The most famous folk legend about Panch Kedar relates to the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Pandavas defeated and killed their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. They wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide (gotra hatya) and Brāhmanahatya (killing of Brahmins — the priest class) during the war. Thus, they handed over the reigns of their kingdom to their kin and left in search of the god Shiva and to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), believed to Shiva's favourite city and famous for its Shiva temple. But, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war and was, therefore, insensitive to Pandavas' prayers. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull (Nandi) and hid in the Garhwal region.
Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Garhwal Himalayas. Bhima, the second of the five Pandava brothers, then standing astride two mountains started to look for Shiva. He saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi (“hidden Kashi” — the name derived from the hiding act of Shiva). Bhima immediately recognized the bull to be Shiva. Bhima caught hold of the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull-formed Shiva disappeared into the ground to later reappear in parts, with the hump raising in Kedarnath, the arms appearing in Tunganath, the nabhi (navel) and stomach surfacing in Madhyamaheshwar, the face showing up at Rudranath and the hair and the head appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva. The Pandavas were thus freed from their sins.
The total trek length to cover all the five temples of Panch Kedar is about 140 km (including road travel up to Gaurikund), involving 16 days of strenuous and rewarding effort. The trek starts from Gauri Kund, one of the picturesque spots, providing spectacular views of the Himalayan range of hills in the entire Garhwal region, comparable to the The trekking is undertaken during two seasons; three months during summer and two months after the monsoon season, as during the rest of the period, except Rudranath, the other four Panch Kedar temples are inaccessible due to snow cover.
The road from Rishikesh is the first entry point to Garhwal from the plains of Uttarakhand. Rishikesh is approachable from Delhi by road over a distance of 230 km (140 mi). The road from Rishikesh leads to the Gaurikhund on the Rudraprayag–Kedarnath road from where the trekking would start to Kedarnath temple. The trek to Kedarnath is of 14 km (8.7 mi), each way. After Kedarnath, road travel to Guptakashi and further to Jagasu covers a distance of 30 km (19 mi). From Jagasu, the trek to Madhaymaheshwar temple via Gaundhar is over a distance of24 km (15 mi). This trek provides spectacular views of the Chaukhamba, the Kedarnath and the Neelkanth peaks. Returning from Madhyamaheshwar the road drive to Chopta via Jagasu is of 45 km (28 mi). From Chopta, the trek is to the Tunganath temple over a distance of about 4 km (2.5 mi). After the Tunganath trek, the drive along the road up to Mandal (known Cherapunji of Garhwal due to heavy rainfall) is for a distance of8 km (5.0 mi). From Mandal, the trek to Rudranath temple is of 20 km (12 mi). After visiting Rudranath temple the return journey is to Mandal and the drive down by road to Helang. From Helang, the trek to Kalpeshwar temple is for 3 km via Urgam village and is considered strenuous due to the steepness of the route. After completing the pilgrimage trek of Kalpeswar temple, the last of the Panch Kedar temples, the return road drive from Helong to Riishikesh via Pipalkothi is a distance of 233 km (145 mi).
The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun (258 km/160 mi). The nearest railway station is Rishikesh (241 km/150 mi).
After completing the pilgrimage of Lord Shiva's darshan at the Panch Kedar temples, it is an unwritten religious rite to visit Lord Vishnu at the Badrinath Temple, as a final affirmatory proof by the devotee that he has sought blessings of Lord Shiva