The Kumaon region consists of a large Himalayan tract, together with two submontane strips called the Terai and the Bhabar. The submontane strips were up to 1850 an almost impenetrable forest, given up to wild animals; but after 1850 the numerous clearings attracted a large population from the hills, who cultivated the rich soil during the hot and cold seasons, returning to the hills in the rains. The rest of Kumaon is a maze of mountains, part of the Himalaya range, some of which are among the loftiest known. In a tract not more than 225 km in length and 65 km in breadth there are over thirty peaks rising to elevations exceeding 5500 m.
The rivers like Gori, Dhauli, and Kali rise chiefly in the southern slope of the Tibetan watershed north of the loftiest peaks, amongst which they make their way down valleys of rapid declivity and extraordinary depth. The principal is the Sharda (Kali Ganga), the Pindari and Kailganga, whose waters join the Alaknanda. The river Sharda (Kali Ganga) forms the international boundary between India and Nepal. The pilgrim route currently used to visit Kailash-Mansarovar goes along this river and crosses into Tibet at Lipu Lekh pass.
The chief trees are the Chir Pine, Himalayan Cypress, Pindrow Fir, alder, sal or iron-wood, and saindan. Limestone, sandstone, slate, gneiss and granite constitute the principal geological formations. Mines of iron, copper, gypsum, lead and asbestos exist; but they are not thoroughly worked. Except in the submontane strips and deep valleys, the climate is mild. The rainfall of the outer Himalayan range, which is first struck by the monsoon, is double that of the central hills, in the average proportion of 2000 mm to 1000 mm. No winter passes without snow on the higher ridges, and in some years, it is universal throughout the mountain tract. Frosts, especially in the valleys, are often severe.