Nahal Salvadora – Desert Adventure for Everyone

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Distance: 2-3kmTime: 2-3 hoursDifficulty: Moderate
Ascent: 100m

Driving down the highway next to the Dead Sea, there are countless turnoffs to obscure pathways and points of interest.  Last week, we tried one of them – a short hike through a desert riverbed called Nahal Salvadora.

We were looking for a hike that was easy enough for a ten year old, (my daughter came along with us for the day) but challenging enough to feel like an adventure.  We also didn’t have an entire day to hike, so we wanted something nearby (Nahal Salvadora was only an hour and twenty minutes away from home).

Since it’s the summertime, we made sure to get up bright and early to reach the trailhead at 8:00 AM, before the desert sun and heat were too intense.  There weren’t going to be any pools of water in Nahal Salvadora, but we knew there were patches of shade under rocky crags where we would be able to stop for a break.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
In the shade of the Nahal.

So what was the verdict on Nahal Salvadora? 

It was beautiful, full of cool animals, and major hit. 

The climbing through the canyon was exciting enough to challenge my ten-year old, but not so hard that she couldn’t make it through.  And at two kilometers, the trail was perfect for anyone looking for an easy and adventurous outing. 

Here’s how we hiked this amazing trail by the Dead Sea:

Desert by the Sea

The Nahal Salvadora trailhead was barely visible from the road. There was just a little sign on a quick turnoff from the main highway.

We parked our car and began the ascent on the blue trail.  Once we had climbed a bit through the desert scenery, we turned around to see the scene that lay behind us.

Nahal Salvadora hike.

The Dead Sea, always so blue and quiet, sparkled in the early morning sun.  Rocky, sand colored mountains stretched out for miles all around.  The only contrasting color was the black and white road between the desert and the sea.

We continued up the trail climbing slowly through the desert.  It was pretty hot out, even at 8 AM.  My daughter stopped several times along the way to slog down ice cold water.

Take the Road Less Traveled

After almost a kilometer walk through the desert, we came to a split in the trail.  We could turn right there onto the green trail, and begin our descent into Nahal Salvadora, to complete the circular hike. 

But we didn’t drive all this way to finish up so fast! Instead, we made a left to follow the other part of the green trail towards the Salvadora tree that gave the area its name.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Hot and cold.

This part of the hike was slightly more challenging than the first.  We had to climb up over some boulders and along the side of desert hills.  But nothing was so precarious that a ten-year old couldn’t make it through.  Together, the three of us climbed along the green trail towards the shade of a mini desert oasis that waited at the end.

Water and Life

And before we knew it, we were there.

The area was much greener than the rest of the trail.  Scattered desert plants grew up from the rocks around.  And one tall and overarching tree spread out all around.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Where life gathers.

We could hear and see lots of movement coming from the depths of the tree.  As we approached, we heard the noise of a hundred birds. 

And the cool rushing sound of flowing water.

Where there’s water there’s life – especially in the desert.  As we climbed in closer to investigate, we saw a gently flowing spring, a trickle from the rock.  It was like a backyard bird feeder.  All the area’s birds gathered in, taking turns at their watering hole.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Getting ready for the show.

The little shaded ledge above the tree seemed like a great place to stop for breakfast and cold iced coffee.  We climbed up and got ready to watch the show.

Fair Weather Feathered Friends

As we pulled out our muffins, birds gathered all around, coming much closer than I would have expected. 

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Hello, there.

They seemed to be fearless, or just very hungry – there was no evidence of recent hikers in the area, and those birds were really eager to eat our leftovers. We poured our freezing cold coffee and took our time relaxing in the shade. 

Birds flew in and out, some black, some sand colored.  They came in flocks and in pairs.  Some settled down right beside us.  And others made their way straight towards the trickle of water near the Salvadora tree.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Get in there.

When we finished eating and had gathered our energy again, we shook out all of our crumbs for the birds to finish.  After climbing down from our ledge, we continued along the green trail for just a few more minutes, reaching the edge of a towering cliff before turning back the way we came.

Through the Nahal

On our way to back to the crossroads, we began to see how alive the desert can really be.  We passed by some big boulders, with a cute sand colored rodent climbing on top.  And in the distance, we saw a lone ibex, which stopped to stare straight at us.

When we reached the turnoff to the Nahal, we began our descent into the canyon.  At first, it was a steady climb over large rocks. 

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Bouldering antics not required.

Even after all the ice water, my daughter was hot.  So, we were happy when we arrived at a covered archway, a perfect place to stop for another break in the shadows.

We gathered our energy as we watched a series of birds swoop through the shadows.  Then we picked ourselves up to finish the trail.

Chutes and Ladders

From here on in, the trail took us through several vertical descents, complete with handholds to climb down on.  We tackled each one slowly and carefully, moving closer and closer towards the still, blue Dead Sea in the distance.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Down the ladder.

We climbed the last ladder down to the lowest level of the path, then proceeded towards the end of the Nahal.

From here, there was a set of stairs to climb back to our car.  But instead, we followed the path through a man-made tunnel.  This tunnel allows water from flash floods to gush through unobscured, pouring out into the sea on the other side of the highway. 

Susannah Schild.
Going down.

After exploring the channel, we returned to the staircase and climbed back towards the trailhead.

So, was Nahal Salvadora everything we hoped it would be? 

We were looking for an easy and adventurous desert hike.  We got that, plus a surprise desert oasis, lots of amazing animal sightings, and beautiful Dead Sea views throughout. 

Nahal Salvadora was a perfect choice for a short hike in the desert with incredible scenery along the way.

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Cave girl.

Hikers’ Notes:

This hikes is a great choice for an easy desert hike. It’s slightly off the beaten path, so it’s unlikely that it will be crowded when you go. (We didn’t see anyone there at all.)

I am going to list this as Kids and Family but it’s not for little kids. My four year old definitely would not have enjoyed this hike. And my seven year old would probably have been fine on a cool winter day, but not on the hot day that we went. It’s great for bigger kids and teens though. It provides a taste of climbing adventure without being really hard.

If you do go in the summertime, go early in the morning or in the late afternoon. It is just too hot and exposed for the middle of the day. This hike is ideal for cooler times of year.

Make sure to bring plenty of water, a hat, and great walking shoes. There is some climbing involved, so this hike is only for people who are comfortable with that.

If you want to shorten the hike, turn right on the green trail at the crossroads rather than making a left first towards the Salvadora tree. You will miss an interesting part of the path, but you’ll still get all of the climbing fun in a shorter hike.

Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you go!

Trail map from Amud Anan.

Thanks to my friend Miriam who tipped me off to this hike!

Questions? Have you hiked this trail? Do you have any info to share with fellow hikers? Leave it in the comments below!

Nahal Salvadora hike.
Ready for an adventure?

Hiking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each hiker’s responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.

7 thoughts on “Nahal Salvadora – Desert Adventure for Everyone

  1. DO you think a 3 year old and 6 year old could handle this hike in the winter if i wear the 3 year old for the tricky parts? Looking for another hike besides nachal arugot and nachal david

    1. It depends on the kids, of course. But my feeling is that they should be fine (especially if you can wear the 3 year old for the tricky parts)!

  2. Such a great hike! A mix of climbing, rock scrambling and beautiful views as well as close up bird watching (No binoculars needed). Well marked. It took my husband and I 2.5 hours with a Mincha and lunch break). Would recommend. And only an hour drive from Jerusalem. Thanks for the info.

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