It’s Thursday evening. I am leaving office at 6:30 pm to pack for a three-day hiking in Georgia particularly Lagodekhi Protected Areas with my husband, Oto and my colleague, Ruska. It’s been one year since my spinal surgery. I am nervous how my waist will react to a long, hard and exhausting 50 Km trail which leads to a Black Rock Lake at 3,000 meters above the sea level.
The national park located in Kakheti region is 185 km away from Tbilisi and borders with Azerbaijan and Dagestan. It conserves a variety of rare flora and fauna making the track here an unforgettable adventure.
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We drive during the night to Lagodekhi to start our hike early in the morning on Friday. Black Rock Lake Trail is one of the hardest, interesting and beautiful trails in all of Georgia. It boasts with magnificent views over the Caucasus and Alazani valley. The track is doable in three days, but for more enjoyment, I would recommend four or even five days.
Just before starting the track do remember!!
- Call the administration and ask how safe is it to hike at your desired date. The weather conditions might be dangerous, and they won’t let you go.
- The trail to the first camping site and a visitor’s center are around 13 km away. From here the lake is another 13 km away, while the second shelter is 3 km from here. This year the administration created circuit trail from the second shelter back to the administration. They say it’s 15 km down the steep hill. However, according to Ruska’s the Health application, it was around 20 km long.
- There is no water along the first and circuit track so bring plenty of it.
- Download Maps.me application – this is one of the best maps I have tried. Even better than Google. It works offline and finds your location in the middle of the forest.
- The second visitor’s center is in the alpine area, so there is no wood to warm up at the fireplace or boil some water. Bring camping gas stove with you.
- There is no electricity in any of the sites, so be prepared to charge all your gadgets beforehand.
- Have warm clothes. It gets freezing in the evening and at night.
- Have your passports or ID; you might need to show it to Georgian border police once you start the trail to the lake.
- Prices: 5 GEL to stay with your tent and 15 to sleep in visitor’s center per person.
The trail is marked very well with red/white or only red paint on the trees and rocks. The only disadvantage was that we could not understand how many kilometers we walked until we reached the middle of the tail. You see ‘6 km’ written in big letters on the tree. Walking up the hill is quite hard as the trail is narrow and rocky most of the time. The whole load comes on ankles and knees. And if you want to make your path easier, you can hire a horse and a guide for 100 GEL a day.
The surroundings are stunning and silent, so quiet that when the leaves fall from the trees, you think something in the bushes just moved. The forest is full of old trees, many of which fell due to various reasons. And as it was autumn the forest covered slopes looks like a color pallet gradually shifting from green towards red. Simply jaw-dropping landscapes.
The lack of experience in hiking such places led us to walk slow so we would hit the destination right before the sunset.
The circuit trail is quite steep, even more, hard than the first ones. As it’s a newly cut trail, it’s not very visible, and sometimes the marks are far away from each other. We almost missed it twice and walked in entirely different direction. The pathway here is similar – rocky and very steep. Even after hours of walking without a break, it seemed we were walking on the same level and not going down the mountain. It appeared to be a never-ending trail at some point.
Moreover, each piece of our leg muscle hurt terribly, Ruska had blisters, and I had the burning feeling in my feet, making us walk even slower. If I knew in advance, I would not go this way and would have hiked from the side we walked first two days. The reason choosing the circuit was to cut some kilometers short, but we ended up walking even a bit more (!)However, I must say that the forest on this side of the trail was much, much gorgeous than the first. At least something to shift my mind from the burning pain I had.
If we had more days to spend here that would have been perfect. But despite the fact that my leg muscles still hurt four days after, I do not regret a bit of it.