What is the first thing that comes to your mind, when you think about the Altai Mountains and Katon-Karagay National Park? That’s right, the beautiful mountain “Belukha”! This double-headed mountain (the height of the West peak is 4440 m, the east is 4506 m) is well-known in Kazakhstan. But this is not the only sightseeing attraction in this territory of 643 477 ha of the park. This area is famous for its wide valleys, Mountains Rivers, Lakes, and of course, for its picturesque waterfalls.
There are so many waterfalls in Katon-Karagay that some of them do not have any name yet… You will see all of these magnificent waterfalls on all the routes as decorations of the place. But in this article we want to tell you about the biggest and the most famous cascades of overflowing water.
The treasure of Katon-Karagay is Kokkol, the largest waterfall in Altay, which is located in the mouth of the Bolshoy Kokkol River. Mountaineers come to admire the beauty of this 60 meters of cascading crystals, on the way to Belukha Mountain. Just imagine the sound of the rushing water slicing through the wooded area, with span over 10 meters and 60-70 degrees steep, as it flows over the rock with a tremendous roar similar to a rocket climbing out of our atmosphere. In the sun’s rays water mist can be captured creating endless rainbows with an array of beautiful colors. This waterfall is certainly a stand-alone natural wonder in itself, and is considered an independent object that attracts travelers.
Here lies a mountain gorge that surrounds the waterfall, this wooded area of mixed cedar and fir forest will make you feel almost like you are in a fairytale. If you would like to secure your memories in wonderland, they have conveniently built a comfortable viewing deck, where you can take selfies and pictures of the beautiful nature surrounding you.
You can get to this place on foot or riding a horse if you so desire. There is also a path along the waterfall, which is known among the travelers as heading into the Berel glacier. And in total there are 162 glaciers in the river basins!
You can see beautiful Belukha Mountain from the coasts of Karakol Lake, also known as Yazevoe, which got a name from ide fish found in its water. This lake is in a valley that sits at a height of 1656 m above sea level, where according to scientists, Katun glaciers left moraines, which later were washed out by the river. In these 5 kilometers to the lake you can take the picturesque route among 20-25 m high and 100 year old trees. Here you will reach the Yazev waterfall, this waterfall actually has almost a countless number of drains. In total there are about 10 cascades, that drop from a height of up to 10-12 m. Fishermen have a chance to get an elegant grayling in the rushing flood water, just a little down the waterfall.
Belukha Mountain, ‘the double-headed beauty’, can also be seen from the hiking route from “Rakhmanov springs” resort, in the Valley of Arasan River. You won’t get lost, because there is the only road that heads to the south west of Arasan Lake and then towards the Berel village. Considering there is good weather, Belukha Mountain is seen from at least three kilometers from the viewing platform that is equipped with a gazebo and information stand. If you head just one more kilometer you will find the Arasan Waterfall. Near the road there is a steep path equipped with wooden ramps that leads to the waterfall. 5-6 meter waterfalls are divided in its center by a small rock, which makes it look like a mustache. That’s why tourists gave it second name “Batyr’s mustache”, i.e. a mustache of a hero. Unfortunately, there was a fire in 2007 that damaged this beautiful place, but it is being gradually restored..
Rakhmanov’s Waterfall or “Hairs of Veronika”.
Not far from Rakhmanov Springs Resort, in the Arasan valley there is Rakhmanov’s waterfall, which is also poetically called the “Hairs of Veronika”. It is formed from a stream, that starts in a small high mountain morainic lake (2265 m above sea level) and joins to form Rakhamov lake. To get there, travelers can take the following route: to take a boat to reach the opposite side of Rakhmanov’s lake and to hike to the waterfall along the wooden ramps that make the path. The path is 4 kilometers in length and it goes through the forest to a viewing platform, where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the “Hairs of Veronika”. The water falls from a height of about 30 meters: narrow streams flow between sheer and shaly cliffs in this three-stepped cascade.
This waterfall stands at a height of 2370 meters above sea level, and in order to get here you should register with a tour group, which goes by “Sarymsakty” route (about 22 km one-way in distance) in the Katon-Karagay Park. The path goes along the Sarymsak River through a beautiful cedar forest until you reach the Kyzylkum passage on the rocky horse road. In the cedar forests, you can see chipmunks, squirrels, Altai pikas and birds like nutcrackers, jays and owls. Frequent visitors of the cedar forests are wild boars and bears – the lovers of a pine nut.
At about the midpoint of the main route, there is a start for three radial trekking routes. The first goes to Toktagul mountain area and the cascades of the following lakes: Verkhneye - Maralenok – Karlygash. The second is to Turpan Lake. And the third goes to Piala Waterfall. This waterfall is not very big, it is only about 5-6 meters high, but it makes up for its size in beauty with its very picturesque backdrop. Mountain river cascades down to a small round shaped lake (similar to the shape of Piala, i.e. a tea bowl), then flows out about one kilometer to only fall into the Sarymsak river. The rumbling water can be heard long before you approach the waterfall.
The main string of the route then stretches along the Valley of Sarymsak River.
As stated above, there are many picturesque, but nameless waterfalls in this area, like the waterfall close to the Belkaragai village, and then there is a beautiful cascading waterfall close to “Yasnaya Polyana” – both are worth mentioning. Anywhere you go in Katon-Karagay national park the local people can organize an excursion for you to go and see the many waterfalls there. We can assure you they will be wherever you are, so make sure you ask them. But if you plan your tour through a huge territory of this park properly, you should definitely do it with the tour operators of Kazakhstan. They can give you the best deal with the beautiful hidden sites that only Kazakhs know about!