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.
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.
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.
A sign shows “Zafit Trail” (the writing in English varies from sign to sign) with a red marker which is our way.
The first short climb comes soon after the folk. This one is real easy.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Progress is slow, but eventually we reach our highlight.
Towards the end, the canyon turns into a narrow, winded gorge. Sometimes it feels as if we are entering a cave.
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 Waterfall.
Below is another view from the Window Waterfall. Careful, there is a 20m / 60 feet drop right there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Waterfall where we have been.
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.
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.
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 Waterfall and continues to flow above the surface until, towards the end of the valley, it disappears under the stones and pebbles.
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.
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?
We climb the metal rungs and take a last look at the valley of Nahal David below us.
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.
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,