A true desert experience in Ein Avdat

The combination of the blazing sun, cool waterfall and stunning views makes for an incredible outing.

The narrow and tall canyon, coupled with numerous springs and waterfalls, makes this trek a favorite among hikers. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The narrow and tall canyon, coupled with numerous springs and waterfalls, makes this trek a favorite among hikers.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The combination of scorching desert and naturally flowing cool water would make most Israelis jump in their car and drive south to Ein Avdat National Park. There’s an impressive, steep canyon here and water from numerous springs flows into its large pools. Ein Avdat is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular sights in the entire Negev.
The canyon is narrow and tall, and because such large quantities of water flow through it, vegetation is extensive; countless ibex and eagles inhabit the area as a result.
In an effort to protect the animals that live in proximity to the water source, the hours people are allowed to walk through the national park are limited, and the trail is officially unidirectional. As you walk along it, you are exposed to a variety of interesting spots, so there is no need to deviate from the path or wander.
Because the path is meant to be unidirectional, it is preferable to arrive with two cars and leave one at the parking area at the top of the canyon near the monks’ cave. If you do come with one car, though, there are a number of options available. One is to hike to the Ein Ma’arif pools and the foot of the waterfall, then retrace your steps back the beginning of the trail. Another is to walk the length of the entire trail, then catch a ride with other hikers back to the first parking area.
I highly recommend walking the entire length of the trail, since the climb up the ladders towards the end is really exciting; just make sure you get started early enough in the day, and bring enough water.
To begin the hike, park your car at the lower parking area surrounded by Euphrates Poplar trees, which offer very nice shade. As you start walking, you might be lucky enough to see eagles gliding above or ibex peeking out from behind walls. The path leads to the waterfall and the pools filled with cool water.
The waterfall is 15 meters high and though it is forbidden to swim, the cool stones at the foot of the waterfall are a great place to rest, especially on hot days. But don’t worry – there are quite a few shady spots along the way, where you can get a break from the blazing sun and stop to rest.
After you’ve finished taking in the sights at the waterfall, it’s time to choose which direction to take. The first option (which I recommend) is to continue along the path until the very end. If you only have one car, you can go back to where you left it or continue along the path a bit further, towards the area with the poplar trees, then turn back towards the first parking lot.
If you’re planning on walking the entire trail, you will soon reach stones that were carved into the mountain. The stairs are well-maintained and not too steep, but are quite narrow. In the name of safety, even if there’s a bit of congestion on the steps, do not give in to the temptation to overtake slower hikers. The breathtaking view of the waterfall from up above will be your reward for showing patience.
When you’ve had a few minutes to enjoy the view, it’s time to continue along the trail until you’ve entered a beautiful forested area. Cross the canyon and then walk into the tree-covered area. This is another great place to stop for a rest or a light picnic, before climbing up the side of the canyon on the metal ladders.
As you walk through the forest, you’ll notice the numerous benches and cute little corners that are perfect for hanging out and enjoying the quiet. This is a great place for kids to play, and they will enjoy gallivanting around the stream that flows through the area and down towards the pools. Because we are right at the beginning of the hot season in Israel, it’s important to spend as much time as possible in the shade, and drink large quantities of water when out on hikes.
When you’re well-rested, go back to the trail and begin climbing up the ladders. Although the climb might look a bit intimidating, it is really very easy and straightforward. Again, watch your step and be patient if the person in front of you is climbing more slowly than you are.
Climbing up the ladders is definitely the highlight of the trail, and while you’re climbing you’ll be able to glimpse the many caves that were carved out of the side of the mountain in which Byzantine monks lived in seclusion.
The view from the top is absolutely stunning, and there is a charming balcony from which you can stand and enjoy the amazing view of the waterfall. When you reach the parking area where you’ve left the second car, you’ll be happy to see a kiosk where you can buy refreshing water or popsicles.
Ramat Hanegev.
Level of difficulty: Trail is easy-to-moderate, appropriate for the whole family. Entrance to the national park is free.
Length: Up to a full day. Path is unidirectional.
Season: Spring and summer, but not a good idea during a heatwave.
Directions: Take Road 40 towards Mitzpe Ramon. Park your car at the lower entrance to Ein Avdat, near Midreshet Sde Boker.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.