Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is a relatively new park, only being gazetted in 2002 in order to protect water catchment in the Kathmandu Valley. There are actually two areas around Kathmandu designated as ‘Shivapuri National Park’ – the section we visited was directly north of the capital city, about 45 minutes drive. Several ‘marked’ trails in the park head up to Shivapuri peak (2,732 m / 8,963 ft), making it a good option if you don’t have the time to visit the better known hikes in Nepal.
Like several parks in Nepal, Shivapuri is also home to a military barracks and so the entrance appears rather fortified. Nevertheless the staff were very friendly and entrance was straightforward, with a small amount of paperwork needing to be completed.
A signboard with a map is available at the entrance – it is a good idea to take a photo of this. Although it is not completely accurate, the signage within the park is possibly even worse. We relied on our GPS to ensure we were going the right direction, although once you have made your initial choice of paths near the beginning of the hike, there are few options to change.
There are two main trails leading to Shivapuri peak, running up and along ridges on the west and east sides of the park. Just after the entrance and the buildings damaged by the recent earthquake, we selected the left path and headed west. Both trails are wide, clear, and climb gently.
Shivapuri National Park is home to many rare and exotics species, including the Indian leopard, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan goral, barking deer, Chinese pangolin, and the clouded leopard. We, of course, did not see any of these or any other animals during the entire hike!
Our first navigation issue arose shortly after crossing a river near some recently shifted ground (perhaps from the earthquake or a landslide?). Following the path left for about 20 minutes, we were becoming concerned that we were moving directly away from the mountain, and were just about to turn around when we hit a sign and a side path. Then the fun really started! The path to the peak is a series of stone steps. Never ending stone steps. There must be thousands of them in total, requiring huge amounts of work to build. In a way they reminded me of the old Mayan temples in Guatemala. We climbed the steps for hours, with absolutely no respite, vowing to take a different path down.
Towards the ridge line we were presented with another branch in the path, this time unmarked and not appearing on the map. Reasoning that we were not at the top yet and the right path seemed to climb some more, we chose that one. At this point we got our first views of the Himalaya – at first just glimpses of grey and white through the thick forest – and then clearer views of the mountains from key spots along the path.
The trail (and steps!) finally gave way to a small cleared area and the remains of some huts which looked like a former campsite. 5 minutes beyond this was another clearing and a small shrine: the summit of Shivapuri.
Unfortunately, despite searching the area around the summit we were unable to find the alternative trail which lead down to the park entrance, and were forced to return the way we came – steps and all. Several knee-shattering hours later we made it.