Surrounding Kathmandu Valley are a number of small summits that make for nice warm ups before heading into the higher mountains. Jamacho Peak at the northwest corner of the valley is far from the highest but one of the most accessible, being a short taxi ride from Thamel and taking a few hours to hike. A modest Buddhist stupa and gompa sit at the summit along with a metal lookout tower adorned with prayer flags, offering views of the Langtang Range, Ganesh Himal, and even as far as the Annapurnas on clear days.
To get to the trailhead for Jamacho Peak, take a cab or rent a bike to Balaju about 3 km to the northwest of Thamel. From the roundabout in the center of Balaju, head straight towards the mountain, the road deteriorating to stone. Continue northwest on the paved Trishuli highway (I use the phrase highway loosely) until reaching a military blockade and the park entrance. If you tell the cab driver to take you to the Narajun Forest Park entrance, they can probably get you there.
Pay the required fees and hire the required guide (more on that below). The forest is used for training by the Nepali military, and you’ll need to sign in with them before entering the park. The trail starts on the right of the road just past the entrance gates, with some signs on the local wildlife. Continuing straight takes you to the Nagarjun Rock Climbing area. The first part of the trail climbs very steep rock steps, 2650 in total for the entire hike. After some relentless uphill through the forest, the trail climbs onto the ridgeline proper. After passing another military checkpoint the trail levels off quite a bit and takes a more modest grade as it climbs through the forest. Looking north, you can start to catch glimpses of Langtang Peak. About 45 minutes from the summit you’ll reach a clearing, with the lookout tower and Buddhist Gompa in sight above. Steep stone steps are again the norm as you close in on the summit lookout tower to take in the views of the high Himalaya. The Buddhist shrine at the summit is dedicated to Padmasambhava, who built the first Buddhist temple in Tibet.
Entrance fees are required for all visitors, but far more for non SAARC foreigners, roughly $10 USD as of 2018. Shortly after the massive earthquake in 2015, it was determined that all foreigners require a hired guide, which can be paid for at the entrance gate. There is a price listing for each hike based on the distance, with the summit of Jamacho Peak being the most expensive, also around $10 USD.
As with all hiking in Nepal, spring and fall bring the best weather. Monsoons hit the valley hard in the summer, and it is unlikely that you’ll see any big summits from the top before monsoon clouds move in. Winter can also bring storms, although the low summit is unlikely to hold much snow or ice except after the coldest storms.
No camping is allowed within the park. There is plenty of cheap lodging throughout Kathmandu.
Trip Report: The Mountains Are Calling