Even though Mount Elbrus is Russia’s highest peak, it’s also one of its most popular hiking routes. There are many paths leading to the top, which makes Elbrus a peak for everybody, from absolute beginners to professional climbers. The optimal time to go is in the summer: from June to early September. Be prepared to camp on the way, as the tourist infrastructure around mount Elbrus is not very well-developed. The views from the peak will compensate any inconveniences!
The northern part of the Ural Mountains, protected in the Yugyd-va National Park and the Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve, is considered to be the most beautiful – both parks constitute a UNESCO World Heritage site. Yugyd-va is one of the least inhabited national parks in Russia, as there are no permanently inhabited areas on the almost 2,000 square kilometres of its surface. It’s an excellent place for experienced hikers with a lot of time on their hands: the trails here are designed for 10 to 14 days of hiking and require camping on the way. Pechora-Ilych is much more accessible, so you can enjoy the beauty of the Urals even if it’s your very first hiking experience.
Yugyd Va National Park, Vyktyl, Russia, +7 821 462 47 63
For those who are after an intriguing, but not demanding hill to climb, Vottvovaara is the place to go. It’s in Karelia, a republic neighbouring with Finland. Vottvovaara is a sacred place to the indigenous population of the area, the Saami people – they chose it as their place of worship because of the extraordinary stone formations left behind by a glacier which retreated 10,000 years ago. Today the mountain draws neo-pagans and artists who search for inspiration here.
Lake Baikal is the biggest lake in the world by area and one of Russia’s most popular tourist destinations. Though it’s a very impressive landscape to see at any time of the year, summer visitors can embark on one of the many hiking trails around the lake. There’s a trail to suit everyone here, from busy to almost deserted, from challenging to recreational, from quick to requiring some time commitment. A couple of days hiking by Lake Baikal is a wonderful break on a long Trans-Siberian journey.
In Russia’s far east there’s yet another UNESCO World Heritage site: the volcanoes of Kamchatka. The peninsula is vastly undiscovered and remains a sanctuary of pristine nature. Klyuchevskaya Sopka is one of the most active volcanoes not only in Kamchatka, but in the whole of Eurasia – it has erupted five times since the year 2000. Klyuchevskaya Sopka is one of the most unique hiking trails in Russia and a must-do for any avid hiker.
Stolby (Russian for ‘pillars’) is a nature reserve located near the city of Krasnoyarsk. It is very much worth visiting because of the unique pillar-like rock formations spread around the entire territory of the park. The hiking trails vary from easy to intermediate, making it a perfect place for a hike with the family.
Stolby Nature Sanctuary, Krasnoyarsk, Krasnoyarski Krai, Russia, +7 391 261 17 10
The Curonian Spit is a place for those who like long walks by the beach. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, shared by Russia and Lithuania, and is a sand-dune spit which separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. The spit is home to many unique species of fauna and flora, and can only be visited on foot due to the environmental concerns. It is among the most unique places to hike in Russia.
The Solovetsky islands are the place to hike for those wanting to explore both nature and history. The islands are very beautiful and hiker-friendly – they were also one of the most important locations of the gulag system, and many political prisoners were detained here for years.