If you’re planning to visit Eilat and wondering if there’s anything to do around the city, This post may interest you. A few years ago, during Sukkot, my family and I asked ourselves where should we go. It was a holiday, my young brother didn’t have school, my Dad had a break from work and we had our cousin and his girlfriend at our house for the weekend. Perfect opportunity for a family hike in the wilderness!
But, where to go? We live in Eilat. Someone suggested Timna Park, but we’ve already been there many times (and you can read about one of those times in my post – Saturday Morning in Timna Park). So maybe the Samar Dunes? Too hot. The bird-watching park? Less of a hike. That’s how we finally decided – we’ll hike somewhere in the Eilat Mountains.
There are many great trails and lookouts in the Eilat Mountains, such as Har Shlomo, the White Mountain, and Mount Zefachot. But we decided to hike the most popular trail in the Eilat Mountains, the Red Canyon (הקניון האדום, “ha-ken-yon ha-ah-dom” in Hebrew).
The Red Canyon is one of the most stunning places in southern Israel. To get there from Eilat, you need to drive on road number 12. This road is also quite stunning. On both sides are the beautiful mountains, colored brown, red, purple, black. In the background, you can see the Red Sea from afar. At some point, you start passing by Israeli military bases. On your left, you’ll see the massive border fence between Israel and Egypt and some Egyptian guarding stations.
Recommended read >> My full travel guide to Eilat.
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How to get to the Red Canyon from Eilat?
We got to the Red Canyon by driving on road 12. After around 18 km, we saw a brown sign that said “Red Canyon” and pointed to the right, so we turned right onto a dirt road and drove on it for a few minutes until we got to a dirt parking lot. The whole drive took us about half an hour.
If you have no car and no lift, there are other options that can get you to the Red Canyon from Eilat:
- Join a Jeep tour to the Red Canyon. You can book a Jeep tour here. It includes the drive through the Eilat Mountains and a hike in the Red Canyon, including geological explanations. Will probably be the easiest way to get to the Red Canyon, because you don’t need to worry about anything – only about the payment.
- Use Egged bus 392. This bus runs about six times from Sunday to Thursday. It also works on Fridays, but the last bus from the Red Canyon to Eilat is at around 1:20 PM. The bus route starts at Eilat Central Station and ends in Be’er Sheva, but on the way, it has a stop near the Red Canyon. When boarding the bus, ask the driver to stop for you at the Red Canyon station. From the station, you will need to hike about 20 minutes to the Red Canyon, along a dirt road. It is advised to ask the driver where and when you should wait for the bus back to Eilat. I also advise using Google Maps or Moovit to estimate the time you need to be at the station. One way will cost you around 12 Shekels.
- Hike from Eilat to the Red Canyon. It’s uphill and takes about 5-7 hours, and at the end of the day, you can sleep in the parking lot next to the trail. There aren’t any camping facilities, but camping there is legal. Read more about camping in Israel.
The Red Canyon hike
We got out of our cars and started our way to the green-marked trail, which is the Red Canyon route. The channel running through the canyon is called Wadi Shani, and it’s almost always dry. But, the first part of the trail is through a rather wide space. You can’t expect what’s coming up. Then, after about 15 minutes of hiking, the Red Canyon reveals itself. Beautiful. It is made of reddish sandstone, and when the light hits it, beautiful shades of red and purple fall upon it.
We started descending down the canyon, using the ladders and bars that are stuck in the stone. The heights aren’t too high, and it was very enjoyable. After another 20 minutes or so, we got to the end of the narrow canyon. That was fast! There is another trail that leaves from this point, but my Dad said he tried it once, and it was too much for him. So now we had to make our way back to the parking lot.
“Let’s go back through the canyon,” my Dad suggested.
“But there’s a green trail going back from above,” I pointed out. There really is a trail, going back to the parking lot, that goes above the canyon. You’ll find it on your right the moment you exit the canyon.
“Yes, but it goes above the canyon…” he murmured. My Dad is a bit scared of heights.
“It doesn’t look like a very complicated climb,” I said, and all the others agreed with me. So, under peer pressure, my Dad climbed with us high above the canyon.
If you’re scared of heights, you might really prefer to get back to the parking lot by climbing back up through the canyon. The other way, which goes above the canyon, is really high and at some points, narrow. There were places where we were on the edge of the cliff. But, it isn’t very-very narrow. You can easily place your foot on the trail. Just be careful! My Dad survived.
After climbing the last ladder, there is again a long trail going through a rather wide space between the mountains. At the end, you get back to the parking lot.
More info about the Red Canyon hike
How far away is the Red Canyon from Eilat? About 20 kilometers.
How long is the trail? About 2 kilometers; about a 1-hour hike.
How challenging is it? It’s easy. Even family-friendly.
When to go? The best time to hike the Red Canyon is from October to May, because of the cool weather. The fact that half of the hike is in the canyon means half of the hike is in the shade. The other half isn’t. In winter (December to March), keep track of the weather forecast to make sure there are no flash flood alerts. It’s never recommended to travel in the area during summer, because of the high temperatures and dry air. If you do choose to come in summer, make sure to start the hike as early as possible, before the sun hits.
No matter where you travel, it’s always a good idea to consider travel insurance.
If you plan to hike in the Israeli desert, you might want to consider travel insurance, just to be on the safe side. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
The Red Canyon is a family-friendly trail only half an hour away from Eilat. If you’re a nature lover, this beauty is highly recommended.
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