If you’ve researched hiking trails near the Dead Sea, you probably heard of Ein Gedi. But few people know that within the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, there’s a magical place called Nahal Arugot. I think it is even more beautiful than the more popular area of Ein Gedi, Wadi David. I’ve lived almost my entire life in Israel and haven’t been there. Or at least, I don’t remember. About two months ago, I was there for the very first time. Here’s an overview of this beautiful trail.
Nahal Arugot is full of flowing water, so make sure to bring comfortable water shoes! You can go on the dry trail the entire way, but then you’ll miss all the fun. So, do try to go in the water when possible.
The trail from the entrance to the Upper Pools is about 3.3-km long. It takes about 2 hours to reach the Upper Pools, and then you need to go back to the entrance. So, overall, it’s about 6.6-km. The walk is moderate level, with some challenging points here and there. Save about 4 hours for the trip and enjoy your time! If you’re staying in Jerusalem, it’s a great day trip, about 1.5 hours by car!
Table of contents:
Important to note:
- The hike is under your full responsibility, so please be careful while hiking.
- Make sure to bring shoes comfortable for walking in water, at least 2 liters of water, and a hat. If there’s a lot of sun, put on some sunscreen, too.
- There’s drinking water at the entrance, so you can fill your bottle before and after the trip.
- Eating is only allowed in certain places in the reserve, like the Upper Pools.
- The trail is part of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, so check their website for opening hours and prices.
- While the reserve will likely be closed in severe weather, it is important to check the weather forecast before coming. Because this is a water trail, it’s a good idea to come when it’s a bit hot, but not too much.
How to get to the head of the trail?
The starting point of the Nahal Arugot trail isn’t at the popular entrance to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. The easiest way to get to the Nahal Arugot entrance is by car. Put ” שמורת טבע נחל ערוגות – כניסה, Ein Gedi” in Google Maps and navigate.
If you’re coming by bus, you can take bus 486 from Jerusalem Central Station and get off at “Nahal David Field School”. From there, you will need to walk about 2 km to the entrance of Nahal Arugot.
The hike in Nahal Arugot:
I came to Nahal Arugot with a friend of mine, who was getting ready for a tour. We came when the site just opened. At the entrance (1), there are all kinds of desert plants with explanation signs next to them. My friend got really excited about the plants, but she loves plants, but I was less interested.
Starting the trail of Nahal Arugot:
After talking to the ranger at the entrance and getting a map of the trail, we started our way. In the beginning, we walked above the dry wadi, which was beautiful. I love seeing the different shapes and curves along the sides of a desert wadi. There was also quite a lot of green in the area, which made it clear that we were near a water source.
Within a short while, we were already above the flowing stream of Nahal Arugot. About 620 meters from the entrance, we arrived at our first trail-fork (2). The red-marked trail continued straight on the dry way, and the blue-marked trail went left to the water. “We’ll save the water for the way back,” we decided and continued on the red-marked trail.
The dry trail started climbing upwards on a series of stairs. To the left, we could still see the beautiful water of Nahal Arugot. After about 150 meters, we reached the “End of the Lower Pools Trail,” (3) where the trail connected again with the blue-marked trail. We peeked downwards and could see the charming Lower Pools. But we were headed to the upper ones.
The trail continued upwards on the red-marked trail. The climb could be tough if you aren’t fit. Otherwise, it’s not too bad. Then, after about 700 meters, we arrived at another intersection with the blue-marked trail, which went left to the water (4). We continued straight on the red-marked trail.
Straight on the red-marked trail:
About 330 meters later, we reached a signpost pointing right to a black-marked trail (5). This black-marked trail is called “The Ascent of the Moshavim Members” or in Hebrew, “Mahale Bnei Hamoshavim.” It was the first marked trail established in the Judean Desert. It was named after the brigade that created the trail. We didn’t try it, because it was going even further up and seemed like a tough climb.
From there, we continued another 240 meters and reached an intersection with the blue-marked trail again (6). This time, there was no visible water. The blue trail led downwards, to the Hidden Waterfall, which was really hidden. We didn’t take it because we were saving it for later.
Right next to the blue-marked trail, there’s a sign saying that you cannot pass this point from 1 PM. Luckily, it was very early in the morning. We continued on the red trail for about 680 meters and then reached another trail junction (7). This time, we left the red-marked trail and continued on the blue-marked trail. The red-marked trail continued to the Essenes Ascent, an ancient path that is VERY steep.
To the Upper Pools in Nahal Arugot:
From this point on, the trail became a bit more fun. We started passing through foliage and crossing the stream from one bank to the other. Don’t worry, the two banks are very close to each other, so if you have waterproof shoes it’s fun and easy. There are also some places where you have to walk in the water.
After about 1.2 km, we reached the first pool (8). It was so magical, surrounded by the yellowish landscape of the desert and fed by a charming waterfall! We spent a while there but then didn’t understand where we need to go. We saw a blue trail mark up above the waterfall. So, my friend thought we need to go up the waterfall. It didn’t make sense to me, as the waterfall looked very slippery. “I think that’s too dangerous,” I told her and looked around. Then, I spotted an opening in the foliage to the right of the pool, which seemed like the way to go.
We passed through the foliage and turned left. I bumped my head in the process, but we made it to the top of the pool without slipping off a waterfall.
Then, we made out way along the stream until we got to another beautiful pool. I guess that was the Upper Pool (9). But there were more trail marks, leading to a higher level, so we followed them. It was a bit scary because we had to climb above the pool and there wasn’t a lot of space to put our feet, but we made it. Then, we walked a little bit more and reached a dead end. Disappointing! We were sure that there are more pools ahead.
Finding the Hidden Waterfall in Nahal Arugot:
Because we reached a dead end, we turned around and started making our way back to the park’s entrance. Now we planned to try out all the blue-marked trails that we missed along the way.
We retraced our tracks for about 1.3 km and then reached the right turn to the Hidden Waterfall. In the opposite direction, it’s a left turn, remember?
Now, we started climbing down to the Hidden Waterfall. The descend is quite steep, but there are steps in the slope, so it’s not difficult. At the end of the descend, we turned right and after a short while reached the Hidden Waterfall. It really is hidden, and it’s definitely worth the climb down! There’s a charming pool that forms beneath it and you can go all the way to the waterfall if you want to cool down.
Walking in the water to the entrance:
From there, we retraced our steps and started walking eastward. Instead of climbing back up to the trail junction, we continued on the blue-marked trail through the stream’s channel. The water was so refreshing, and there were also some small and pretty waterfalls along the way.
About 720 meters from the Hidden Waterfall, we reached the red-marked trail and continued on it for a while. As you remember, there’s no water on the red-marked trail. We continued for about 710 meters and only then got back on the blue-marked trail, which went right towards the water. Here, we had to climb down using some hand and leg bars, but it wasn’t too difficult.
This part of the blue-marked trail is shorter than the other one, but it’s still fun and beautiful. And there are some small and charming waterfalls!
Nahal Arugot is the lesser-known part of Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, If you’re looking for a beautiful water trail near the Dead Sea, this is it. Just try to come as early as possible so you won’t get stuck behind a bunch of school kids.
Hope you’ll enjoy your trip to Nahal Arugot no matter if you walk in the water or not!
More day trips from Jerusalem:
Looking for more day trips from Jerusalem? Here are some of my favorites:
Visited the reserve in October 2021.
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