One-day Hiking to Pip Ivan Mount (Popivan, White Elephant)

Popivan (Pip Ivan, Pop Ivan, White Elephant) is one of the most popular peaks in Ukrainian Carpathians, with a height of 2 028 m (6 653 ft). The mountain is on the border of Ivano-Frankivsk and Transcarpathian regions (oblasts), and it’s the southeastern end of the highest mountain range in Ukraine – Chornohora. In winter, the building on the top is totally covered with snow, so the mountain is called quite poetically – the White Elephant.

Those who have good physical training will feel more comfortable climbing here. The distance is long and the elevation is significant. Therefore, you need to start not later than 8-9 o’clock in the morning.

Day hikes to m. Pip Ivan begin in the village of Shybene and Dzembronia. Read descriptions about both of them below. 


  1. On the top of the mount, there is a building of the former astronomical observatory, built before the Second World War. It is the highest located building in Ukraine. Now the premises are actively reconstructing and planning to be used only for scientific purposes.
  2. On the way to the summit, there are many other interesting places – Maricheika Lake, Vukhatyi Kamin Mount, Dzembronsky waterfalls, ruins of a tourist shelter, mountain valley of Smotrych (where you can buy dairy products from shepherds) and more.


  • distance: 20 km;
  • average duration: 9-10 hours;
  • the range of heights: 1228 m (800 – 2028 m);
  • total climb: 1400 m;
  • detailed route: Upper Dzembronja village – Vesnarka mountain valley – Smotrych mount – Popivan Mount – Vuhaty Kamin Mount – Smotrytsky waterfalls – Upper Dzembronya village.

Hike from Dzembronia village is the most popular way. It is better to start not later than 8 o’clock in the morning. The start of the route is in the center of the village, the benchmark is a booth with a tourist map. The best way to get here is by car because the bus to Dzembronia is only once a day (15:45 from Verkhovyna). There are also 3 buses to Shybene village, but they stop in Lower Dzembronia, 3 km from the center of the Upper Dzembronia.

Firstly, the road will be quite steep, so be ready to take off some clothes after 10 minutes. After 3 km you will reach the Smotrych field, where you can fill bottles with water and buy fresh dairy products from the shepherds in summer (although it is better to do this on the way back).

From the Smotrych field, there are two options of the continuation of the route: 1) through the Mount Smotrych (shorter but steeper way); 2) through the Mount Vuhatyi Kamin (longer, but flatter road). For different views it’s better to choose a steeper way (through Smotrych) for going up, and to go down through the Vuhatyi Kamin.

After a mountain valley it is easy to lose the path leading to the forest, so look carefully at the marking on the trees and check the GPS. In about 3 hours, you will reach Mount Smotrych (1898 m), with a lot of trenches on the slopes from the time when the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia (1919-1939) was here.

From the range, you can already see the building of the observatory. If you feel that you don’t have enough energy to climb to the summit, or you have spent too much time, then you should not go further from this point. Better turn right and go down into the village through the Vuhatyi Kamin.

After Smotrych, move south-west and in half an hour you will arrive at the pass that connects Smotrych with the Chornohora ridge. There is a water spring 300 m to the left and down. Also, there are the ruins of a tourist shelter, which functioned during the interwar years. Now only the foundation remains.

After this, the path leads to the Chornohora ridge. Turn to the east and in 45 minutes you will be on the top of the Pop Ivan!

Descent to the village will take about 4 hours. After you reach the pointer on the pass, turn left. Within 20 minutes you will reach the cliffs on the slopes of Mount Vuhatyi Kamin. You can climb them without special equipment, just be careful!

After 1 km fromVuhatyi Kamin, the path will turn eastward. Through another 750 meters, you will cross the stream, on which there are Smotrytsky waterfalls. You need to pass 100 m upstream to see them.

Then continue to go down through the spruce forest and within 3 km you will reach the valley Smotrych, where it is easy to reach the village.


  • distance: 23 km;
  • average duration: 8-9 hours;
  • the range of heights: 1130 m (900 – 2028 m);
  • total climb: 1250 m;
  • detailed route: Shybene village –Vesnarka mountain valley – Maricheika Lake – Popivan Mount – Shybene village.

The first bus arrives at Shybene village at 13:40 (departing from Verkhovyna at 12:00), so it is more convenient to come here by car.

NB! There are border guards in the village who can check your documents and ask about your route. Pre-registration, as in the case of a trip to Marmaros, is not needed. In the center of the village, near the barrier, you can leave your car and go further by feet.

At the first crossroads, turn right. First, you will walk 3 km on the road with gravel. When you reach the crossroads in the forestry sector, turn right from the main road. There will be another barrier at the beginning of the road.

A quite difficult ascent starts here. After 3.5 km, the road will lead to the Vesnarka field, where you can fill a bottle with water. Then the road leads to the forest and to the lake Maricheika in 2 km, where you should stay for at least 30 minutes. After another 3.4 km of the subalpine zone, you are on the top of the Popivan Mount!

The road down will take about 3-4 hours.


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