Israel’s Negev and Arava deserts are home to some truly stunning hiking trails that are must-visits for any outdoors people living or vacationing in the country. There is a nice mix of places to hike as well, with both easy and challenging trails available, meaning pretty much anyone can head out on a desert hike in Israel – just remember your sunscreen and water!
A somewhat challenging hike, Mount Zefahot begins at sea level and just keeps on rising. There isn’t much in terms of a scenic-view when making your ascent, but this will all be more than worth it upon reaching the summit.
The view atop Mount Zefahot is breath-taking, with a complete uninterrupted view of the Red Sea, not to mention the fact that you can see four countries all from this one place. Israel is of course one of these countries, together with Jordan, Egypt, and a small section of Saudi Arabia.
The Red Canyon
North of Highway 12 is the Red Canyon, which gets its name from the Nubian sandstone that gives the rocks their reddish colour.
This is a rather narrow canyon so it can get a bit cramped on busy periods, with hikers needing to move in single-file to make any progress.
It isn’t the longest desert hike you will find in Israel, although after exiting the canyon there is a somewhat challenging ascent through Nahal Shani, which ends with a delightful view of Egypt.
Arman’s Pillars are part of the Israel National Trail hike, about a fifteen-minute drive north from Eilat on Highway 90.
Two cars are advised for the hike due to the overall distance, one of which should be parked towards the end of the trail about 3 km away from the start of Arman’s Pillars towards the Black Canyon, with the second left at the beginning of the trail.
After hiking through Arman’s Pillars you can make your way to the summit of Mount Amir, which features some fantastic views of the surrounding area. Descending south towards the Israel Trail will take you to the second car that was parked near Black Canyon.
The Black Canyon
The aforementioned Black Canyon can be found around 3 km left of Arman’s Pillars (which is found off Highway 90), and you should be able to find a southwards junction that is ideal for parking your car.
The canyon itself is well-shaded and full of narrow and twisting pathways that are fun to explore. As you might have guessed the canyon walls are a blackish grey colour thanks to the basalt stone, and the presence of limestone adds a nice touch of white to the canyon.
Ein Avdat National Park
Ein Advat is a canyon found in the Negev Desert that is home to some truly stunning sights, including hidden springs and waterfall that transform the desert landscape into a true oasis.
The hike trail here is part of Nahal Zin and there are many ancient caves that were frequented by monks in the beginning of the 6th century.
The trek through the canyon only takes about an hour, and as there is no loop you will need to double back upon finishing your hike, so it can be a good idea to have a car parked at each end of Ein Advat if possible.
Timna Park has a host of great sights worth checking out, although you will probably struggle to fit everything in the one visit, so it’s a good idea to head there early and get some info about each of the trails and attractions – although there is an entrance fee mind you!
Solomon’s Pillars for example, is a rock formation that has been the result of centuries of water erosion that are only a short drive away, or you can go for a more challenging 4km hike to get a view from above. Other sights include the Pink Canyon and its ‘Roman Cave’, and the 45-minute hike to Boreg Hill.
Pura Nature Reserve
Towards the northern region of the Negev desert is the Pura Nature reserve, which if visited during springtime, will be awash will beautiful desert flowers that completely transform the area. The trail takes around three to four hours but it is mainly just flat land so it should be a relatively easy hike.
Some sights in the surrounding area include the Tel Nagila settlement, an old Turkish railway bridge (or what’s left of it), a dam, and a farm that offers donkey-pulled carriage tours.
Easily one of the most difficult hike trails, Nahal Peres rewards your endeavour with a classic view of everything that makes an Israeli desert hike – sprawling cliffs, lush waterfalls, and refreshing water holes.
Once you hit around 6km into the trail there is the option to take a detour to the water holes, and it is an opportunity that should be grabbed at! The water holes are not only beautiful to look at, but with the right weather they are ideal for taking a swim in to cool down during your hike.
You can find a phenomenal view overlooking a waterfall if you make another small detour prior to exiting the canyon as well. Prior warning however, hiking the entire trail will take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours!
Found within the Ramon Crater in the Negev desert, Ein Saharomin has many great attractions that make hiking the trail well worth your time. The start of the trail includes some ancient features of the Nabatean people, including a weighing station and fort, and you can also find a large spring that should attract the local wildlife.
Hiking the trail should take two to three hours, and you can make a loop using Parsat Nekarot (known as the ’horseshoe’), which offers plenty of gorgeous landscapes as you hike through.
Another trail found within the Ramon Crater, this one is certainly amongst the most challenging desert hikes in Israel, taking as long as seven hours to complete when beginning from Be’erot camping site.
This is the steepest route to the top of Mount Ardon, but it also offers the best views of the surrounding carter (which it is in the centre of) and desert. At its highest point Mount Ardon is 702 meters above sea level, so you can actually see well out into the desert, and it is truly a sight to behold.