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

If you’re on the hunt for an adventurous getaway, pack up the hiking gear and take a drive down to the mountains.

The UAE is packed with wilderness and is home to a number of amazing hiking trails. They’re beautiful, they’re all unique, and they get you outside to enjoy the season. They are also free.

Here are 8 hiking trails in UAE to go conquer 

Wadi Shawka

Shawka

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

One of the closest hiking spots to Dubai, Wadi Shawka is just an hour away and is great for beginners. 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 (aka several ‘Gram opportunities). 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. It’s dog-friendly, too but keep them on a leash as you don’t want them to wander too far.

Hatta Mountain Trails

HATTA Hiking trail

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

Dubai’s largest national park, Hatta is a popular spot for families and friends for several reasons including the fun adventure centre, Hatta Wadi Hub. It’s also home to several hiking trails where you can explore the Hajar Mountains. There are four trails to choose from: Easy, Moderate, Difficult and Severe. The routes spread over nearly 33km and you can expect undulating rugged hills and wadis, dams, farms, a heritage village and trails that even go 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. There are even spots where you can enjoy a picnic, set up camp, explore heritage sites and much more.

Al Rabi Mountain Trail

Al Rabi Hiking trail

Great for: A dip in Khorfakkan beach post-hike
Distance from Dubai: 1-hour 25 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 25.339488, 56.359157

Situated on the east coast, overlooking Khorfakkan town and the Gulf of Oman, Al Rabi Mountain trail is possibly one of the most popular and easy hikes in the UAE. The trail is clearly marked and you’ll be treated to a spectacular sunrise view. Do note the trail does get steep at times, but you’ll have the Hajjar mountains and other Khorfakkan landmarks to keep you going. It takes about three hours to complete the 6km track when taking it on at a moderate pace. 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

 

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

One of the most colourful and geological hikes in the UAE is Ain Al Sheria in northwest Fujairah. The trail boasts 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 demanding 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 but more importantly, carry more water than you think you need. There is limited car parking and access to the route will require a 4×4.

Jebel Jais

JEBEL JAIS

Great for: Outstanding panoramas
Distance from Dubai: 2 hours
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 with a total of six hiking trails available at varying difficulty levels. The lower segment has five trails for varying abilities, starting from 0.7km (Farfaar trail) up to 6km (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: experienced hikers who want a challenge
Distance from Dubai: 50 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 trail that will lead you to the summit. You will be rewarded with panoramic views of Fossil Rock. The total distance is 6km and you are warned to stay away from the edges, watch out for loose rocks and thin fossil rocks.

Jebel Hafeet

Jabeel Hafeet

Great for: Advanced hikers
Distance from Dubai: 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. There’s the Green Mubazzarah Park, but the park may be closed due to covid restrictions so do your research before you pick this trail. There’s also the ‘smuggler’s route’ which commences from the Desert Park on the far side of the mountain. 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 Dubai: 1-hour 30 minutes’ drive
Coordinates: 25.440816, 56.196784

This trail has gained popularity with hikers offering up picturesque nature scenes including the Wadi Abadilah. The trail is considered easy to moderate and will take you through agricultural farmland where you will spot banana trees, mango trees, date palms and more. As we’ve had a bit of rain this year, so you may be lucky to catch flowing streams and pools in the wadis. It is possible for little ones to do this hike but do keep an eye on them as a few rocks can be slippery.

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Hiking essentials checklist

Checklist for an enjoyable hike

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 hiking essentials checklist

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.
Packs – An ultralight, water-resistant and tear-resistant pack to handle the terrain you’ll come across in the UAE.
Hydration – Carry more than you think you’ll require.
Very useful Apps – Wikiloc and Alltrails are two of the best apps to find trails with outdoor navigation, offline maps and live tracking.
Everything else you’ll need – Other essentials worth having include a headlamp, a portable charger/battery pack and wires, a first aid kit, sunscreen, snacks, sunglasses, a hat, and a phone with offline maps.

8 hiking safety tips

hiking with friends

  1. Always tell someone where you plan to hike and the time you expect to return.
  2. Do not hike alone. If you do, make sure you follow a busy route and do not go off course.
  3. Always take more water than you think you need. If you get lost in the mountains, water will keep you going until help comes.
  4. Download maps before setting off. The network coverage in the mountains can be patchy and some areas have no coverage at all.
  5. 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.
  6. Check the weather before heading out. Rain can cause flash floods and have a perilous outcome.
  7. Never attempt the more advanced hikes without a guide. Going underprepared can lead to serious consequences.
  8. Remember to leave the mountains as you found them. Please do not litter.

Words: Abigail Gilbert