Tsafit Trail and Dry Canyon

Note: The Tsafit trail and Dry Canyon hike in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is for experienced mountain hikers only who do not fear heights. The best time is winter time up to about April, as long as it’s dry and temperatures are low (in the 70F or low 20C). Good hiking shoes, hat, sun screen and enough water (min. 3 liters per person) are compulsory. You must start this trail by latest 10-11 a.m., but it is strongly recommended to start at 8 a.m.

Tsafit trail and Nahal David in the Ein Gedi nature reserve
Tsafit trail and Nahal David

This is a relatively long and often challenging trail, leading you high above the Dead Sea. I did this trail twice in April, first with our hiking group, the second time alone to have more time for photography. Both times the weather was just perfect – low 70F / 22-25C.

Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

The hiking trail is within the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve near the Dead Sea. But the access to the trail is via the Ein Gedi Field School! You must purchase entry tickets for the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. For more information, see https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/en-gedi-nature-reserve/. There is an English language brochure and map for download here. The tickets can be bought at the entrance to the Ein Gedi / Nahal David Nature Reserve. The NPA employee should be informed about the hike.

Nubian ibex at Ein Gedi
Nubian ibex at the parking lot area of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Instead of entering the Nahal David Nature Reserve, we retreat our steps and cross the dry riverbed to climb up to the Ein Gedi Youth Hostel. The Nubian ibex is a regular guest at the park entrance and Nahal David, especially in the morning hours.

Following the road and the black markers, we pass the Ein Gedi Field School and reach a little amphitheater. Above the amphitheater is a gate with an intercom. Paid and registered people will then be let through by the friendly voice at the other end of the line. The ascend that follows is pretty steep, often over loose stones and gravel. After about 15-20 minutes we reach a folk.

Tsafit Trail

A sign shows “Zafit Trail” (the writing in English varies from sign to sign) with a red marker which is our way.

Tsafit trail signpost
Tsafit trail

The first short climb comes soon after the folk. This one is real easy.

Israel tour guide Heiko - private tours, hiking tours and more
This is me climbing

Once we reach the top, we continue the Tsafit trail along the cliff. The view from here is absolutely breathtaking. Underneath is Nahal David or “David stream”. To the West are Mt. Yishay and the cliffs along the plateau that stretches further westward.

Nahal David and Dead Sea
Tsafit trail – view of Nahal David and the Dead Sea

The part that follows until the next junction is easy. After about a mile we reach a sign post where the Tsafit trail meets the dry canyon. From this junction, trails lead up to Mt. Yishay (green), along and on top of the dry canyon (green), and into the canyon (red – our Tsafit trail).

Tsafit trail near Ein Gedi, Dead Sea
Tsafit trail and Nahal David

Dry Canyon

Now comes the more challenging part. The Dry Canyon requires some climbing, which is often assisted by rails. But often enough there are no rails and little to hold onto but slippery rock.

Tsafit trail entrance into Dry Canyon
A group of teenagers and their guides enter the Dry Canyon (Tsafit trail)

The sign reads “Window Fall / Zafit Trail”. We follow the red markers into the dry canyon. For those who find the climbing too challenging, there is a trail with green markers that will lead towards the Chalcolithic temple described further below (careful, not the Mt. Yishay trail, but the opposite direction).

The Dry Canyon from above
Dry Canyon from above

The further we go, the more challenging it becomes. The bottom of the gorge is full of “potholes” filled with water. Potholes are created by the grinding action of stones, pebbles, boulders and sand. During flash floods in the winter, strong water currents spin these stones around and turn them into drills. On a sunny day, it’s hard to imagine a flash flood in the midst of this desert landscape. But they do occur during the winter rain season and are extremely dangerous. This is why hiking in these mountains is strictly forbidden during rain or flood warning. It’s also not advisable to walk through the water, as some potholes are deep.

Pothole in the Dry Canyon
Navigating around a pothole: tour guides Yossi Tal and Gabi Levy

At some point the red markers will lead upwards on the right side. However, we continue straight using the metal rungs in the rock (see picture below) and climb down into the canyon.

Tsafit trail (red markers) lead out of the Dry Canyon that continues straight ahead
Here the Tsafit trail (red markers) turns right up and out of the Dry Canyon

There are more potholes to circumvent, more rock surfaces to climb down. In many places water, sand and stones have literally polished the rock, requiring extra caution as we walk and climb the smooth surface.

Dry canyon: climbing above a pothole filled with water
Group of teenagers walk/climb around a pothole on their way back

Progress is slow, but eventually we reach our highlight.

Window Fall

Towards the end, the canyon turns into a narrow, winded gorge. Sometimes it feels as if we are entering a cave.

Dry canyon above Ein Gedi
Dry canyon

At least two parts are hard to navigate without the help of another person. But finally we make it. In front of us is the Window Fall.

Window fall at the end of the Dry Canyon, Tsafit trail, Ein Gedi
Window Fall on the Tsafit trail, Ein Gedi

Below is another view from the Window Fall. Careful, there is a 20m / 60 feet drop right there.

Window fall and Nahal David, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea
View from the Window Fall – watch it, the drop in front is ~20m / 60ft

As much as I tried, the photos presented here don’t do any justice to the spectacular view. This place is absolutely amazing. So much so that I had to revisit it as soon as I could.

Window fall and Nahal David, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea
Window Fall at the end of the Dry Canyon

There are many great places in Israel, but this one is just magic. I must admit that the relatively low temperature of 22-26C (72-80F) had a big influence on this experience. You absolutely do NOT want to do the hike on a hot day! Below is a “selfie” where the camera stands next to the fall and points towards the pothole and the gorge.

Tour guide Heiko at the Window Fall, Ein Gedi nature reserve, Dead Sea
Tour guide Heiko at the end of the Dry Canyon – the “white spots” in the air are butterflies

After some rest we return to the point where a signpost reads “En Gedi Springs”. This is where we are heading now. If you are afraid of heights or unsure about climbing rocks, you better continue back to the beginning of the canyon and turn left to follow the green markers.

Place where the Tsafit trail ascends to the top of the gorge
Returning from the Window Fall, the trail leads left up on the cliff

We climb up the cliff on the left, following the red markers. It’s not really difficult, but one has to be extra cautious as rocks can come loose. When we reach the top, the Tsafit trail leads onto the green trail where we turn left toward the Ein Gedi springs.

Dry Canyon and Dead Sea
View of the Dry Canyon from above, with the Dead Sea and Moab in the background

Chalcolithic Temple

Above the cliff of the Dry Canyon, we follow the green markers leading East toward the Dead Sea. After a while, looking back, we see the Window Fall where we have been.

Tsafit trail and Window Fall
Tsafit trail and Window Fall

As we continue walking, the mountains give way to a beautiful panoramic view of the Dead Sea and Moab on the Jordanian side across the sea.

Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab
Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab

Eventually we descend to the Chalcolithic temple, dating back to 3500 BCE (middle to late Chalcolithic period). Not far from here, in a cave in Nahal Mishmar, archaeologists found a hoard of more than 400 artifacts. Most of these amazing artifacts were made of copper, a few were made of ivory or stone. A selection of the Nahal Mishmar treasure is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Researchers believe that these objects were taken from the temple to the hiding place.

Chalcolithic temple above Ein Gedi
Descending to the Chalcolithic temple (on the left)

Dodim Cave

We continue North on an unmarked but well-trodden path toward Nahal David. At one turn, a signpost shows us the way to the Dodim cave. We walk down the trail until we reach the David stream. The water of Nahal David emerges below the Window Fall and continues to flow above the surface until, towards the end of the valley, it disappears under the stones and pebbles.

Upper David stream - Nahal David
Upper David stream

While the natural pools in the David stream are very inviting, we continue further downstream until steep steps and finally metal rungs lead us to the Dodim cave.

Dodim cave at Nahal David
Dodim cave at Nahal David

The place is sheer magic. No wonder it attracts many visitors, especially couples. Is this the cave mentioned in 1 Samuel 24:1 where David cuts off the skirt of Saul’s robe?

Dodim cave at Nahal David
Dodim cave at Nahal David

We climb the metal rungs and take a last look at the valley of Nahal David below us.

Nahal David
Nahal David

David Waterfall

Back at the signpost, we take the unmarked trail down into Wadi David. Soon we pass Shulamit spring, one of the four springs in the Ein Gedi area. The descend that follows is quite steep. Down in the wadi, we turn left to go to the David waterfall.

David waterfall
David waterfall

From the David waterfall, we follow the sign and take the upper trail down to the entrance of the nature reserve and the parking lot. On our way we may see more ibex as well as rock hyrax.

The entire hike is about 5-6 hours, including breaks. It can be shortened by an hour by skipping the Dodim cave.

This hike should not be done without a local guide familiar with the trail. The Ein Gedi nature reserve offers several different hiking options of varying difficulty. The brochure I linked to at the top provides an overview and also informs about the difficulty of each trail.

As always, I’m here to assist with planning, guiding and transportation.

See you in Israel,

Heiko