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Great Himalayan National Park(GHNP) is a relatively new National Park created in 1999. It is known as GHNP. It protects a himalayan ecosystem with rare plants and animals. Himalayan black bear, brown bear, leopard, snow leopard and Himalayan tahr are found here but they are all very elusive. The colourful Himalayan Monal Pheasant and the Western Tragopan represent the birdlife.
GHNP has well developed trekking infrastructure. Services of a professional, ecology and local community focussed trekking company are highly recommended before venturing into the park. There are camping grounds located at strategic places. There are no facilities on the way and all provisions and blankets etc have to be carried.
A shorter week long trek starts at Sainj/Shangarh and then to Shakti, Maraur and then ends at Raktisar. This can be accomplished by a lightweight expedition of 1-2 people with a guide and 2-3 porters.
A longer high altitude trek starts from Sainj/Shangarh and on to Parkachi and then joins the Pin Parvati trek to Pin Parvati National Park via the Pin Parvati pass. It ends at Kaza where you can see the various monasteries including the famous Tabo monastery and then take a bus back to Kullu-Manali via Kunzum pass and Rohtang Pass. The trek starts from temperate forests, goes through alpine meadows and then over high altitude passes and ends in a high altitude cold desert. This requires careful planning and preferably the services of an trekking company.
There are villages in the park and 'gujjars' bring their sheep to graze in the park. Bears come to the villages during the harvesting season to feast on ripe maize. This leads to man-animal conflict which has been the subject of a scientific study in the park.
Watercolour by Kokay Szabolcs
It is easy but time-consuming to get to GHNP.
There are regular fast tourist ‘Volvo’ buses from Delhi(14 hours) and Chandigarh(8 hours) to the tourist destination of Manali. Ask the driver to drop you just before the entrance to the Aut tunnel and about 15km before Aut. From this tunnel, there is a side road which crosses the Beas river over a bridge and leads to GHNP. There are infrequent buses from here to GHNP. If a local trekking company has arranged your tour, they will pick you up from the entrance to the tunnel.
Trekking and hiking is the only option to travel inside the GHNP. There are no horses, mules and there are no roads and no elephants!
It is highly recommended to hire the services of a professional, ecology and local community focussed trekking company. There are no facilities in GHNP. So everything has to be arranged at the start of the trek and carried by porters. A professional, ecology and local community focussed trekking company will ensure you have a comfortable trek/hike through GHNP and the money you spend will be put to good use by the local co-operatives.
You will need good walking shoes, tents, sleeping bags, food… and more for your travels in GHNP.
The terrain is too steep for any pack animals. Gujjars and their sheep do graze in the park but I havent seen sheep being used as pack animals in India although it does happen in Nepal. The altitude is too low for yaks to be used. Hiring porters is the only option. All your personal belongings has to be carried by you in your rucksack.
The trek is steep and trekker has to be fit. The treks are of moderate difficulty. Some streams dont have bridges and have to be crossed using log bridges where one slip can lead to a serious injury. See picture below:
Crossing a log bridge in GHNP
May to June is the best time to go. It rains a lot from Jul to Sep because of the monsoon and the views of the mountains are obscured by the clouds. Mid-Sep to end-Oct is another good time to go.
Park is closed due to snowfall from Nov to April.
The only accommodation available in the park is at Sainj and Shangarh Forest Rest house. These are near the start of the trek. If trekking beyond Shangarh, there is no real accomodation. Homestays are available in the Tirthan valley before the road ends.
A lightweight tent and sleeping bag has to be carried as it can get cold at night in the higher reaches. 'Thatch' is local name for a hut. Thatches are located at strategic places and provide very basic shelter from rain. There are thatches at Shakti, Maraur and Parkachi. You can get by with just sleeping in the thatch without a tent if it doesnt rain.
It is one of the few national parks where you can sleep safely at night in the open in an area populated with himalayan black bears and leopards.
Watercolours of plants by Kokay Szabolcs
That there is a drug mafia operating in the region is a fact acknowledged by residents and the police'. Lots of foreigners on long vacation in India spend winters in Goa and summers in Manali/Dharamsala. One would be surprised by the number of foreigners on the Pin Parvati trek, which follows the northern boundary of GHNP. These 'dollar tourists' probably fuel the drugs trade as Indians dont get involved and havent been killed so far. There were reports of foreigners killed/missing along the Pin Parvati trek in 2009. So please travel in a group or ask the office of the Director of GHNP to arrange the guides. Avoid any other people (trekkers, foreigners or locals) offering you anything suspicious (e.g. Herbal tea). GHNP is a lot safer than the Pin Parvati trek but if you are trekking from GHNP onto to Pin Parvati National Park, you should be aware of it.