Mountain Thrills: The Highs of the Great Himalayan National Park

Three ways to explore the UNESCO heritage site on foot. Powered by Adventure Nation.  
In winter, snow leopards descend from their homes in the upper Himalayas to lower altitudes in the Great Himalayan National Park. It's much colder at this time of year, but also the best season for sightings. Photo: J & C Sohns/Tier und Naturfotografie/Dinodia Photo Library
In winter, snow leopards descend from their homes in the upper Himalayas to lower altitudes in the Great Himalayan National Park. It's much colder at this time of year, but also the best season for sightings. Photo: J & C Sohns/Tier und Naturfotografie/Dinodia Photo Library

Spread over jagged peaks, alpine meadows, and vast forests in Himachal Pradesh, the Great Himalayan National Park is a region of thriving biodiversity, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its ecological value. Explore its broadleaf and coniferous forests, home to more than 300 species, including the elusive snow leopard and the rare western tragopan. Listen to the roar of its rivers, including the Parvati and Tirthan, that originate from glaciers within the park, winding through rugged and ever-changing landscapes.

The Great Himalayan National Park can only be explored on foot. Adventure Nation, which organises active holidays in India and abroad, conducts treks through the region beginning from Gushaini, about 8km away. It is a chance for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife buffs to get closer to nature and immerse themselves in this breathtaking landscape.

Wildlife

Photo: Ingram Publishing/Dinodia Photo Library

The majestic Himalayan griffon can be founds in parts of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and Uttarakhand for most of the year, except winter when they migrate to Rajasthan to escape sub-zero temperatures. Photo: Ingram Publishing/Dinodia Photo Library

The Great Himalayan National Park is spanned by forests of oak, deodar, spruce, rhododendron, birch, and fir, which afford sightings of the Himalayan musk deer, the bharal or blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, the Himalayan black bear. The park also provides habitat to over 200 bird species, including a host of migratory birds that flock here in different seasons. Birders will delight in the chance to spot rare species such as the western tragopan, and gorgeous raptors such as the golden eagle and the near-threatened Himalayan griffon. Aquatic birds such as white-capped and plumbeous water redstarts coast along the rivers.

In the upper reaches, the vegetation gives way to shrubs, then alpine meadows, and eventually, glaciers that feeds the rivers Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwanal and Parvati. It is in these higher altitudes that the elusive snow leopard roams, a species that is both endangered and hard to spot.

The Guide

The Great Himalayan National Park lies in the Kullu district of the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, 52 kilometres away, while a more convenient airport would be at Chandigarh, 300km away. The nearest railhead is at Joginder Nagar, 110 kilometres away; for a more convenient major railhead, choose Chandigarh. The park is accessible from Gushaini in the Tirthan Valley. The entrance and starting point for treks lies just beyond this point. Tirthan is a little over 500 kilometres by road from Delhi. If you’re travelling by bus, board a Manali-bound bus from Delhi and disembark at Aut. Local buses are available from Aut to Gushaini, although trek operators such as Adventure Nation arrange for a pick-up from Aut. Permits are required to enter the park; Indians pay a per day fee of ₹100 per person.

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    Malavika Bhattacharya is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, culture, and food. She travels for the outdoors: to dive deep in the Indian Ocean, crawl through caves in Meghalaya, and hike through the Norwegian fjords.

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