Difficulty level: Simple
Distance: 3 km
Time: 1.5 hours
This is our most popular trail which the young, old, and all the ones in between love equally. Amongst the walkers have been a 1 year old in arms, a 3 year old on feet and a 78 year old.
Ghoralkot is where ghoral (mountain goats) were hunted in the days prior to the Sanctuary notification. The grazing ghoral were shot by hunters perched on a hill side facing it across a gorge. Thankfully, there isn’t any hunting in these parts now, ensuring not only the safety of the ghoral, but also the hikers.
The trail starts from the Retreat and goes up a steep climb to Zero Point, about 1 km long and 400 feet up. Along the way, there are trees to climb and lovely photo ops – so, a relaxed walk with numerous stoppages is what the guide recommends.
Aahna perching on a Rhododendron tree.
Soon after we start the walk, we have to cross Leopard Ridge, a favourite haunt of leopards in the monsoons. Preetam saw a leopard on this ridge while on a solo walk in July 2014. Exactly a year later, while on the Ghoralkot walk with guests, the leopard was heard again. The walk had to be abandoned on both occasions.Leopard Ridge
About 50 m before arriving at Zero Point, we cross the highest natural point in Binsar, locally called Jhandi. A white flag (jhandi) was hoisted here when the British Commissioner of Kumaon was in residence at his estate in Binsar. This is also the origin of Jhandi Dhar – the main Binsar ridge, that passes through Jhandi.
And finally we arrive at Zero Point, a stone and concrete structure that replaced an ancient 4-storey wooden machan that got too rickety and was deemed unsafe. It is a good vantage point for seeing the Panchchuli peaks when the weather is clear. We have also done some pre-dawn walks up to Zero Point to catch the sun rising up from behind the hills of Nepal. It is a very special moment and fills one with wonder for the natural world.
Zero Point, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary
After soaking in the views from Zero Point and getting a rest, we head down towards Ghoralkot. Along the way, we pass Fallen Tree and Sclater’s Lookout. This is a very beautiful forest trail, on the northern side of Jhandi Dhar. The forest is rich in ringal (hill bamboo) in addition to the usual Oak and Rhododendron trees. Along the trail are fantastic views to the north – especially from Sclater’s Lookout.
About 1 km from Zero Point, we join the Jauljibi motor road that continues on towards the Jauljibi estate. This used to be a pony trail until the 80s. Ponies / horses being the only means of transport for the Binsar residents until then.
We turn back from here and it is a steady walk of about 1 km along the motor road back to the Retreat.