As you reach Jammu & Kashmir State (J&K) you would touch Jammu if you are coming by road, rail or air where as you can also reach Srinagar directly if you plan to come by air.
Pahalgam - Chandanwari Track Route
The distance between Jammu to Pahalgam is approximately 315KMs and can be covered by road. One can also opt for to go by air from Jammu to Srinagar and then proceed to Pahalgam by road which is located at a distance of 96KMs from Srinagar.
Pahalgam (2,130m) is the base camp for Annual Yatra to Shri Amarnathji Cave Shrine. Pahalgam has a breath taking view of high mountains covered with pine forests, vast meadows and torrential flow of water in Lidder River enriches the beauty of the Valley.
As one proceeds along the Yatra trek, Chandanwari (2,895m) is the first spot to reach and located at a distance of 16KMs from Pahalgam. The trail from Pahalgam to Chandanwari runs along the Lidder River with scenic views all around. The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on fairly flat terrain and can be undertaken by local transport as well. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible on foot or by pony.
As the Yatra proceeds further from Chandanwari, one has to climb a height to reach Pissu Top. It is believed to be spot where Lord Shiva gave darshans during a war between Devtas and Rakshas. With the power of Shiv, devtas could kill the rakshas in such large number that the heap of their dead bodies resulted in this high mountain
About 11KMs from Chandanwari, after Pissu Top, is the mountain lake of Sheshnag (3,574m). Sheshnag is actually a mountain which derives its name from its Seven Peaks, resembling the heads of the mythical snake. One can have night's camp at Sheshnag that overlooks the deep blue waters of Sheshnag Lake, and glaciers beyond. There are legends of love and revenge too associated with Sheshnag, and at the camp these are narrated by campfires. The stillness of the Himalayan night increases your inner joy. Once you take bath and enjoy the scenic view, life takes a whole new meaning altogether.
The Holy Cave of Shri Amarnathji is 6KMs away from Sheshnag. One has to climb a steep height across Mahagunas Pass (4276m) for 4.6KMs and then descend to the meadow lands of Panjtarni (3657m). Due to cold harsh winds it is strongly recommended that Yatris should carry woolens and protective gear! Some Yatris are also affected by deficiency of oxygen. As oxygen is low at such an altitude, some may feel nausea. It is always recommended to contact the nearest medical post immediately if one develops such symptoms. The route to Mahagunas is full of rivulet, water falls and springs. At Panjtarni, at the feet of Bhairav Mount, Five Rivers flow which apparently originated from Lord Shiva's Hair (Jataon). Pilgrims also camp at Panjtarni for the night.
On the way to the Holy Cave of Shri Amarnathji, one comes across the Sangam of Amravati and Panjtarni rivers. Some pilgrims take bath at Amravati near the Holy Cave before going for Darshan. There are two smaller Shivlings one of Maa Parvati and other of Shri Ganesh. After having early Darshan of the Shiv Linga at Holy Cave, one can return to Panjtarni well in time the same day.Pahalgam Axis
The distance from Baltal to the Holy Cave of Shri Amarnathji is a 14KMs (one way) and the trek is fairly steep. Although distance can be covered by foot it is also possible to hire ponies or palkies (for handicapped and old aged pilgrims). Baltal is more popular because of its shorter distance.
The width of the pebbled (kuchha) road/ trek is a bit narrow as compared to the 'Chandanwari - Holy Cave route', moreover, there are some steep rises & falls on the way, as compared to the Chandanwari route, but pilgrims can return back to base camp Baltal through this route only in one day. It is suggested that only the very fit should go and come back the same day after trekking for 28KMs distance.Baltal Axis