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|Trailhead and Markers Gallery
|Time: 5 hours
The desert: I’ve missed it all summer long. It’s one of my favorite places to hike in Israel.
There’s just something about the desert of Southern Israel that draws me back again and again. Maybe it’s the stark beauty, the animal life, or the inevitable sense of adventure I always feel on the trail. Or maybe it’s the solitude, the fact that you can walk along a desert trail without meeting anyone at all.
Whatever the reason, as soon as it starts to cool down in the fall, my thoughts turn to desert hiking. So, when I checked the weather last week and saw a few cooler days in the forecast, we made plans to tackle a new desert hike: Nahal Rom.
Nahal Rom is one of the many dry streambeds that lead to the Dead Sea. This particular trail was going to take us through a narrow canyon, towards Mount Yizrach. From there, we would climb back down through a different desert canyon (Nahal Zohar), and then end the hike at the Dead Sea.
To fine tune this walk in the desert, we did two things differently. First, we decided to start our trail at sunrise. It may be autumn, but it’s got to be a cold day in the wintertime before the Dead Sea is really cool enough for midday hiking.
Also, this trail was one way. We considered taking a taxi to get from the end point back to the trailhead. Then, we remembered that we love to walk! So, we decided to walk it instead. Rather than tackling those four kilometers along the Dead Sea promenade after our hike, we decided to walk them first thing in the morning, leaving our car at the end of the trail.
All in all, Nahal Rom was an amazing trail. Here’s how we hiked this 10 kilometer route at Nahal Rom near the Dead Sea:
Sunrise at the Sea
We parked our car in Neve Zohar and climbed through the gate to reach the end of the trail. From there, we were going to have to follow a dust path to get to the Dead Sea Promenade.
It wasn’t immediately obvious which way to go. But we followed the jeep tire tracks, and eventually we were making steady progress towards the strip of hotels in the distance. After a short walk along a quiet road, we found ourselves immersed in a mini vacation world by the beach.
As the sun rose in the distance, bathers milled about in the water and on the sand. On older woman walked by in her bathrobe. The smell of sunscreen and salt filled the air. Moving at a fast pace with our backpacks and hiking boots, we took in the quiet, relaxed pace of this sunrise vacation scene.
After a long walk along the promenade, we reached some road construction and the turnoff to Nahal Rom on the Israel Trail.
Within a few minutes of walking, we felt like we were in a different world. The boulders and canyon walls of Nahal Rom took us in. Even though we were only minutes from a construction site and a strip of hotels, I felt completely immersed in nature.
We climbed over large rocks, past splashes of greenery that always grow in the comparatively water-rich world of desert valleys. Every so often we would come across another wide acacia tree, the tips of its branches budding with greenery.
It felt good to be back out there, using our limbs to climb up over big boulders towards the top of the canyon.
At the Top?
Soon, we emerged from the shadows and into the sunshine. We were now on a much flatter part of the trail: no rocks and boulders to climb over here. To our left, our view of the Dead Sea was blocked by a series of desert peaks.
We thought that perhaps we were at the top of the trail, but we continued to ascend. Along the path, fall squill flowers popped up from the rocks, their white petals reaching into the bright blue sky. We stopped to take some pictures, then continued up along the trail, searching for the highest place to stop and take in the views.
And then suddenly, we knew we were at the very top. Right before us, the trail dropped down over a cliff and into a steep descent. To our left, a narrow, unmarked path led to Mount Yizrach. We followed the path, then scrambled up the rocks to get to the summit.
Top of the World
It was gorgeous up there. From our spot, we could see sweeping views to the Dead Sea on one side and rolling desert hills on the other. It was also blessedly breezy and cool, a welcome change after our sweaty walk up through Nahal Rom.
We threw down our bags and pulled out our thermos of iced coffee. Then, we proceeded to enjoy a quiet breakfast with the most incredible views.
After a long meditation on nature, we climbed back down the mountain and returned to the trail. From here, we would be heading down through Nahal Zohar towards the Dead Sea.
Elephant Legs and Waterfalls
This part of the trail was much more open than Nahal Rom. The rock formations were incredible: tall pillars towered into the sky, next to rippled stone and dry waterfalls. Along the path, acacia trees appeared at regular intervals.
Soon, we heard the music of chirping birds. Inside the trees, we spotted a pair of green birds with orange wings. As we approached, they swooped along towards the next acacia tree. And in this way, they escorted us through the entire canyon.
There was so much to see on this trail. So, despite the heat and the lack of shade, we took it slow, stopping to climb fun pillars and explore unusual caves. Eventually, we reached a narrower part of the canyon. We began to climb down more steeply over giant rocks and boulders, using metal hand holds for support every so often.
Once we emerged from the rocky pathway, we continued to follow the Israel Trail over desert hills in the sunlight. We crossed under a highway bridge, and then there we were, back at Dead Sea. Just through the gate, our now dusty car was waiting for us.
It had been a fantastic morning. Between sunrise over the sea, an incredible canyon, a solitary mountain, and little bird escorts, this hike had everything I could have possibly wanted. Our journey through Nahal Rom near the Dead Sea was a perfect way to kick off a long and adventurous desert season.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail through Nahal Rom:
- This trail is good for cooler days in fall, winter, and spring.
- Not suitable for dogs.
- We included a stretch of the Dead Sea Promenade to make this a circular trail.
- You can hike this as a one way trail. Begin at Point B (Trail head parking), and hike the same trail, ending at Neve Zohar.
- Make sure to wear a hat, sunscreen, and good hiking shoes to hike this trail. Bring along plenty of water. It gets very hot in this part of the country.
- There is some shade inside of the canyons, but much of this hike is in the sun. For this reason, we began the trail early in the day.
- Note: When we hiked this trail there was construction at the trailhead. At some point, there should be a road with a clearly marked turnoff to the Israel Trail (leading under the bridge). As of this writing, you need to follow the dust road through the construction site, then follow the path left towards the bridge. If you keep walking under the bridge, you will eventually find the Israel Trail markers. Use the Google Earth file to help you find your way.
- Also please note: If you park at the end of the trail like we did, you will need to make your way towards the Dead Sea Promenade from Neve Zohar. We walked through the green gate, then followed the dust road to the left towards the Dead Sea. If you follow the tire tracks, you will begin to turn slightly left with the road, passing by an old building, and eventually reaching an asphalt road. Follow this road to reach the Dead Sea Promenade. At the end of the Promenade, the walkway turns to the left back towards the road. Follow it, then make a right and follow the instructions above to reach the trailhead.
- Use the trail marker gallery, trail map, and Google Earth file to help you find your way.
- This trail is marked as the Israel Trail (Blue, Orange, and White) the whole way. It is also marked with black trail markers. Follow these trail markers until you reach the top of the ascent and Mount Yizrach. Then, you can take the unmarked path to the top of the mountain for a gorgeous view. After continuing to follow the Israel trail through Nahal Zohar, you will reach more shady spots to stop (inside caves and in the shade of the canyon). When you reach the end of the crossroads, continue to follow the green trail (Israel Trail too) all the way to the end of the hike.
- There are two parking points listed. The first is where we parked (at the end of the trail). The second is for a parking lot right by the trailhead (leaving out the part on the Dead Sea Promenade).
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Trail map from Amud Anan.
Questions? Have you hiked this trail through Nahal Rom? Let’s hear about it in the comments!