Kok Zhailau (green pasture in Kazakh) is a large open pasture which affords great views of Almaty. It’s an easy 2-hour hike to Kok Zhailau from just before Medeu. You can also approach Kok Zhailau from the western park entry. From Kok Zhailau, another 2 hours hike up brings you to Peak Kumbel and an outcrop of 3 stones called the 3 Brothers. This hike is well-known and very popular with locals. Best time to go is early May to early October, although it perhaps more lovely still in winter, provided you are properly dressed.
Click the links to find the gpx trail starting from west (GES Hydropower) and the gpx trail starting from east (Medeu). This track goes east to west (but not to Kumbel). For the bus links into the mountains, see hiking overview. Many nice pictures of the area can be found on this slice of the Panoramio map.
Trail description: from Medeu
Start of the trek is the bus stop before you reach the base station for the ski lift towards Shymbulak. There’s a turn-off to the right just before the bus stop. Head up there. The tarmac soon ends. Follow along the river for 100m until a green arrow points you right towards Kok Zhailau. Follow the track through the forest. The first part is quite steep, it becomes flatter after that. 2 hours and 700 altitude meters later you reach the pass underneath Peak Kumbel.
This is the highest point of the threatened Kok Zhailau nature reserve, which is intended as a ski resort, despite its importance for biodiversity and the lack of snow in winter. From here, a wide view over Almaty unfolds. Kok Zhailau is a wonderful area for a pick-nick or a night of camping. If you are up for it, continue south towards Kumbel and the 3 Brothers, 3 stones easily visible from Kok Zhailau. Peak Kumbel stands left of them, a little bit further.
Continuing, find the mountain path leading south-east that you should leave after about 400 m to head south. A steep ascent awaits. At the end, one way leads to the 3 Brothers, an amalgam of 3 remarkable craggy bluffs on the western flank of Peak Kumbel. From here, the hard work is done and it’s an easy walk to the top, now clearly in sight.
To get down, there are different options. Besides taking the same way down, you can also continue west from Kok Zhailau. You will end up at the last bus stop in the Almarasan Valley, where a slew of shashlyk restaurants awaits your custom. A second option sees hikers returning northeast over the ridge. This will take you to the dam above Medeu. From there, it’s a short way down until you reach the Medeu bus stop.
Trail description from GES-2 Hydropower
Take the bus up to the entrance of the park, then backtrack a bit to find the starting point of the hike. Cross the river and follow the path. Be sure to download the gpx trail for exact coordinates. This route is a bit longer than the Medeu entry, 3-4 hours walk to Kok Zhailau.