After two weeks of Russian cities and their cathedrals, churches, convents and kremlins, plus three days on the train, I was desperate to get out of civilization and into the wilderness of Siberia. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to experience ‘real’ Siberia so I settled with the rolling green hills of Stolby Nature Reserve.
My train arrived into Krasnoyarsk at 9am, I hopped on a bus to Centre Hostel, got changed out of my smelly train outfit and into some hiking gear, picked up some food from the supermarket and off I went with no data and only Maps.Me for a guide.
Stolby Nature Reserve is the most popular national park in the country, especially in autumn when the leaves are changing and days are cooler. It’s the perfect spot to get away from it all and back into nature. The whole park covers a massive area but only 3.5% is open to hikers.
You have two options to get in and out of the park: you can take bus 50 to Turbaza bus stop on the highway where you can walk 6km up through the forest to the first cluster of pillars, or you can take bus 37 to Bobrovyy Log ski resort and catch the chairlift for 200R ($3) one way, 270R ($4) return. I would recommend walking up from the bottom, hiking through the reserve and taking the chairlift down at the end of the day.
The trails are well marked with colour coded paint rings on every other tree. Blue and purple are small loops, while the yellow trail will take you through the whole park to the chairlift. The signs are in Russian, but the Google Translate camera can translate it for you if needed.
The first pillar you’ll see (if you walk up) is The Elephant, so named because it looks like an elephant lying on the ground. Further up is absolutely massive 83m First Pillar, with a flag on the top for adventurous (and well equipped) rock climbers. Walk north-east to the 40m high Grandfather and you’ll see the giant face in the rock that gave him the name, you can climb partway up for a great view of the trail you’ve just hiked with the city far away across the river.
Very close by to the south-east is The Feathers, a tall rock split into thin layers and another challenge for rock climbers. Next to this is The Lions Gate, not quite as large but easy to climb with great views of the valley below. A good spot for lunch if you don’t mind sharing with curious chipmunks!
About 10 minutes south are the forest shrouded Third and Fourth Pillars, no view from the top but they have a mysterious air around them like you could fall into a rabbit hole and end up in Wonderland.
To the east are my two favourites. The Forerunner (cover photo) is a small pillar that gives you a nice view of The Feathers and The Lions Gate across the valley, it will surprise you to see how far away it looks! And it’s the quieter of the two. The Firstborn is a challenge to climb, but it lifts you high out of the forest and gives you a breathtaking view of the forest below you, with the peaks of The First Pillar, The Grandad, The Feathers and The Lions Gate across the way.
From here it’s a 5.5km walk through the woods passing a few less impressive pillars along the way. Eventually, you’ll end up at a viewpoint with a whole new valley to admire, and once you pass the chairlift you’ll finally see Takmak, the most famous stolby.
It’s not an easy one to get to, you’ll have to walk down a black diamond slope before walking back up a hot and dusty hill to the base of it, and from there you have two more trails to follow, an orange loop that will take you to The Little Wall of China pillar, and a green trail that will lead you back to a housing estate east of Bobrovyy Log, or you can tackle the slopes again and grab the chairlift down.
It’s such an easy day out to do yourself, there’s absolutely no need to pay for a tour guide which will save you money to spend on burgers (find BurgerWhale and thank me later) and give you the freedom to explore where you want. All you need is Maps.Me and Google Translate! Don’t forget to pack water, food and extra layers, it can get very cold up there.
Leave any questions in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help!
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