Nahal Darga, also known as Wadi Murabba’at, is one of the most outstanding wadis making their way to the Dead Sea. If you’re looking for a beautiful and challenging hike that will take at least three hours of your day, Nahal Darga is without a doubt a good option.

I hiked in Nahal Darga for the first time last Saturday. One of my best friends and her family suggested that I join them for the hike. I didn’t do my homework and had no idea what I was going to see that day. But now I can tell you that Nahal Darga is a treasure of the Judaean Desert! A beautiful canyon, with wonderful desert foliage, breathtaking desert landscapes, history and challenging climbs and descents.

So… Let me tell you a few details about the hike in Nahal Darga:

In this post I’ll tell you about the hiking trail that goes through Upper Nahal Darga. There is also an option of hiking through Lower Nahal Darga, but that is a much more challenging trail, that can be done only by well skilled hikers who are equipped with abseiling equipment. Also, when we arrived at the beginning of the trail, we saw a sign of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority saying that the hike in Lower Nahal Darga is prohibited because the water in the cisterns there are polluted at the moment (last update – 14 December 2017).

So, I’ll be writing about Upper Nahal Darga. It is about a 4-kilometers circular trail. Most people recommend you start from the black-marked trail and make your way up the Wadi, but we took the trail going down the Wadi and so started our hike on the green-marked trail.

The hike is under your own responsibility.

* Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 2 liters of water and wear a hat.

* Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 5-6 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM) and begin your hike at least four hours before sunset.

* During the rainy season, check for flood hazards after every rainfall. If there is a flood hazard, do not hike in the Wadi!

* If you’re afraid of heights, you should be aware that the trail can be scary for you at some points, as it goes above the deep canyon and at certain times is very narrow.

* Be aware that there is no phone signal in the Wadi.

How to Get to the Head of the Trail?

The hike begins not far from Metzoke Dragot Camping Site. It is situated up above the checkpoint that’s next to Metzoke Dragot Junction. To get there, you can take Egged bus 444 (from Eilat or Jerusalem) or 486 (from Jerusalem or Neve Zohar) and get off at Metzoke Dragot Junction (צומת מצוקי דרגות). Then, you will need to hike all the way up the winding road until you get to the top of the mountain. The hike up should take around an hour.  You can also try to hitchhike up to the head of the trail. The way up is full of beautiful views of the Dead Sea.

parking
Parking Area next to Metzoke Dragot Fence

If you’re coming with a car, drive up the road going up the mountain from the checkpoint on road number 90 next to the Dead Sea. I recommend you park your car next to the fence of Metzoke Dragot. Parking anywhere else is riskier, as the area is known for car break-ins. Anyway, don’t leave any valuable items in the car.

The Hike:

trail
The Trail

From the parking next to the Metzoke Dragot fence (1) we made our way along the green-marked wide desert trail. We walked and walked until we saw a sign of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and a trail going left. This is the head of the trail going up the Wadi. We ignored this trail and kept on walking straight on the green-marked trail until we finally got to a point where we can enter the Wadi and begin the descent (2). At this point, the trail changes to a red-marked trail.

Green-Marked Trail to Nahal Darga
Green-Marked Trail to Nahal Darga

We kept on hiking on this trail all the way down the Wadi, always looking for the red marks on the rocks along the way. We passed through the narrow canyon, climbed down some small dry waterfalls and between huge rocks. After about 10 kilometers, the trail arrives at a higher dry waterfall. There are bars that are installed in the walls, so we used them to climb down. There are a few more spots along the way, that require using bars.

Bars Stuck in the Wall (Red-Marked Trail)
Bars Stuck in the Wall (Red-Marked Trail)

At a certain point, the trail splits into two trails (3). We took the black-marked trail, going straight. We walked a few minutes along the trail, with the deep canyon laying beneath us. Then we got to a sign, saying that we can climb left to Muraba’at Cave (מערת מורבעת) on a white marked trail (4). The climb is short, but a bit steep. You don’t have to climb this trail, but the view from up high is outstanding and the caves are historical landmarks. The Wadi is called after those caves, that are called “Muraba’at” because of their rectangular shape (in Hebrew, “Meruba” is “square”).

During the 20th century, many ancient scrolls were discovered in these caves. At first, they were discovered by Bedouins who wanted to sell those scrolls and earn a lot of money. Afterwards, an official group of archeologists came to explore the caves, which were in Jordanian territory at the time. The most magnificent finds were a collection of letters and administrative documents that were written during the Bar Kokhba revolt, that took place between 132-135 CE. It seems that these caves were used by the rebels as a hiding place next to a water source. Here, they hid from the Romans. But, the most important thing about the scrolls is that most of them were written by Bar Kokhba himself. If you climb up to the caves, you’ll be able to find an informative sign next to them.

Sign to the Caves
Sign to the Caves

We left the caves and continues along the black-marked trail. The climb up from the Wadi begins there. It is a rather steep climb, but isn’t very long. After a few minutes, the trail straightens and turns into a trail much like the green-marked one we hiked in the beginning.

We made our way to the point where the trail ends, the point next to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority sign we saw on the green-marked trail (5). In the distance, we saw a camel standing on one of the hills surrounding the area. It was looking at the sky with its back to us, maybe pondering about the great desert or thinking where should it go next.

The Camel on the Hill
The Camel on the Hill

How much time does the trail take? About 3-5 hours, depending on your fitness and how many times you stop along the way.

Difficulty: It’s a challenging trail, but if you’re good hikers you can make it.

It’s a circular trail, about 4-kilometers long.


 

I wish you a great hike in the desert!

For accomodation in the area, you can check out the prices at Metzoke Dragot.

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Yours,

Lior