National Parks in Uttarakhand

By Aaditee Kulkarni on Jan 18, 2018
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This northern Indian state is often called Dev Bhomi - or the land of Gods. Crowned by mystical the mountains, Uttarakhand is home to numerous Hindu pilgrimage sites. Twisty roads make way through many high altitude dramatic terrain to take you to many of its colonial-era towns.

A drive down the magical state will take you through many mountainous paths as the effortlessly laid blanket of green unfolds at every turn you take. Uttarakhand is blessed with 6 national parks and 4 wildlife sanctuaries that are home to many endangered and rare wildlife species. With fair chances of spotting a tiger, these national parks in Uttarakhand are calm and hypnotizing!

National Parks in Uttarakhand

1. Jim Corbett National Park

The oldest national park in India, Jim Corbett National Park was earlier known as the Hailey National Park. Established in 1936, this park aimed at protecting the endangered species of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Record 488 species of plants and 586 species of animals and birds are found inside this park. The first ever Project Tiger was launched here in the year 1973 under the leadership of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Most famous residents of this national park in Uttarakhand include Bengal Tigers, Leopards, Asiatic Elephant, Wild Boar, Jackal, and Crocodile.

Safaris options like jeep, canter, and elephant are available. As your jeep takes you through the dirt road, you will see the tall trees close in and shut out the sunlight. The sounds of the insects in the background will make your ‘safari’ just a bit more magical.

Area: 521 square kilometres

Best Known for: Tiger spotting, wildlife safari

Best time to Visit: Mid-November to Mid-June

2. Rajaji National Park

Rajaji National Park was established by merging of Chilla, Motichur and Rajaji sanctuaries in the year 1983. Encompassing the Shivaliks, this national park is located at the foothills of the Himalayas. Planning to take a jungle safari here? You would require to get a permit from the forest department to enter in the park. Rajaji National Park earned the status of a tiger reserve in 2015 making it only the second one in the state.

Animals like Asian Elephants, Bengal Tigers, Leopard, Striped Hyena, Himalayan Black Bear, Wild Boar, Indian Porcupine, and Python are frequently spotted here. Enter the jungle and you would feel the sense of gaiety coupled with a bit of nervousness. Look around, a panther with black fur and topaz eyes may be stealthy looking at you!

Area: 820 square kilometres

Best Known for: Panther spotting, tiger spotting, wildlife safari

Best time to Visit: Mid-November to Mid-June

3. Valley of Flowers National Park

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Home to many wild and untamed flowers, the Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand is located approximately 300 kilometres from Rishikesh. Endemic alpine flora that is exclusively found in the Himalayas along with many rare and endangered animals, makes Valley of Flowers one of the most visited national parks in India.

The best way to witness the park’s sheer beauty by trekking through it. The Valley of Flowers trek is of 17 kilometres and takes about a day or two. The path inside the park is wild and uncivilized. Unevenly beautiful, the hike takes you through many criss-cross paths. While on the way, you can soak in the unshielded views of some of the most vibrant and exotic flora the planet has to offer. Camping is available inside the park.

Area: 718 square kilometres

Best Known for: Wild flowers, Hiking, trekking, wildlife spotting

Best time to Visit: Monsoon (July - September)

4. Nanda Devi National Park

The Nanda Devi National Park or the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is dominated by numerous floral species, and was established in 1988. 312 floral species including 17 rare species are found here. The park remains under the blanket of snow for 6 months, and it is only at the on-set of summer that this park witnesses an exquisite lush green cover.

Known for its hiking trails, this national park in Uttarakhand is located at an elevation of 3,500 metres and above, from the sea level. The air here is rich with the fragrance of leaves, and the soil is damp. As you make your way through the jigsaw paths, a distinct sound of water will grab your attention and the only movement you will see is that of the birds making their way across the cloudy skies.

Area: 630 square kilometres

Best Known for: Hiking, trekking, wildlife spotting

Best time to Visit: Mid-June to Mid-September

Check Out: Lesser Known Hill Stations in India

5. Gangotri National Park

Spread across the area of more than 2300 square kilometres, the Gangotri National Park is the third largest national park in India. Home to the majestic coniferous trees coupled with many glacial areas, this park is all sorts of magical. Featuring a typical high-altitude ecosystem, this national park of Uttarakhand harbours chirpine deodar, fir, spruce, oak and rhododendrons, along with many rare animal species like snow leopard, ibex, tahr, and Himalayan barbet.

Popular touristy activities here include hiking, trekking, and adventure sport activities. The park looks alive during the spring as it spreads its canopy of green through the valley. The air has that earthy smell of woodland, the one just before the rains.

Area: 2,390 square kilometres

Best Known for: Trekking, wildlife spotting, adventure sports

Best time to Visit: April and October

6. Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary

PC: Wikimedia Commons

The last in the list of national parks in the Uttarakhand originally started as a wildlife sanctuary. The Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary earned the title of a national park in the years that followed. This park is home to the Government of India’s Snow Leopard Project and is a stronghold of the Himalayan bearded vulture.

What attracts visitors’ attention is the Har-Ki-Dun Valley that is situated inside the park. A popular trekking spot, explorers come here from all over the world to witness the park’s rugged terrain, its many wild flowers, and some of the rarest wildlife.

Area: 958 square kilometres

Best Known for: Trekking, wildlife spotting

Best time to Visit: April to June and September to November.

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Uttarakhand

A preservation zone specifically dedicated to the animals, Uttarakhand has many wildlife sanctuaries that you can visit. Some of the them are:

1. Pangot And Kilbury Bird Sanctuary:

One of India’s most scenic bird-watching experiences can be enjoyed at Pangot and Kilbury Bird Sanctuary, thanks to the thick cover of oak, pine and rhododendron surrounding the park. Located at 15 kilometres from Nainital, this bird sanctuary in India is home to many migratory and local birds like brown wood owls, white throated laughing thrushes, and collared grosbeaks.

Location – Nainital

Best time to visit - All days of the week

2. Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Resting on top of the Jhandi Dhar Hills, the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is a picturesque reserved forest area and home to beautiful bird and animal species, along with dense forests and rich snowy surroundings. Popular tourist activities here include bird-watching, trekking, and nature walks. The highest point inside the park is the Zero Point from where you can see the many peaks of Himalayas.

Location – Almora

Best time to visit - October and November

3. Benog Wildlife Sanctuary

The Benog Wildlife Sanctuary is a part of the Rajaji National Park and is a bird-watchers’ paradise. Filled with deciduous pines and cedars, this sanctuary is home to many vibrant birds like magpies and quails. Also, the sunrises and sunsets from this place are absolutely phenomenal.

Location – Mussoorie

Best time to visit - April and November

4. Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary

Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary, also known as the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary, was established with an aim to protect the endangered Himalayan musk deer. The approach to the Kedarnath Temple, one of the most visited temples in India, is through this sanctuary.

Location – Chamoli & Rudraprayag

Best time to visit - April to June and September to November

One of the most scenic and diversified states in India, Uttarakhand is raw, rugged, indisputable, and hypnotically beautiful.

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