A formidable barrier between the northeastern Anatolian plateau and the Black Sea, the Kaçkar Dağları are the high end of the Pontic coastal ranges – and Turkey’s most rewarding and popular trekking area. Occupying a rough rectangle that measures 70km by 20km, the Kaçkars extend from the Rize–İspir road to the Hopa–Artvin highway. The more abrupt southeast flank is lapped by the Çoruh River, while the gentler northwest folds drop more gradually to misty foothills. At 3932m, their summit ranks only fourth highest in Turkey, but in scenic and human interest they fully earn their aliases “the Little Caucasus” and “the Pontic Alps”.
Besides the principal summit area, several other major massifs are recognized: the Altıparmak and Marsis groups of about 3300m, at the north end of the Bulut ridge, which links them with Point 3932; and the adjacent Tatos and Verçenik systems of about 3700m, at the extreme southwest of the chain.
Partly due to intensive human habitation, the high Kaçkars support relatively few large mammals; bear and boar prefer the forested mid-altitude zones, while wolves and ibex are ruthlessly hunted in the treeless heights. Birds of prey and snow cocks are more easily seen and heard, while the summer months witness an explosion of wildflowers, butterflies – and vicious deer flies.