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 signature elements 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 where adventure buffs can embark on exciting hikes.
All over the Middle East, it’s 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 on any of these exciting treks, here is our list for 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 a tourist hotspot with an abundance of archaeological sites perfect for 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 and spans through Muscat, before finally coming into the UAE.
These ranges have 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.
WADI HELO SHARJAH
Wadi Helo or Wadi Al Helo which translates to “The Sweet Wadi” in Sharjah is nestled deep within the Hajar Mountains.
Wadi Al Helo gets its name from the abundance of underground freshwater reserves. The wadi is perfect for a hiking trip along the winding paths and rocky rugged terrain. Once you reach the top you can enjoy breathtaking views of the mountains and the entire valley. While the hike itself is thrilling and exciting, the trails also lead to archaeological ruins and watchtowers.
Jebel Qihwi is one of the most picturesque wadis in the Hajar Mountains that stands at 1962 metres. Some parts of the trail pass through Oman so you will need to keep all your documents ready.
To enjoy this adventurous hike make sure that you’re in good health as the trek could get slightly challenging on your way up to the top. But the difficult path at the end of the hike is only 20 metres long and some treacherous parts require climbing gear as well.
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 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, the hiking ranges here 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.
One of the most prominent hiking spots in the UAE lies in these very ranges; the “Secret Staircase”. It is a 3-hour trek, which has a staircase carved into the sand by local goat herders. The hike is perfect for amateur trekkers and the gorgeous views make all the steps totally worth it!
What to prepare for:
A passport is needed to reach the hiking point as it lies beyond the Oman border. Experts also advise using a 4×4 vehicle while hiking tough terrain such as this when hiking in the UAE’s Jebel Qada’ah. 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. 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 with 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.
Wadi Lasal in Sharjah is next on this list of hiking spots in the UAE. According to experts, the hiking trail here is best suited for amateur hikers, with its circular strip of meandering trails stretching for a whopping 6.2 miles!
Hikers can expect an exciting 3-hour journey during the trek at Wadi Lasal 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.
Hatta is one of the most popular places in the UAE for adventure buffs who want to try hiking. Hatta’s hiking trails will lead you across different farms dotted along the way. Some of the tracks in Hatta are more challenging and recommended for expert hikers with climbing skills. There are several other interesting and adventurous things to do in Hatta such as kayaking and mountain biking.
The Shawka Dam Loop
Another popular place for hiking in the UAE is the 10-kilometre loop close to the Shawka Dam in Fujairah. The picturesque route is one of the easier trails on this list of hiking tracks in the UAE. It is also popular with bikers looking to enjoy some high-speed cruising on the mountains.
This gorgeous hiking route opens into a wide wadi filled with trees along the way. The circular strip also has a few camping sites near the natural pools which formed in the area after strong rains.
What to Prepare For:
The whole trip around this trail takes a full day including stops. After a smooth beginning, you can expect a steep ascent straight into the wadi, which you will need to cross to complete the trek.
Being one of the easier treks, you can pack light for a spin around the Shawka Dam Loop. Make sure to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes, light jackets and carry a supply of snacks and water.
Hikers can easily arrive at the Dam through the Sharjah-Kalba Road and will need to park their cars at the starting point of the trail.
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. It is one of the best hiking trails in the UAE.
- 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: Located in Ras Al Khaimah, Jebel Jais is the tallest mountain in the UAE. This particular range offers hiking routes for almost all levels. The hiking routes in the Jebel Jais mountain will take you on an unbelievable journey through breathtaking canyons like Wasat Canyon, Thunder Canyon and Trident Canyon.
- Wadi Munay: Wadi Munay is another popular hiking track in Ras Al Khaimah. The trails here are simple and easy enough for anyone to enjoy. It is safe and requires minimum of climbing. Even kids can be a part of this adventure.
- Wadi Bih: Wadi Bih in Ras Al Khaimah is another ideal location for an adventurous hike in the UAE. The Wadi Bih hiking tracks are easy for beginners although some trails are perfect for intermediate hikers as well. The trails go through mountains and rugged terrain where you might come across some rare bird species as the area is also known for bird watching.
The UAE is full of outdoor activities, so if hiking is not your cup of tea, then don’t worry, because there’s a lot to explore in this amazing country. With our comprehensive guide to mountains in the UAE, you can find plenty of other places to explore.
If you feel like camping out in the silken sands of the UAE, you can also visit some of the best campsites in the UAE for an unforgettable camping trip.