Whether you’re hiking with children or a first-timer, there’s a mountain out there waiting for you to conquer it…

Spring is the season of adventure, and nothing has residents more pumped this year than the UAE wilderness and its amazing hiking trails. They’re beautiful, they’re all unique, and they get you outside. They are also free, which we can’t say was true for your Deliveroo order last night.

Do yourself a favour: Go on an adventure and hit the trails. The Hajar mountains stretch for 700km through the eastern UAE to the northeast of Oman and they run through six of the seven Emirates – phew, that’s a lot of exploring to do. Behold, some of our favourite places in the UAE to go hiking…

Here are 8 hiking trails in UAE to conquer

Wadi Shawka

Shawka

Great for: Beginners
Distance from DXB: 1-hour drive
Coordinates: 25.103958, 56.039260

One of the closest hiking spots to Dubai, Wadi Shawka is just an hour away and it is a great beginner’s hike. Shawka has several varied routes. You can choose from a quick ramble or make a day of it and include the Shawka pools, too. Whichever you pick you’ll enjoy impressive, panoramic views. Head to the Shawka Dam and either take the stairs directly to the summit or choose one of the trails, easily visible from the small parking area. The trails are well marked out, making it difficult to get lost and safe for families with children.

Hatta Mountain Trails

Hatta Mountain Trails

Great for: Family-fun hikes
Distance from DXB: 1-hour 30 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 24.815061, 56.160270

Head to Hatta Wadi Hub to choose from five diverse routes spread over nearly 33km. Ranging from novice to arduous, there are trails for everyone. Hatta is Dubai’s largest national park, and with undulating rugged hills and wadis it is a photographer’s dream. The paths take you through farms, over dams, by the heritage village and up to the famous Hatta sign. This is one of the few hikes that have toilet facilities, so is perfect for families with young children.

Al Rabi Mountain Trail

Al Rabi Mountain Trails

Great for: A dip in the ocean post-hike
Distance from DXB: 1-hour 25 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 25.339488, 56.359157

Situated on the east coast, overlooking Khor Fakkan town and the Gulf of Oman, Al Rabi is known for its spectacular sunrise views. There are two summits along this path and between the two you will get a glimpse of the secret hidden beach. Though steep at times, the trail is suitable for most adventurers, including children and dogs. It takes about three hours to complete the 6km track. While there’s a small car park at Al Rabi Tower, it’s well-advised to park down the hill in the long term parking.

Ain Al Sheria

Great for: Intermediate hikers
Distance from DXB: 1-hour 50 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 25.606302, 56.152161

One of the most colourful and historical hikes in the UAE is Ain Al Sheria in north-west Fujairah. Boasting stunning rock formations in vibrant russet tones and a vast boulder with ancient petroglyphs, it undoubtedly stands out as unique. The 8.8km trail is well marked, thanks to the recent efforts of Fujairah Adventures. However, this is a challenging hike and will require some prior experience. There are shelters for rest and shade, though most of the path is in the open sun, so don’t forget your sunscreen. The approaching road is in a rough condition and requires a 4×4.

Jebel Jais

JEBEL JAIS

Great for: Outstanding panoramas
Distance from DXB: 1-hour 50 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 25.903435, 56.140985 (lower trails); 25.938134,56.131498 (upper trails)

The UAE’s tallest mountain, Jebel Jais is split into two hiking areas. The lower segment has five trails for varying abilities, starting from 0.8km up to 6km for the Samar trail. Hikes are well marked out but if you prefer to have some supervision, Beyond Action (beyondaction.ae), Challenging Adventure (challengingadventure.com) and Adventurati Outdoor (adventurati-outdoor.com) all offer guided tours.

The upper trail is a bit more demanding with a steep start. However, the track is well defined making it difficult to lose your way. This path will lead you to the north and south summits, where you have outstanding vistas from the highest points in the UAE. Thanks to huge efforts from the Ras Al Khaimah government, Jebel Jais is a hub for thrill-seekers. It also hosts the country’s highest restaurant, 1484 by Puro, named so after its height above sea level.

Mleiha

MLEIHA

Great for: panoramic sand dune views
Distance from DXB: 45 minutes drive
Coordinates: 25.167183,55.841779

Stunning sand dunes meet the fascinating geological wonders of Fossil Rock at Jebel Mleiha. It starts with a mild hike and boulder clambering, before the real climb begins. There’s no set path so be sure to follow a Wikiloc App trail – you’ll find a number to choose from. Either head straight up and left, which will take you along the hair-raising ridge and down the far mountainside towards the desert, or up and right, which makes for panoramic views of Fossil Rock. Not recommended for children under 10 years.

Jebel Hafeet

Jabeel Hafeet

Great for: Advanced hikers
Distance from DXB: 1-hour 50 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 24.098936, 55.748944 (Green Mubazzarah Park); 24.055854, 55.798625 (Jebel Hafeet Desert Park)

Situated in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi’s only mountainous region, Jebel Hafeet offers a variety of rewarding hikes. The first begins at Green Mubazzarah Park, but due to covid restrictions, the park is currently only open from 5pm, so hikers are taking to reversing the hike and starting at the top. The alternative trek is the ‘smuggler’s route’ which commences from the Desert Park on the far side of the mountain. This path winds up through the rugged terrain offering fascinating views of the ancient burial tombs and the desert plains stretching out towards Oman. Both routes are considered intermediate with some loose rocks, therefore not advised for children or first-timers.

Wadi Abadilah

Great for: Bouldering and wadi dips
Distance from DXB: 1-hour 30 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 25.440816, 56.196784

Approximately 20km north of Masafi lies the picturesque Wadi Abadilah. This trail leads you through agricultural farmland where you will spot banana trees, mango trees, date palms and more. While most wadis are running dry this year, with little rain, Abadilah still has some flowing streams and pools. If you are a keen nature observer, look out for snakes and lizards in this area. This is a moderate hike, with some boulder climbing depending on how deep into the wadi you venture. Weekends can get busy.

Hiking essentials checklist

Hiking is a great experience that allows you to connect with nature by immersing yourself in it. But anyone who’s ever gone on a hike underprepared usually has regrets. The wrong shoes, lack of water, missing maps etc. Here’s a good list of things you’ll need for a thoroughly enjoyable hike.

Boots and shoes

Most people’s feet swell considerably while hiking, so you need a hiking boot that’s slightly wide on the toes, yet light and breathable. We’re fans of The North Face M Vectiv Exploris Mid Futurelight (Dhs729, The North Face store), designed with innovative solutions for maximising stability and minimising fatigue.

Packs

An ultralight, water-resistant and tear-resistant pack like the Lixada series (Dhs62, amazon.ae) is ideal to handle the terrain you’ll come across in the UAE. It also has a special pouch to fit a water bladder.

Hydration

It’s fine to bring bottles of water, but you’ll find the experience far more enjoyable with a CamelBak. Some models are absolutely perfect for day trips as the backpack will sufficiently hold your water reserve and have enough room for your other necessities (snacks, keys, phone, etc).

Very useful Apps

Wikiloc and Alltrails are two of the best apps to find trails with outdoor navigation, offline maps and live tracking.

Most everything else you’ll need

Other essentials worth having include a headlamp, a portable charger, a first aid kit, sunscreen, snacks, sunglasses, a hat, and a phone with offline maps.

8 hiking safety tips

hiking with friends

-Always tell someone where you plan to hike and the time you expect to return.

-It is recommended not to hike alone. If you do, make sure you follow a busy route and do not go off course.

-Always take more water than you think you need. If you get lost in the mountains, water will keep you going until help comes.

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-Download maps before setting off. The network coverage in the mountains can be patchy and some areas have no coverage at all.

-Morning hikes are safer as you won’t run out of daylight hours. If you plan to hike at night, make sure you have enough torches and know your route well.

-Check the weather before heading out. Rain can cause flash floods and have a perilous outcome.

-Never attempt the more advanced hikes without a guide. Going underprepared can lead to serious consequences.

-Remember to leave the mountains as you found them. Please do not litter.

Words: Abigail Gilbert