Eilat’s Red Canyon

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Distance: 2-5kmTime: 1-3 hoursDifficulty: Moderate - Strenuous
Ascent: 258mTrailhead and Markers Gallery

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Eilat.  Located on the southern tip of Israel, this city is known for drawing in tourists and vacationing locals.  This vacation destination means different things for different people.  For some, Eilat is a chance to shop tax free and enjoy beaches, swimming, and nightlife.  For others, a trip to Eilat means diving into a world of natural beauty that you can’t see anywhere else in Israel.

When we went on a trip down to Eilat a few weeks ago, we had one goal in mind: get in as many amazing outdoor experiences as possible. For this reason, we found ourselves hiking the Red Canyon just after dawn on the second day of our trip.

The Red Canyon is a popular trail, and with good reason.  Complete with climbing ladders and swirling technicolor rocks, this canyon trail is an instant hit with almost any hiker.  Not only that, but the shorter version of the trail is really quite short – only 2 kilometers – making the red canyon a great choice for families.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Who loves to climb?

We’ve hiked the Red Canyon many times before (once with a baby in backpack – scary!).  But this time, we chose to hike the 5 kilometer loop trail, a slightly longer version of the circular trek that is still quite manageable for more adventurous families.

Our early morning hike in the Red Canyon was jaw-droppingly beautiful – despite the fact that we’d seen all of this scenery before.  We had a wonderful time.

Here’s how we hiked it:

Into the Canyon

We pulled into the parking lot in the early morning light, ready to tackle the Red Canyon.  Since this was our first hike of the day, we were eager to get our bodies moving, climbing, and warmed up for a full day of fun.

And when I say warmed up, I mean quite literally.  In late November, it was quite chilly in the desert mountains near Eilat at 6:00 AM.  We zipped up our light jackets and set out on the trail.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Early morning walk towards the canyon.

Before we got to do any climbing, we would have to make our way into the canyon.  We followed the green trail past desert brush and low hills of red stone, in search of steep descents and climbing rungs that the Red Canyon is famous for.

After a short walk, we found ourselves inside ripples of red rock.  A few moments later, we had reached our first climbing ladder.

Love to Climb

There are few things that add more fun to a hike than climbing ladders.  We dove into the process, using all of our limbs to move down the rungs, descending further and further into the depths of the canyon.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Swirly rock layers.

It was beautiful in there.  The Red Canyon is known for its swirly layers of pink and red rock, shaped by the elements into smooth waves.  The scenery here is quite similar to what can be found in famous canyons of Nevada, where tourists flock to photograph multihued waves of rock inside slot canyons.

We lost ourselves in the process of climbing, stopping every so often to gape at the magical beauty that was in the geological formations all around us.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Nature’s own playground.

Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Since the Red Canyon can be executed as a simple, 2 kilometer loop trail, it didn’t take long for our climbing ladders to run out.  After a little while, we had exited the tightest part of the canyon.  Now, we were in a wider valley, surrounded by even more beautiful hills of rock.

 The colors.  They were spectacular.  Orange, yellow, red, pink, tan, bronze, and gold rock was scattered about the canyon.  The bright blue sky was filled with wisps of white clouds.  We could barely contain our feelings of joy at seeing this spectacular scene unfold all around us.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Magical colors.

Soon, we had reached the turnaround point for the short trail.  This is where we had turned around when we were hiking with a baby on our back.  But this time, we continued on through the canyon, to complete the full Red Canyon loop.

And Onwards!

We continued hiking, through the wider part of the canyon, surrounded by so much natural beauty.  Every moment, the scene changed just a little bit. Desert birds flew in and perched on low brush growing in the canyon.  The sky brightened up with the rising sun, casting a sharper glow on the colorful rocks below.

Eventually, we reached the turnaround point for the long hike. From here, we climbed up a hill of rock on the black trail, ascending out of the canyon we had been climbing through for the past hour.  We reached more hand hold rungs, welcome again as they had been before.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Climb back out of the canyon.

Now, we would complete the circle above the Red Canyon, taking in the incredible desert views from up above.

Birds Eye View

It had seemed before that nothing could be more striking than the colorful rock scenery from up close.  But we were wrong.  The panoramic views from above the canyon were even more jaw-droppingly beautiful than what we had seen down below.

From above, hills of rolling rock swept this way and that, their colors making a world of stone come alive.  The sky was gorgeous that morning – blue and cloud studded in a way that highlighted the landscape down below.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Just gorgeous.

We followed the trail along the edge of the canyon, enjoying this awesome view from up above.  In the early morning silence, we felt very lucky to have a chance to hike this trail, the quiet of nature our only companion.

A few kilometers later, we had reached the end of the canyon.  From there, we crossed smooth desert terrain to return to the parking lot where we had started our day.  A short while later, our journey was at its end.

It had been an amazing morning – the perfect start to an incredible day of nature near Eilat.  The Red Canyon is one of Eilat’s most well-known trails.  And with good reason – this easy trail just outside of the city gives hikers maximum exposure to the vast beauty of nature with a minimal amount of effort.

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Just wow.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike the Red Canyon trail in Eilat:

  • This is a circular trail, best suited to cooler days in fall, winter, and spring.
  • Not suitable for dogs.
  • As with any desert hike, make sure to check for flash flood warnings before you go.
  • The short trail is a great option for families with kids who can climb.
  • Wear good hiking shoes, and bring plenty of water and sun protection to hike this trail. There are no facilities at the site.
  • As with any desert hike, keep a close eye out for trail markers. Especially once you are out of the canyon, they can be difficult to follow. If you lose the trail, go back to the last trail marker you saw and search for the next.
  • To follow the short trail: Follow the green trail through the Red Canyon. When you reach the first black trail, follow it out of the canyon. From there, follow the green trail and the blue trail back to the parking lot.
  • To follow the long trail: Follow the green trail through the Red Canyon. Skip the first black trail turnoff. At the second black trail turnoff, follow the black trail all the way back until you reach the red trail. Follow the red trail back to your car.

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 the Red Canyon near Eilat? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Red Canyon hike Eilat
Above the Red Canyon.

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.

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