Also called Salkyn Tur (Салкын-Тор in Russian & Kyrgyz), this beautiful park extends from the Naryn River high up into the mountains occupying a vast 10,448 acres. Salkyn Tor National Park is located just outside the regional capital, past the small airport and about 12 kilometers east of Naryn City. The public space is partially protected as being part of the Salkyn-Tor State Park, which covers a considerable area along the Naryn River immediately to the east of Naryn.
The main roads (on the southern side of the Naryn River) out of Naryn converge and continue east to reach the quiet village of Tash-Bashat (known to tourists as the viewpoint for the forest swastika). East of here, further along the Naryn River and close to the border with Issyk-Kul Oblast, lies the Naryn State Reserve, one of Kyrgyzstan’s six state reserves, which was established in 1983 to preserve coniferous forest and alpine meadows. The Naryn State Reserve has all the elements necessary to attract tourists – pure mountain air, clear mountain streams, magnificent mountain scenery and the chance to see wild animals in their natural habitat. In addition, the territory of the reserve hosts unique natural sites and historical monuments mentioned in the national epic, Manas. The public park itself was officially established in 2001.
The entrance to Salkyn Tur is about 2 kilometres from the big colorful arch visible from the main road, and a guard is posted to collect entrance fees per person and vehicle for international tourists. There are toilets and picnic facilities not long afterwards. Near this entrance you might find people picnicking in the summer, but otherwise, the rest of the park doesn’t see many visitors so it makes for an excellent place to go hiking.
A beautiful stream varying in width and depth runs down from a glacier and extends the full length of the park. This pretty canyon park offers plenty of picturesque camping and picnic spots. Salkyn Tur was a former pioneer camp during the Soviet Union but under Kyrgyz independence now operates as a guesthouse (yurt camp) during the summer months. Kyrgyzstan is a photographer’s heaven, and this place is no exception. The diversity of plants, animals and flowers here is evident. It is home to over 45 species of birds and 21 species of mammals including the snow leopard, red deer, bear, argali, lynx, golden eagle, Balaban, Ibisbill, and bearded snow vulture. There are about 1,800 species of plants and many seasonally beautiful alpine flowers.
In fact the national park is home to four mammals, 6 bird species, 10 kinds of insects and 2 plant species specifically listed in the Red Book of Kyrgyzstan of rare endangered wildlife. The park also contains some gorgeous canyons, several caves, and lots of natural springs.
In summer months people from Naryn take advantage of this gorgeous location for picnics, and especially on summer weekends in low-lying areas the prime spots along the river can seem a little crowded. As Salkyn Tor is a residential favorite, at the end of the school there is such a tradition where entire schools camp out at Salkyn Tor National Park.
The only unfortunate thing to this mostly unspoiled wilderness, and it is becoming a more pressing problem, is the trash that is left behind in the form of food refuse, wrappers, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and glass vodka bottles as there has not been much attempt to install trash cans and regular garbage collection. If you continue higher, it will seem more and more remote.
There are many gorgeous hikes in the area all going up with varying levels of difficulty, but the most common one follows the stream up switching back and forth a few times.
There is a hiking trail that runs along the river up from the entrance area. You cross three pedestrian bridges in the first couple of kilometers of the hike. Once past the third bridge, the trail continues, crossing the river at several points. At a river crossing, watch carefully for the path on the other side, as it can occasionally be difficult to spot. There are many nice camping spots along the way, and the gurgling brook is never far from the path.
At about 10 km up there is a shepherds’ camp in a grove of pines on the east side of the river. It’s concealed in the pines, so it can be easy to miss.
Above that camp, the trail disappears, and it’s a rocky scramble up to treeline. This climb can be potentially the most challenging part of the fairly easy trek.
At the treeline, the river splits, but both sides go up to glacier, which is the source of the river. There is a beautiful open valley at the top. Snow bridges covered the river at several spots in late June, and there is lots of snow at the top of Salkyntor even until late summer. Winter in this part of the country is completed deserted. These mountains show off the beauty of the Naryn Too as part of the larger central Tien Shan Mountain Range.
The potential is there for the until recently undiscovered beauty of the internal Tien Shan to explode onto the tourist scene with wildlife pictures fit for National Geographic photography. For those that want to explore the Naryn area and dive into more of Kyrgyzstan’s silk road beautiful landscapes, these nearby unexplored Kyrgyz-Travel destinations are also recommended: the Kurgak Hot Springs, the Kozho Unkur Cave, Debeli historical site, and the Kok Zhaiyk, Berkut Yn, and Kyzyl Zoo Gorges.