Trekking Great Baikal Trail
What is the Great Baikal Trail? The main mission of the organization is the development of ecotourism and the cultivation of a socially responsible society through the organization of volunteer and educational projects.
The main idea behind the Great Baikal Trail is to build the first system of environmentally sensitive trails all over Russia. The ultimate purpose of these trails, of course, is to attract more eco-tourists to the region—including all the outside volunteers who want to spend their vacation at Baikal by helping to maintain trails and building new ones.
They also aim to raise the awareness and conscientiousness of local communities towards the environment. To achieve this latter goal GBT now runs a number of local educational and socio-ecological programs around the lake year-round.
GBT also operates quite a few international exchange programs and is currently helping other regions in Russia as they try to replicate our successes.
Trails. There are short descriptions for your information in this chart. Full itineraries and their descriptions can be found on the official website of GBT.
|Names of trails||Short description|
|Listvianka – Bolshie Koty||A large part of this trail, which stretches about 24 kilometers in total, passes along the shore of Lake Baikal. The difficulty level of this trail is moderate. As you hike along this trail, you will be able to see an incredible view of the lake and its opposite shore. Approximate time to complete this trail is 5-8 hours each way.|
|Bolshie Koty – Bolshoe Goloustnoe||We recommend 2 days to complete this trail. This trail is very picturesque, but you must be very careful. Due to the loose terrain of the shore, a few parts of this trail have been destroyed, and it is necessary to go down to the stony beach to avoid these parts of the trail.|
|“The Wilderness of Khamar-Daban“||This trail is located on the territory of the Baikal Nature Reserve and gives you an opportunity to pass from the taiga foothills almost to the base of the Khamar-Daban in a short amount of time.|
|“Olkhinskie Rocks“||This trail, noteworthy for its bizarre rock formations, is on the territory of the Shelekhovski Forest. Rocks Vityaz and Idol are the most popular and accessible formations to visit. This is the perfect route for a day trip.|
|Trail of the Holy Mountain of Bolshoe Goloustnoe||If you are in Bolshoe Goloustnoe, you must make a trip to the Holy Mountain. Approximate time from the village is 1.5 hours each way.|
Is it possible to go hiking on your own?
We have chosen the trail that starts in Listviyanka settlement (70 km away from Irkutsk) and goes to a village Bolshie Koty. The total length is 24 km. So it sounds like a great weekend escape from the city to the pure nature as well as a wonderful adventure.
Last time we did the trail was in September. That was a surprise because the weather was on our side and we managed to swim in the lake in autumn time. Isn’t it a miracle?
How to get to the trailhead?
To get to the start of the trail you need to go to the very end of Listviyanka, past the fish market and observation points. You can also orienteer by the last bus stop or hydrofoil dock across from the tall hotel, walk towards the central market. Turn left on Gudina street (ул. Гудина). Follow this street until you reach the very end (approximately 2km), and find the trailhead on the left side of the valley. All useful information can be found on GBT official website.
How is the trail?
The first 4.5 km trail goes uphill. This rise is the hardest part of the route. After you do it, you can be proud of yourself and just continue to walk and enjoy. The hardest part will take your breath away not only because it is physically not easy but also because of the views and pure nature around.
Before reaching the top, the trail splits. Go to your right. At the top (860 meters above sea level, 404 meters above the lake), a beautiful view of Lake Baikal awaits you, and you will soon descend to the lakeshore.
All in all, it took us around 8 hours one way. We are not too sportive girls but we didn’t have all the equipment such as big backpacks or others just some snacks, warm jackets, wind-stoppers and little city-style backpacks.
After a series of switchbacks, the path runs along the shore. You will cross many rivers and streams over the bridges, all of which were built by GBT volunteers. Camping is permitted only in designated areas, which can be easily found along the trail. In some places, the trail runs along steep cliffs, so you need to be always careful and cautious.
What to pack with you?
If you plan to do only the part of the trail that is described above, you don’t need to pack a lot.
There is a little checklist for you:
- be sure you’re in a good trekking trainers or boots cause the slopes can be steep
- wind-stopper might be useful cause the weather is very changeable
- comfortable trekking clothes
- you can take all the equipment for camping
- good snack or food for lunch (there is no civilization on the way such as shops, cafes and so on)
- optional: swimming suit. Walking along the shore you might be eager to try swimming in the lake
- a camera would be good to take pictures of incredible views
Where to stay at Bolshie Koty?
If you’re not camping, it’s possible to stay at a local wooden house in a village. Don’t forget to ask for banya at the evening after a long walk.
There are a lot of houses for rent (also available at Booking.com) but it’s possible to rent right at the place just asking locals (we always do that).
Be prepared for going offline for some time cause connection is almost absent at the place or very weak.
Pack light, prepare well, get the inspiration and just go! If you feel like trekking GBT with a guide, contact ExploRussia team, we can create the tour according to your needs.
Written by Katya, local guide