Planning to visit Eilat and wondering if there’s anything to do around the city? This post may interest you…
About a week 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, 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 area (which I might tell more about in my next posts). We decided to hike the most popular trail in the Eilat Mountains, through 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.
We drove on road 12 until we saw the brown sign signaling right to the Canyon, and drove a few more minutes on a dirt road 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 Canyon:
- Get on a shuttle to and from the Red Canyon. You can order a shuttle through here. They’ll pick you up around 9:30 AM and drop you off back around 2:00 PM. It costs 15 dollars (in the time of writing). Update (February 2019): This shuttle is currently not available. So try the two other ways…
- Use the Egged bus (number 392). This bus runs about 7 times Sundays through Thursdays from Eilat to Be’er Sheva and has a stop that is relatively close to the Red Canyon. Ask the bus driver to stop for you at the Red Canyon station. From there, 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 should you wait for the bus back to Eilat. One way will cost you around 12.5 Shekels.
- Hike from Eilat to the Red Canyon. It 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.
- If you want, you can combine the Red Canyon with other places by taking a guided tour. There’s the Red Canyon Desert Agriculture and Kibbutz Life tour for instance, which sounds interesting, but I haven’t tried it yet. If you go, let me know how it is. It costs $65 per person.
Anyway, after getting off our cars, we started our way to the trail (marked green). The channel running through the canyon is Wadi Shani (almost always dry). But, the first part of the traill 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 descenting down the canyon using ladders and bars that are stuck in the stone. The heights aren’t too high and it was very enjoyable. After another 20 minutes more or less, we got to the end of the narrow canyon. That was fast! There is another trail extending 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 from 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…” 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, that goes above, is really high and at some points narrow. At some points we were on the edge of the wall. 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.
If you’re a nature lover in Eilat, this beauty is highly recommended. And before I let you go back to your daily errands, here are a few technical points about the Red Canyon trail that you might want to know:
How far away from Eilat? About 20 kilometers.
How long is the trail? About 2 kilometers; about one-hour of a hike.
How challenging? Easy. Even family-friendly.
When to go? It’s never recommended to travel in the area during summer, because of the high tempartures and dry air. But, it’s great to travel here during October-May. The fact that half of the hike is in the canyon means half of the hike is in shade. The other half isn’t. In Winter, keep track of weather reports after raining.
About road number 12: the road is closed from around 7:00 PM every night. Don’t hike late, so you won’t get stuck, unless you’re planning on staying there for the night.
More trails around Eilat:
Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat
Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot
I wish you all happy hiking and Shabbat Shalom!
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