Grasslands in the upper Indus basin provide a resource base for nomadic livestock grazing which is one of the major traditional livelihood practices in the area. The study presents climate patterns, grassland phenology, productivity and spatio-temporal climate controls on grassland growth using satellite data over the upper Indus basin of the Himalayan region, Pakistan. Phenology and productivity metrics of the grasses were estimated using a combination of derivative and threshold methods applied on fitted seasonal vegetation indices data over the period of 2001–2011. Satellite based rainfall and land surface temperature data are considered as representative explanatory variables to climate variability. The results showed distinct phenology and productivity patterns across four bioclimatic regions: (i) humid subtropical region (HSR)—late start and early end of season with short length of season and low productivity (ii) temperate region (TR)—early start and late end of season with higher length of season and moderate productivity (iii) sub alpine region (SAR)—late start and late end of season with very high length of season and the most productive grasses, and (iv) alpine region (AR)—late start and early end of season with small length of season and least productive grasses. Grassland productivity is constrained by temperature in the alpine region and by rainfall in the humid sub-tropical region. Spring temperature, winter and summer rainfall has shown significant and varied impact on phenology across different altitudes. The productivity is being influenced by summer and annual rainfall in humid subtropical regions, spring temperature in alpine and sub-alpine regions and both temperature and rainfall are contributing in temperate regions. The results revealing a strong relationship between grassland dynamics and climate variability put forth strong signals for drawing more scientific management of rangelands in the area.