Trekking & Hiking To & Around Chatakpur

Chatakpur is a forest village nestled in the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary in Darjeeling district and is fast becoming a popular Eco-tourism place in the region. While there are several private homestays in Chatakpur that are availed by tourists for overnight stays, the village is also becoming a popular trek destination... in fact, a day hike from the Jorebungalow area to Chatakpur is now quite popular. 

About the hike

Jorebungalow motor stand is about 8.2kms from Darjeeling on the main national highway (i.e. the Hill Cart Road) and shortly after Ghum. Once you get there from Darjeeling by a transport, you need to go a short distance ahead along Hill Cart Road and take the Old Military Road. This is from where the trek or the day-hike begins to get to Chatakpur. 
The Old Military Road is a gravel road full of rocks and boulders. It goes through the dense forests of the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary which is full of oaks, pines and birch. The distance between Jorebungalow area where the Old Military Road starts and Chatakpur is about 13.4 kms and will take around 3.5 hours to hike one-way with some breaks in between. If it rains, the road gets muddy and particularly the downhill walk on your return can get quite tricky... so wear good pair of shoes. 
Initially the hike is on a more or less levelled road, however, soon it becomes an arduous uphill walk and the gravel road gradually ascends to an altitude of 7,887ft. Along the way and after about 2.5kms of trek, you will come across the pretty Senchal Lake. This lake is the main reservoir for supplying water to Darjeeling town. After another 1.6kms, you will pass through Rangbull village. 
The Old Military Road eventually meets with Chatakpur Road (another narrow dirt road) where you need to take a right turn to get to Chatakpur village. 
You should carry food and water so that you can have your lunch once you reach Chatakpur. Also try to carry some snack bars and energy drinks. You won't find any decent eateries at Chatakpur. After your lunch, start your return trek from Chatakpur to Jorebungalow. 

How to do this day hike?

Note that the trek route (i.e. the Old Military Road) including Chatakpur are part of the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary and you need to obtain an entry permit to the sanctuary before you enter the forest area. 
One of the easiest ways to do this trek is to go through a Darjeeling based trek operator. They not only take care of your entry permits to the sanctuary, they also arrange for the transport from Darjeeling to Jorebungalow (up to the point where the trek starts) and get you back, plus they also provide an experienced and knowledgeable guide. 
If you want to do it yourself, then you can take a shared taxi from Darjeeling Chauk Bazaar motor stand up to Jorebungalow (will cost around Rs. 30/- per person, one way). You can then start the hike yourself (although a guide is highly recommended, but not necessary). On your return, you can again take a shared taxi from Jorebungalow motor stand back to Darjeeling town.  
You should get your sanctuary entry permit yourself from the Forest Department's Office at Jorebungalow (located on Hill Cart Road and quite close to the entry point to Old Military Road at Jorebungalow). Ideally you should get the permit on the previous day in order to start the hike early and on time. Here is the address of Jorebungalow Forest Office: 
Office of the Ranger Officer (Jorebungalow) 
Senchal West Range 
Wildlife Division-I, Darjeeling, West Bengal 
Note that the Sanctuary remains closed (and therefore permits are not issued) during the monsoon season between June 15 to September 15... so, you can not do this hike during this time. 
Rahul Roy (December 2020) 
Hi Raj, I want to travel to Chatakpur (on shoestring budget) and here's the itinerary I was thinking - Travel from NJP to Sonada in shared jeep. Hike to Chatakpur and stay for a night. Hike to Tiger Hill the next day and from there till Darjeeling. Stay in Darjeeling for a night, take a shared Jeep to NJP the next day. 
Can you tell me if this is feasible? Are there trails from Sonada to Chatakpur which can be walked upon amidst the forest's wilderness (and are preferably non-motorable) or is taking a vehicle the recommended option? 
Also, where do I obtain the permits from the forest department? Is a guide for the above-mentioned treks mandatory/ recommended? 
Raj ( December 2020 
Hi, your plan is feasible but has some constraints. 
from Sonada there is a motorable road that goes through a forested area to Chatakpur (about 6kms). Usually, there is hardly any traffic on this route. At Sonada, get off when you see Dipak Meat Shop on the right (and opposite Dazzy'z Mobile Care). Next to the meat shop, take the Forest Office Road to the right which eventually meets Chatakpur Road. Along the way, Old Military Road comes and meets this road from the left, don't take that road, instead keep walking straight. There are practically no signs and you may not find anybody to show you the way. It will take about 2 hours to hike from Sonada to Chatakpur. 
From Chatakpur, Tiger Hill Observatory is about 18kms and will take close to 6 hours to hike... so you can not expect to see the sunrise from Tiger hill. If you want to cut short your walk, then get back to Sonada and take a shared jeep to Jorebungalow. Otherwise, walk back along Chatakpur road and take a right into the Old Military Road which will go through Senchal forest and eventually reach Jorebungalow (about 14kms walk). From here, the Tiger Hill Observatory is about 4km steep uphill walk. Guides are not necessary on these routes but recommended. 
From Tiger Hill, you can come down to Jorebungalow and approach Darjeeling along Hill Cart Road (about 12kms). Alternatively, from Jorebungalow you can take the narrow road (initially called Tenzing Norgay Road) via Aloobari Monastery and Tungsung Basti to reach Darjeeling Mall (about 9kms). 
Entry to Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary where Chatakpur is located requires permission from the Forest Department. The villagers running the homestays in Chatakpur are authorized to get such permission on your behalf and collect the entry fee from you, which they later deposit at the Forest Department. So, ensure that you have a confirmed booking in one of the homestays in Chatakpur before you attempt to visit the place and ask the homestay owner to do the needful. 
Good Luck! 

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