Hiking in Ukraine's Carpathians
below: enjoy many more pictures like this in our Carpathian photo galleries: Hutsulschyna, Hoverla Mt., Stiy Mt., Yavirnyk Mt.
The Ukrainian part of the Carpathians are very hikeable mountains, with fairly gentle relief and no inaccessible peaks. Yet they are among the wildest mountains in all of Europe. They have not yet been modernized by hiking trails, mountain refuges, campgrounds, RV parks, trams, and other infrastructure typical of U.S. and European nature reserves and national parks. Wild bears and an occasional wolf have even been known to roam in the woods (but they avoid people, of course!).
Learn about week-long guided treks through the highest mountains of the Carpathians.
Trails and selecting a route
For the most part hikers hike on logging roads and unmaintained, unmarked footpaths. Consider the following principles:
- If there is a mountain or other place of interest, there must be a way to get there that is not too difficult, so hiking trips do not need to be completely planned out in advance
- Trails are often not what they appear to be on the map, so it is best to ask locals or experienced hikers before setting out on a trail you have found on the map
These principles make hiking in the Ukrainian Carpathians a unique experience, compared to other mountains like the Alps or the Slovakian Tatras, which are also part of the Carpathian mountain system. Rarely do people just buy a map and hike out to a place they have never been in the Ukrainian Carpathians; usually they either have a guide who knows the way or they get special directions from locals or hikers who have been their before.
- If you read Ukrainian, Karpaty.com.ua is likely the best resource for hiking routes, public transportation, and other practical information on the Carpathian region.
- Another great resource on the Carpathian region (in English, Ukrainian, and Polish) is the Ukrainian-Polish Tourist Portal
Maps are available in bookstores around Ukraine and at kiosks and stands in and around the Carpathians. All maps are in Ukrainian. However, take note... topographical maps from 1992 can also be downloaded at http://www.karpaty.com.ua/?chapter=maps. These are, I believe, the very same detailed maps you would be able to buy in Ukraine.
There are generally few mosquitos and ticks in the Carpathians, but in some places there may be gnats.
The Carpathians have an abundance of water. Springs are frequent and are marked on topographical maps. Farmers, shepherds, and foresters often make troughs or makeshift spigots to make it easier to drink from springs along mountain roads and trails (see right). Nonetheless, bring at least two or three liters of water per person for overnight hikes, and more if you will be hiking along ridges, where there may be no springs nearby. In the summer it occasionally gets quite hot.
Weather Conditions in the Carpathians
(see link for weather map)
The Chornohora ridge (which includes Hoverla and several other peaks above 2000 m.) and other high mountains above 1400 m. are well known for their foul weather. Be prepared for storms at any time of year. Lightning, hail, and high winds can be especially scary. If there is the slightest possibility of bad weather during the night, do not camp on ridges. Avalanches sometimes happen above the treeline, and temperatures can drop to -20°C and lower in the winter. The highest areas of the Carpathians are as deadly as the much higher Caucasus mountains. Amateur hikers perish each year from foolish behavior and unpreparedness in the mountains.
Rules and Regulations
Compared to the Crimean Mountains, there seem to be fewer rules regarding camping and hiking in the Carpathians, and the mountains are rarely if ever patrolled. The only place I know of where camping is forbidden is the nature reserve on the east side of Hoverla. There are a number of other small nature reserves scattered around the Carpathians where camping is also forbidden (and hiking, too).
Mountain Rescue Service
The Carpathian mountain rescue team are not government police to be afraid of, but rather mountain enthusiasts who are paid by the government to advise and rescue hikers. They appreciate being informed about where and when you are planning to hike and are available to give advice on where to hike, inexpensive places to stay, transportation, and equipment rental.
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