reaches of the Garhwal Himalays lies the home of
the Musk dear, the Kedarnath Musk Deer
Sanctuary. The sanctuary covers an area of about
967 Sq km and was established in the year 1972.
The sanctuary was set up to protect the forests
of the Panch Kedar belt, which straddles north
Rudraprayag District and part of Cham¬oli. The
Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary is host to
temp¬erate forests in the middle altitudes;
higher up is dotted by coniferous, sub-alpine
and alpine forests, and further up alpine
grasslands and high-altitude bugyals.
The Musk Deer Sanctuary is situated in one of
the most holy regions of Garhwal – Kedarnath,
which is a well known pilgrimage site for the
Hindus and is also one of the Chardhams of
Uttarakhand. The other three are Yamunotri,
Gangotri and Badrinath.
The Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary is surrounded
by the beautiful snow covered peaks of the great
Himalayan mountain range, glaciers, rivers,
valleys and forests. Its location adds to the
experience as you can enjoy breath-taking views
of the high-rise mountains laden with snow, even
if you miss the chance to view the wildlife
here. The sanctuary is also reputed as one of
the world’s richest bio-reserves.
Lakes, waterfall and high-rise mountain peaks
abound in this forest belt, as do a number of
old Hindu pilgrimage sites — Madhyamaheshwar,
Tungnath, Rudra¬nath, Kedarnath, Triyuginarayan
and Kalpeshwar all are located within or on the
periphery of the sanctuary. Some 225 species of
birds, including the rare monal, chir pheasant
and Hima¬layan snow-cock are found in the
sanctuary. The sanctuary also protects the state
animal of Uttarakhand, the endan¬gered musk
deer, and the Himalayan brown and black bears,
tahr, the snow leopard, ghoral, serow, barking
deer and blue sheep.
A permit is required to visit and stay in the
forest rest houses in the Kedarnath Musk Deer
Sanctuary, which can be obtained from the DFO in
Gopeshwar. You can enter the park through
Gaurikund on the Rudra¬prayag-Kedarnath NH109
that runs along the sanctuary’s western border,
and Helang on the Rudraprayag-Badrinath NH58
that runs along the sanctuary’s eastern border.
However, the most convenient way to reach is to
take the state forest road that runs along the
southern boundary of the sanctuary, connecting
Kund on NH109 to Chamoli on NH58 via Okhimath,
Chopta, Mandal and Gopes¬hwar. If fact Chopta is
the commonly used approach into the sanc¬tuary.
If it is difficult to find accommodation in the
sanctuary, Gopeshwar is a good place to set base
for a visit to Kedarnath Sanctuary.
Even more elusive than a tiger, Musk deer
generally restricts itself to dense undergrowths
and hang out in pairs. This animal is neither a
deer nor antelope but somewhere in between. In a
way they are deer-like without the antlers.
Known as kasturi Mrig in Hindi, the musk deer
stands not higher than 50 cm at the shoulders
and weighs 13-15 kg.
It is good to visit the Musk Deer Breeding Farm
at Mandal, a Forest Depart¬ment initiative to
breed this endangered deer. You may require
prior permission to visit the farm, which can be
obtained from the DFO’s office in Gopesh¬war.
But be aware, it won't be a cakewalk, you need
to be persuasive to get the permission.
Places to see around
On your way to the sanctuary, you may pass a
number of small towns, prominent of them are
Rudraprayag, Gaurikund, Chopta, Gopeshwar and
Okhimath. Kedarnath is a famous religious site
that you may include in your itinerary.
Kedarnath is 14 km from Gaurikund.
Places to stay in Kedarnath Sanctuary
Govt. guest houses offer decent accommodation in
Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. You may need
prior permission from DFO office in Gopeshwar to
stay there. You can also set base at Gopeshwar,
which has some decent hotels.
Reaching the Kedarnath Sanctuary
By Air: Jolly Grant near Dehradun is the nearest
airport, which is 227 km away.
By Rail: Nearest railway station is at Rishikesh, which is 212 km away.
Chopta is one of the entry points to the
From Rishikesh at a distance of 212 km
From Rudraprayag at a distance of 75 km
Route from Delhi: NH58 to Chamoli via Meerut,
Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, Haridwar, Rishikesh,
Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Okhimath;
state road to Chopta.
Best time to visit
Anytime of the year except the winter months
between November and March. However, the best
time to go is from May – October.