Gudauri is a very well-known ski resort in Georgia, and admittedly one of the best places to spend your winter vacation if you love skiing or snowboarding. Although not everybody knows that there are also beautiful trails in this area that can be explored on snowshoes. It can be a fantastic weekend getaway from Tbilisi where it almost never snows. Or beautifully spent time if there isn’t enough snow to ski. So in this article, you will read about three winter hiking trails near Gudauri.
History of Gudauri region
But before we dive into the trail details, let us first introduce you to the region and its history. The significance of the Gudauri area is more than just a ski resort, and it counts back from 65 BC when the Roman general Pompey led his army to the Caucasus. Or in the 12th century when Mongols have trodden this same ground, and the Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In other words, the 212 km long Georgian Military Road that runs between Tbilisi and Vladikavkaz (Russia) has served as the main route to invaders as well as traders and world-known authors such as Pushkin and Dumas. It plays an important role in the economic development of the country until now. Each tower you will see or ruins of it will remind you of numerous sets of foreigners passing by in the old days. And this historical high-alpine atmosphere yet only one and a half hours drive from Tbilisi!
Hiking trails near Gudauri ski resort
Distance: 10 km (one way)
Elevation gain: ⬆ 690 m; ⬇ 70 m
Hiking time: 6 hours
This hike goes through a historic mountain gorge that opens into a spacious valley with a rumored 60 stone towers and several remote villages. You won’t find all towers anymore but Khada's upper villages are still inhabited. It used to be the main route through the Greater Caucasus by armies and Silk Road travellers before the Russians built the above mentioned Georgian Military Highway in the early 19th century.
Officially the gorge starts from Bedoni village and 8 km of the trail goes on a dirt road. In low snow conditions, it is possible to shorten the walk for 4 km with a 4x4 and start from the parking lot near Sparkling water spring as in our case. The road climbs slowly and steadily and after several turns, it gives views of Zakatkari and Korogo villages on top of vertical cliffs. Continue walking straight towards the beautiful snow-covered village Tskere. There jeep track turns left to the village but you need to continue straight on the trail that will take you to the several waterfall views. This is the moment where you might need snowshoes as snow becomes deeper and deeper, making you struggle with every step. The trail on the map stops in 2 km but it is possible to continue further to the 3rd waterfall if you will hike 2 more km.
It is the same way back and you will cover it much faster. Overall it takes around 5-6 hours to hike 20 km at a normal pace with photo stops.
Distance: 6.5 km (one way)
Elevation gain: ⬆ 269 m; ⬇ 124 m
Hiking time: 5 hours
Aragvi valley is another attraction in the vicinity of the Georgian military highway, which can be visited near Gudauri. In the summertime, this trail is usually done from a circular mosaic viewpoint near Jvari pass and ends near village Mleta. But the climb is very steep and no way to be done in winter. So we suggest that you start the winter hike in Aragvi valley 3 km from Zemo Mleta village.
Inside the gorge, along the river, there is a road along which you can hike to the beautiful dam lake. The road goes straight and impossible to get lost. At 5 km you will pass the ruins and soon you will get to the lake. You can walk a bit further along the river if you have snowshoes. At the right on top of the mountain, you will be seeing the very same circular viewpoint - “Russian Georgian Friendship Monument”.
To get back to start, you will have to walk the same way and it will be much easier, as you will have a slight descent and well-trodden trail.
Distance: 3 km (one way)
Elevation gain: ⬆ 348 m; ⬇ 39 m
Hiking time: 3 hours
If you are short on time then this winter trail will be perfect for you. It starts near Kvesheti village, you need to cross the bridge on White Aragvi next to the Sepe Castle. Walk on the right side of river Tosha. Soon you will pass village Lakatkhevi and continue the trail to the right along the small stream. In 40 minutes you will reach the beautiful tower looking upon the valley. There is no sign of it on maps, but it is worth seeing as in snow it looks splendid.
Depending on the level of snow, it can be walked without snowshoes too. After exploring the surroundings of the tower you go back the same way you came.
Where to stay
We would recommend staying in a very nice Hotel-restaurant Aragvi, it is close to Khada valley and other trails too. It’s 30 min away by car from Gudauri, but if you are traveling only for winter hiking trails then it’s an ideal spot for accommodation. Moreover, after hikes, you can relax the muscles in a hot Sauna and they offer transfers as well which is very convenient.
How to get there
You can take a local marshrutka (minibus) from Didube bus station in Tbilisi to Stepantsminda or Gudauri, or hire a taxi.
Recommendations on winter hikes in Georgia
Obviously, Gudauri area isn’t the only place where you can hike in the snow. Tiny country Georgia offers much more than that, but always be careful! Choose trails wisely and use snowshoes. If you’re not sure, better go with a guide or small group tours.