Black Rock Lake, to hike to it, is one fabulous adventure. Not only is it full of steep winds and turns, but the scenery is varied and exquisite to enjoy on your way to the lake – all 50 km of the trail is well worth spent, every minute of it. You climb to amazing heights, at 3,000 meters above sea level. Black Rock Lake is situated in the Kakheti region, only about 185 km away from Tbilisi – which is Georgia’s capital; in the Lagodekhi Protected Areas. This area is famous for its biodiversity. Not only is the lake a huge attraction but there is a variety of fauna and flora surrounding it to make it doubly worthwhile. If you adore nature, animals, and being far from the maddening crowds that so many touristy destinations deal with, this hike will not disappoint. This area is characterized by a subtropical humid type climate.
Don’t imagine that this is just an easy walk, no; this one is not for the fainthearted. In fact, it is considered to be a rather hard hike, and yes, interesting and beautiful, with outstanding views over the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus – some say you can do it in 3 days. But if you really want to take everything in and enjoy the hike to its fullest; the beauty, nature, the birds, the flowers, then it is recommended that you do it in maybe four or five days.
BEFORE STARTING THE HIKE
- It’s a good idea to call up the admin guys and check whether your hike is OK to do on the dates you want to do it because often the weather conditions can be highly unsuitable and you don’t want to have made a mistake. Another good idea is to download Maps.me app because it’s really good, working offline as well. It will help you find your location in the middle of the wherever you find yourself, so it’s good to have.
- To reach your first camping site, your trail will take you around 13 km to reach. Then from here, remember the lake is probably another 13 kilometers away, but the second shelter is just 3 km away. The admin team has created a circuit trail that takes you from the second shelter back to the administration covering – that’s about 15-20 km long, and your choice or not.
- You have to remember that there is also no water along the first lap of the hike, plus the circuit track, so you need to bring plenty of water.
- The second camping site and where you will find a visitor’s center is in the alpine area. You won’t find any wood around to make a fire to boil water. A good suggestion would be to bring a camping gas stove with you and you can boil the water you brought with you. Otherwise you can collect dead wood to make a campfire. Also, none of the sites have any electricity either, so ensure that all your gadgets are fully charged beforehand.
- Warm clothes are essential, as it can get freezing by the time evening and nightfall comes around.
- Always carry your passport and ID because you might need to show these at the Georgian border police at the start of the hike that takes you towards the lake.
- There are also overnight basic wooden cottages with bunk beds. If it is your desire, you can overnight in tents. Costs for staying in a tent will be 5 GEL to stay and 15 GEL per person to sleep in the visitor’s center.
HIKING THE TRAIL
You will find the trail well marked. It will have red and white paint or only red paint showing on the rocks and trees so you are directed along the way. Just one disadvantageous thing is that the markers don’t show you how many kilometers you have covered along the way. But when you are more or less in the middle of the trail, you will see a ‘6 km’ mark written in big letters on the tree. That means you are around halfway!
Climbing up the hill, you will find quite difficult because it is not only rocky, but narrow as well, and it’s like this for most of the time. You will feel it in your ankles and knees. Some people opt for horses and a guide to take them on this trail and for that, you will pay 100 GEL a day if you are interested.
A real pleasure of this hike is the stunning surroundings; it is so quiet, miles from anywhere, you can practically hear a tree leaf drop. The forest is just a paradise, filled with old trees, some of which have fallen for various reasons. If it’s autumn in the forest, you will find the covered slopes of the mountains magnificent – be sure to have your camera on hand – because that colored pallet before you of orange, green, brown, red, and brown leaves is a view that a lot of people only dream about. And if you are lucky and don’t make a whole lot of noise, you might see some rare animals around such as deer, chamois, wild goat, grouse, eagles, and Caucasian snowcocks.
The circuit trail is also rather steep, actually harder than the first part of the hike. It’s also fairly newly cut out, so it’s not all that visible and the markings are not close to each other. You could miss the markings and veer off in another direction, so look closely. And the pathways here are also steep and rocky. After a long time of walking, you almost begin to wonder when you are going to level up and start going down! Some have been heard to say that it appears to be never-ending. You will have to face it, that your leg muscles are going to hurt a lot on this hike and you might even get blisters, which will hamper your walk. Some people, once they know about this part of the hike, say they would have rather hiked from the side they walked for the first two days of the hike. Some people choose the circuit walk to cut off some extra kilometers of walking but it’s tough and some say that it feels like you are walking even more! Nevertheless, the forests on this trail are exquisite and take your mind off a bit from the pain that you might be suffering! Some people reckon that if they had more days to spend in this area, it would have been more worthwhile. Even though their leg muscles did hurt after this hike, many who accomplished it say they never regretted it for a minute.
Afterward, you will find yourself walking on the flat green fields; probably only about an hour’s hiking from Black Rock Lake.
IF YOU PREFER, JOIN UP WITH A TOUR GROUP TO HIKE TO THE BLACK ROCK LAKE
Some people think about joining a tour group that will take them to the Black Rock Lake in the Lagodekhi National Park. They like the idea of someone else organizing everything for them and they reap all the benefits of what tour guides bring to the tour; knowing the trail like the back of their hand, able to offer bits of information you might never have learned about otherwise, and also to point out things you might not have noticed otherwise. You can try that too, if it appeals to you. The tour guides will lead you to the lake, showing you all the unspoiled nature. You will be accommodated in the gorgeous little wooden cottages showing you the picturesque views of the Caucasus Mountains and the Alazani valley.
If you fancy the idea of being met at your hotel by tour guides and working through an itinerary of 3 days of hiking, you will love it. For your accommodation, you will stay in basic guesthouses, high up in the mountains. This is a real adventure and hiking in remote areas that not heaps of people have been privileged to visit yet. Remember that being in such a remote spot, and in tune with nature and the activity you are taking part in, the accommodation won’t be like staying at a hotel in Tbilisi, far from it. What you will get are bunk beds with mattresses, but you won’t find blankets. This you need to provide yourself. No meals are provided either, so you need to pack in your food. It’s not expensive to stay in the huts; it’s about 20 Lari per person per night. If you opt for camping in tents, you will pay 5 Lari per person per night. If you are in tents, it is advised that you put up a tent near the wooden huts as then you can use the clean water nearby. Also, you get the pleasure of shelter in case there are violent storms, and it would be a pity if you pitched your tent on a non-designated spot and trampled some of the glorious flowers and herbs that grow around.
No wood cutting is allowed in the beautiful Lagodekhi reserve – It’s been like this since 1912 already, so you can imagine how nature looks, truly in all its glory, in its most natural state. And then you end up at the crystal clear lake shared by both Russia and Georgia. Also remember, that if it rains while you are on the hike, the hiking trail can get quite slippery and this makes the steep section very difficult to manage.
SEEING THE BLACK ROCK LAKE
The lake is simply a magnificent sight to behold. It is roughly about 2900 MSL. From your cottage or tent the next morning, the ascent to the lake, as you leave the forest, takes you through some verdant meadows towards the mountain pass. You probably will stop walking many times just to take in the grandiose scenery around you.
A few kilometers before arriving at Black Rock Lake, you will get to the border patrol post (remember the lake is on the border) where you sign in (you didn’t forget your passport, right?). The magnificent natural views here leave a memory of birds, flowers, insects, butterflies – what can one say? It’s a nature lover’s paradise.
A TOTALLY UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE ALL ROUND
It is a very memorable experience to see Black Rock Lake spread out in front of you, and difficult to believe that it forms a natural border between Daghestan, the Russian Federation, and Georgia. Look around; it is not called Black Rock Lake for nothing; notice the black rocks around in the green alpine meadows – the lake is like a quietly lying black, exquisite gem, there in the Caucasus Mountains.
Did you know that the lake was officially opened just 10 years back, in September 2010? Kayaks, canoes, and some other small little boats are authorized to be on the lake. There is a fishing pier there, too, known as the Turtle Rock Fishing Pier; it’s near Taylors Chapel Road. In the springtime and early summer, the lake gets stocked up with rainbow trout as well as other fish species for fishermen to have a whale of a time (excuse the pun – no whales here).
A lot of Georgia’s walking trails are full of nature, magnificent views and even a few animals to spot. Keep your eyes open for them. You will love being here, in the Lagodekhi National Park. After all, it is the oldest protected park in the country of Georgia and is a nature lover’s paradise of glacial lakes, waterfalls, lush valleys, and preserved forests, and lush valleys. Many trails are available for you to wander on and each one will take you to something that you will not want to miss. Like there is a walk to the gorgeous Ninoskhevi Waterfall or ‘big’ waterfall. There’s a trail to the Rocho Waterfall, and also the Machi Fortress – don’t miss any of them if you can; they are beautiful and educational.
Truly, the Black Rock Lake hiking trail is one of the most fascinating in the whole of Georgia. OK, it’s not easy, but it sure makes for an unforgettable adventure. And to see the lake is the cherry on the top!
To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles – Mary Davis