What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of the UAE? You are probably picturing beaches, waterparks, tall buildings, incredible nightlife and so on. While all these wonderful things are signatures of life in the UAE, what is often overlooked is the amazing hiking spots in the region. The stunning desert landscapes of the UAE is peppered with sand dunes and majestic mountain ranges. All over the Middle East, it’s also common to see “Wadis”, which are similar to valleys, with a riverbed of flowing water. In the UAE, these Wadis are generally in the form of a dry riverbed that makes for a perfect hiking trail. On the bucket list of most serious hikers, climbing these trails will definitely be a milestone to celebrate. To ensure that nobody hiking in the UAE misses out all on any of these exciting treks, here is our list for the best hikes in the UAE!
List of the Best Hikes in the UAE:
This particular mountain range is our first pick for hiking in the UAE, as this range combines everything you can expect from a fantastic trek! It is tourist hotspot with an abundance of archaeological sites and off-road explorations, and some interesting extreme sports for adventure junkies, including canyoning, rock climbing and trekking. This beautiful stretch of rocky mountains starts from Northern Oman, spanning through Muscat, before finally coming into the UAE.
These ranges offer thrill seekers hiking trails where you can camp overnight. Peaking at almost 6,266 feet, a climb atop the Hajar Mountains gives thrill-seekers an unbelievable view of the cavernous desert landscape below. Apart from trekking, the range also features historical landmarks such as Al-Ayn, Bat and Al Khutm which are renowned archaeological sites. The Hajar Mountains is also the highest mountain range in the Arabian Peninsula, making the views absolutely breathtaking.
What to prepare for:
The Hajar Mountains are almost five and a half hours away from Dubai and even though the range has parts in the UAE, most of the territory is in Oman. We recommend that you carry all necessary documentation with you including visas and passports and anything else that is required. Hikers should also bring along all the necessary equipment for the trip, especially enough supply of food and water to sustain you through the challenging climb. If you are camping overnight make sure to also pack other essentials, including blankets and jackets as the temperature can drop quite a bit during the evenings and nights.
Home to one of the highest peaks in the northern parts of the UAE, Jebel Qada’ah sits comfortably between the UAE and Musandam mountains. Depending on the route chosen, these hikes can range from easy to moderate and even difficult, so there’s something for everyone to try. The North-Western route is considered one of the most challenging while the path around the South-Western Wadi is of moderate difficulty.
The entire trek is 8.5 kilometres in length from the start to the top and takes close to five hours. One of the most prominent hiking spots in the UAE lies in these very ranges; the “Secret Staircase” is a 3-hour trek, along with a staircase carved into the sand by Pakistani goat herders. The hike is perfect for amateur trekkers and the gorgeous views make all the huffing and puffing up the steps totally worth it!
What to prepare for:
For starters, a passport would be required to reach the hiking point as it lies beyond the Oman border. Experts also advise using a 4×4 vehicle while hiking in the UAE in tough terrain such as this. The walk can be accessed from the roads behind the Dibba Beach after which the wadi is only half an hour’s drive away.
A mountain rich in history and layers of plankton fossils, Jebel Hafeet is a lot more than a popular hiking spot in the United Arab Emirates. The third highest peak in the UAE, climbing the Jebel Hafeet is a feat for more experienced hikers looking for a challenge, as the mountain is very steep and it is certainly not a walk in the park. While the hike may not be the easiest, the trip and the view is well worth it, making it an unmissable addition on our recommendations for best hikes in the UAE.
Located two hours from Dubai in the picturesque city of Al Ain, the majestic ranges of Jebel Hafeet are on the border between the UAE and Oman, and the trip can be easily carried out in a day. According to experts, the climb takes around 3 to 4 hours and the best time to trek up the ranges is at sunset or sunrise. The magical blend of the golden hues from the desert and the lush green from the oasis of Al Ain makes for some breathtaking Insta-worthy shots!
What to prepare for:
It is a good idea to be fully kitted out for a hike up on this 1,240 km peak and carry equipment like trekking poles and boots, along with sufficient water and food. Experts recommend making the climb during the day so you are not caught unaware in the dark. Another important thing that hikers should note is that official government permission is required before making this climb.
This particular walk is best suited for amateur hikers according to experts, with its circular strip of meandering trails stretching for a whopping 6.2miles! Hikers can expect an exciting 3-hour journey during the trek at Wadi Lasal in Sharjah, with occasional pit stops to take in the stunning sights. The spot is also one of the most popular trails for bikers in the UAE who usually camp near the dam. The hiking site is around 90 kilometres from the city of Dubai. The best route to the mountain is by taking the Shawka/Manama exit on the Sharjah-Kalba Road, after which there is a 5-kilometre drive before you take a left turn towards the dam.
What to prepare for:
Remember to carry all the essentials on this hike, including shoes, water, snacks and anything else you may require. While the climb isn’t too hectic, if you have chosen Wadi Lasal as your first hiking experience in the UAE, it’s important to factor in the high temperatures here. The weather in these areas can get extremely dry and hot, so remember to hydrate and pack enough water. Make sure to also carry comfortable shoes, sunblock, snacks and a hat.
The hiking trails in Wadi Lasal are not marked, but there’s no need to worry because in case you get lost, you can simply follow the wadi downstream. If you are feeling a tad adventurous and want to cruise through the trail in your SUV, be careful, because the Wadi has farms and the farmers can easily get offended if their livestock or produce is damaged.
The Shawka Dam Loop
This gorgeous hiking route is not all just desert and rock. The walk also opens into a wide wadi filled with trees along the way. The track itself is a 10-kilometre loop close to the Shawka Dam in Fujairah, which is two hours away from Dubai. The picturesque route is also one of the easier ones on this list of hiking tracks in the UAE and is also popular with bikers looking to enjoy some high-speed cruising on the mountains. The whole trip would take around a full day including stops. The circular strip also has some of the best camping sites near the natural pools which have formed in the area after strong rains. After a smooth beginning, you can expect a steep ascent straight into the wadi, which you will need to cross to complete the trek.
What to Prepare For:
Being one of the easier treks, you can pack light for a spin around the Shawka Dam Loop, and carry the usual suspects, including sturdy, comfortable shoes, light jackets and a supply of snacks and water. If you fancy a bit of a challenge, try out a different route with an expert or guide and really get those muscles working! You will need to park your car at the starting point of the trail while hikers can easily arrive at the Dam through the Sharjah-Kalba Road as well.
Other Must-Try Hiking Spots in the UAE:
- Wadi Tayyibah (Dibba Al Fujairah): This one-way hike, perfect for amateurs, boasts beautiful views of traditional irrigation systems, museums and natural pools.
- Copper Hike: This spectacular circular route is a 7-kilometre stretch that covers two wadis and an open plateau. Located in Ras Al Khaimah, it is another popular hiking spot in the UAE for beginners looking for an adventure.
- Stairway to Heaven: A challenging course for seasoned hikers, taking on this track includes a steep climb of over 1500 meters, in what is regarded as one of the most treacherous courses in the city. An ancient Shihuh Mountain route, Stairway to Heaven starts in Wadi Galilah and connects a mountain village to the coast.
- Jebel Jais: The tallest mountain in the UAE is also home to the world’s longest zip line. Located in Ras Al Khaimah, this particular range offers hiking routes for almost all levels which means that every hiker can have a go at this climb. It will take you on an unbelievable journey through breathtaking canyons like Wasat Canyon, Thunder Canyon and Trident Canyon. If you find climbing the highest peak in the country exciting then try out more fun activities to do in Ras Al Khaimah.
The UAE is full of outdoor activities, so if hiking is not your cup of tea, then worry not, because there’s a lot to explore in this amazing country. If you feel like camping out in the silken sands of the UAE, try out some of these amazing desert safari experiences in Dubai, or if high-octane adventures are more up your alley, try these gravity-defying activities in the UAE for the adrenaline rush of a lifetime!