Central Negev Mt. – Southern Israel Trails

From Sde Bokker to Ein Um Tzalakh and the Arava

Duration 3-3.5 days

Distance 54 km

Difficulty – Hardcore

Start – Midreshet Sde Bokker

End – Ein Yahav, Arava region

Nearset towns – Be’er-Sheva

Transport – bus, hitchhiking

Preferred season – oct-april

Preface

The Desert offers all kind and levels of hiking and travelling option. This Trek gives us a very “authentic” desertic experience with as much great expanses, solitude, great horizon-to-horizon landscapes as you can ask for. It is also a fairly hard trek, propablly the toughest in this guide, and requires dedicated planning, water forting and good shape. This is hardcore desert Trekking ! do not come unprepared !!! Starting at Ben gurion’s tomv and magnificent views, through Khod Akev and Ein Akev (A mountain peak and bathing spring), two of the most well known and visited desert touring sites in Israel, into the significantly less hiked Thirsty Snake Ascents and it’s mysterious tunnels, this is a unique experience, which not many Israelis have gone through.

Planning

  • Towns : Access town is Sde Bokker Desert Research Campus (מדרשת שדה בוקר, to be distinguished from Kibbutz Sde Bokker, 4 Km east) . Trek ends in Moshav Ein Yahav [1]in the Aarava
  • Important Note : Maybe a better option will be starting the trek on it’s eastern end, with a 10-14 km. lift which will save lots of walking time. This can be easily arranged (for a not so pricy fee) from Moshav Ein Yahav. See the above ” Water and supplies Forting around Sde Bokker” and B&B lists in the Moshav and start from there. The best option will be to check if the same guy you’ll pay for water forting can head off the same morning you set off and drop you on his way. Also possible is to ask the B&B who of the Moshav might be leaving on that way. People are most welcoming in this part of the country, so you can count on it…
  • Getting There & Away
  1. Public Transportation: the Stating point is in Midreshe Sde Bokker (also known as Midreshet Ben Gurion מדרשת בן גוריון ), which can be reached very easily from Be’er-Sheva . From Ein Yahav (עין יהב ) where the Trek Ends, there are a few busses going back north to Be’er-Sheva, Jerusalem or south to Eilat. On the other end, on the Arava you can get by with hitching very easily, and the locals are very welcoming. the bus’ numbers are:
    1. 60 – leaves Bash (Bash = Be’er-Sheva) at least 3 times an hour, starting 06:15 and ending around 23:00
    2. 394 – goes through Ein Yahav every hour and a half. It leaves on either Eilat or Bash and heads the other way. As mentioned before, hitching is easy, fun and free.
    3. 444– connects Jeruslaem and Eilat, and passes through all the Arava’s Kibbutzes and Moshavs on it’s way. If you would like to head for Jerusalem you can hitch or take a bus to the Arava crossroad (Tzomet Ha’arava, צומת הערבה ) at the northest point of the Arava, close to the south tip of the dead sea, and from there hitch-hike north to Jerusalem, along the shore of the dead sea.All hours are due to changes through the season and should be reconfirmed at a CBS, by phone or online thourhg either : http://www.egged.co.il/Eng/ OR http://www.bus.co.il/ (the english button is on the left)
  2. Road Map in English:
  3. Hitch-hiking : is relatively easy, especially when in the Arava (After finishing the Trek).
    Concernning the way from Bash to Sde Bokker (the starting point) hitching is possible from various crossroad south of Be’er-Sheva, but does not really worth it, as the busses leaves 3 times an hour, are comfortable and not expensive (up to 15 NIS, top ).
  4. Where to stay \ Eat :
  • Supplies
    Note :
    Be’er-Sheva is the main base for trekking in the south. Being that, we wrote a whole dedicated part covering all you need in Be’er-Sheva. Therefore, there is little written here. For full info, check Be’er-Sheva – General Info.
  • Supermarket : There’s a full supermarket just across the street from the CBS (just walk across the Train station and it there) where you can buy about all you need. Gas is available at Lametayel (see Be’er-Sheva’s dedicated part for maps and info) and gasoline for liquid fuel is available at the gas station infront of the CBS.
  • ATM’s : There is an ATM (“Kaspomat” in Hebrew) at the enterence to the CBS. This are also available today in many gas stations.
  • What to eat and how to pack in the desert (link)
  • Water : There are no permanent water refilling points on the way, so water must either carried with you (about 4 Lt. per hiker per day for an experienced hiker, in normal (not extreamly hot) weather). The other option, which is getting more popular with the very growing popularity of the INT[2], is forting water.
    Water Forting is done by hiring a local Field Services Provider (list included), typically a nice guy with a pickup truck or a 4X4 who works with travelling agencies, who will leave water and dry food for you, in an agreed hided location close to or at the camping ground. This way the supplies and water wait for you there, saving you the efforts of carrying it on your back the whole time. The prices varies between 200-400 NIS, depending on various factors. Hiking in a group of 3 or 4 is therefore strongly recommended, reducing both the weight on your back as well as the economic price. It is of course much safer. Groups are spontaneously arranged in Bash at the beginning of weeks, around the Monday Briefing in Bash. Use the massage board to find other companions.

    Water and supplies Forting around Sde Bokker

    Name

    Phone Number

    Email adress

    Eyal Korin

    052-4433286

    [email protected]

    Ziv Spector

    054-6277413

    Harel

    050-2213395

    Itzik Maoz

    052-3666453

    Drop at Ein Geled, where the trek passes

  • Another great way to solve the water problem is contact the relavent field schools in advance (2-3 weeks) and ask if there are any organized trips to the relavent area. If there is, using their logistics will usually be easy, and many times free or very cheap.
  • Relevant Phone numbers:
  1. Park Rangers : Yossi Sinai – 057-7762177 – Ein Akev (day 1 ) . Yonni Shrir – 057-7762064 – High Negev Mountains. Har’el Ben Shakhar (very friendly) – 057-7762067 – Northern Arava (days 2-3)
  2. Field School[3] (NPS): Sde Bokker Field School (Day 1 ) 08-6532828. Khatzeva Field School (Days 2-3 ) 08-6581546
  3. Emergency : The local S&R unit are contacted through the park rangers.
  4. Cellular Covrage : there is reasonable cellular covrage during the first day. When you start to go down from Ramat Ovda to Ein Shaviv, the reception goes down, and from here on, reception is available only in high peaks
  • Camping in the desert
  • Safety rules while in the south :

This is the link for the OCM 

http://opencyclemap.org/?zoom=12&lat=30.75932&lon=34.91919&layers=B00

The Route

  • Starting and ending Points (Can be switched) :
    Start Point
    : Midreshet Sde Bokker (מדרשת שדה בוקר, קבר בן גוריון )
    Ending Point : Moshav Ein Yahav (עין יהב )
  • Note : the days are described in the direction of North-to-south out of convience. It is absolutely possible to the the trek the other way around, as explained in the “planning” section above. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.

Day 1 – from 20 km

(Make sure you have a flashlight with you !)

We start off from Midreshet Sde Bokker, preferblly from Ben Gurion’s tomb (1), with it’s fabulous view. Preferblly, you can sleep at Sde Bokker on the night before , and wake up early to see the sunrise from there. you should! (Couch surfing is very easy there, and there is a youth hostel also). From the Tomb we head east through the campus, find a breech in the Fence and head off along the blue path to Meitzad Tzin (2), an ancient (more than 2,000 years old ) road outpost that used to guard the ancient road east. You can make a nice breakfast at the ruins and later head down Ma’a’le Tzin (Tzin ascent) into the Canyon (marked black = white-black-white). Walk along the black path, crossing three dry shallow river beds until you reach the marked turning to the right (3). Don’t worry about what seems like walking off the path, the smaller path is well marked. From here on we’ll walk upon the INT[4] for quite a few Km. the trail will take you up all the way to Khod Akev ( (4) Mt. Akev חוד עקב).the way up is not extremely hard, and most of it is shaded. But, watch your head as some stones stick out of the rock and you may hit your head if you won’t be careful. Enjoy the view and the chilling wind from the top.

From here we’ll head down a 4 Km leg to Ein Akev (5) (Akev springעין עקב ,), a nice, cold, natural water pool where we’ll take a very refreshing bath. Notice that the turning point is a marked split of trails (we’ll turn left, south, staying on the INT (orange-blue-white) ) This is about the mid point of our day.

The second part of the day includes the way up from the spring (Ein Akev) to the Ovdat Plateau (Ramat Ovdat). We’ll fallow the blue marked trail all the way to the plateau, then another 3 Km , and head down to the second spring – Ein Shaviv (6 ). Usually water cannot be found here, but the unusual amount of vegetation looks very not-in-place. Stop for a picnic, then head the last 3 Km north along the trail and the creek to the camping site (8). Beware that camping in the desert is allowed only in authorized camping ground. Also note that there are no water in the camping ground.

Day 2 – from 18 km

Waking up in the camping ground in Ein Shaviv, eating a not-too-big breakfast might be a good idea, as a nice ascent is ahead. We’ll head south, back to Ein Shaviv (6) and then up the black trail for Km, encircling the platuea until we meet the power-line (9) and a relatively well-maintained gravell road. This is the KZAA (Eilat-Ashkelon Oil Line קצא”א ) road, and we’ll stick with it for the next 2.5 Km. The view here is not incredible, though very quite, but a very cool surprise is a head. At the end of these 2.5 Km there is a well marked turning point left (north-east) marked by the INT. walking on this direction soon leads to a descented gravel road. Walk down and turn right to the flat ground, where you’ll meet two deserted tunnels[5] ! you can stay here for the hot hours (12:00-15:00) exploring the tunnels, having lunch and sleeping.
In the last part of the day we’ll head down to the vally east of us, then up again to the night camping site. Start by heading down the black marked descent. It’s 1 Km down then another 2 km in a general east direction, then the road curves sharply south and you head into a canyon where you’ll find Ein Sharav (11), which usually does have some water, enough for a humble bath. Don’t expect a huge pool like in Ein Akev… wet your shirt before you head on. Another Km on the black road east gets us to the red marked trail and the power-line. The 2 km of Sharav Ascent is reasonable, especially with walking poles. After reaching the platue we’ll keep on going south on the trail, with the power-line until we reach Sharav Ruins, the leftovers of a muslim villege which was abounded some 1,200 years ago. It’s another 1.5 km south-west from here, Down-and-up along the trail until we reach the camping ground (14, purple markings), situated next to the gravel road, making it possible to fort water and supplies here.

Day 3 – from 16 km

The third day have two seperate options with two different ending points. The first one will take you east on a long hard day to the Valy of Abu Treifa and the well isolated spring of Abu Tzalakh – a place visited by few Hikers..

[Importent Note : As mentioned in the Planning sectino at the top of the page, we do recommend  walking this trek East-to-West, starting at Moshav Ein Yahav (in the Arava), and pay a local guy (see list of water forters and logistics-services suppliers) to Fort some water in the various camping ground as well as give you a lift to the camping ground (21) where the Black-marked 4X4 road  meets Marzeva-stream. This will save you about 13 Km. of not very intersting walk and allows you to visit Eim Um Tzalakh on the first day and finish the day at the camping ground near Khirbet Sharav (Sharav Roman outpost) (14). ]

The Other option, and a far easier one will take you to the magnificent views of the Ramon Makhtesh. First to a nice outloook from  Makhmal Roman Outpost (Meitzad Makhmal  מיצד מחמל )  and then down into the Makhtesh and to Khan Be’erot. From there you can either  catch a ride back to civilization, explorer the Makhtesh or continue trekking westward on the Arif-Karkom Trek or eastward on the East Makhtesh Trek.

  • Option a : To Ein Um Tzalakh and the Arava : Waking up very early (you’d like to start walking about 20 minutes before first light) we’ll head off south-south-east on the main road for 700 m, then turn left, north-east, keeping all the time with the markings of the INT (White-blue-brown) and also a blue marked trail (White-blue-white). The trail winds around the cliff above Khava Canyon, and then heads down into the canyon. Down at the bottom of the creek, we’ll head back 200 meters into the canyon to find the ice-cold, fresh and clean  Gev (see glossary) of Khava. Everyone must take a deep in the freezing water, or, according to the local legend, and water will hunt you…  Later we stick to the INT as it goes down the Canyon for about 1.5 km, winding south. The trail then leaves the main canyon and turns south-south-west (Az. 210 )  up another canyon and then exists the canyon in a sharp ascent. just as we  arrive on the top we’ll encounter intersresting geological frectures.  From this point, navigation should be handled more carefully, as we’ll soon leave the color marked trails for Rujum (man-made stone piles) marked trails. from the top of the ridge we’ll walk 1 km down into another dry stream were the Rujum trail is met. (If you start walking uphill again, in a general south direction, on the INT, you’ve missed the turn, and shuold go back to the vally and find it.)  This Trail wind in the general east direction (see the map attached) for about 7.5 until it reaches a big wide Vally – Vally of Abu Treife (בקעת אבו-טרייפה) were a blue-marked 4X4 trail can be found. on the eastern part of the Vally, this blue exist east (the southern trail of the two) and changes it’s color to  green. we’ll head on walking this trail for another 5.5 Km. The majority of the trail is located on the ridge line.It crosses one small stream, and then arrives on a small pleatuea, from which it descends into the well-expected spring of Ein Um Tzalakh. After Enjoying the water, we’ll walk on east in the main narrow creek for about 3.5 Km,  first sout, encirceling a small hill and the north-east until the creek meets the much bigger  and wider Marzeva stream. basicly, from here we’ll stick to this stream  as it slowly descends  south-east, until the vally widen dramaticlyl (21) and a night-camping area  located. You can spend the night here or try to make a long effortfull walk  along the black-marked trail  (and later a red-marked one) all the way to the Arava Road (# 90 ) and make it to Sappir ot Moshav Ein Yahav.
  • Option b : the day starts just liek option a. In point (17), instead of leaving the Israeli National Trail, we’ll stick to it for another 4 Km. until we’ll  take a short green-marked trail right and reach the awsome outlook from Meitzad Makhmal, and enjoy the views of the east part of Makhtesh Ramon. from here we’ll go down with the green trail into the Makhtesh, meet the black-marked 4X4 trail and walk the last Km. to Khan Be’e’rot. If, by chance, you’re still full of energy, you can take the blue marked trail that leads east to Mt. Ardon – the Heart of the Makhtesh. It will take you up to the head of the mountain with superb views of the surroding, then south south to Giv’at Kharut, and the back west along a black-marked trail to the camping ground.
If you pre-arrange it, with a simple phone call to the nice guys in Khan Be’erot, you can resuplly yourself and head offf to the East Ramon Trek from there…

– Duration and ranges

History : there are few very different historical ages that has something to do with this area. Kibbutz Sde Bokker was David Ben Gurion’s retreat when he decided to take some time off public service. A guided (!) tour in his Shack is recommended. You can read more about the strange way Ben Gurion (who was on his late 70’s at the time) joined the young pioneers here. The ancient road that crosses the Tzin Canyon to the Arava is part of the famous ancient Incense Route which served to pass extreamly expensive Spices and perfumes (among them Frankincense And Myrrh) from the south of the Saudi Arebia Peninsula to the shores of the Israeli Mediterranean and from there by ships to the Roman or Byzantine Empires. Read more about the interesting Nabataeans, who ruled it for many years. Another interesting, and not very known piece of history is the story of the Thirsty Snake Tunnels4. The two tunnels and their internals chambers where dag in the 70’s as an (eventually unsucceful) attempt to store oil in the desert.

– Bible

– Connection to the next Trek – There are basicly two options , a northern one and a southern one :

o South – this option actually makes much more since…
when you finish in the Arava, you can travel either north to the Arava Crossroad and start Trek number 1 (Arava-Tzafit-Small and Big-Makhtesh). You can resuplly at any Moshav on the way. Water is also available in the starting point of this trek, at the crossroad.
another option is to hitch south, either to Sapir and start Trek number 3 (East Ramon Mt. ) or all the way south to Eilat Mountain and enjoy the beautiful colorful landscapes there…

o North – If you’ll hike this trek the opposite way – from East to West, and finish in Sde Bokker, you can easily make your way to Yerukham, and from there start Trek number 1 – From the Arava, thourhg Tzafit canyon and the small Makhtesh to the Big Makhtesh…


[2] Israel National Trail, which connects various marked hiking trails from Eilat (at the southest tip of the country) to Kibbutz Dan (at the very northerst part of Israel )

[3] See Glossory

[4] Israel National Trail. Marked orange-blue-white. See Glossory for more details

[5] called the Thirsty Snake Tunnels where built here by the Government Oil Services Company in the 70′, as an attempt (which failed) to store oil in the mountin side. The better of this is that they stayed here. The right-most tunnel has two huge holes in it, and it’s very cool (by tempreture but also generally) to survey them. Of course this is an excellent point for lunch and a nice Schlafshtunde (german for siesta, noon-nap)