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Knowing where to go and which untraversed paths to explore in an area almost of the same size as Germany is challenging, let alone to reach the Baikal region in the first place. Located about 4, 500 km to the east of Moscow, the prominent Russian lake still attracts thousands of adventurous tourists every year. Famous for its promising nature and remote wilderness, Baikal region has Russia’s finest mountain- and hill-walking. But where do you start if you head towards the east for the first time? Look no further, here are three top nature trails to scale around Baikal Lake.
Although it might sound self-explanatory, Great Baikal Trail not only stands for the most extensive trail but also is a name of the former NGO and today an Association for the Ecological Education, Leadership, and Trailbuilding. Established 15 years ago, this organization set an ambitious goal to create a circular trail around the entire lake. Thus, by developing such an extensive network of tracks, it aims to develop sustainable ecological and volunteer tourism in the region. Through its projects, it enables travellers not only to see the beauty of the lake but also to interact with the local landscape and people (both local residents and employees of Nature State Reserves). It also runs the programmes for nature conservation and interpretation. Hence, it can be your ideal guide for the first acquaintance with the lake surroundings whether it is a village of Tankhoy or Bolshoye Goloustnoye.
My absolute top is a summer volunteer project. Two-week adventure shared with like-minded folks, somewhere in the middle of taiga, will definitely make it to the most mind-blowing experiences of your lifetime. Sharing the tents with French girls and local insects, fighting with ever-changing Siberian weather, becoming a local campfire hero – all this hardens your character, well and gives some smiles later on, too.
For those who do not have a mind to build a trail but rather to conquer it, I would recommend the Frolikha trail. Stretched over the northeast part of Baikal Lake, this 95-km track will become a real route of your strength. Although this hike is considered moderate, you definitely need some stamina to make it till the end. A-twelve-day walk takes you through the numerous glacier watercourses, spectacular mountain offsets, and ends up at the mouth of the upper Angara. The pristine almost intimidating natural landscapes here are also home to the Frolikhinsky Reserve, a stunning Frolikha lake, and lots of rare wildlife such as the red-listed Arctic char, a distant relative of the good old salmon. Keep in mind that the overnight stays at the reserve’s territory are not allowed, hence think of possible sleeping options prior to your grand walk.
Here comes the cherry on the cake for any professional hiker. Located on the territory of the Zabaikalsky National Park, this trail is marked as an extra difficult hike meant primarily for well-prepared hikers.
There are sharp inclines and stony placers on the way. You are lucky if it is not raining, otherwise the slopes are getting even somewhat dangerous. Though the stunning view from the top over the mighty Baikal Lake is worth of risk! The maximum height above the sea level is 1877 m and above Baikal Lake is 1420 m. The extreme points of the route are the Glinka area about 25 km from the village of Ust-Barguzin and the plateau of the Holy Nose Peninsula. The length of the ascent to the plateau and descent to Glinka is about 14 km. An average time of ascent is 4-6 hours, the descent is 3-5 hours. There are several secluded spots on the way to stop by and reflect on things. However, the entire walk will take you two days. As the trail is located within the National Park, it is well equipped with signs and easy to access from the main gate. Once you are in the park, you can either walk up to the foothills or use a car. If you opt for walking, the journey will take you around two hours. On the way, you can expect the changing landscapes of forests and small lakes, bird corners and vast steppe panoramas. The things can get busy in the high season of July-August, but you hardly meet anyone already around September.
As you can see the region has plenty to offer, from easy routes to sophisticated trails that need a good level of fitness. No matter when you decide to head towards this direction, make sure to check these three top nature trails to scale around Baikal Lake.
Cover photo © credits to Elena Bubeeva
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