20 Lesser known Routes in GHNP

Open shepherd shelter in Dhel Tach high up the Sainj valley

The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in Himachal Pradesh is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. The 90,540 ha property includes the upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users.

The GHNP protects the monsoon-affected forests and alpine meadows of the Himalayan front ranges. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes twenty-five forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the site outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation. Source: UNESCO

National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries around GHNP


Alpine meadows in Sainj valley

GHNP (yellow above) is bound by the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) (Northwest), Khirganga National Park (North, Parvathi valley), Pin National Park (Northeast), Rupi Bhaba WLS (Southeast). It borders the Sainj WLS (West) and Tirthan WLS (South). GHNP gets drained by 3 major river valleys: the Jiwa Nala, Sainj and Tirthan rivers.

Valleys, peaks and passes in GHNP
  • Jiwa Nal – drains the Northern ranges of GHNP, bordering the Khirganga National Park (Parvathi valley) in the North. Tributary of the Sainj. Last settlement: Manjhan.
  • Sainj river – drains central GHNP. Longest river span. Settlements of Maraur, Shakti, Lapah, Neuli and Sainj. Tributary of Tirthan
  • Tirthan river: drains Southern section of GHNP. Settlements: Karingcha, Gushaini. Tributaries: Jobbhi Gad flows down from Jalori pass (settlement of Banjar) and Koki Gad.

Hiking Routes

Makeshift bridge across the Jiwa Nal

Until a few years ago the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) was largely unexplored by the alpine hiking community. Before the Survey of India maps became public available the only reference map of GHNP was found on this website. It’s a schematic map which gives an approximate overview of the national park. I used this map in 2019 during my initial exploration of the region. 3 decades ago the government created an extensive hiking network with rest houses which – after years of disuse – are now largely in ruins and overgrown by forest.

Schematic map of GHNP

During 2019 and 2021 I extensively explored and mapped hiking routes in the region in Open Street Maps for the benefit of the international hiking community. These routes connect the Jiwa Nala, Sainj, Tirthan, Palchan Gad and Jibbhi Gad valleys across the in-between high ranges. OSM maps can be downloaded in the mobile and used for offline exploration in the mountains. Find a summary on the individual hiking routes below. More details can be found on the individual blogs of my 2021 exploration.

Waymarked Hiking Trails in GHNP
  • Phangchi Galu 43km / 4800m+ from Pulga village in the Parvathi valley we climb up South between Gehu Nal and Jigari Nal streams to the Phangchi Galu (4650m) near Bhekhar Khal (5050m) into the upper Jiwa Nal river. From here we proceed West following a long traverse along the upper North slope of the Jiawa Nala valley to the first settlement of Manjhari where we descend to the hydro project and proceed via road to Bagidhar on the confluence with the Sainj river. Blog post Blog post 2 Blog post 3
  • Kandi Galu 13km / 1150m we start from Dhara in the Hurla Nal valley climbing up South above the Kandi Nal valley to the Kandi Galu pass (2250m) descending into the Baga Gad valley to Bekar in the Sainj river valley.
Sungcha village, last settlement in the Tirthan valley
  • Kandi Galu from Neuli village in the Sainj river valley we climb up North into the Kartaul Gad valley passing by the Manu temple turning East before hiking up North into the Gudum Gad to the Kandi Galu pass (3600m) from where we descend Northeast into the Jiwa Nala valley (uninhabited) crossing to river and joining the Phangchi Galu route on the North bank. Blog post
  • Sainj valleyNeuli to Maraur 18km / 1100m+ and beyond from Neuli village we proceed East crossing over to the North bank of the Sainj river while passing the Kartaul Gad side-valley. We continue along a path just above the river through the remote hamlets of Niharni, Bah, Shagar, Shakti, Lanargan to the last settlement of Maraur. The path continues along the Sainj river till it turns North into Chhyos Nala side-valley. At the confluence I was unable to trace the path which crosses the Chhyos Nala and proceeds further into the Sainj river valley and Rakti Nala documented on both schematic and Survey maps. Blog post
Detail of the GHNP map
  • Dharali to Lapah 9km / 800m+ from Dharali village we contour around the Kotlu Gad valley passing the last village of Barshangarh before entering the pine forest contouring into the Sainj river valley to Lapah village located in an unnamed side-valley. Blog post
  • Lapah to Dhel 13km / 1800m+ from Lapah village we climb up steeply East to the alpine meadows of Dhel Tach (3000m) high above the Sainj river and Bhairdi Nal valleys. Blog post
Shepherd near Bashel pass between Tirthan and Palchan Gad valleys
  • Dhel to Shakti 5.5km / 1400m- from Dhel Tach (3000m) we descend Northeast into the Bhairdi Nal valley, cross over and gradually descend to Shakti, the last settlement in the Sainj river valley. Blog post Blog post 2
  • Neuli to Gushaini 32km / 2250m+ from Neuli village we proceed East into the Sainj river valley to the hamlet of Lapah where we climb up to Dhel Tach (3000m) where we climb up South to the Sainj-Tirthan pass (3870m) separating the Bhairdi Nal and Rakhundi Nal valleys. From the pass we proceed Southeast and follow the ridgeline to Rakhundi top (3700m) from where we gradually descend South into the Tirthan valley, passing the last settlement of Karongcha and proceeding along a path to the road head near Gushaini at the confluence with the Palachan Gad river. Blog post Blog post 2 Blog post 3
High ranges above the upper Sainj valley
  • Shakranda Galu 19km / 2000m+ starting from Neuli we climb out South from the Sainj river valley along a ridge and finally gradually converge towwards the Kothlu Gad stream until we cross over the Shakranda Galu (3150m) after which we contour Southeast above the Kalwari Nala stream to cross over a ridgeline and descend to Dhara into an unknown side-valley. From here we turn Southwest back to the Kalwari Nala, tributary of the Tirthan river. Blog post
  • Banjar to Neuli 18km / 2100m+ from Banjar we over the Tirthan river and climb up North above the Ghori Gad side-valley climbing up to the ridgeline to Thini top (3460m) before descending Northeast across open meadows and serene pine forest high above the Kothlu Gad stream to Neuli in the Sainj river valley. Blog post Blog post 2
Village festival at Manjheli in Palchan Gad valley
  • Thani Galu 17km / 2000m+ starting from Thani in the Tirthan valley we climb up North along the Thori Gad stream to the Thani Galu (3130m) after which we descend via the Nuhara Gad stream to Uparli Neahi. From here we contour East across the Nuhara Gad and Shana Gad streams to descend to Neuli in the Sainj river valley.
  • Banjar to Thanach 9km / 1400m+ from Banjar we head East into the Tirthan valley before climbing up North in the Kalwari Nala side-valley to the remote hamlet of Tanach
Path above the Sainj river
  • Shanaar to Thini top 6km / 1200m+ from Shandr we climb up North in the Shanar Nala valley (tributary of the Tirthan river) through serene pine forests turning Northwest to the ridgeline above the Ghori Gad stream to Thini Top (3460m) providing 360 degree views on the surrounding high ranges above the Sainj and Tirthan valleys. Blog post
  • Panihar Jot 19km / 1800m+ from Banjar we cross over the Tirthan river and climb up North in the Ghori Gad valley turning Northwest across the ridgeline into the Kamand Gad valley to the Kandi Galu (2500m). The descend into the Sainj river via the Dhaugi Gad valley is still to be mapped in OSM.
Sarut Dogri in the Chaldran Nal, tributary of Palchan Gad
  • Lambri peak 21km / 1800m+ from Banjar we climb up East to Cheni Kothi where we contour through pine forest high above the Tirthan valley until we climb up South on the ridge above the Holi Nala towards the Lambri peak (3580m) offering birds eye views on the surrounding ranges and valleys. From here we continue Southeast along the ridgeline to Sareul Sar and turn west towards the Jalori pass (3100m). Blog post
  • Jalori to Banjar 19km / 2150m- from the Jalori pass we follow the ridgeline West towards Raghupur Fort continuing North on a wide path along the ridgeline between Jibhi Gad and Jular Gad to Garhaun where we steeply descend East into the Jibhi Gad valley to Banjar. Blog post
Rakhundi Nal stream, tributary of Tirthan river
  • Bashel pass from Manjheli in the Palchan Gad valley we climb up Northwest to the Bashel pass (3500m) and descend North to Karongcha, last settlement in the Tirthan river valley. Blog post
  • Bashleo pass from Sarahan in the Chinai Kad valley (tributary of the Kurpan Gad, tributary of the Sutlej) we climb up Northwest along a rock path to the Bashleo pass (3300m) descending through forest into the Chaldran Nal valley till Bathad in the Palachan Gad river valley. A great short-cut between GHNP and Sutlej valleys. Blog post Blog post 2
Waterfall in the Chinai Khad valley on way to Basleo pass
  • Palchan Gad valley from Bathad we head East along a road to the last village of Manjheli where we follow a trail Northeast into the Palchan Gad valley to Muni Ropa Thach (3800m). Blog post
  • Shrikand Mahadev 34km / 3100m+ starting near Jaun village we head Northeast into the Kurpan Gad valley and climb up the ridgeline between Umli Gad and Hula Gad valleys. Further up we contour East above the Umli Gad valley till its origin. From here we climb up North to Srikanth Mahadev (5150m) on the border of Kullu and Shimla districts overlooking the Sutlej and Palachan Gad valleys.
Manu temple high above Sainj river valley




Open Street Maps, Survey maps and Waymarked hiking trails

Above traverses can be easily navigated using most mobile mapping apps – many use Open Street Maps as base maps which include tens of thousands of kilometers of trails in Himalayas, Sahyadri, etc. OSM maps can be downloaded on the phone for offline exploration of the mountains without mobile network. Contours can be added to understand the topography of the terrain. Find a short tutorial over here.

Sainj river valley