Kok-Zhailau: route, waterfall, photos and video (2019)

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Today we’ll visit one of the most popular tourist destinations in Almaty – Kok-Zhailau (or Кок-Жайляу in Russian).

Make yourself comfortable, grab some popcorn and prepare to see a lot of photos and a new YouTube video!

Kok-Zhailau 4K video

What is Kok-Zhailau

Kok-Zhailau is a plateau in the Ile-Alatau National Park. It’s located between the and Small Almaty gorges.

Kok-Zhailau is only 10km away from the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan. In the past, this place served as a pasture for animals but now it’s a favourite hiking destination among Almaty residents and city visitors.

Hi, I'm Renat 👋


How to get to Kok-Zhailau

It’s easy, there’re multiple ways you can get to the start of the route.

By bus. It’s the easiest and cheapest way unless you’re not planning to go there at night (buses work till late evening).

Take the 12th route at any bus stop on Dostyk Ave. (former Lenin Ave.). The ticket costs 80 KZT (20 cents) or 150 Tenge (~40 cents) if you don’t have a bus card.

Take off at the Prosveshenets bus stop (“Просвещенец”).

By car. Drive towards Medeu and Shymbulak Ski resort all the way to the Prosveshenets bus stop. Then take a sharp right turn and drive uphill for another 1-2 minutes and you’ll see a parking space there. You can park your car at the very end of the asphalt road.

Make sure you fill your water tanks from the Akbulak spring at the bus stop! There’s cool, refreshing water.

Kok-Zhailau sign

Next, we follow this sign and go uphill.

Kok-Zhailau photos

Kok-Zhailau sign

After you pass the village you’ll see another sign with two directions. You can turn left and hike through the birch grove (it’s for more experienced hikers) or turn right for a less steep path. Both routes take you to the same place.

Route to Kok-Zhailau

We turned right, walked uphill for about 200 meters and got this gorgeous view. You can even see the main road.

birch grove on Kok-Zhailau

This is a birch grove, we walked through it on our way back.

Komsomol Peak (Nursultan Peak) Almaty

We quickly reached the ridge, a place where both routes intersect and where the main ascent begins.

To the right of the ridge, you can the Komsomol peak (now called Nursultan peak) with an altitude of 4376m (see the middle of the photo).

Inhabitants of Kok-Zhaulau

Inhabitants of Kok-Zhaulau

On the way to Kok-Zhailau, you’ll find such stands with some information about the flora and fauna of the area.

On the territory of Kok-Zhailau, there are many animals, birds, insects and plants.

Here’s a small list of animals living here:
– deer,
– brown bear,
– groundhog,
– snow leopard, also known as irbis,
– porcupine,
– manul,
– wild boar and many others.

Wooden bench on Kok-Zhailau

There are also benches with stunning views of the city of Almaty.

2011 Hurricane on Kok-Zhailau

uprooted trees

In 2011, a severe hurricane passed in Almaty. Over 90,000 trees were damaged, many of which were uprooted.

Most of the trees continue to lie, although large amounts of budget funds were allocated for their cleaning.

Popular paths were cleared of dry fallen trees, but on the slopes and along the paths they continue to lie and create a fire hazard situation.

Trail on Kok-Zhailau

Keep walking.

View of Talgar Pass and Chimbulak, Shymbulak

You can see Shymbulak Ski Resort, which is located in the Small Almaty gorge.

Kumbel Peak View, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Above is the photo of Kumbel peak (3200m). In July-August, there’s usually no snow on the summit.

View of the city of Almaty from Kok-Zhailau

View of the city of Almaty. You can see some smog, but compared to the winder period – this is nothing.

Backpack on a tree

Someone left a backpack in the mountains 🙂

Panorama of the mountains of Almaty

On the photo above you can see another path, which goes at the bottom of the gorge. Do not take it as it goes nowhere, you’ll run into a steep slope and will need to walk down.

That’s why it’s important to follow the signs at the start of the hike.

Renat in the mountains

A moment of posing.

Renat in the mountains

How can one walk past this view?

Almaty Mountains, Ile-Alatai National Natural Park

The first part of the climb is quite steep, but once you reach the plateau you can slow down and enjoy the easy path.

Almaty mountains in the shade

Mountains look gloomy when the sun hides behind the clouds.

Sign and mountains of Almaty

Found this useless sign…

Halt on the way to Kok-Zhailau

and a nice place for a quick stop next to it.

Komsomol peak, Nursultan peak, Almaty, Kazakhstan

My friend Ruslan and I climbed Komsomok peak a couple of years ago.

Route to Kok-Zhailau

A pleasant trail where you can come across some small animals such as mice and black leeches (not sure if it’s an animal though.

Uprooted trees in the mountains of Almaty

Just look at how many trees and still lying on the slopes. Most of those trees are 100+ years old!

Flowers in the mountains of Almaty

We found this beautiful yellow flowers living on the dry tree. Do you know how they’re called?

The sky in the mountains of Almaty

Beautiful view over the sky.

Panorama of Almaty, Kazakhstan from the mountains

Almaty city view.

Panorama of the city of Almaty from Kok-Zhailau

You can even find your apartment from the top of the hill.

Waterfall on Kok-Zhailau, Almaty

This is the waterfall that we’ll be walking later.

Kok-Zhailau photo plateau

And this is Kok-Zhailau or “a sky-blue summer pasture” translated from Kazakh.

Kok-Zhailau photo plateau, pasture

Kok-Zhailau is once of the favourite places of Almaty residents and guests. We met a lot of people on our way. There were musicians, sky runners, tourists, families and students.

On the pasture itself children were playing football.

Stand with a description of plants and animals

Another information stand with a description of plants and animals living in the Ile-Alatau National Natural Park.

Trail on Kok-Zhailau towards Kubmel peak

The trail to the waterfall and to Kumbel peak.

Sign on Kok-Zhailau

And also to “Three Brothers” of Kumbel – it’s just three rocks near the top of Kumbel (see the photo above).

Kok-Zhailau panorama trail

But first, we turned in the opposite direction and climbed the hill to have a long-awaited lunch.

View from Kok-Zhailau

Almaty city at a glance. View from Kok-Zhailau.

Cloud in the form of a nuclear explosion

Cloud in the form of a nuclear explosion.

Kok-Zhailau view of the Big Almaty Gorge

Kok-Zhailau is located between to gorges – the Big Almaty (on the photo above) and the Small Almaty.

You can go from one gorge to another through Kok-Zhailau.

Kok-Zhailau Kumbel peak view

Panorama of Kok-Zhailau.

Панорама города Алматы с Кок-Жайляу

Panorama of Almaty city.

our team

Perfect place for lunch.

View of Kok-Zhailau, photo

Kok-Zhailau is just stunning.

Renat in the mountains
Trail on Kok-Zhailau

If you follow this path you’ll get to the Big Almaty gorge.

The route to Kok-Zhailau from the Big Almaty gorge

On the photo above you can see a Big Almaty Peak (3680m).

Kok-Zhailau sign

Kok-Zhailau sign.

Plants on Kok-Zhailau
Trees on Kok-Zhailau
Plants on Kok-Zhailau
Renat on Kok-Zhailau

We walked uphill towards the waterfall.

Photo of Kok-Zhailau, Almaty

Big Almaty gorge.

Waterfall on Kok-Zhailau

This is the Kok-Zhailau waterfall. In fact, there are multiple waterfalls there. Let me show you another one.

Renat near the waterfall on Kok-Zhailau
Ruslan near the waterfall on Kok-Zhailau

Ruslan is just happy to be here.

Renat near the waterfall on Kok-Zhailau
Kok-Zhailau second waterfall

This is the second waterfall. Just watch the vlog to see how we climbed down to see it.

Kok-Zhailau second waterfall
Kok-Zhailau waterfall
Flowering rosehip

Rosehip in the mountains is still blooming.

View of Chimbulak and Talgar Pass

View of Shymbulak and Talgar Pass.

View of the city of Almaty

View of Almaty city.

View of the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan

On the photo above, at the very bottom right corner, you can see the former eco post and the climbing rock “Lesnichestvo”. We train there from time to time.

Route diagram and GPX

Start: Prosveshenets bus stop, 1536m above sea level.
End: Kok-Zhailau, 2239m.
Travel time – 2 hours 50 minutes at a very easy pace.
Difficulty level: easy.

Download GPX file.

Route diagram for Kok-Zhailau and GPX
Route diagram for Kok-Zhailau and GPX


The list of possible activities is large, but you should keep in mind that it’s forbidden to burn bonfires in the forest.

The main activities include:
– camping,
– overnight stay in a tent,
– hiking,
– trekking,
– bird watching,
– picking berries and mushrooms,
– waterfall,
– night sky observation,
– vlogging and others.

The tragedy of Kok-Zhailau

Almaty city leadership decided to build a world-class ski resort in the Ile-Alatau National Natural Park, where Kok-Zhailau is located.

The construction of the resort meant cutting down dozens of hectares of relict coniferous forest.

The news quickly gained public resonance. The worlds largest organisations opposed the construction of the resort and deforestation, including NABUm WHS UNESCO, IUCN WCPA and the residents of Almaty.

Construction has stopped, but it is not clear whether it will continue or not.

The following hashtags are actively used on social networks to support Kok-Zhailau:
– #SaveKokZhailau
– #SaveKokZhailyau
– #SaveKokJailau
– #SaveKZh

Other routes

Kastek Gorge in Almaty region.

Note: This article was originally published on my other website Zabugorshiki.com (Водопад на Кок-Жайляу: маршрут, фото и видео).

Thank you for your attention. If you liked this post, please subscribe to my newsletter and check other posts in the Travel section e.g. Gorelnik Hot Springs (Горячий источник Горельник) or Kastek Gorge.

Renat Galyamov

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