We’re seeking intrepid, experienced hikers to be the first thru-hikers on the new 1,800km Transcaucasian Trail. Will you be one of them?
For the past 6 years, we’ve been stitching together routes, building trails, and putting new destinations on the map (literally) across the Caucasus.
Our goal: to create the most culturally interesting and geographically diverse long-distance hiking trail possible across Georgia and Armenia as part of the Transcaucasian Trail.
The result: a challenging and stunning 1,800km route connecting the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The route weaves between high alpine passes, red desert canyons, bucolic meadows, volcanic plateaus, and more– all while traveling through one of the most culturally and biologically diverse regions on the planet.
Now, we’re inviting the first cohort of intrepid hikers to hike the Transcaucasian Trail through Armenia and Georgia in summer 2022.
In its current stage of development, this route is ideal for experienced hikers who are seeking an off-the-beaten-track adventure that combines rugged terrain, diverse cultures, rich history, and awe-inspiring landscapes– and who don’t mind a few thorns along the way.
If that sounds up your alley, we’re excited to share with you our new thru-hiker support program designed to help you get out there and make the most of your trail experience. We’re wildly excited about this route– and should you embrace the challenge of hiking it, we want to help you have the best experience possible.
For hikers who decide to take this opportunity and become members of the TCTA, we’ll give you exclusive first access to the full route we’ve designed and a first look at new hiker resources we’ve created to help you plan and successfully complete your hike.
We’ll dedicate time from our team members (who designed and tested these routes) to provide direct support and advice throughout your planning process. We’ll create opportunities for you to engage with a community of fellow TCT hikers. And we’ll seek your input on what we’ve created so far.
You’ll have the privilege of being one of the first hikers on this new long-distance trail– and you’ll have the opportunity to help shape its future along the way.
Sound like the right challenge for you? Read on.
About the route
The North-South route of the Transcaucasian Trail stretches approximately 1,800km (1,100 miles) from the northwest corner of Georgia on the Black Sea to the southern border of Armenia with Iran. With slight variations in timing, it can be hiked in either direction.
The route connects two major mountain ranges and it traverses continuously rugged terrain. Total elevation gain and loss on the route is roughly 67,000 meters (220,000 ft).
In Armenia, the route traverses the desert scrub of Arevik National Park, the rocky peaks and forested monasteries of Syunik, the red gorges of Vayots Dzor, the high volcanic Gegham mountains, the rolling hills and cliffs of Tavush, the meadows and canyons of Lori, and the treeless steppe of Shirak.
In Georgia, the route traverses the windswept plateaus of Javakheti, the old-growth forests of Borjomi, the dense hills of Imereti, the wild valleys of Racha, the dramatic high peaks of Svaneti, the alpine lakes of Samegrelo, and finally, the subtropical plains leading to the Black Sea Coast.
The Armenia section is currently on our website in a basic form; the Georgia section is preliminary and will not be made public until next autumn (at the earliest). You’ll be the first to test the continuous route through both countries.
Some sections of the route, such as those already on our website, are proper trails that are marked, easy to follow, and somewhat regularly maintained. Other parts of the route (many of which are not yet public) are still off-trail and will require independent route-finding.
The thru-hiking route is a preliminary route that may change for various reasons, including snow levels, weather, high rivers, rockfall/landslides, and other circumstances beyond our control. Hikers will need to be prepared to adjust accordingly.
In general, the terrain and weather conditions in the Caucasus can be harsh. The elevation gain and loss of this hike– and the steepness of the terrain– should not be underestimated.
While we are actively working to improve trail infrastructure across the region, even the most developed trails in the Caucasus often challenge hikers in ways that the well-groomed trails of North America and Europe do not.
Hikers must be prepared to be self-sufficient for extended sections and aware that emergency medical care and search and rescue are often unavailable.
In short: You must be prepared to navigate off-trail. You must be prepared for overgrown trails, river crossings (including fording fast and cold mountain rivers), bushwhacking, and thorns. Good judgment is essential, and we highly recommend a good sense of humor.
But hikers who come prepared for self-sufficiency, diverse terrain, and off-trail travel will be rewarded with an incredible experience traversing one of the most culturally, linguistically, and geographically diverse parts of the world.
If that sounds like you, here’s how you can be part of the first group to experience it.
Announcing the TCT Trailblazers: Class of 2022
We’re putting together a community of hikers who want to attempt the trail in its first year and experience the best scenery the Caucasus have to offer. This is the first year that we’re sharing the trail information outside of our core team, and we’re eager to support this first group of hikers to have the best experience possible.
If you join us, here’s how we’ll help get you ready to tackle the TCT:
- GPX track and resources: In early 2022, you’ll receive a welcome document with the GPX/KML file of the route and basic trail notes outlining what you can expect from each section.
- Early access to the Armenia guidebook: In the summer, you’ll get preliminary access to a draft of a full guidebook for the Armenia section (which Tom is currently writing) with maps, trail notes, cultural information, guesthouse recommendations, and more.
- Interactive planning assistance: From February – May, our team will host monthly Zoom meetings, in which we’ll welcome everyone to the Trailblazer team and discuss topics related to trail prep (including logistics, route choices, gear, weather, food, water, people, animals, culture, trail conditions, and more). These calls will be organized by TCTA director Meagan, with team members from both countries joining (Ashot, Giorgi, Paul, Tom, & other field staff). This will be an opportunity to ask our team questions and to meet fellow hikers.
- Email support for individual questions: We will also be available to answer questions over email, within reason. (In the summer, responses may be delayed due to fieldwork).
- A TCT hikers’ community: We’ll create a private group on Slack to serve as a closed forum, where hikers can ask us (and each other) questions, meet potential hiking partners if desired, organize meetups, and share photos and experiences.
- Updates throughout the summer: We will keep you posted throughout the summer with updates that could affect your hike, such as route updates, trail closures, newly opened trails (based on our trail crews’ progress), and other important information. We’ll also keep you posted on our trail work locations, so you can hopefully meet some members of the team in the field!
- Hikers’ discount card: You’ll get first access to the new pilot discount card program we’re creating with local businesses along the trail in Georgia.
- Exclusive TCT thru-hikers’ patch: Because you’ve earned it!
This route has only become a reality thanks to the community of hikers, donors, partner organizations, and volunteers who have given time and resources to the TCT over the years— and if you’re the kind of person who wants to test a brand-new route through the mountains, we’re guessing you’re also the kind of person who also cares about contributing to the trail community.
With that in mind, here’s how we invite you to help shape the TCT’s future:
- Support our work: For all hikers who are able, we will ask you to become a TCTA member. Since we’re a tiny organization, membership contributions make this level of hiker support possible (and also support trail building and maintenance around the region). If the cost of TCTA membership is a barrier to your hike, shoot us an email ([email protected]) and we will work something out.
- Give us feedback: We want to hear your thoughts on the hiking experience! This is the first year of the Armenia section being public, and the first round of testing of the Georgia section. You can help us better prepare future hikers and make changes where needed by letting us know about your experience, your feedback on the guidebook draft for Armenia and the route choices for Georgia, and what else you think future hikers should know before they attempt the TCT.
- Share your story: We’d love to share your experience of the journey with the TCT audience. Send us your photos, tag us in your social media posts, pitch us your blog post ideas, and let us know what other creative ideas you have and how we can help.
- Spread the word: One of the main goals of the trail is to increase awareness of the Caucasus’ rich natural and cultural heritage– and to encourage more people to come explore it responsibly. We hope you’ll fall in love with the region like we have, and help us get the word out to more hikers around the world.
Ready to join us on the TCT? Here’s how.
First of all: Welcome. We can’t wait to meet you.
Second: Fill out this form. It asks some questions about your past experience. This is purely intended as a way for you to self-assess whether this trail experience will be a good fit. We’ll let you know if we have any major concerns, but ultimately, the assessment is yours to make.
Third: Once you get an email confirmation from us, join as a TCTA member. (If you’re already a TCTA member, simply select that option in the form.)
Lastly: Hang tight and start daydreaming. You’ll hear from us soon!
Ready to start planning your next big adventure in the Caucasus? Click here to register as a TCT 2022 trailblazer today.
Can I use my thru-hike to raise money to support the trail’s development?
We love this question! Yes, we love seeing hikers finding ways to give back to the trails that make their journeys possible– and it will make a big difference in what we’re able to accomplish next year. If you’re interested in doing a charity hike or running a crowdfunding campaign, we can help you set up a personalized donation page that’s linked to our main donation page. Ask us for more info.
Can’t I just stitch together my own route?
Of course you can. In fact, a few other bold hikers already have (and you’ll get to hear from some of them on our group calls). What we’re creating is a community of people who want to be the first on the official TCT, who want to be engaged in the trail’s development, and who want to benefit from the resources and expertise our team can offer.
How long will it take to thru-hike this route?
The route is roughly 1,800km. The elevation gain and loss is roughly 67,000 meters. How fast you cover this ground is up to you. A reasonable window to expect is 2-4 months. You’ll be on the shorter end if you prefer to travel light, hike longer days, and cover lots of ground while staying on the main route. You’ll be on the longer end if you prefer to take your time, visit lots of cultural sites along the way, and accept lots of invitations for coffee/wine. We heartily endorse both methods of travel.
How many people have thru-hiked this route so far?
For the entire Armenia-Georgia route in its current form: as far as we know, no one has continuously thru-hiked the entire route. A few impressive people charted their own routes to hike an earlier version of the TCT, and four people thru-hiked the Armenia section in summer 2021. Of course, people have been crossing the Caucasus for millenia. Would any of them have chosen to take the route we’ll send you on? Well… we’ll let you debate that for yourself.
I only want to hike one country / a shorter section / several shorter sections. Can I still join the group?
Yes, you are more than welcome to. While our content and much of the discussion will be focused around people attempting to hike the whole trail, naturally this information will also apply to sections (and everyone can benefit from learning more about trail conditions). If you’re planning to hike on the TCT in 2022, and you are a TCTA member, you are welcome.
What permits do I need?
You don’t need any permits to walk most of the TCT, although you do need to check in with the rangers in certain protected areas, and some national parks require a small usage fee.
In Armenia, permission is currently required to access the route through Arevik National Park and along the border of Shikahogh State Reserve. We are currently negotiating access rights for trail users and we will provide updated information on how to obtain this permission in the spring.
In Georgia, you do need to have a border permit to be in the border zone along Georgia’s border with Russia. We will provide further instructions on how to obtain a border permit, depending on the hiker’s direction of travel for the section of the trail that this is required for (between Zeskho and Ghebi, Georgia).
In general, it is important to be mindful of your impact on the land and the people around you. The trail crosses lots of villages and multi-use land, including farming, grazing, and logging. Wild camping is widely tolerated, but you should ask permission before pitching up in someone’s field. Please be a respectful visitor and practice Leave No Trace habits so that we can continue our good relationships with people along the trail and so that future hikers can enjoy the experience.
Can I share the route and/or resources with others?
The Armenia section is public, but due to the preliminary state of the Georgia section, we will ask you to refrain from sharing your GPX tracks (outside of a safety contact). Please don’t share the file or upload the route onto apps, OpenStreetMap, etc– this will create a lot of hassle for us if we need to make changes to the route based on this summer’s feedback.
Is there a similar level of support available for the East-West route through Georgia and Azerbaijan?
Not yet, as this route is in a much earlier stage of development– although the route through Azerbaijan is progressing rapidly! However, we welcome inquiries from people who want to hike our newest sections in Azerbaijan (or help us test some that are under development).
Can I come join a trail crew camp along the way?
You’re welcome to come camp with our crews and meet the people building the trail. We’ll keep you posted on trail work plans, and in return ask that you give us a heads up (so that we can give the crew leaders a heads up). You should still expect to be self-sufficient in terms of food and camping equipment.
Are these resources available in other languages?
Right now, these are only available in English. One of our goals is to get our website and resources translated into other languages (prioritizing local languages), but this takes time and money that we don’t currently have. As a hiker supporting the TCT, you are helping further this mission! If you are interested in helping with translation, please get in touch.
Do you have suggested alternative routes for extended season hikes?
We do! We will happily share ideas with hikers on our Zoom calls or over email.