Today we’re celebrating a true milestone for the Transcaucasian Trail: the launch of our first national route section.
Yes, you read that right: there’s now an 827km (514mi) route the full length of Armenia, fully mapped, beta-tested, and waiting to be hiked!
Well – what are you waiting for?!?
There’s obviously a lot we want to tell you about this – but first, we’d like to say a heartfelt thank-you to the many team members, volunteers, donors, and partner organizations (and, let’s not forget, intrepid early hikers!) whose input, encouragement and sheer belief over the last five years have helped us reach this milestone.
Each of you has played a role in this. We couldn’t have done it without you. And we can’t wait to take this momentum forward to other parts of the Caucasus.
How did we get here? Well, the story of the Armenian section of the Transcaucasian Trail is a long and winding road of its own.
It began in earnest in the summer of 2015, when Tom Allen, an English explorer living in Armenia, first attempted to hike the length of the country – and failed. Tom found that although Armenia had incredible hiking potential, the infrastructure to access its wild landscapes and historical sites was almost non-existent. He was inspired to initiate a national trail project to improve access to Armenia’s spectacular highlands, and heard about a group of hikers in Georgia who were mapping out a similar idea. They joined forces, and the Transcaucasian Trail was born.
The following year, with the backing of the UK’s Royal Geographical Society and British 4×4 manufacturer Land Rover, Tom and a small team of volunteers mounted an expedition to map out the first version of the route across Armenia we’re publishing today.
Since then, we’ve supported several more beta-hikers who’ve been brave enough to tackle the prototype trail, providing valuable feedback, helping refine the route, and returning home to champion our mission.
In 2017, under the directorship of Ashot Davtyan, our newly-founded NGO in Armenia launched the first large-scale trail-building project in the country, building an 85km multi-day hiking circuit in Dilijan National Park as a demonstration of international-standard trail infrastructure, with veteran American-Armenian trail-builder Hans Keifer training and leading volunteers from Armenia and abroad to carry out the work.
The principles laid down during this project have since been replicated in many more of Armenia’s best hiking destinations, including the Debed Canyon of Lori province, the mountains of southern Vayots Dzor, and the Vorotan Canyon in Syunik; each now a self-contained section of the Transcaucasian Trail that can be tackled on its own or as part of the national route.
Thanks to these and other efforts, the proportion of the route now fully signposted, way-marked, and regularly maintained stands at 284km, or 34% of the total length; a number that increases every year.
The remaining trail sections are currently unmarked, but have been extensively explored, trail-tested, and fully documented, with plans to complete the way-marking and maintenance work over the course of future hiking seasons.
And, thanks to the dedication of the team at Cartisan (themselves former TCT volunteers), you can now buy hand-crafted, 1:25,000-scale topographic sheet maps to accompany you through three of the most stunning regions of Armenia, with more on the way.
We’re not the only ones building trails in Armenia. For this reason, transparency and collaboration have been among the core values of our work – after all, it’s public infrastructure we’re building, not a private enterprise. Drawing on our nationwide database of trail survey data, we support other organisations in designing trail projects of their own, work with local people to improve trails in their own neighbourhoods, and invite ambitious young Armenians to attend summer camps to learn the skills of trail-building, conservation, and teamwork.
This focus on community means that many of the most well-developed parts of the route have in fact been funded or implemented by our many partners, most notably Trails For Change, HIKEArmenia, and People In Need (in partnership with ARK Armenia and with funding from the European Union), as well as WWF Armenia (via the Barev Trails programme), Caucasus Nature Fund, and USAID.
We’d like to express a special thank-you to our friends and collaborators at these organisations for believing in what at times may have seemed like a pipe dream – and we hope that today’s announcement will prove otherwise.
So what’s in store when you hike the Transcaucasian Trail across Armenia?
Well, of course we think the route we’re publishing today – the result of hundreds of days of bushwhacking, thousands of kilometres of surveying, and literally millions of new data points on the map – represents the very best of the unique cultural and natural landscapes the country has to offer, and constitutes a true world-class hiking experience.
But don’t take our (or Tom’s, or Meagan’s) word for it: now’s the time to check out the route for yourself, read the accompanying resources, and perhaps start thinking about when you might take a few weeks out to give this brand new long-distance trail a try.
And if you’d like a little more guidance along the way, you may be interested in our brand new thru-hiker support program, which throughout 2022 will provide direct mentorship and detailed resources to the first cohort of adventurous thru-hikers on the Transcaucasian Trail!
Fancy being one of them? Click here for a taste of what’s to come and to pre-register your interest – and keep an eye on our newsletters early in 2022 for more on the TCT Trailblazers program.
Want to learn more about what we’ve created and what’s in store for the TCT for next year? Join our team on Zoom on Saturday, December 18th for a celebration of 2021’s milestones and a first look at what’s ahead. Register here.
Finally, if you’d like to help us move the needle closer to the launch of the full international TCT route, please consider a donation. We’re aiming to raise $25,000 by the year’s end. Today you’ve seen how your support has helped us reach meaningful milestones, so please click here to chip in and help us reach this next big goal.
With gratitude, as always, and happy trails in 2022 – or, as they say in Armenian, bari janapar!
P.S. We mean it – your donation helps! You wouldn’t be reading this without the past financial support of our community when we’ve needed it most. That time is now. No amount is too small!