has hit and is beginning to pass, offering a bit more solace and fewer crowds. Nepal is in full bloom this time of year, providing some amazing photo opportunities and views that will take your breath away.
Pros of trekking in May:
- Fewer people means more wide open space!
- Beautiful flowers dot the landscape.
- The snow has given way to seasonal fauna and wildlife. Time to break out those binoculars- keep an eye out for native Nepalese wildlife like the Spiny Babbler.
- May is warm with long, sunny days. There is more daylight than March or April, allowing you to slow your daily pace a bit.
- The thing to watch out for if you’re coming in May is the arrival of the monsoon season. While the rain often isn’t unbearable until June, a trekking trip late in the month is risky. During the wet season, it rains nearly every day with frequent thunderstorms and few breaks long enough for trekking.
Summer is monsoon season in Nepal, and the rains are famously intense. Most trekking is nearly impossible or completely unenjoyable (unless you love being drenched and having no visibility when trekking). Mustang is frequently passable in summer, however, as it is along the border of Tibet. Summer is a better time to head to Tibet than Nepal.
Autumn is widely considered the best time to trek in Nepal because of the lush beauty provided by summer’s rain and the fact that fewer people plan trips in fall than in spring. With cooperative weather, you’ll have a better chance of clearing the high pass on popular loop treks like Annapurna and Manaslu, but it’s no guarantee. An unseasonal storm swept through the mountains while we were in Nepal during this season, preventing us from getting over 5200 meter Larkya La pass. C’est la vie!
As tourism season peaks again in the fall, flights, hotels, and guest houses can be expensive and difficult to book. Keep this in mind during planning- the best time to book flights is 6-8 weeks in advance but if you see a deal you like sooner grab it. Many accommodations in Kathmandu can arrange an airport pick up, another reason to book those first few nights in advance of arrival. Lastly, be aware of other special events that might tie up accommodations and hold up your trekking plans. We unknowingly arrived during Tihar (read more about Tihar), a 5-day long festival and one of Nepal’s biggest. We got to enjoy a unique celebration but had to delay our trekking plans since everything was closed. If you’re planning your trek on the fly, like we did, expect the unexpected delays!
Weather-wise, the days are long and warm but evenings are cool.
Pros of trekking in Autumn:
- Wide open views.
- The rains have mellowed and the landscape is alive with color.
- It’s finally dry season again!
- Long days and moderate temperatures.
- October crowds. October is the busiest part of the fall
- Occasional snow at high altitudes can impact treks.
Despite heavy snow at high elevations, days are often clear in winter trekking season. This makes for good trekking at lower elevations (obviously much of the higher-elevation stuff is inaccessible this time of year). Crowds are almost non-existent, but many guesthouses and other amenities close during the winter season.
Whenever you go, always remember:
95% of tours are organized during March and April, particularly April. October is also very busy. These are the best Nepal trekking seasons and the trails are best during these times, as long as you don’t mind dealing with more people on the trail. If wide open trails and less touristy interactions are at the top of your list, planning your trip in early May or November is a good option. Lastly, keep in mind that these are the highest mountains in the world. Whatever season you choose, in the Himalaya’s there are no guarantees for perfect weather! No matter what, when you travel with a smile and an open heart the sun will always shine on you.