Wildlife Sanctuaries in Uttarakhand – The Wild Heart of India

Witness Nature's Bounty: Dive into Uttarakhand's Wildlife Sanctuaries

Kusum Tewari
Kusum Tewari 13 Min Read

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, is aptly called the abode of gods for its pristine natural beauty. But beyond the famous hill stations and holy sites lies Uttarakhand’s best kept secret – its incredible wildlife and national parks.

Home to 6 national parks and 7 wildlife sanctuaries, Uttarakhand harbors a diverse range of flora and fauna across varied ecosystems. The state has always valued conservation, with Jim Corbett establishing India’s first national park here in 1936.

Today, Uttarakhand’s protected areas allow nature lovers to experience wilderness and spot iconic wildlife against stunning backdrops. Whether jeep safaris in Corbett searching for tigers, treks in Valley of Flowers admiring endemic flowers, or quiet moments birdwatching inBinsar’s forests, Uttarakhand promises memorable wildlife encounters.

From snow leopards in the higher altitudes to elephants in the Shivaliks, this guide covers major national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Uttarakhand. Plan your visit, learn about endangered wildlife, discover ecotourism initiatives, and be inspired to travel responsibly in India’s wild heartland.

Major National Parks in Uttarakhand

Corbett National Park

Covering 1318 sq km, Corbett National Park reigns supreme as India’s oldest and one of its most popular national parks. Located in Nainital district, it’s a prestigious Project Tiger site with healthy populations of tigers and Asian elephants.

Home to over 600 species of birds and diverse mammals like leopards, sloth bears, deer and more, Corbett offers an unforgettable jungle safari experience. The Ramganga river flowing through the grasslands adds to the scenic landscape.

With jeep safaris, elephant safaris, hiking trails and watchtowers, Corbett has excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Dhikala is the highlight zone to spot tigers and elephants. Bijrani, Jhirna, Domunda and Sonanadi are other key zones.

The best time to visit Corbett is between November to June. Late winters witness tiger activity near waterholes while summers have lush greenery. Stay in luxurious jungle resorts like Aahana and The Golden Tusk for a complete Corbett experience.

Valley of Flowers National Park

Nestled high up in West Himalayas, Valley of Flowers National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers. Together with Nanda Devi National Park, it spreads over 225 sq km in Chamoli district.

During summer, the valley transforms into a floral carpet with over 500 species like Brahmakamal, Blue Poppy, Cobra Lily and more. The scenery of snow-clad peaks, waterfalls and glacial moraines is spectacular. Endangered species like snow leopard and Asiatic black bear inhabit the park.

Trekking during June to October is the only way to explore Valley of Flowers. The route starts from Govindghat. Limited visitor permits are issued to ensure minimal environmental impact.

Nearby hill stations like Auli,Joshimath, Badrinath provide accommodation. Enjoy the spiritual vibes at Badrinath temple or skiing adventures in Auli after your trek!

Gangotri National Park

Spread over 2390 sq km, Gangotri National Park is the third largest national park in Uttarakhand. Located in Uttarkashi district, the park derives its name from the holy town of Gangotri.

Diverse flora from oak trees to conifers to alpine meadows decorate the terrain. Rare species like snow leopard and the Himalayan tahr inhabit the higher rocky regions while pheasants and partridges are found in the forests.

Trekking routes ranging from easy to difficult make Gangotri ideal for beginner and experienced trekkers. Highlights are Gaumukh Glacier, Tapovan Meadows and Kedartal Lake. Visit between April to June and September to November.

Stay in rustic forest rest houses or camp under stars at Bhojbasa for an immersive experience. Enjoy panoramic views of peaks like Shivling and Bhagirathi group.

Nanda Devi National Park

Together with Valley of Flowers National Park, the 710 sq km Nanda Devi park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It encompasses the breathtaking Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Chamoli district.

Rugged terrain with glaciers, lakes and peaks like Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Park form a protected refuge for endangered wildlife like snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer, Himalayan tahr and more.

The most prominent trek is the Rishi Ganga Gorge trek passing flower-filled meadows and icy rivers. One needs permits to visit and can trek between May to October. Limited accommodation is available in log huts and caves.

Rajaji National Park

At over 800 sq km, Rajaji National Park is the largest protected wildlife area in Uttarakhand spanning three districts. Part of the Shivalik Elephant Reserve, the park has moist deciduous forests along with grasslands and riverine ecosystems.

Diverse wildlife like tigers, Asian elephants, leopards along with 250 bird species and Himalayan black bears thrive in Rajaji’s forests. Chital, sambar, wild boar, king cobra are other wildlife attractions.

Jeep safaris, elephant safaris and nature trails are available for wildlife viewing particularly in March-June. Stay in eco-lodges like Lebua Rajaji Camp or luxurious Vaishno Ki Kuti near Rishikesh.

Govind National Park

Formerly known as Govind Pashu Vihar National Park, this 470 sq km park lies in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarkashi district. Located at an elevation range of 4950-6323m, the park encompasses glaciers, alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks.

Rare species like snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, musk deer and exotic birds like monal pheasant and snow partridge thrive in this high-altitude habitat. Treks like Dodital and Dayara Bugyal provide sightings amidst stunning scenery.

The best season is May-October. Stay in guest houses at Uttarkashi or camp near alpine lakes for a true wilderness experience. With permits required, Govind offers an offbeat wildlife adventure in Uttarakhand.

Protected Area under National Parks in Uttarakhand

S.No.Protected AreaArea (km2)Inauguration Year
1Corbett National Park520.821936
2Nanda Devi National Park624.601982
3Valley of Flowers National Park87.501982
4Rajaji National Park820.421983
5Gangotri National Park2390.021989
6Govind National Park472.081990
Source uttarakhand forest

Major Wildlife Sanctuaries in Uttarakhand

Beyond the national parks, Uttarakhand has an impressive range of wildlife sanctuaries protecting their unique species and ecosystems. Here are some major ones worth exploring:

Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary

As the name suggests, this sanctuary spanning 587 sq km across Pithoragarh district safeguards the endangered musk deer. Its varied terrain of ridges, valleys, forests and snow-capped peaks provides habitat to wildlife.

Along with around 1000 Himalayan musk deer, the sanctuary has leopards, black bear, monal and multicolored pheasants. Best time to visit is April-June when musk deer descend to lower slopes and brilliant rhododendrons bloom.

Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary

Known for its sal, oak and pine forests along with grasslands, the sanctuary covering over 534 sq km lies in Kumaon region. With the eastern boundary along Sarda river, it is an important Tiger Reserve as well.

Over 200 bird species and mammals like sloth bear, leopard, blue bull, goral are key highlights here. Jeep safaris between November-June offer sightings. Stay in forest rest houses at Khati Village and enjoy walks to Sunderdhunga glacier.

Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Perched in the scenic Kumaon hills, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 45 sq km. Surrounded by forests like oak, rhododendron, deodar and pine, it offers sweeping Himalayan panoramas.

Leopards, barking deer, goral and over 200 bird species including endangered raptors inhabit the sanctuary. March to June offers ideal weather for wildlife viewing through forest hikes, drives and watchtower stops.

Accommodation options are plenty around Binsar like heritage bungalow Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam and Club Mahindra. Enjoy birdwatching walks, stargazing or visit Kasar Devi temple nearby.

Govind Pashu Vihar Sanctuary

Located in Uttarkashi district and adjoining Govind National Park, this 472 sq km sanctuary provides important connectivity and added protection for endangered wildlife.

From snow leopards, black bears to tahrs and monals, the sanctuary’s high alpine habitat supports these rare species. Limited tourism activity is allowed.

Treks to Har-ki-dun, Dodital and Dayara Bugyal pass through the sanctuary offering sightings. The best time to visit is May to October. Stay in forest rest houses or camp in the meadows for an immersive experience. Permits are required for entry.

Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary

The largest sanctuary in western Himalayas, Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary spans 975 sq km in Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts. Encompassing glaciers, snow-clad peaks and alpine meadows, it lies in the backdrop of the majestic Kedarnath temple.

Endangered Himalayan musk deer, brown bear and tahr along with pheasants thrive in this high-altitude region. Limited jeep safaris are allowed along Mandakini River where otters and fish thrive.

Trekking routes like Kedarnath, Madhmaheshwar and Tungnath provide sightings. Avoid monsoons. Stay in hotels at Guptkashi or Gaurikund.

Benog Wildlife Sanctuary

Close to Mussoorie, this sought-after sanctuary spread over 20 sq km is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts. Surrounded by Shivalik hills, it lies on an important bird migration route.

Over 250 species like pheasants, parakeets, minivets, flycatchers, bulbuls reside here or pass through biannually. Safaris and nature walks offer sightings, with November to February being ideal.

Stay in pretty homestays like Whispering Pines or luxury resorts like JW Marriott Mussoorie for easy access. Unwind at Landour’s cafes after birdwatching walks at Benog.

Protected Area under Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand

S.No.Protected AreaArea (km2)Inauguration
1Govind wildlife sanctuary485.891955
2Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary975.201972
3Askot wildlife sanctuary599.931986
4Sonanadi wildlife sanctuary301.181987
5Binsar wildlife sanctuary47.071988
6Mussoorie wildlife sanctuary10.821993
7Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary269.952012
Source uttarakhand forest


Uttarakhand’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are a must-visit for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. With 13 sanctuaries and 6 national parks, each shines for its unique landscape, rare wildlife, and conservation efforts. They collectively showcase Himalayan biodiversity at its finest.

As global biodiversity dwindles, these protected wilderness areas provide a safe refuge for endangered species like tigers, Asiatic lions, snow leopards, musk deer and Himalayan brown bears. Supporting over 500 species of birds, 300 mammals alongside diverse flowering plants, trees, Himalayan herbs and climbers, they harbor impressive nature that can only be experienced through sensitive ecotourism.

While offering once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings, national parks like Corbett and Rajaji also contribute through breeding endangered species and acting as buffers against threats. Sanctuaries like Kedarnath provide connectivity for migratory wildlife over larger areas. Beyond scenic beauty and adventure, their ecological and economic significance through ecotourism and conservation is huge.

As visitors, we carry the responsibility of traveling mindfully, avoiding wildlife disturbance and promoting organizations working to protect these priceless ecosystems. Uttarakhand shows that environmental conservation and human goals need not be at odds.

If we follow sustainable practices, educate ourselves about natural heritage and unite to tackle threats – be it poaching, human-wildlife conflict or climate change – the wild heart of India shall thrive for posterity.

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