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General info on the GBT

Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and largest lake. It is mostly undeveloped, quite diverse in nature, with few roads on its shores, and only a handful of towns & villages. What it does have is plenty of wildlife: bears, elk, sable, and the famous Baikal seal.

There are 3 national parks and 3 wilderness reserves surrounding Baikal, each with its own set of trails, campsites and visitor centers. Until recently, there has been little to connect these protected areas. That is why these parks have joined together, and with the aid of local environmental groups, they have begun building the "Great Baikal Trail". This trail will loop around the entire lake, and will offer hikers, bikers, or the average nature-lover many more opportunities to see and enjoy the lake. This trail will also give local people added chances to promote tourism at Baikal, and allow them to say NO to the oil pipelines and other industrial developments that are inching ever closer to the shores of this pristine Russian lake.

How do you attract tourists to Baikal , especially when there are so few roads and accommodations around the lake?.......... Build trails and campsites!

Quick Facts about the Great Baikal Trail (GBT)

This last summer, some 60 additional miles (or 100 kilometers) of trail were built at Baikal under this program. Plans are for the GBT to open up a 1000+mile hiking path around Baikal, ultimately connecting Russia and Mongolia. (By the way, after this last summer, only 250 trail-miles are in place around Baikal. So there's plenty of work left to do!)

The GBT will have hundreds of designated campsites, picnic tables, and waste-collection sites en route. Along the many cliffs and other inaccessible shorelines, the GBT will offer special water routes for kayakers and boaters (and for the tri-athletes.....plenty of swimming!) It will also offer special trails and outdoors opportunities for the handicapped. And with a number of interpretive trails, the GBT will provide educational opportunities for locals & visitors alike, to help them learn more about the environment and native cultures here. What's more, it will take 1000s of volunteers many summers to finish this trail. But in the meantime, many parts of the trail will be open for use.

The Great Baikal Trail..........
  • Will connect 3 national parks and 3 reserves
  • Will open up a 1,000-mile (1,600km) of new trails
  • Will connect Russia with Mongolia
  • Will have over 100 campsites along its route

Who stands to gain? Well, everyone, including the:

National Parks & Reserves, home-stay hosts and local bed & breakfasts, local artists/performers/artisans, tour agencies, operators, & service providers, local museums & culture centers. Plus all the volunteers who will be working on the international teams to build the trail, and all the visitors and eco-tourists who will be using the Great Baikal Trail for years to come!

What kind of ecotourists would use this trail?:

Well, there will be: Hikers, Bikers, Divers, Horseback riders, Kayakers, Sailing crews, Photographers, Videographers, Birdwatchers, Seal-lovers, Cold-winter lovers, Ski-bums, Naturalists, Botanists, Flower-lovers, Tree huggers, Buddhist Pilgrims, New-age tourists, Shaman followers, Genghis Khan buffs, Banya (sauna) lovers, Hot spring lollabouts, Off-the-beaten pathfinders, People seeking Tibetan healing cures, People seeking the magic of Baikal, Trans-Siberian Train buffs, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Americans, and Russians all trying to flee the urbanized crowds.

Proposed Route for the Trail The GBT will have 15 distinct sections, starting with:

The now defunct Round Baikal Railroad, which is ready for trail use along @50 miles of shoreline from the SW corner of the lake right up to the mouth of the Angara River (this part of the trail will go through dozens of tunnels and along many cliff-fronts, where the railroad once was carved out of the rugged landscape some 100 years ago)
After a short boat ride across the mouth of the Angara , there is a second section of trail leading from the quaint town of Listvyanka (with its Baikal museum of natural history) 40 miles north up to the Buryat village of Bolshoye Goloustnoye (with its lakeside Orthodox church, and some already-existing interpretive trails along the way)
The 3rd section leads along some great rock-skipping beaches, through Pribaikalski National Park, right up to and beyond the popular resort known as Sandy Beach Bay
The next sections travel 70 miles north, out of the park, to a point where one will have the chance to ferry across to the famous Olkhon Island (this is the purported birth-place of Genghis Khan); here there will be a island-long spur trail, some 80 miles distant
Then there is the Small Sea section of the GBT, which will take the hiker some 80 miles around the large sound that is formed by Olkhon Island; here is where the famous omul-fish abound
The Brown Bear Coast follows, and with it, the chance to hike and kayak 85 miles along the shores of the Baikal-Lena Nature Reserve (with an optional trail up and over the western ridges to the headwaters of the famous Lena River, from which V.I. Lenin took his name during his long exile to Baikal before the Russian Revolution)
After that, while still on the western shores of Baikal, one can travel some 75 miles to the foot of Cherskii Peak, and visit the many hot springs along the way
One now reaches the North Baikal section of the trail, a 70 mile stretch that will detour around the local town of Severobaikalsk (a good trail-head with its Baikal Amur Railroad station) and on to the eastern shores of Baikal and the Republic of Buryatia
For 55 miles south, the GBT will now lead you along the shores of Frolikha Bay, which is one of the least accessible parts of Baikal, and then inland to Frolikha Lake, famous for its many hot springs and Siberian salmon
From here, the trail will divide into two forks, one along the water (via short trails, and otherwise by kayak or boat, traveling in the shadows of the towering Barguzin Mountain Range) to the village of Davsha, which is in the center of the Barguzinski Reserve, the oldest park in Russia; the other fork leads over a mountain pass into the Barguzin Valley, famous for its wild horses and the views that rival the Grand Tetons;
The inland route then goes over an existing trail up and over the mountains again, along the southern edge of the Barguzin Reserve (where the hiker will have his best chance of seeing wild sable); the water passage continues south and meets the mountain-top trail again at the northern reaches of Chivyrkuiski Bay
Once the two trails converge, the GBT heads south through Zabaikalski National Park, with side trails to Holy Nose Peninsula; after traveling through world class wetlands, the trail takes one into Ust-Barguzin, a wooden Siberian village right on a 30-mile-long crescent of perfect sandy beach
Further along, the trail leads along the rocky shores of eastern Baikal, some 140 miles south to the Selenga River Delta, one of the great bird-flyways in eastern Russia
Finally, the longest and most populated part of the trail is the last section, which travels along the foot of the Khamar Daban Mountain Range, from the edge of the Selenga Delta, passing by the Posolski Monastery, along the trans-Siberian Railroad through the towns to Baikalsk and Slyudyanka, back to our beginning point (along the way, there are special adjunct trails that lead into Baikalski Nature Reserve, up to scenic waterfalls and old-growth forests; also there are trails up to Tunka National Park, and then on to Mongolia, which are replete with Buddhist sacred sites & healing springs)

Who's Building the Trail --- the "Partners"

The group at Baikal that is spearheading the construction of the GBT is the "Federation for Sport Tourism and Mountaineering at Baikal", which itself has recently founded the Great Baikal Trail Association. With technical support from its chief international partners, both Earth Island Institute and Earth Corps, and with financial assistance from the Foundation for Russian-American Economic Cooperation, US AID, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and others, the GBTA is organizing a far-reaching coalition of partners from around Baikal and beyond, a coalition that includes:

  • Pribaikalski, Zabaikalski, and Tunka National Parks

  • Baikalski, Barguzinski, and Baikal-Lena National Wilderness Reserves

  • The Buryat and Irkutsk State Government Departments of Tourism

  • Numerous environmental and other local public interest groups, such as Ustiye (in Bolshoye Goloustnoye, the LUT Club (Ulan-Ude), the School of Environmental Education (Severobaikalsk), and Podlemorie (in Ust'-Bargusin) amongst others

  • Local Siberian businesses, tour providers, tourism and public interest associations
And many international organizations such as the:

In addition, the Federation and the new GBTA relies heavily on some 250 active members around Baikal, not to mention the many volunteers from schools, universities, and other professional organizations located around Baikal, throughout Russia, and from around the world.

Volunteer opportunities for this coming summer (... and for many summers to come!)

How do you attract tourists to Baikal when there are so few roads and accommodations around the lake?………Build trails and campsites!

How do you attract tourists to Baikal when there are so few roads and accommodations around the lake? Build trails and campsites!

The Great Baikal Trail can only be built and maintained by teams of volunteers, working every summer for probably the next decade at least. If we consider that the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail took some 20 years to be built, one can easily envision how a project like this could become a fine, long-term meeting place for schoolchildren, college students, and other youngsters alike (i.e., those who are young in age, or just young at heart). In the summer of the 2005, there were 32 teams that had some 740 local and international volunteers working at various trail sites around the lake, for time periods ranging from 2-4 weeks. In 2006, there were 28 new projects with another 700 volunteers. (Note: this last summer we had representatives from some 18 different countries and from most regions of Russia helping out on the GBT!)

For more information on how YOU can volunteer, and join in on one of these international teams, please contact either Earth Island Institute (at baikalwatch@earthisland.org)or the Federation at Baikal (baikal@eastsib.ru). We look forward to digging some dirt with you soon!

Keep Baikal Green and Clean!

Join our Baikal partners, for an experience of a lifetime, on the shores of life-giving Lake Baikal!

For more general information on the Great Baikal Trail, please visit our web site:

Ecotourism is a project of Earth Island Institute.
Copyright (c) 2006
300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 788-3666 / Fax: (415) 788-7324
E-mail us at baikalwatch@hotmail.com

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