One of the best and challenging track of Pakistan. One of the oldest hiking track of Islamabad.
Trail 3 is the most frequented hiking trail (of the total 6) in Islamabad. Well maintained by CDA, regularly cleaned for plantation growth onto the walking areas, direction plaques maintained and litter removed.
How to get there
This trail starts on the right side of Margalla Road, opposite to Street 1, Sector F 6/3. GPS coordinates are approx 33.741955 and 73.081806. You can search it as ‘Trail 3 Parking, Islamabad’ on google maps.
There is a parking area at the base, for about 300 cars. Expect it to be filled to capacity on weekends. On particularly pleasant summer days, even the road side parking on Margalla Road is full. The parking is free :).
On an average weekday, there are between 300-400 hikers on this trail. On weekends, it can be more than twice of that – so pretty crowded, almost always.
If you drink a lot of water during exercise, take water all along – there is no water stream on this trail 3 to refill your bottle. There is a small tuck shop in the start, which offers water bottles, fresh juices and candies etc. You may also take a hiking stick along!
If you are alone, the return journey might offer a good chance to listen to your favorite music.
As with all Islamabad hiking trails, there is a huge map right at the outset. Have a good look at this map to avoid detours. By the way, it’s fun to get lost on this trail. You come across undiscovered natural walkways on Margalla hills and would eventually end up joining the main track anyway.
There are no known/reported safety issues. However, it is advisable not to use it after sunset because of a large populations of monkeys around this trail. The monkeys increase their activities on the trees just before sunset. And in summers, these hills are prone to bush fire – if you see or smell smoke, stay away and inform CDA helpline. So perfectly safe from sunrise to sunset.
Like all other Islamabad trails, this trail also has a fire lane (marked as ‘fast track’ on google maps) and the main track. Fire lane is very steep. Unless you want to swing in and out of your cardiac zones a dozen times, the fire lane is not for you. If you want to use the main track, walk right in. If you want to use the fire lane, turn right before the wooden entrance and join the steep path going left after about 60 meters. No matter which path you choose, the final point is Monal restaurant.
The distance from parking lot to Monal is 6.1 km via the regular track and about 5 km via the fire lane. An average hiker would take about 1 hour and 45 minutes via the regular track. Return time is usually 20-30 minutes less. You can also take a taxi back to the parking from Monal if you don’t want to work your knees with quick descend of 600 m (about 2000 feet).
This trail can be thought of as having 4 legs.
Leg 1 is form the parking to a rest area with a large wooden blind, a prayer place, some local kids selling water, juices etc. The distance is about 1.8 km and the gained elevation is about 70 floors. Completion time of around 20 minutes or below for this leg is outstanding. By the way, more than 80% of hikers end their hiking here and stay for a while before descending back. (End of Leg 1)
Leg 2 is from this canopy place to a rest area, usually called ‘The Pines’ by regular hikers. This leg is small, but very steep. about 550 meters via fire lane and 20 floors. If you go by the regular track, the distance would be double of 550 m. Canopy to here – any time around or below 7 minutes is excellent. This place is very refreshing and there is an exercise bench there too! (End of Leg 2)
Leg 3 is from the pines to a valley like place. The distance is about 1.4 km, elevation about 38 floors. This leg is the least steep and there are some lovely places on route. There are many detours throughout, some leading to steep walk while others ascend gradually. As a rule, if you go straight of keep left, you are on track. Turning right will usually take you back! Here you have to make an important choice; whether to go straight ahead on the summit or walk around the hill (turn left) to reach the Monal – and, you can also walk back via the stream of Trail 5 (by turning right.
The 4th leg thus depends on your choice made at the valley. It can be as easy as a walk in a park or can be pretty steep if you hike to the peak (large antennas visible from here). The summit is about 1.2 kms and 52 floors from here.
The ‘choice point’ in the valley:
The way back is again your choice. Take a taxi form The Monal (or have your car waiting for you there), walk back the way you came up or take the picturesque Trail 5 at the ‘choice point’.
Let us join Dr Shahzad Basra and Tour for Life.