Stay Safe

Essential Preparations, Hazards, and Emergency Information


Your journey along the Transcaucasian Trail will be unforgettable, and we want to make sure it’s memorable for the right reasons. Safety is paramount in any outdoor activity, and hiking on the TCT is no exception. As you navigate through the mountains and valleys, prioritizing safety is key to a fulfilling trek.

Why is safety so important? 

Imagine this: You’ve lost the trail and are wandering in a high-altitude meadow when a storm suddenly brews on the horizon. Or you’re navigating a mountain pass when a slight misstep leads to a stumble. Or you didn’t take the time to learn the local plants, and now you’re covered in blistering burns. 

The trail carries its own inherent risks, but you can minimize the possibility of these scenarios by being prepared and knowing how to handle an emergency, should it arise.

Jump to Preparation, Solo Hikers, Hazards, or Emergency Services.

Be Prepared

Prepare for Your Hike 

Prepare for the unexpected, whether you’re setting out on a day hike, thru-hike, or any distance in between. A seemingly simple day hike can turn treacherous if you underestimate the difficulty of the trail and are still far from shelter…without a headlamp…when it gets dark. 

Basic Safety Guidelines

    1. Research the trail and terrain, including known hazards, difficulty, and weather patterns.
    2. Make sure the section of the TCT you’re hiking is compatible with your fitness level and experience. Trails in the Caucasus are often steeper, more challenging, and less well-marked than those in many parts of the world.
    3. Wear proper footwear and clothing for the conditions you’re hiking in.
    4. Tell someone about your route and expected return time.
    5. Develop a communication plan. Have a check-in schedule with someone who knows where you are. 
    6. Have an emergency plan.
    7. Carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite communicator, and a signaling device (mirror, bright colors).
    8. Carry the 10 essentials.
    9. Be familiar with local wildlife and potential dangers.
Have a basic route before starting your hike.
Have a basic route before starting your hike.

Safety Guidelines for Multi-Day Hikes

Multi-Day Hikes

    1. Plan resupply points or carry adequate food and water. Know how much food and water you personally consume. 
    2. Practice proper backcountry hygiene and waste disposal.
    3. Know basic campcraft skills: setting up shelter, cooking, and fire safety.
    4. Be comfortable navigating with a map, compass, and GPS.


    1. Train for multi-week endurance and develop (ultra)light backpacking skills.
    2. Know how to take care of and repair your gear.
    3. Plan for resupply logistics and potential logistical hiccups.
    4. Learn advanced navigation techniques and be comfortable off-trail.
Know how to set up your tent before setting off on the TCT.
Know how to set up your tent before setting off on the TCT.

Emergency Preparedness for All Hikers

    1. Know the local emergency resources—their phone numbers and capabilities—for the region you’re hiking in (scroll down for Emergency Information).
    2. Know basic first-aid and survival skills.
    3. Know how to signal for help and what to do in case of emergencies.
    4. Don’t panic. We know that’s easier said than done, but staying calm will help you make clearer-minded decisions in emergency situations. 
    5. Be prepared to keep yourself warm and wait. If you’ve gotten an emergency message out, help will likely come, but it will take a while and will probably be a guy on a horse or in a 4×4 instead of a helicopter.

During Your Hike

    • Leave no trace: pack out all trash and minimize your environmental impact.
    • Check weather forecasts regularly and be prepared for sudden changes. 
    • Stay on the trail and avoid shortcuts. We’ll just say it—shortcuts in the Caucasus are usually the longest, most time-consuming way to get lost and injured. Take it from us! 
    • Regularly check your GPS location to make sure you’re still on the trail. The TCT might not be as well-blazed as other trails you’re used to hiking. Carrying a GPS device or phone—and the spare battery to keep them going—is a must.
    • Take breaks often. Know your limits and pay attention to how you’re feeling when on the trail. Generally, if you can talk while you’re walking, you’re moving at a good speed.
    • Start early and pace yourself. Especially with summer temperatures reaching 40 degrees on certain sections of the trail, starting your days early in cooler weather can make a big difference. Don’t go faster than you physically can. It’s not a race! 
    • Eat snacks and drink water to stay energized and hydrated, and don’t forget to consume salt/electrolytes along with your water. (Hyponatremia can be more dangerous than dehydration.)
    • Take your time and watch your step. Be careful and watch where you’re walking, especially on slippery areas or near cliffs. Stick to dry paths and solid rock areas with good footing.
    • Stay away from rapid waters and slippery slopes. Don’t attempt to cross streams during icy conditions, flooding, swift or white water, or any time you can’t be certain of the water depth.
    • Spray for mosquitoes and check for ticks. While tick-borne diseases aren’t as common in the Caucasus as in many parts of the U.S., there have been recorded cases of Lyme disease and Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF).
    • Be aware of wildlife. Many villagers will warn you about wolves and bears, but they’re rare to see. However, although most wildlife in the Caucasus are wary of humans and encounters are rare, as more hikers venture into the mountains, the risk of wildlife getting accustomed to human food becomes higher, which raises the risk for both hikers and wildlife. Help prevent this by storing your food properly and packing out all trash and food scraps.
    • Acknowledge other hikers. More than being friendly, making eye contact and saying hello can help immensely in missing persons situations. If you get lost, other hikers will more likely remember where and when they saw you and what you were wearing on the trail if you’ve acknowledged them, rather than simply passed them by. This could help emergency services find you more quickly. 
    • Take photos. If you get turned around, look back at your photos to see any landmarks you should be looking for to find your way. 
Check your GPS often.
Check your GPS often.
Stay hydrated.
Stay hydrated.
Strawberry picking on the trail.
Strawberry picking on the trail.
Take photos so you can look back at them to orient yourself if you get lost.
Take photos so you can look back at them to orient yourself if you get lost.

Solo (Female) Hikers

Many people have solo hiked parts or all of the TCT without any problems, but others have had at least one unsettling encounter or safety incident. Solo hiking carries increased risk, since if something happens, you’re on your own. 

We know that solo hiking as a woman, in particular, comes with its own set of worries and dangers. We hate that that’s the world we live in, but unfortunately, it’s our reality. 

If you’re taking on the TCT solo, be sure to follow the general safety tips above. We also recommend taking the following additional precautions: 

  • Be vigilant. An excellent tip for everyone, this is especially pertinent for all solo hikers. Be aware of your surroundings, the terrain underfoot, and of other people you encounter on or near the trail. 
  • Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Don’t reveal you’re hiking by yourself. You don’t need to advertise this, especially if you get a weird feeling from someone. Feel free to reference the friend/partner who’s behind you, or the friends waiting for you in the town ahead.
  • Carry a whistle. Your backpack likely has a built-in whistle on the strap, but carrying an extra one is a good idea. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, make use of your whistle to attract attention. 
  • Carry pepper spray or something similar. Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but it’s lightweight and good to have on hand in case. (You can’t bring pepper spray into Azerbaijan (if you do, prepare to get it confiscated upon arrival), so if you’re planning on hiking those sections, plan on carrying another form of defense.)
  • Know basic self-defense. You definitely don’t need to be a master of martial arts, but knowing some basic moves is a good idea. 

What to do in an uncomfortable situation

The vast majority of people you’ll meet on the TCT are genuinely kind, happy to meet you, and eager to share the hospitality of their country. Unfortunately, like anywhere, you can also meet people with ulterior motives. 

If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, get out of the situation fast. Don’t worry about being rude or unfriendly—be curt, be clear, and don’t engage in conversation. Your safety and well-being come first. 


Dogs on the trail 

Aggressive dogs can be by far the biggest animal threat to TCT hikers. Many villagers keep guard dogs for security and train them to bark at potential intruders, but thankfully, such dogs are territorial and rarely stray beyond their property boundaries. Beyond the villages and farms, dogs often accompany livestock herds as protection from predators, and you should monitor their behavior closely. If they show aggression, they consider your presence a threat to their herds. If you proceed calmly without sudden movements, they’ll usually back off once you’re far enough from the herd.


While the sight and sound of one or more barking dogs running towards you can be frightening, stand your ground and wait for the herder (who will usually be nearby) to call them off. Shout forcefully and throw stones or wave your trekking poles if you need to assert dominance. Do not run away, as this will trigger the dog’s instinct to chase.  If a dog does attack, fight back. 

To avoid these encounters, skirt around grazing herds at a wide distance, or, if farmers are around, seek out them as quickly as possible and approach with a friendly greeting. 

We also recommend a precautionary rabies vaccination. This does not make you immune to the disease, but does give you more time to receive treatment.

Electrical storms

Storms in the Caucasus can be sudden and extremely intense, with lots of lightning and often hail. Be familiar with best practices for choosing a campsite to minimize the risk of a lightning strike, stay attuned to the weather while hiking, be prepared to get to a lower elevation or to shelter if necessary, and be familiar with first aid practices for treating lightning-related injuries. Check out the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s downloadable PDF for more information about storms. 

Giant Hogweed

Keep an eye out for giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), a relative of cow parsley. The watery sap from its leaves and stems makes your skin photosensitive (taking away the skin’s natural ability to protect itself from the sun), resulting in severe sunburns and blistering on exposed skin and potential blindness if it gets in your eyes. Learn to identify this plant and either avoid it or move gently through patches to avoid breaking the stalk and releasing the sap inside. If you get hogweed sap on you, wash your skin as soon as possible and cover it from sunlight.

Giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus (it has been introduced and is considered invasive in other regions of the world). In the Caucasus, it is found in the sub-alpine zone usually along small rivers, streams, springs, and often on the edges of forest or in meadows, where it has ample sunlight to thrive. In the early season in can be difficult to distinguish from other species of hogweed and related plants, but by midsummer it is much larger, reaching up to 3 meters in height with giant, deeply serrated leaves, purple spots on the stem, and a crown of white flowers. 

Giant Hogweed

Emergency Services

Armenian Flag


Armenia has limited search-and-rescue capabilities. Dialing 911 will connect you to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, but there’s no official mountain rescue service. Front-country rescues are likely to be carried out by the local police, together with farmers or rangers who know the terrain or volunteers from local hiking and mountaineering groups. 

One military helicopter is available for civilian incidents, but it’s unlikely to be launched except in the most dire emergency. Most villages either have a resident nurse or a small clinic that can handle minor incidents, but hospitals capable of dealing with major emergencies exist only in the largest cities. Hospitals with Western-style facilities are only found in Yerevan—several hours’ drive from most locations on the Transcaucasian Trail.

Emergency Phone Numbers 

  • Emergency Situations: 911 (English-speaking)
  • Firefighting service: 101
  • Police: 102
  • Ambulance: 103
  • Emergency and urgent medical aid: 911


Georgia Flag


Georgia has limited medical services outside the major cities. Major hospitals can be found in Tbilisi and Kutaisi, both of which are several hours from the TCT. The hospital in Mestia has limited resources, which you won’t want to rely on for serious treatment. Ambulance services and emergency first responders are rare outside of Tbilisi. 

Emergency Phone Number

  • All Emergency Situations: 112


Azerbaijan Flag


Most villages in Azerbaijan have a local nurse, but you’ll find larger medical centers and hospitals only in the district centers. You can call an ambulance for villages not far from district centers. Government hospitals provide free first aid services, but you can also use private hospital services for a fee in some cities. If you have serious injuries, these hospitals will transfer you to Baku.These ambulance fees are usually covered by travel insurance, but make sure to review your coverage. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations (112) and the Special Rescue Service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations can assist lost or injured hikers.

Emergency Phone Numbers

  • Emergency Situations: 112
  • Firefighting service: 101
  • Police: 102
  • Ambulance: 103
  • Emergency and urgent medical aid: 113