Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) is a national park located on the north of the Islamabad City, within the Islamabad Capital Territory in Pakistan. The park includes the Margalla Hills which form's the foothills of the Himalayas, along with Shakarparian Park and Rawal Lake.

Established in 1980, MHNP covers approximately 17,386 hectares (67.13 sq mi), Tilla Charouni with a height of 1,604m is tallest peak in the park. MHNP is a popular tourist destination, with Daman-e-Koh and Pir Sohawa serve as popular hill stations, while Shakarparian Cultutal Complex and Lake View Park are popular picnic spots.

The park is rich in biodiversity especially rich in Sino-himalayan fauna, most notably gray goral, barking deer and the Leopard. Combined MHNP is home to around 600 plant species, 250 bird varieties, 38 mammals and 13 species of reptiles. PTDC is currently constructing a chairlift project in the park.

The hill range nestles between an elevation of 685 meters at the western end and 1,604 meters on its east with average height of 1000 meters. Its highest peak is Tilla Charouni. The range gets snowfall in winters. On 6 January 2012, after almost six years, Pir Sohawa, the city’s highest tourist spot, received few inches of snowfall. Another measurable snow event occurred on 11 February 2016 where 2 inches fell after four years.


LOCATION
Instituted in 1980, the Margalla Hills National Park comprises the Margalla Hills (12605 hectares) the Rawal Lake, andShakarparian Sports and Cultural complex. Located in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The hill range nestles between an elevation of 685 meters at the western end and 1,604 meters on its east.

ETYMOLOGY

Two different legends describe the origin of the word 'Margalla'. According to the first legend, these hills have always been known as an abode of snakes. Mar means 'snake' in Persian galla means 'herd', therefore Margalla means a place with a lot of snakes.

According to the second legend, the word 'Margalla' was derived from Mar Galla, meaning 'to strangulate'. Mar means 'hit' and Galla means 'neck'. It is believed that there were lots of bandits and robbers who used these hills as a sanctuary and would strangle travelers in order to rob them. It has also been suggested that the name derived from Mārĩkalā, the Persian equivalent of Takshaśilã (Taxila)


ROADS AND COMMUNICATION
Khayaban-e- Iqbal, arises on the north east side from the 4th Avenue (Nur Pur Shahan), runs between E and F sectors and ends at Service road West of F 11 and E 11 (Golra) sectors in the south east. It will be extended up to Grand Trunk (GT) road in the near future and then it will be able to connect Nur Pur Shahan with the GT road. Pir Sohawa road starts from Khayaban-e-Iqbal, near the zoo and traverses across the Margalla hills and connects with Jabbri road. Margalla road starts from sector D 12 and runs across the Margallas to connect with Jabbri road near Khanpur. Grand Trunk road (GT road) passes through Margallas through Tarnol pass near Nicholson's obelisk.


PALEONTOLOGY AND ARCHEOLOGY
The hills' rock formations are 40 million years old, and fossils of marine life abound, indicating that the Margalla Hills were at one time under the sea.

According to the research carried out by scientists and archaeologists of the project "Post-Earthquake Explorations of Human Remains in Margalla Hills”, the formation of the Margalla Hills dates to the Miocene epoch. The dominant limestone of the Margalla is mixed with sandstone and occasional minor beds of shale. The archaeologists of the project have also found two human footprints over one million years old here, preserved in sandstone.

Saidpur is a Mughal-era village on the slopes of the Margalla Hills and located off the Hill Road to the east of Daman-e-Koh in Islamabad. The village has the footprints of various civilizations, including Gandhara, Greek, Buddhist, Mughal, Ashoka and the British colonial periods, and now serving as a popular recreational spot for both local and foreign visitors


FLORA AND FAUNA
The plant species on Margalla hills belong to various families of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, grasses and fodder crops. The vegetation of the southern slopes is deciduous and evergreen trees with most of flowering trees like Bauhinia variegata, Ficus carica, and trees like Pinus roxburghii, Quercus leucotrichophora. In the north stand pines, eucalyptus, peepal trees (Ficus religiosa), paper mulberry and groves of oak, e.g silver oaks. Over the years, however, the hills have suffered considerably from illegal logging and wood collection used for cooking and heating. But, the CDA has planted 385,000 saplings every spring.

There are around 250 to 300 species of plants on the Margalla hills. As many as two third of them are used by the people for their medicinal effects to treat or cure various diseases.The Margalla Hills are home to various species of wildlife, including monkeys, exotic birds and carnivores such as the rare and presently endangered Margalla leopard.

MAMMALS
Mammals in the park include--Asiatic leopard (T), Wild boar (C), Golden Jackal (C), Rhesus Macaque (V), Leopard cat (R), Gray Goral sheep (V), Barking deer (V), Chinkara gazelle (R), Red fox (C), Pangolin (R), Porcupine (C), Yellow throated marten (R) and Fruit bats (C).

NOTE: T=Threatened, V=Vulnerable, R=Rare, C=Common, ?=Unknown.

Commonly found animals in the Margallas include rhesus monkeys, jackals (often heard cackling at night near the hills), wild boars,porcupines, mongoose and the pangolin or scaly anteater. The wild boar in particular can be seen at some of the least expected places in the city. While they generally stay close to the hills, occasionally (particularly in winter when the hills are cold and it snows on the peaks of Margalla hills) they can be seen quite far from the Margallas. Often the boars will have small hideouts in the green belts in and around the city. The increasing practice of throwing litter near the hills also attracts both monkeys and wild boar to come and forage through the rubbish. The wild boars can be quite large, very solidly built and usually travel in large groups.

Much less common are leopards, which occasionally come down from the Murree area but usually remain high up in the hills. Villagers dwelling in the Margallas do report sighting of leopards off and on.

There is another group of animals that deserves mention: the snakes of Margalla Hills. There are a number of species of poisonous snakes in the area, including cobras, Russell's vipers, kraits known in local parlance as the half-minute killer and indian phython. The snakes hibernate in the winter months; but tread carefully in the hotter months and particularly the monsoon months, when snakes abound. While they are to be found mainly in and around the hills, occasionally an overgrown garden can prove the ideal home.

BIRDS 

High diversity of birds in the Margallas is due to the combination many ecological components that together make it a unique location. No other Pakistani location could come even near in the number of species seen. As a result of a series of faunal survey of the park, 54 species of butterflies, 37 species of fish, 9 species of amphibians, 20 species of reptiles, 380 species of birds, 21 species of small mammals and 15 species of large mammals have so far been recorded.

Birds in the park are Himalayan Griffon vulture, Laggar falcon, Peregrine falcon, Kestrel, Indian sparrow hawk, Egyptian vulture, White cheeked bulbul, yellow vented bulbul, Paradise flycatcher, Black partridge, Cheer pheasant, Khalij pheasant, Golden oriole, Spotted dove, Collared dove, Larks, Shrikes, Wheatears and buntings.


BIRD WATCHING
The Margallas are an excellent place for bird watchers. The area is home to a large number of birds, including robins, sparrows, kites, crows, larks, paradise flycatchers, black partridge, shrikes, pheasants, spotted doves, Egyptian vultures, falcons, hawks, eagles, Himalayan griffon vulture, laggar falcon, peregrine falcon, kestrel, Indian sparrow hawk, white cheeked bulbul, yellow vented bulbul, paradise flycatcher, cheer pheasant, Khalij pheasant, golden oriole, spotted dove, collared dove, wheatears and buntings.

REPTILES
Reptiles in the park are Russell's viper, Indian cobra, Himalayan pit viper and Saw scaled viper.


HIKING AND TREKKING
The Margallas are excellent for hiking and cater for both the regular serious hikers and the less serious occasional enthusiasts. The safest and most frequented hike path is from the zoo park to Daman-e-Koh. The best season for hiking is from February to April, when there is less rain and the weather is extremely pleasant.

HIKING TRAILS

  • Trail 1 - Village Kalinger / Sinyari
  • Trail 2 - Damn-e-Koh / Zoo
  • Trail 3 - Sector F-6
  • Trail 4 - Dhok Jeevan
  • Trail 5 - Dera Janglan
  • Trail 6 - Chak Jabbi
  • Trail 7 - Saidpur Village

ROCK CLIMBING
There are many spots for rock climbing in Margalla Hills. Few crags have been developed but, still a lot of potential available to explore virgin lines.
Jungle Rock (F 6a:8a), God Rock (F 6b+:7b), Legacy Wall (F 6a:7c+), Jasmin Corner (F 4b:5a), Belvedere (F 4c:6b+), Hidden Rock (F 6a:6c), Music Lounge (F 5c:6c) Beetle’s Nest (F 5b:6c+, including multi-pitch route), Well Hidden Rock (F 5a:8a), Holiday Rock (F 5b:5b), Said Pur View (F 5c:8a) and Shaddarrah (F 5c:6a) have been excellently developed/ bolted.

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