The Most Beautiful National Parks in Uttarakhand, India

Lush green meadows at Nanda Devi National Park
Lush green meadows at Nanda Devi National Park | © Ankitv2512 / WikiCommons

From providing refuge to some of the most endangered and rare wildlife species to showcasing a wide variety of landscapes, Uttarakhand’s national parks are among the most stunning in the country.

Jim Corbett National Park

Forest, Natural Feature

Jim Corbett National Park
© Soumyajit Nandy / WikiCommons

Built in 1936 to protect the endangered Royal Bengal tigers, the Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest and most popular one in the country. Name after hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett, who played a key role in its establishment, the park is currently home to around 210 tigers. Its wildlife variety includes over 650 species of resident and migratory birds, more than 488 species of plants and several other animals including the Indian elephant, sambar, barking deer, leopard, Himalayan black bear, Indian python, otter and endemic fish. The place is also perfect for camping, trekking, river rafting, angling, mountain biking, rappelling and rock climbing. The park is divided into six zones – Bijrani Safari zone, Jhirna Safari zone, Dhela Safari zone, Dhikala zone, Durga Devi zone and Sitabani Buffer zone. The Jhirna Safari zone is the only one that is open year-round, while the rest remain closed during monsoon (July to October). Explore the area on a jeep safari either early in the morning (5:45 am-9:15 am) or later in the afternoon (3 pm-6:15 pm). You can book the safari tour online or at the gates. For overnight stay options, book a place in the Dhikala zone as it offers a number of rest houses and quarters.

Best time to visit: November until June.

How to get there: It is best accessed from Delhi and takes around six hours in a public bus or private taxi. The nearest railway station is Ramnagar, about 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the park. Direct trains from Delhi are available and you can then take a taxi from the station to reach the park.

Pro tip: It is advised to make bookings ahead of time (as much as 90 days in advance) as the slots get filled up quickly. Each zone requires a separate permit, which can either be booked online or obtained from the entry gate.

Valley of Flowers National Park

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Valley of Flowers
© Mahendra Pal Singh / WikiCommons

Nestled in the lap of the Western Himalayas at an elevation of 3,658 metres, the Valley of Flowers National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year, from June until the end of October, the valley comes to life with around 300 species of endemic alpine flowers blooming against the backdrop of glacier-covered mountains. The range of colourful specimens that bloom here include the rhododendron, the Himalayan marsh orchid, Jacquemont’s cobra lily, poppies, the elegant slipper orchid, primulas, the yellow cobra lily, the brahma kamal, marigolds and daisies. The valley is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the snow leopard, Asiatic black bear, blue sheep, musk deer and red fox, as well as several high-altitude birds such as the Himalayan monal pheasant. The park is accessible via trekking or can alternatively be reached via helicopter if the weather permits. For overnight accommodation in the nearby Ghangaria area, book a village homestay or a government-run guesthouse. The best options include the Himalayan Abode Homestay and the Nanda Inn. If your budget is tight, the national park is equipped with camping facilities.

Best time to visit: July to September (the last entry to the valley is at 2 pm).

Entry fee: INR 50 for Indians and INR 650 ($9.49) for foreigners.

How to get there: The nearest airport is Dehradun Airport, approximately 285 kilometres (177 miles) away and the nearest railway station is Rishikesh, about 268 kilometres (166.5 miles) away. Take a taxi from the airport/station for Govindghat, which is where the trail for the valley starts. Reach Ghangaria after the six-mile trek for an overnight stay. From here, the trek to the entrance of the Valley of Flowers is another three kilometres and is steep at some points.

Pro tip: We recommend hiring a porter or guide for the trek. It will cost around INR 500-700 ($7.30-$10.22) to hire a porter or mule and INR 2,000 ($29.20) for a guide at Govindghat. Alternatively, you can book a tour package from Thrillophilia or Blue Poppy Holidays.

Rajaji National Park

Natural Feature

Rajaji national park
© Sneha1327 / WikiCommons

Covering an area of 82,000 hectares, the Rajaji National Park was formed by merging three wildlife sanctuaries – Rajaji, Chilla and Motichur. Wildlife to look out for include tigers, elephants, panthers, sambar deer, spotted deer, Himalayan black bears, sloth bears, nilgais, chitals, butterflies and reptiles, like king cobras, pythons and monitor lizards. Bird watchers are also in for a treat as the park is home to about 400 species of resident and migratory birds, including the Indian peafowl, Eurasian wigeon, kalij pheasant, crested kingfisher, black-bellied tern and Indian grey hornbill. The best way to encounter wildlife in the park is via a jeep safari. Accommodation options include eco-friendly cottages, which are available at the Wild Brook Retreat.

Best time to visit: Mid-November until mid-June (closed during monsoon).

Entry fee: INR 150 for Indians and INR 600 ($8.76) for foreigners (for three hours). Visit their official website to find out about additional charges.

How to get there: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, also known as the Dehradun Airport and the travel time to the park from here is about an hour. Alternatively, reach the Dehradun Railway Station and take a taxi the rest of the way.

Nanda Devi National Park

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Nanda devi
© Spattadar / WikiCommons

Established in 1982, the Nanda Devi National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. Encompassing glaciers and surrounded by snow-laden Himalayan peaks, including Nanda Devi (the second-highest mountain in India), the park is riddled with a series of moderate to challenging treks. It is a popular spot among adventurers who enjoy trekking opportunities coupled with stunning mountain views. The park is also a botanists’ paradise with about 312 floral species, among which 17 are rare, including juniper, rhododendron, fir, birch and lichens. Bird enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s 114 species, including the vinaceous-breasted pipit, yellow-bellied fantail flycatcher, warbler, crested black tit and rosefinch. Several mammals, such as the Himalayan tahr, Himalayan black bear, brown bear and mainland serow can also be found here. For the lucky few, an encounter with a Himalayan musk deer and a snow leopard is a possibility. For accommodation options, the best area is Joshimath, which is dotted with budget hotels, homestays and guesthouses. The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam guesthouse is a favourite in the area.

Best time to visit: Mid-June to mid-September (the park remains open for six months only, from May until October).

How to get there: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant (Dehradun), about 286 kilometres (177 miles) away from the park and the Rishikesh Railway Station, about 269 kilometres (167 miles) away, is well connected to Joshimath, which is the base camp for the Nanda Devi National Park trek.

Pro tip: Visitors need to arrange a prior permit from the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam office in Joshimath in order to enter the park. As the treks are moderately difficult, they should only be attempted by those with good fitness levels. Carry light snacks, a two-litre water bottle, rainwear and a first-aid kit with you.

Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary

Forest, Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Har ki dun valley
© Metanish / WikiCommons

Located in the upper reaches of the Garhwal Himalayas, the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and later was upgraded to a national park. The park harbours some breathtaking landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, glaciers, lakes, wildflower-covered meadows and lush forests. The diversity of terrain makes it a perfect home to a great variety of wildlife, including the rare snow leopard, Asian black bear, Himalayan tahr, Sikkim mountain vole, musk deer, brown bear and Indian crested porcupine. Beyond the animal kingdom, about 150 species of birds and several plant species call the area home, including the bearded vulture, Himalayan monal (state bird of Uttarakhand), golden eagle, warbler, Himalayan snowcock, western tragopan, finch, thrush and minivet. Feeling adventurous? Go for a Har Ki Dun Valley trek located within the park. The valley is known for its wildflowers (especially orchids) and the trek is possible for beginners and people with a decent fitness level. Should you wish to stay, you can pitch in a camp near the valley or there are also forest rest houses available within the area.

Best time to visit: April until June; September until November.

How to get there: The Dehradun Airport is located approximately 190 kilometres (118 miles) away and Dehradun Railway Station is approximately 210 kilometres (130 miles) from the park. You can take a taxi or bus the rest of the way.

Gangotri National Park

Forest, Natural Feature

Gangotri national park
© Gauravkaintura1234 / WikiCommons

Nestled at an elevation of 1,800 to 7,083 metres above sea level, the Gangotri National Park is a high-altitude wildlife sanctuary and home to the Gaumukh Glacier (the origin of the sacred Ganges river). It features several distinct ecosystems, from lush green meadows to glacier-laden mountains, rivers and coniferous forests. Within its vicinity are 15 species of mammals, including the snow leopard, musk deer, black bear, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan snowcock, brown bear, blue sheep and Himalayan monal, plus 150 bird species and several plant types. The park also features a number of beautiful treks ranging from beginner to intermediate. For an overnight stay, there are several budget hotels and guesthouses available near the park.

Best time to visit: April until June and then, October to November.

How to get there: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant (Dehradun), about 220 kilometres (137 miles) away and flights from major Indian cities are easily available. The nearest railway station is Dehradun Railway Station, about 210 kilometres (130 miles) away. From there, take a cab or bus to reach the park.

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