October is the perfect month for hiking. The air is crisp. The trees are scattering their jewel-toned leaves. The hordes of summer tourists are long gone. But you don’t have to think about blizzards or freezing temperatures yet.
You arrive in Qusar, in northeastern Azerbaijan, to find rocky peaks, fields full of cows, and empty trails. The small city, at the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountains, is home to the Lezgins people. Green parks, a local history museum, and an art gallery—featuring more than 100 Azerbaijani artists—are here. Little restaurants serve kebabs and hearty soups. The Qusarchay River is fed by melted snow. The Shahdag Mountain Resort—the country’s first and largest ski resort—lures people from the capital city of Baku. While Mount Shahdagh stands guard near the Russian border.
Mount Shahdagh (King Mountain) is the highest point in Azerbaijan. The always snow-capped mountain, which was built upon magnesian limestone and marble, towers more than 4,000 meters above sea level. Prehistoric cave dwellings, at the base of the mountain, indicate that people have lived in the area for more than 9,000 years. Hikers have only recently started charting the imposing mountain.
Those hiking trails—which lead to Laza and Sudug—pass cascading waterfalls, soaring peaks, and late-blooming wildflowers. Patches of thick green grass look like carpets. Dogs will chase you away when you get too close to their flocks. Each photograph you take will be more beautiful than the last. While the unmarked, sometimes untrampled trails will make you keep an eye on the terrain—and your footing. Ready to begin? You can lead the way.