East Ramon – Makhtesh Ramon Trail – Israel

 

East Ramon Trek

Duration3 days

Distance – about 42 km

Difficulty – Medium

Start –Mitzpe Ramon

End –Sappir, Arava region

Nearest City – Be’er-Sheva,

Mitzpe Ramon

Transport – bus, Hitch-Hiking

Preferred season – Oct-April

Preface

The Ramon Makhtesh (Matkhesh Ramon, מכתש רמון ) is the largest crater, and by far the most geologically diverse and interesting one. Colorful rocks, sands, volcanic dikes and Basalt Hexagons can be seen all over the place, and some beautiful views too, from the various peaks surrounding the huge asymmetrical bowl. The Trek starts in Mitzpe Ramon, the district’s major town, which is also the tourist center for exploring the Makhtesh in various ways. You’ll probably like to stay for a day or two at one of the hostels (or the excellent new hotel, located right on the cliff) in the town, and explore the Makhtesh by either Bicycles, ATV’s or Jeeps, all available locally. From Mitzpe Ramon, the trek goes east through some of the big dry rivers (valleys) draining the Makhtesh, up Mt. Ya’hav and down East to the Arava (the southern part of the Israel Great Rift Valley) . This is hard-core desert trekking, with all the quietness and solicitude you can ask for, and some magnificent views of this world unique phenomena. Not to be forgotten, it is also relatively difficult, and requires being in reasonable physical shape.

Planning

  • Towns : Access town is Mitzpe Ramon.Trek ends in Moshav Sapir in the Arava
  • Getting There & Away
  1. Public Transportation :the Starting point is in Mitzpe Ramon( מצפה רמון ), which can be reached very easily from Be’er-Sheva. From Sapir (ספיר ) 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 buses numbers are:
    1. 60 – leaves “Bash” (Bash = Be’er-Sheva) about 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 (it actually continues north of Bash to Tel Aviv). As mentioned before, hitching is easy, fun and free.
    3. 444– connects Jerusalem 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 through either : http://www.egged.co.il/Eng/OR http://www.bus.co.il/(the English button is on the left).
  2. English Road Map:
  3. Hitch-hiking :is relatively easy, especially when in the Arava (After finishing the Trek). Concerning the way from Bash to Mitzpe Ramon (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: (כולל קישור)
    1. On the way In: you can spoil yourself very nicely on the Natural thermal baths in Ne’ve Midbar(נווה מדבר ) just on the road from Bash to Mitzpe Ramon. Ask the driver of bus # 60 to be dropped off at Tzomet Masha’bei-Sa’deצומת משאבי שדה )) and walk or hitch the last 1.5 km to the thermal baths.You can eat in Bash in various restaurants, on all levels. Just step 300 m of the CBS. Saba Jepetto is one of our favourites (Rasko St. 109, Bash, other side from the Court House). For a complete review of Sleeping & Eating in Bash see the dedicated page.
    2. On the way out :the Arava is a rural zone full of Moshavs (the northern area) and Kibbutzs (the southern area). There is lots of B&B tourism going around, with some interesting restaurants and lots of B&B on ALL Levels (including very pricy beautiful cabins for couples…). You can also couchsurf easily, if you ask in advance. Contact Ha’arava Tourism Information Center (email :[email protected], 1-800-225-007, 08-6582007) for a full list of accommodation(this is a list in Hebrew and you can just call a few numbers and ask them. About everyone speaks English) . You can also ask them for a certain price range.A few numbers of B&B are included here.
      Name of B&BPhone Number
      Oasis Gadish08-6581010
      Tikva’s08-6581185052-2768301
      Ba’itKatanBa’arava052-386889908-6581175
      MatmonBa’arava08-6582511052-8666246
  • SuppliesNote: 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.
  1. Supermarket :There’s a full supermarket just across the street from the CBS (just walk across the Train station and it is there) where you can buy about all you need. Cooking 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 in front of the CBS.
  2. ATM’s :There is an ATM (“Kaspomat” in Hebrew) at the entrance to the CBS
  3. What to eat and how to pack in the desert (link)
  4. Water :There are no permanent water refilling points on the way, so water must either be carried with you (about 4 Lt. per hiker per day for an experienced hiker, in normal (not extremely hot) weather). The other option, which is getting more popular with the very growing popularity of the INT[1], is “forting” water.
  5. 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 hiden 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. Going 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. An up to date list of Israel Trail (INT)1 trail angels and water forters in English can be found in the INT Wiki website.
  • Another great way to solve the water problem is contact the relevant field schools in advance (2-3 weeks) and ask if there are any organized trips to the relevant area. If there is, using their logistics will usually be easy, and many times free or very cheap.
  • Relevant Phone numbers:
  1. Park Rangers :Ben Drori – 057-7762074 – Makhtesh Ramon area (day 1 ) . YaoramKhemo – 057-7762076 – Central Arava Region (Day 2,3 )
  2. Field School[2] (NPS): Mitzpe Ramon Field SChool(Day 1 )08-6588615. Khatzeva Field School (Days 2-3 ) 08-6581546
  3. Emergency :
  4. Cellular Covrage :Cellular Covarge is not good. You can have some reception along the first hours of day 1, and later only in high peaks like KarboletKharirim (the Kharirim Crest ) and Mt. Yahav
  • Camping in the desert
  • Safety rules while in the south :

The Route

  • Starting and ending Points : –Start Point : Road # 40 and the INT meeting point (1) –Ending Point : Moshav Sapir in the Arava
  • Day 1 – from 10 km, 4 hours

The first day of the trek, from road 40 (which goes from the town of Mitzpe Ramon, across the Makhtesh (the bowl) and way south) to the first night camping site, is not long and leaves you lots of flexibility. You may politely ask the bus driver to be let off at the crossing of the INT and the road (pretty good chance he’ll agree), hitch-hike there, or even spend the night before in Be’erot Night Camp, where a small tourist operator runs a permanent Bedouin-style hosting tent (it’s marked on the map). This way or another, there are some interesting geological phenomena’s along the way. More details are available on a 1:50,000 scale hiking map (required for this trekking ! ) or the Information center in town. All along the way you can see Mt. Ardon on your north, which makes the “tip” of the “heart” of the Makhtesh[3], and on your south “Carbolet Kharirim” – the crest that forms the southern wall of the bowl/crater. On your way (3) you’ll walk on Mt. Sa’aronim, a nice small crest ridge.

So, you can either (option a) make it in a quick afternoon hike (half a day) to the camping ground (6) (don’t expect to find too much there), (option b ) try to hitch-hike to the base of the crest (7) (and thus skip the first day) or (option c) sleep in Be’e’rot Night Camp. This way or another, the second day will start at point (7) where the 4X4 road is block (it turns north to Giv’at Kharot (7-b) ( = Cone Hill) which is a very nice view-point of the surrounding ) and the INT continues east as a walking trail…

  • Day 2 – from 12 km , 8 hours

Good morning! The desert flies, mosquitos or early-waking birds (god dammed them ! ) will probably wake you up early… we head off east toward the first major ascension to the Kharirim Crest (Carbolet Kharirim) (8 ), where absolutely magnificent views of 3600 degrees are available . This is, to my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Israel, so spoil yourself with some hot tea or coffee and cookies. From here, we head east along the knife ridge and later down into the Ma’ok (נחל מעוק ) valley. We’ll be walking along the INT all along the way, so make sure you keep truck of the orange-blue-white trail markings. At (10) the trail leaves the valley and heads north in one of the small channels, and then (11) in a yet more steep uphill. At the end of this 300 m long ascension there are (12) some ammonites to be seen. Another 500 m. north is a dry waterfall (12) and as the trail wind east again (13) we’ll meet Gev-Geled (גב גלד) . This point is usually dry, but if you’re hiking in January -May, ask in the field school or the info center in advance, and maybe, maybe you’ll be able to bath here. Another 2 Km. east along the trail, pass another (14) waterfall will get you to the second night camp (15). Also note that the channel north of this waterfall (14) has some interesting geological surprises, and it’s a good idea to drop your backpacks on the channel-meeting, take your camera and explore the area for 20 min. Making it to the camping ground, you’ll find a special wooden box, there for water forting. If you’ve arranged it in advance (contacts described earlier on this chapter), water and dry food can be waiting here for you. Don’t take other people’s food, unless it’s been left with a note dedicating it to other hikers. Make sure you’re not sleeping on the trail as 4X4 pass here and may run over you. Good night, and enjoy the awesome stars and quite.

  • Day 3 – from 20 km,11 hours

Waking up early, we head out toward Mt. Ya’hav (17), first encircling it from the north. Note how the INT leaves the wide canyon and the red (white-red-white) 4X4 road and head south on a blue (white-blue-white) marked trail… head up and enjoy the breeze and the views. The road east from here, except for some geological features is not incredibly interesting, so take your time… (yeah.. tea is a must here…J). Going east we’ll slowly head down the range and into the wide creek (some shade for launch break and nap time is available here), and head 2.5 Km north-north-east along it, until in curves some, pass (18) the night camping ground, and up to the plateau (19) where some very deep geological crevasse (or fissures) are, along a nice view-point. More of these crevasses can be seen at the end of the plateau, just before dropping into another canyon. We’ll head along the blue-marked trail (never leaving the INT, though. They’re marked together…) east, then south, and again north-east for some 3 km. till we’llrech the Caldera(20). From here it’s just 2.5 km. to Sapir, passing a volcanic dike on the way.

  • Connection to the next Trek – two other treks end in the Arava. The hardcore option we’ll be heading north to Moshav Ein-Yahav, where the Ein-um-Tzlakh Trek ends (number 2). A more easy, yet beautiful option is going farther north to the Arava Crossroad, and go up Wadi Tzafit – the starting of the 3-4 days beautiful Tzafit-Small Makhtesh – Big Makhtesh Trek.

[1] 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 )

[2] See Glossory

[3] If you look at the map in general, you’ll notice the Makhtesh has a shape rather similar to a squezzed heart of the leaf of a hedera bush… in the “tip” of the “heart” is Mt. Ardon

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