There is no denying the beauty and charm of Himachal Pradesh. May it be the snowcapped peaks, the lush green valleys, or quaint hilly towns, Himachal is a traveller’s paradise. But in the list of travel hotspots, what often gets overlooked is the rich flora and fauna of the state. From the enchanting Deodar and Himalayan Oak forests to stunning green pastures, Himachal Pradesh’s landscape is a visual treat, and home to a variety of animals like the snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan yak, and musk deer. There are many national parks in Himachal Pradesh that host not just these but also birds like monal and western tragopan which makes it a delight for wildlife enthusiasts.
Here are some national parks in Himachal Pradesh for you to explore when in the state
1. Pin Valley National Park
A beautiful valley in the Spiti area, Pin Valley National Park is home to the reclusive snow leopard among other wildlife like Tibetan Wolf Red Fox, Himalayan marmots, Himalayan brown fox, and birds like bearded vultures, Himalayan snow cock, Tibet snow finch. While it is mostly an alpine pasture, some parts of Pin Valley National Park are also groves of trees like juniper, poplar, and birch.
The Pin Valley National Park is also home to two famous treks in the region, called Pin Parvati, and Pin Bhawa Treks. They are however treks that require one to be in great shape and can be taxing at times with breathlessness at certain altitudes.
Best time to visit: May to November, as December to March the temperatures drop all the way to -35°C, making the Pin Valley National Park almost inaccessible.
How to reach: Pin Valley National Park is well connected via roads to both Manali and the state capital Shimla. Bhuntar is the nearest airport, and Shimla, while being a narrow gauge, is the nearest railway station.
2. Great Himalayan National Park
This Himalayan National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, making it one of the most significant on this list. And it has it all, breathtaking gorges, alpine meadows, tall forests, ridges, and even slowly moving glaciers. This Himalayan national park covers a range of 1500m to 4000m when it comes to altitude, making it global biodiversity hotspot that is home to roughly 800 varieties of plants, 190 species of lichens, 25 species of mosses, and in wildlife, it has almost 30 mammal species, 200+ birds, 9 amphibians, 12 reptiles, and 100+ insects, making a visit here an experience like no other. This list also includes Himalayan tahr and snow leopard.
This Himalayan national park is also home to many treks in the region, including the famous Tirthan Valley treks.
Best time to visit: April to June, and September to November is the ideal time to visit the Great Himalayan National Park. While in the winter months, it is too cold and inaccessible, in the rainy season, trails and bridges can be tough to access, making it a risky proposition.
How to reach: The closest airport to this Himalayan national park is Bhuntar, and the nearest railway station (narrow gauge) is Jogindar Nagar. It is quite well connected via road, and you can easily get here from Aut, close to Shimla.
3. Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary
At a 10 km distance from Dalhousie, the Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most scenic there is. Covered with a dense canopy of blue pines, deodar, and oak trees, the Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh is a nature lover’s dream come true. It is also home to beautiful rhododendron trees that bloom in late February to April, and cover the entire area in their red flowers.
At this sanctuary, you can also spot snow leopards, black bears, barking deer, and goral.
Best time to visit: March to June is a pleasant time to explore the Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary, and expect the temperature to be colder but bearable in September to November.
How to reach: The closest airport is Kangra or Gagal Airport, and the nearest railway station is Pathankot. Khajjiar has great road connectivity via Dalhousie and Chamba too.
4. Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary
The largest sanctuary in the state of Himachal Pradesh, this is the only cold desert wildlife sanctuary in the country. It is home to wildlife like Tibetan wolves, red foxes, Himalayan finches, and the famed snow leopard is found in great numbers in this wildlife sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh. However, spotting this ghost cat is quite a task as it perfectly camouflages against the backdrop of the cold desert.
It is also quite isolated, and absolutely inaccessible for nearly half the year, making it a spot that really flourishes without any human intervention. The closest spot is the village of Kibber in the Kaza Valley which offers stunning views all over.
Best time to visit: May to July has cold but pleasant weather, making it perfect for a trip to the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Winter months should be avoided as the roads can be closed, in addition to severely cold temperatures.
How to reach: Bhuntar is the closest airport, and Jogindar Nagar is the nearest railway station. Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is also well connected to Kaza via road and is fact one of the highest motorable roads in the world.