Havarei Masada: Simple and Beautiful

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Distance: 3kmTime: 1-2 hoursDifficulty: Easy-Moderate
Ascent: 14mEnd ParkingEnd Parking

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How many times have you been to Masada?

I’ve been there more than a handful of times; it’s one of the classics!  And every time we’re at the top of that mountain, I stare out into the distance at the little hills and valleys of the desert.  Each time, we promise ourselves that we’ll come back soon, to hike a short and easy trail through “Havarei Masada”, the miniature desert craters just at the foot of Masada National Park.

There’s just one problem.  Masada is more than an hour and a half drive from our home.  And it’s not easy to convince me to drive an hour and a half for a 1-2 hour hike.  So, Havarei Masada has remained on the to-do list, a cool hike that we want to do, but just can’t seem to get to.

Until a few weeks ago.

Havarei Masada hike
Finally made it here!

As fate would have it, we planned an epic day in the Masada/Ein Gedi/ Dead Sea area with my entire family the morning after my brother’s family landed in Israel.  As you can guess, they were just a bit jet lagged on the day after their first ever international flight as a family.  So, we got an extremely late start to our day.

We were so late, in fact, that we missed the last possible entry to Masada, at around 2:45 PM in the wintertime.  Thankfully, my brother-in-law came up with the inspired idea of hiking Havarei Masada instead – a short and easy trail, perfect for a cool family hike just before sunset.

It turned out to be just the right choice – I think it was my brother’s favorite activity of the whole trip.  We hiked through otherworldly scenery, reminiscent of a moonscape, finishing up just as the sky began to turn pink.  Despite our late start, it was a perfect afternoon.

Here’s how we hiked this 3 kilometer, one way trail at Havarei Masada:

The Beginning

While we were still immersed in the disappointment of missing our chance to visit Masada, my brother in law made a quick suggestion: let’s hike Havarei Masada instead! I was super happy for the diversion.  So, we put ourselves entirely in my brother-in-law’s hands.  He suggested that we hike the one-way version of the trail (it can also be hiked in a short circle), and he and my husband set off to park their cars at the other end, just a five minute drive away.

Havarei Masada hike
Cousin antics at the trailhead.

Then, all together, we set off along the black trail, down a hill of dust and refuse, towards Havarei Masada.

Having done no research on this hike, we didn’t really know what to expect. But we knew that with five of my kids, seven nieces and nephews, and one granddaughter, this was going to be a great adventure!

We followed the trail through the valley, eventually following it up a white hill.  It was an absolutely beautiful vantage point.  All around, we could see the white hills and valleys of Havarei Masada, under a deep blue sky.  We stopped for some epic family pictures before continuing on our journey.

Havarei Masada hike
Rare opportunity for a gorgeous family picture.

What Is Havarei Masada?

What does the term “Havar” mean when it comes to describing a rocky area?

Havar can be translated as “marl” in English. This lightweight rock soaks up water, and usually takes on a yellowish color. It also includes some amounts of clay and silt.

In Israel, this type of rock can be found in many places. Notable examples are Ein Yorkeam in the Negev and around various springs in the Jerusalem Mountains.

Havarei Masada hike
Desert stomping grounds.

Although this trail was dubbed “Havarei Masada”, it is not actually made of marl rock. Rather, the rocks here are part of the Dead Sea grouping of minerals called “Havarei HaLashon,” which are remnants of the great lake that once covered the entire Dead Sea area long ago.

Nowadays, all that remains of this great body of water are the Dead Sea and these special sedimentary rocks, which are not actually real marl rocks.

Losing Ourselves in the Desert

This was a trail that was easy to fall in love with.  Even on Hanukkah, it was relatively quiet – we only saw a few other families as we hiked.  This was quite different from our experience at Ein Gedi earlier in the day.

Havarei Masada hike
So much beauty on a short trail.

Since we were in a valley, surrounded by hills of rock, it felt like we were quite cut off from the world around us.  We felt immersed in the silence of the desert, even though the highway and Masada National Park were quite nearby.

Palaces of Rock

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves surrounded by tall palaces of white rock. Natural towers of alabaster colored stone lined the trail, their majestic beauty reminiscent of a Star Wars landscape.  In the distance, we saw one man seated atop one of the towers in a meditative pose.  If there was any nature trail that was good for introspection and silence, this was it.

We passed by the green and black crossroads, where we would have turned back if we had been completing the circular version of the hike, and on we traveled.

Havarei Masada hike
Perfect place for zen meditation.

A bit further along the trail, we bumped into a cute crowd of campers.  They had driven onto the trail with 4×4’s and set up camp for a night of quiet isolation in nature.  With their camping stoves and brightly colored tents, they made the stark, white rock feel almost homey.

A Beautiful Ending

The last stretch of the hike brought us out of the shelter of hills and into the open desert.  We could see the highway in the distance – even it looked beautiful under the pink sky dotted with carefree clouds.  This was the end of the line for us.  All the cousins stopped to take more pictures while some of the adults went back to get the cars parked at the trailhead.

It had been a wonderful hike, a perfect solution for a group stuck without a plan, at 3:00 PM, at Masada.  This easy, family friendly trail at Havarei Masada may be short, but it’s also incredibly sweet.

Havarei Masada hike

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail at Havarei Masada:

  • This trail is ideally suited to cooler days in the fall, winter, and spring. In the summertime, this can be an excellent full moon hike!
  • Great for kids.
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • This is a one way hike. It is quite simple to hike this trail in a circular fashion instead.
  • Wear good walking shoes and a hat to hike this trail. Bring along plenty of water.
  • There are no facilities at the trailhead, but you can find bathrooms, a store, and everything else you might need inside Masada National Park (entrance fees apply).
  • As with any desert trail, keep a close eye out for trail markers and check for flash flood warnings before you go.
  • To follow the one way trail - just follow black trail markers the whole way through.
  • To follow the circular trail instead - follow black trail markers until you reach the black/green crossroads. Then follow the green trail. When you get back to the black trail make a left to walk back towards the trailhead.

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 at Havarei Masada? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Havarei Masada hike
The man with the master plan.
Havarei Masada hike
Off duty for the afternoon.

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.

4 thoughts on “Havarei Masada: Simple and Beautiful

  1. Hii!! sounds so beautiful.
    Where does this starts exactly? I understand you can park in the masada national park parking and then walk towards where? is it close by the entrance to the snake trail?

    1. Use the links in the table at the top of this page to park your car, then use the Google Earth file and trail marker gallery to find the trail 🙂
      Good luck!

  2. Thanks for sharing Susannah!
    I so enjoy seeing the beautiful countryside while sitting on a couch in Ontario, Canada. 😊

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