Surrounding Kathmandu Valley are a number of small summits that make for nice warm ups before heading into the higher mountains. Shivapuri Peak to the north of the valley is the high point of Shivapuri National Park and home to the headwaters of the holy Bagmati River. The park is only a short taxi ride from Thamel and takes a few hours to hike. A lookout below the summit offers 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 Budhanilkantha Temple about 9 km to the north of Thamel. From the temple, head straight towards the mountain, the road deteriorating quickly. Some taxis may be willing to take you further up the road but it gets bad pretty quickly for anything with low clearance. Continue north on the dirt road until reaching a military blockade and the park entrance.
Pay the required fees and hire the required guide (more on that below). The trail starts just past the entrance gates, with some signs on the local wildlife. There is an out and back and a loop option to reach the summit, the longer requiring slightly more money to pay the guide. Assuming you selected the loop option, of the trail crosses a stream early climbs very steep and dusty trail. After some relentless uphill through the forest, the trail climbs into thicker forest. After reaching a pass dropping to the villages to the north, the trail steeply climbs a final series of steps to a lookout just below the summit, offering views of the Langtang area peaks and the Annapurnas far to the west. After you take in the views, continue to the forested highpoint with a statue for Shivapuri Baba, a holy man who lived on the mountains for years and visited the summit daily, regardless of the weather. Descending off the summit to the east, you'll pass the ruins of the old home of the holy man, followed shortly thereafter by a more modern Buddhist monestary. The grade on this side is much more forgiving, and about halfway down you'll reach the headwaters of the Bagmati River which supplies a large portion of the water for Kathmandu Valley. Descending past through the forest, you'll ultimately reach the Nagi Gomba, a Buddhist nunnery. From there it's a short distance further to the trailhead.
Entrance fees are required for all visitors, but far more for non SAARC foreigners, roughly $15-20 USD as of 2018 depending on the route. 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 loop hike of Shivapuri Peak being the most expensive.
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