Northeast of Chandigarh and east of Larji, the Great Himalayan National Park (aka Jawahar Lal Nehru National Park) is known for hiking and trekking in the India state of Himachal Pradesh. It is a 754 square kilometer national park.
The Park and Kullu region offers excellent opportunities for bird watching, wildlife viewing, religious pilgrimages, cultural tours, and viewing local crafts and craft creation. There are options of rafting, climbing, fishing, attending a village festival, viewing local architecture, and sacred groves. The Park itself has two facilities for tourists: a tourist center at Sai Ropa and an Information Center at Larjee.
The Sai Ropa Tourist Center is located five kms away from Banjar and 5 kms before the Gushaini entrance to the Park. Nestled in the pine forest, the Tourist Center spreads over 3 hectares (six acres) area. It is also the headquarters of Tirthan Wildlife Range Office from where entrance ticket to the Park can be obtained. The Center has a Forest Rest House, a building housing two dormitories (20 beds in all), a photo exhibition, a conference/ training room with projection facilities, and a hall with photo exhibition about the Park. Outside, there is a 520 m long Biodiversity Trail which has trees and medicinal plant species transplanted from the Park; a pergola (gazebo) with Tirthan river view; a demonstration site for vermicomposting; a butterfly enclosure, and a solar energy demonstration site.
The Larji Information Center caters to the tourists coming to GHNP. It has a hall with training and projection facility for tourists, school children, and the village community. It is well located for orientation from Neuli or Gushaini. A small hall has Park educational displays. Park brochures, posters and entry ticket to the Park can be obtained here. The headquarters of Jiwanal Range Officer is also located here. In the open area of the Center, there is a pergola (gazebo), and information displays. Wildlife is best spotted on a five- to eight-day organised trek, accompanied by a park ranger. Arrangements can be made through the park rangers at the Sai Ropa Tourist Centre, 5km before Gushaini, or with private companies in Manali. You need travel insurance that covers emergency helicopter evacuations.
The starting point for trekking in Great Himalayan National Park is the Kullu Valley region in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This region is best accessible by road and air. A pre-trek meeting at headquarters in Shamshi (near Kullu) is recommended.
To reach Great Himalayan National Park by road from Delhi: Approximately 500 kms by road (14+ hour trip). Take Delhi to Chandigarh by National Highway 1, then to Aut in Mandi district by NH 21. The towns of Chandigarh and Swarghat can be targeted to stay for staging the trip. Road journey in the mountain terrain of Himachal provides good views of Gobindsagar Lake near Bilaspur, followed by lush and wide Bahl Valley. The drive continues through the outskirts of Mandi which leads into the Pandoh gorge. After Pandoh comes the small town of Aut from where a link road goes across the bridge over Beas River into the Banjar valley, where the Park is located. This trip can be made by private vehicle. Private and state run buses to the region are also available. Check with tour guides and books for details from major Indian cities to Bhuntar and Kullu.
To reach Great Himalayan National Park by air, use the airline service from Delhi to Chandigarh to Bhuntar. It is another 50km from Bhuntar to Kullu.
Joginder Nagar near Mandi is the nearest railhead for Great Himalayan National Park. There are regular trains from Joginder Nagar Railway Station to other parts of the country.
The park is located in the Seraj Forest Division of Kullu District in Himachal Pradesh some 60 km southwest of Kullu town.
Here are the recommend treks within the Great Himalayan National Park:
1. Tirthan Valley - The motorable, all-weather road from Aut to Gushaini is about 52 kms. Gushaini is the roadhead for trekking in this valley. Sainj Valley starting from Aut, the 46 kms road in Sainj valley ends at Neuli where the trekking trail starts. About 5 kms short of Neuli, is the village Ropa. Here, a gravel road climbs up to Shangarh which is famous for its large meadow surrounded by the cedar trees. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles can use this gravel road which is very narrow and not generally advised for travel by car. Check with GHNP officials about access to Neuli by road. There is a bus service to Neuli.
2. Jiwa Nal Valley - On the Sainj Valley road, about 35 kms from Aut, is the Siund village where the Jiwa river meets Sainj. Siund is the starting point for treks in Jiwanal Valley.
3. Parvati Valley - Beyond Aut follow NH 21 up to Bhuntar then take the link road to Manikaran and up to Barshaini. Start the trek from Barshaini or the more popular village of Pulga (with an old Forest Rest House). This is the starting point of very popular treks up to Mantalai and further up to cross the Pin-Parvati Pass (5319 m altitude). From Kullu, Bhuntar (Airport connection from New Delhi), and Aut, there are regular taxi and bus services to the Sainj and Tirthan valleys. Consult a guide book for places to stay in the Kullu or Bhuntar area while you stage your trek.
In addition, here are some extended trek details:
A five day trek crossing through the Sainj river valley.
Day 1: Neuli (1500 m altitude) to Shakti (2100 m altitude).
Night at Shakti Trekkers' Camp. Moderate ascent. Distance: 22 km
Day 2: Shakti to campsite at Lower Meadow Bridge in Homkhani Forest (2800 m). Moderate through dense forest, walnut trees, medicinal herbs, etc.
Distance: 6 kms.
Day 3: Rest Day at lower Meadow. Day excursions.
Day 4: Return to Shakti.
Day 5: Return to Neuli.
Total Distance: 56 km (round trip).
To Dhel (3737 m)- heavy moderate through dense forest up to beautiful high and wide meadow. Great vistas and opportunities for observing wildlife.
Distance: Neuli to Dhel round-trip: 66 kms.
A eight-day trek crossing two valleys. Moderate to strenuous. Experience the transitions between two magnificent valleys.
Day 1: Neuli (1500 m) to Shakti (2100 m).
Night at Park accommodation. Moderate ascent. Distance: 22 km
Day 2: Shakti to Dhel (3737 m)
Heavy-moderate ascent through dense forest, walnut trees, medicinal herbs, etc.
Distance: 11 kms.
Day 3 and 4: Rest days at Dehl. Day hikes to Jogni (outdoor prayer sites). Fabulous sunrises and sunsets. Early morning hikes with opportunities to observe wildlife (Red Fox, Himalayan Tahrs)
Distance: 4 to 6 kms.
Day 5: Dehl to Guntrao (3500 m): Strenuous. Moving to higher elevations (4120 meters). Difficult trail for more than one hour through very narrow path with sheer drops of 200 meters. Good chance of seeing Himalayan Tahr. A long day on the trail. Must be in very good shape, but worth the effort. Distance: 15 kms.
Day 6: Rest Day at Guntrao: Early morning opportunities for observing Himalayan Tahr and Musk deer.
Day 7: Guntrao to Shilt (3100 m). Moderate up and down. Lush bamboo forests, streams and waterfalls. Shilt campsite offers opportunities for evening wildlife.
Distance: 16 kms.
Day 8: Shilt to Gushaini. Steep descent through dense forests. Exiting GHNP into Ecozone. Distance: 15 kms.
Note: A reverse route of the above trek is also popular.
Distance from Neuli to Gushaini: About 85 kms.
Gushaini to Shilt Hut
Easy to Moderate three day hike from Ecozone into Park.
Day 1: Gushaini (1500 m) to Rolla (2100 m). Entry into Park. Easy day.
Distance: 9 kms.
Day 2: Rolla to Shilt Hut (3100 m): side trip to Chhordwari waterfall and bamboo forest. Distance: 7 kms.
Day 3: Shilt to Gushaini: Return.
Total Distance: 30 kms
Jiwa Nala to Parvarti River Valley
A seven-day, very strenuous, dramatic hike crossing the mountain passes at Kandi Galu (3627m), and Phangchi Galu (4636m). Incredible vistas. Must be in excellent physical condition as very demanding with elevation ascent of 2000 meters and 1500 meters descent in one day (total up-down, 3,500 m in one day!).
Day 1: Neuli (1650m) to Bhagi Kashahri (2600m). Morning visit to Manu Temple
(2200 m). Evening at village school site. Moderate ascent. Distance: 23 kms.
Day 2: Bhagi Kashahri to Subli (3300m). Strenuous ascent in early morning (3600 m). Pass through Kandi Galu notch (3627m). Distance 17 kms.
Day 3: Subli to Dwada (3150m). Relatively easy hike passing through birch forests and meadows. Distance 6 kms.
Day 4: Rest Day at Dwada: Beautiful meadow surrounded by steep mountain valleys and flowing Jiwanal River. Peaceful and good place to rest after long hike from Subli.
Day 5: Rest Day Dwada: Day hike up to Surtu Glacial Pond in Khandedhar with dramatic mountain backdrops. Opportunities for wildlife observation including Brown Bear, Snow Leopard, etc. Distance: 20 kms. Round trip.
Day 6: Dwada to Chippi (3550m): Very strenuous day. Crossing Phangchi Galu Pass (4636 m) below Khandedhar into Parvarti Valley. Continuous steep ascent over rock scree, boulders, and very narrow paths into high alpine meadows, then higher lichen environments. Can be cold and windy. Descent from Phangchi Galu can have deep snow pack and should be done with great care as steep drops and potentially very dangerous. Sublime peace at the higher elevations. Stressful on knees coming down! Distance: 23 kms.
Day 7: Chippi to Pulga: Easier descent back into forests and meadows, ending at village of Pulga. Distance: 18 kms.
Total Distance: 110 kms.
Up To Tirath/Tirthan Valley
Day 1: Gushaini (1500m) to Rolla (2100m): Walk through Ecozone of GHNP. Gentle gradient at the beginning of trek. Distance: 10 kms.
Day 2: Rolla to Nada (3300m) Thach: Moderate to strenuous climb through oak and conifer forests. A prominent tree god near Chalocha (2450 m) from where the climb starts. Possible sightings of Himalayan Tahr or Black Bear. Nada thatch (meadow) very good for bird watching. Distance: 12 kms.
Day 3: Nada Thach to Majhoni (3800m): Gradual to steep descent through forests. Distance: 12 kms.
Day 4: Majhoni to Tirath (4000m) and back Majhoni: Moderate gradient leading into the vast meadow of Tirath Offering views of magnificent mountain panoramas. Tirath, the origin of Tirthan river has a glacial lake which is sacred to the villagers of Tirthan valley. Vegetation is stunted showing influence of extreme cold temperatures. Distance: 8 kms.
Day 5: Trek from Majhoni to Nada Thach. Distance: 12 kms.
Day 6: Rest day at Nada. Bird watching.
Day 7: Nada Thatch to Rolla-descent. Distance: 12 km.
Day 8: Rolla to Gushaini. Distance: 10 km.
Total Distance: 76 kms.
Raktisar in Sainj Valley
Day 1: Neuli (1500 m) to Shakti (2100 m) village. Night at Park accommodation. Moderate ascent. Distance: 22 Km
Day 2: Shakti to Parkachi (3000m) thach. Trek along the Sainj river. Gradual ascent. Distance: 10 kms.
Day 3: Parkachi thatch to Rakti Sar (4500 m): Along the river, quite a strenuous ascent through rocky portions. Crossing of streams along the route is tricky. Distance: 14 kms.
Day 4: Trek from Rakti Sar to Parkachi thatch. Strenuous descent. Distance: 14 kms.
Day 5: Rest day at Parkachi. Bird watching. Medicinal herbs.
Day 6: Parkachi thatch to Shakti village. Gradual descent. Distance: 10 kms.
Day 7: Shakti village to Neuli. Distance: 22 kms.
Total Distance: 92 kms.
Crossing the Pin Parvati Pass (5319 meters altitude)
Main attractions: Village house architecture; tree deities; old Forest Rest House at Pulga; panoramic views; alpine and sub-alpine pastures; huge glacial structures at Man-Talai onwards; about 7 to 8 kms. Long stretch of snow fields on the Pass; changing vegetation and distinct bird, mammal, butterfly life.
Day 1: Shamshi (1100 m) to Barsheni (2150 m): by road
Trek from Barsheni to Khirganga (2960 m) Distance: 10 kms.
A busy trekking route. The sulfur springs at Khirganga are very famous in the area. A number of Sadhus (holy men, hermits) can be seen camping in the vicinity of the springs.
Day 2: Khirganga-Tunda Bhuj (3285 m) to Thakur Kuan: Trek is less disturbed, goes through conifer forests, open meadows and birch forests. The journey may be broken in two days, up to Tunda Bhuj (area with high altitude birch forests) in one day and then from there to Thakur Kuan, the next day. Distance: 19 kms
Day 3: Thakur Kuan to Pandupul (3700 m) to Mantalai (4200 m): This part of trek is above tree line in high altitude meadows full of medicinal herbs, alpine grasses, bees and butterflies during summer season. It should be done in two days: up to Pandupul in one day and next day to Mantalai. Distance: 20 kms.
Day 4: Mantalai to Pin Parvati Pass (5319 m) to base of the snow field in Pin Valley (4075 m): This is the most strenuous part of the Pin Parvati Pass trek. It involves a steep ascent from Mantalai to the Pass and then a descent into the Pin valley. About six to seven kms trek is on snow fields filled with potentially dangerous crevices. Weather may change any time at the Pass. Distance: 14 kms
Day 5: Rest day at the base of Pass in Pin Valley.
Day 6: Base of the snow field in Pin Valley to Tariya or near Mud: Trek through arid zone of the cold desert in Pin Valley. The arduous part of the trek is over, but watch out for crossing of streams on the way. This part of trek can be done in two days with a stopover in between. Distance: 11 kms.
Day 7: Tariya/Mud to Maling road head onwards by road to Kaza (3600 m): Mud is the first village to come by. The trekker may hire a pony or one of the famous Chamurti bred Tibetan horses to ride up to the roadhead. Distance: 15 kms.
Total Distance: 90 kms.
Note: A trained guide is required to cross the pass
Note: All multi-day foreign visitors must provide evidence of insurance coverage in the event that emergency medical or evacuation procedures are needed.
Overall, Great Himalayan National Park is the 16th most popular hiking trail of all 42 hikes in India.