Snow Leopard Hiking Trail

Hike amongst rare wildlife in the mountains of Hovd

In Mongolia a horse can take you far, but when the mountains become especially high and wild, the horse trail comes to an end. To continue into the realm of the snow leopard, argali mountain sheep, and ibex, it's time to hike.

Trip Length:
Trip Length:
11 days

Daily plan

$3,250 NZD

What's included?

Days hiking:
Days hiking:
7 Days

Scheduled Departures

Including current availability

Trekking in 2024
When would YOU like to travel?
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Hike in search of snow leopards

Join us on an exploratory trek to develop a new hiking trail through a remote mountain range in Mongolia's western province of Hovd. This is tough country. It's steep and extremely arid. There are no hiking tracks, just game trails to follow.

This trip combines three of our passions, Mongolia, hiking and wildlife. The area is home to a variety of rare species. You can expect to see asiatic ibex, argali, and perhaps even the notoriously elusive snow leopard (there is a healthy population here). After our initial scouting trip in October 2019, we were planning to return in 2020 but we can wait as long as it takes! (snow leopard photo courtesy of National Park Administration).

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Who is this trip aimed at?

When we say this trip is exploratory, we mean we are looking for people who will not whinge when the day turns out to be longer and harder than expected, or a sudden snow storm strikes. But you can be sure you will be one of the very few outsiders to ever have travelled here.

For us, simply going for a look is not enough. We are teaming up with the local National Park administration to help fund a wildlife monitoring project, and you will be participating. Using trail cameras and other techniques you will work with park rangers to help determine the population of endangered species.

As an added bonus, by working with the Park administration, we are able to access areas that would otherwise be closed.

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The Hiking

This trip gives you the opportunity to be part of a team pioneering a new hiking route through untracked mountain country. As part of a wildlife monitoring project, we won't just be taking the easiest route. We will be getting up high to where we are most likely to encounter wildlife (and for the spectacular views too). This is country for the true adventurer.

For our first exploratory trip in 2023 we are planning to use packhorses to carry our main gear. You will need to carry your personal gear for the day in a small backpack (warm layers, water etc), until meeting the horses at camp. If you have never done an overnight hike, or hiked off-trail, this is perhaps not the trip to be starting with.

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The Wildlife Monitoring Project

The focus of this trip is the great hiking along with opportunities to spot wildlife. During our initial scouting trip in October 2019, we regularly encountered herds of ibex and sighted argali mountain sheep. OK, we may not have actually seen the snow leopards, but they are definitely there - in the course of our short trip, we saw footprints in the snow several times, and our local herder friends report seeing them regularly. Unfortunately, that's often while the big cats are attacking their livestock. 

The good news is that the National Park administration is keen for us to help them monitor the wildlife on a regular basis, particularly using camera traps. We will help fund the monitoring and develop a mutually beneficial relationship where you, the hiker, actively contributes to building up a database of wildlife observations.

A taste of the trail

In October 2019 we visited the area for the first time and made contact with local herders who graze their flocks in the mountains. They are excited to show you the land they call home, and to help us spot the elusive wildlife. This short video from that trip will give you an idea of what the region looks like. Khovd has an extremely arid, desert climate, and you won't see forest or lush pasture, but it's amazing how the wildlife flourishes here.

The herders have an interesting relationship with the snow leopards. Despite the livestock they lose to these predators, they consider them to be the lords of the mountains and recognise that the world would be a poorer place without them.

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How fit do I need to be?

You need to have 'normal fitness', not 'Bear Grylls fitness'. But if you think normal fitness means regularly walking to the corner shop for a packet of fags, err no that won't cut it. You need to be doing some form of regular exercise, in your job if you are lucky, or getting out running or cycling. Or chasing a ball around a field. 

Of course, there's really no substitute for actually going and walking up a hill. We recommend this be part of your training in the lead-up to the trip.

That said, we will spend plenty of time discussing fitness and other expectations (including what you will need to bring) individually. More here.

Trip Plan

This is most definitely an exploratory trek, and 2023 will be the first time we have run it with a group. If you need to know what time lunch will be and where we will be stopping at the end of the day, this is not the trip for you. Think of our treks as non-itinerised.

Day Activities
Day 1 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar. We meet you at the airport/train station and take you to your hotel. You are free to explore this fascinating city before we gather for an evening meal and meet your fellow hikers.
Day 2 Fly to Khovd, the main town of Khovd aimag (province) in the west of Mongolia. Drive to our first camp site (2-3 hrs) at the foot of the mountains.
Days 3-8 Six days of awesome exploratory hiking. Some days we will drop down to meet the support vehicles and re-provision, and some days we will camp high in the mountains. You will be taking wildlife observations and working with park rangers as part of their monitoring programme. You are right in the heart of snow leopard country, so keep your eyes open.
Day 9 Our final destination is an incredible hidden oasis of trees and crystal-clear water, amidst the barren mountains. Perfect for a day of swimming, relaxing, and perhaps a final short hike.
Day 10 Return to Khovd, fly to Ulaanbaatar. Meet in the evening for our final celebratory dinner and a well-earned drink.
Day 11 We will help with finding any last minute items to take home for friends and family, and if there is time you can see some more of the city. Finally we take you to the airport/train station and say bayartai.

The area where we hike

This map shows the general area of Khovd aimag where we hike.

What you need to know about hiking on our Snow Leopard Trail

If you don't see an answer to your question here, please see our general FAQs, or we are happy to have a chat

What's included in the price for the Snow Leopard Hiking Trail?
When do I need to arrive in Ulaanbaatar?
How do I know if this is the right trip for me?
Will I see a snow leopard?
How many kms will I hike each day?
Do I need to be concerned about the altitude?
I'd like to be in Mongolia for more than 11 days, can I hike for longer?

Straight From the Hiker's Mouth

Grab your boots and binoculars and join us for a hike!

This is a new exploratory trek, so we can't guarantee we can answer all your questions, but we are very happy to try.