Ramon Crater, officially known as Makhtesh Ramon, is one of Israel’s top natural wonders. It looks like a huge crater created by a meteor, but it’s actually the world’s largest erosion cirque. It was formed by natural erosion that went on for millions of years. But let’s not get too into the geological explanations. In this post, I want to tell you about a beautiful hike I did with two friends. We took the car, parked at Selina Ramon, and took the circular trail to Shen Ramon and back.
Shen Ramon is one of the highest points in Ramon Crater, rising to 698 meters. It is made of magmatic rock and stands along the southern “wall” of the crater. The climb up is steep, but the view from up there is very rewarding. The whole circular trail is about 13.5 km and there are many climbs and descends along the way. So, I would rate this trail as a challenging one. Don’t be deceived by the easy beginning.
Here’s a summary of the hike.
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Important to note
- The hike is under your full responsibility, so please be careful while hiking.
- Make sure to bring comfortable shoes, at least 3 liters of water, and a hat. If there’s a lot of sun, put on some sunscreen, too, because there’s no shade on the trail.
- Check the sunset hours and make sure to start the hike as early as possible, at least 8 hours before sunset. This is NOT a good trail to do in the dark!
- Water can be filled at Selina Ramon, at the beginning of the trail.
- Check the weather forecast before coming. If it’s too hot, don’t come. If it’s rainy, check if there are flash flood hazards.
- Some parts of the trail don’t have a network connection. In case you need it, try climbing up to a high point.
- Some parts of the trail include steep climbing or descending. Walk carefully. If you’re afraid of heights, it might be frightening.
How to get to the head of the trail?
It seems like those in charge of Ramon Crater Nature Reserve want to keep away as many people as possible. Maybe that’s why there are no bus stations inside the crater. So, the best way to get to the head of the trail is by car. Initially, we thought of taking a taxi into the crater, but we checked the prices, and it was too much for us.
Another option is to hike from Mitzpe Ramon into the crater. But then the trail will be completely different, and you will probably need to do it as a one-way trail, back and forth.
Anyway, we took the car and parked it next to Selina Ramon, not far from road number 40. Then, we walked a few steps to the green-marked trail, which is the head of the trail. There’s a signpost there, with a green sign pointing to the trail and saying “Geves Pinimi” Campground.
The hike in Ramon Crater
Length: 13.4-km, circular trail.
Duration: About 6 hours, depending on your pace.
View the trail on Israel Hiking Map: Click here for the trail map.
We started the hike from Selina Ramon (1), a new glamping place in the Ramon Crater. There are toilets over there, and it’s also where you can fill water. The tents looked super nice and cozy, but we had already ordered another place and glamping was over our budget.
From Selina Ramon, we walked a bit eastward until we reached the head of the trail (2). There’s a signpost there, with a green-marked sign pointing to the trail.
We started walking on the green-marked trail, which was very flat and easy. It was 8 AM and freezing cold. After about 550 meters, we reached a junction with a blue-marked trail (3). Here, there was also a big sign talking about Har Hanegev Nature Reserve – Makhtesh Ramon. And there was a sign pointing towards Geves Pinimi Campground, a free campground with no facilities. I think it could be a good campground when the temperature is friendlier.
We continued on the green-marked trail. It was almost completely flat, except a few places where there was a small ascent. In the distance, we could see all kinds of hills in the crater. In some places, it reminded me of Mars, as if I’ve been there. We walked and walked, and everything looked quite the same. There was even a point where we accidently went off the trail. We got back on track using AmudAnan.
After about 3.7 km, we reached left turn to Shen Ramon and changed to a red-marked trail (4). This is also where the trail overlaps the Israel National Trail, that crosses through Ramon Crater.
Climbing Shen Ramon
We started making our way to Shen Ramon, one of the highest points in Ramon Crater, rising to 698 meters. In Hebrew, “Shen” means “tooth.” We tried to think why it was called that way. At first glance, all the hills we saw till then looked like a tooth. Only when we climbed down Shen Ramon and looked at it again, we thought we could recognize some pointy teeth shapes on its upper edge.
But back to the climb up. The climb is quite challenging, especially if you haven’t hiked for a while. Near the end of the climb, it becomes very steep, and the small rocks are super slippery.
Eventually, after about 1.4 km, we made it to the top (5). The view from up there is amazing! You feel like you are on the top of the world. Far in the distance, to the north-west, we could see the town of Mitzpe Ramon. Far in the distance, to the north-east, we could see the white Mount Ardon, one of the highest and most impressive mountains in Ramon Crater. But everything we saw from up there was a magical mix of colors and formations.
It was the perfect spot for breakfast, so we took a breakfast break, and then continued down the mountain.
To the Ammonites Wall
Like the climb up, the climb down Shen Ramon was also very steep. We were actually climbing over the edge of the crater and going to its outer side. There weren’t small and slippery rocks here, but rather large, smooth and slanty rocks. So, we had to stay low and close to the rocks to not stumble down. Not recommended for people who are afraid of heights!
After about 830 meters, we reached the bottom of the descend (6). Then, the hike continued on a very easy trail, that overlaps the Round Ramon Trail. If you’ll see a purple dot on the rocks along the way – know that it’s the Round Ramon Trail. After about 2.4 km, we reached the Ammonites Wall (7).
The Ammonites Wall is one of the highlights of Ramon Crater. Personally, I’m not too excited about it, but many people come to see it. It’s a wall full of ammonite fossils. The ammonites are extinct marine animals, and that’s why it’s so amazing to see them here. It means that once upon a time, this place was covered water. There’s a signpost pointing to the wall, so you won’t miss it. The spiral shapes on the wall are the ammonite fossils.
Climbing back into the crater
A short while after the Ammonites Wall, we turned left onto a green-marked trail (8). Now, we were returning into the crater, so we had to climb one of the crater’s steep walls again. I’ve read somewhere that it’s called the Ammonites Ascent. After about 380 meters of a steep and challenging climb, we reached the top of the wall (9). Again, we could see the beautiful view of the crater.
Then, we turned right and continued on the green-marked trail, along the edge of the crater. After about 400 meters, we spotted an “invisible” trail that turns to the left. I call it “invisible”, because it has no color and just looks like an empty space on the trail mark. We took this trail, and it led us down to a bunch of red signs. The big red sign said: “Type section through rocks of the Triassic Period” and then said that this section was for researchers only. So, yeah, don’t go over here. Instead, continue on the green trail a bit further and then turn left to the red-marked trail (10).
Reptile Ravine and the toxic rocks
The red-marked trail passes through an area called Reptile Ravine. After about 440 meters, we reached a place with a white frame on one of the rocks (11). There was a sign next to it. But I guess whoever wrote the sign didn’t think English-speakers would come here, or maybe the terms are so difficult to translate, that they decided to only write in Hebrew. Anyway, here is my free-style translation of the sign from Hebrew to English:
“Magmatic intrusion and metallic veins: Between the sedimentary rocks, you can see here some ‘humps’ made from magmatic intrusion that cooled down while penetrating the sedimentary rocks. Here you can see the eastern hump.
A series of vertical cracks, colored black, brown and yellow, run through this hump. Minerals of hot solutions have sunk inside those cracks. That is how the veins of manganese and iron were created here. There is also some zinc and lead in the veins.”
There is also a sign in both Hebrew and English, saying that the rocks here contain toxic substances. So, do not touch them! Also, it’s recommended to wash your hands after the hike.
Back to the car:
We left the toxic rocks and continued through the Reptile Ravine. A short while later, we got connected to the blue-marked trail. We took a short detour to the right to see the Brick-Red Silt (12). It’s very visible – an area where the ground is reddish. According to AmudAnan, this is the most ancient rock in the crater, dating from around 250 million years ago.
After looking at the Silt, we retraced our steps and walked on a red-blue trail. After a while, we turned right onto the red-marked trail (13) and started climbing up Mount Gvanim. In Hebrew, “Gvanim” means “Mount of Colors.” It was a steep climb, but only 320 meters. Then, we turned left onto the black-marked trail (14), climbed a bit more, and reached the Mount Gvanim Lookout Point (15).
Here, there are several signs, that say what you can see in the landscape. It’s a good place to finish the hike, because you can do an overview of what you’ve seen along the way and what you want to see in the future.
From there, we made our way down on the Electricity Route, on a blue-marked trail. After about 1.4 km, we reached the junction with the green-marked trail (16). It’s the same green-marked trail that we began with. So, all that was left was to turn right and retrace our way back to the parking lot.
Ramon Crater is filled with amazing geological shapes and colors. This trail, that goes through Shen Ramon, the Ammonites Wall, and the Reptile Ravine, is a perfect trail for anyone who wants to get a taste of the crater. Though, consider that it’s a challenging trail with lots of steep ascents and descends. If you’re afraid of heights, I’m not sure it’s for you. If you’re ok with heights, you’ll enjoy a lot of beautiful viewpoints along the way!
More trails in the Negev
Hiked this trail in January 2022.
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