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|Time: 2-3 hours
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At the southern tip of Israel, a world of desert beauty awaits in the Eilat mountains. The Eilat Mountains National Park is one of the most beautiful places to hike in the country.
Epic trails abound in this quiet, untouched region of Israel. There are no-frills campsites conveniently located next to lengthy trails, beckoning serious adventurers to stop and stay a while. But thanks to the fact that there are many, many trails which weave their way through these mountains, there are plenty of hikes for little legs too.
Most families who seek out hiking trails near Eilat will discover the Red Canyon, or perhaps beautiful Timna park. But there are other, lesser-known paths equally suitable to families with children.
This past week, our family went on a much-awaited getaway with our soldier son to Eilat. Since he was out of the army with a small injury, we decided to put our responsibilities on hold for a few days. We seized the opportunity for some family hiking time. Since we had already been to the Red Canyon and Timna Park, we were looking for some new, short trails, 5 kilometers or less. Shehoret Canyon, or Black Canyon in English, fit the bill perfectly.
I had already hiked a long trail in Shehoret, a few years back. So, I knew what to expect: beautiful scenery, black rock, and gorgeous mountain views. I was eager to experience this shorter version of the trail with the kids – I knew they would love it.
We set out late on that January morning and walked at an easy pace through the Black Canyon, finishing up with plenty of time before sunset. Here’s how we hiked this awesome, family-friendly trail at the Black Canyon in Eilat:
Say Hello to the Ibex!
We drove down a long dirt path deep into the mountains, all alone except for a pack of cute ibex. They were climbing into the acacia trees in search of their midday meal, munching on the salty leaves. We continued driving past, and eventually parked our car at the Shehoret Campground. After getting ourselves situated, we followed the trail into the mountains, passing a (for some reason captivating to the kids) water point along the way.
Almost immediately, we were awestruck by the impressive rock formations that towered over us. Nahal Shehoret (Black Canyon) takes its name from the black rock mountains above the valley.
We continued along, following the marked trail through impressive desert scenery. A narrow streambed snaked through stark rock cliffs. It was beautiful, and also, supremely silent, a welcome escape from the constant noise that seems to permeate our lives these days. We came across low acacia trees, pretty rocks, and black and white desert birds that chirped their way through the canyon.
The kids enjoyed this part of the hike, but they were extra happy when we reached our first (easy) set of climbing rungs. We ascended through the canyon to the next level up. enjoying the familiar challenge of rock climbing.
Every so often, we stopped for a little break – it was clear from the get-go that this was going to be a slow-paced hike. Which was fine with me – we were on vacation, after all! And I was so thrilled to be out in the desert, just enjoying the bright blue sky, wispy white clouds, and perfect weather.
Have Guitar, Will Travel
Of course, our slow pace meant that before we had completed even half of the hike, the kids were ready to stop for a lunch break. We plopped ourselves down on a flat rock and my son started playing the guitar, a welcome musical addition to the magnificent scenery. Before long, a group of teenage boys came around the bend. And their guides struck up a conversation.
Turns out that the group was from Sderot – they had been evacuated after October 7th and were now living and learning in Eilat. They were getting tired of living in small hotel rooms, a novelty that had been a bit fun at first. And, of course, they were desperate to return home to regular life, despite the fears they were experiencing about going back to the Gaza border. One small benefit of this difficult time was that on school trips, they got to explore stunning trails in the Eilat mountains.
When they heard that my son was a soldier who fought in Gaza, they treated him like a celebrity. They asked him to play a song on his guitar and sang along while he strummed. Then, they took selfies with him and gathered around for a group photo. It was heartwarming and adorable.
After they left, we stayed in that same spot for quite a while. The kids climbed the rocks while I took over on the guitar. And eventually, after a long break, we decided that it was time to move on.
This trail at the Black Canyon was one of those examples of a hike that just doesn’t stop being incredible. It seemed that at every turn, at every bend, a new, more impressive view awaited.
We hiked up and downhill, perching ourselves on randomly strewn boulders every so often. The mountains dazzled us in shades of red, pink, and black. According to the experts, the black rock is what is left of hardening magma from volcanic explosions millions of years ago.
I’m no geologist, but I did enjoy pointing out the variety of colors to the kids, and imagining together what might have caused these different shades. We passed by red cliffs, piles of jagged rock, and eventually, emerged from the canyon into more open terrain.
All in a Day’s Fun
As we finished up the loop trail, we all agreed that the day’s hike had been just perfect – spectacularly beautiful, not too difficult, but lengthy and varied enough to give us a few hours of immersion in nature. This trail at the Black Canyon in the Eilat Mountains is a perfect wintertime trail for families vacationing in southern Israel.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail at the Black Canyon:
- This hike is best for cooler days in fall, winter, and spring - especially winter!
- This is a circular trail.
- As with any desert hike, please check for flash flood warnings before you hit the trail.
- There is a water point and a no-frills campground at 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 the Black Canyon? Let’s hear about it in the comments!