This stunning valley lies immediately south of Karakol along the river of the same name that passes through the town. The valley has a ski base that is visited by local and Russian skiers in winter, while in summer it is a popular area for trekkers and campers. There are no villages anywhere along the valley, nor any facilities for tourism other than a summer tent camp, but this makes it all the more desirable as an ideal location for independent campers who bring all they need with them.
The Karakol valley has been awarded national park status so there is an entrance fee to pay at the entrance gate. Near here, a track leads up to the left along the course of the Kashka-Suu tributary to reach the ski base. The dirt road continues along the river to reach a wooden bridge across the river, where the track continues along the valley with the river to the left. The steep slopes here are covered with stands of spruce and the distinctively pyramid-shaped Tien Shan pine, while the grassy fringe beside the track is carpeted with herbs and wild flowers.
After a gradual climb along the valley for 8-9km from the first bridge, a path leads east through woodland across the river towards Ala-Kol Lake, while the Karakol valley itself continues south for a few more kilometres, before dividing into the valleys of the Kol-Tor and On-Tor rivers that run down from the high glaciers of the Terskey Ala-Too.
A tent camp run by the Alp-Tur Issyk-Kul trekking company, with basic washing and cooking facilities, stands close to the confluence. Park permits are usually checked here. Just beyond here, a trekking route leads west towards the Teleti Pass and descends along the Teleti River to the valley of Jeti-Oguz.
Getting there There is no public transport to the Karakol valley. To reach it from Karakol, there is the option of a taxi to the park entrance; a more robust vehicle will be able to take you as far as the wooden bridge - a good place to begin a trek.