Head out of the city and explore the country with these hiking routes for all levels
Bored of brunches? Want to escape the noise pollution of the city? The UAE offers some beautiful hiking routes that provide peace and quiet for families as well as adventurous excursions for those up for a bigger challenge.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or want to try something new, there are options to suit all abilities. We speak to Amy Subaey, director of UAE Trekking, to find out where to go and how to stay safe.
Before you go
Remember that while other countries consider hiking to be walking on a designated trail, the UAE’s routes are unmarked trails with no signage and you’ll often be in remote, difficult to access areas, making safety paramount.
“For all hikes, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone, as a first-timer, would venture out at all,” Amy says. “Chances are you’re from another country where the weather is cooler and there are places with maps and trail markers and you don’t need to go with the right amount of water because you probably go hiking somewhere where there’s a stream. Here, it’s a totally different story.
“We have a lot of people that have had serious heat exhaustion and some have even died from it. The first thing is to plan for the heat and take at least four or five litres of water for a three hour hike. That’s a big turn-off for people because that’s about five kilos but if you can’t carry the water you shouldn’t go on the hike, that’s my rule.”
It’s also important to remember that while the sun is harsh during the day, it can get surprisingly cold at night, and during the winter flash floods are common in some areas.
While Amy says there’s no ‘hiking’ as such in Abu Dhabi, given its flat topography, there is an easy desert walk that’s suitable for first-timers and families, while further afield you’ll find more rocky routes…
EASY: AL WATHBA
“The place I’d start is a dune hike in Al Wathba, right across the road from the cycle track,” Amy explains. “You can park there and head into the dunes, which aren’t so big, and hike parallel to the road. You’ll be right next to the road so you can just tootle around in the dunes. It’ll feel like you’re miles away from civilization; it’s really beautiful, yet you’re only a short distance from your car.”
“This would be the first way to go if you really want to get out of town but don’t want to be too adventurous; it’s good for families as well.”
Near Emirates Endurance Village.
MEDIUM: WADI SHOWKA
Heading outside of Abu Dhabi, Wadi Showka is a common spot and is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Abu Dhabi.
Amy explains, “There’s no marked trail but if you do need to know where to go you can kind of follow the garbage – most people are not very respectful about the environment and litter profusely.
“It’s like a wadi and it’s a very easy hike. If you want to go on your own you can follow the wadi and then turn around. There are options to make it longer or shorter but there are no marked trails so go with someone who isn’t getting GPS coordinates off Google maps, but who’s done the trail more than two or three times.
“Once you go off into that wadi it’s like pin the tail on the donkey: when you spin around you don’t know which way is up. It’s very confusing, it all looks the same, you could wander forever; there are no signs, no markers and more importantly there’s no way to call for help. The second you leave the road there’s no mobile phone signal and that’s the same with any of the hikes around here.
“There’s a lot of people that offer hikes, my company is one of them; we do hikes to Showka about once a month. It’s not too hard to find someone that’s been out there but make sure you go with someone who knows how to find their way back.
Off the Sharjah-Kalba Road.
DIFFICULT: RAS AL KHAIMAH
This northern emirate is filled with options that are popular with people living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is a viable day trip.
“The hikes aren’t more than five or six hours,” Amy says. “Again there are lots of options but no marked trails, no mobile phone signal but loads of hiking. It’s definitely more challenging; it’s very mountainous. There are little villages up there, and it’s really beautiful.”
Some of the best options in the area include Jabal Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE, Wadi Shah and Wadi Bih.
ABOUT UAE TREKKERS
Amy’s company, UAE Trekkers, offers excursions throughout the UAE and beyond. The team are all first-aid trained, help prepare people for each trek and know the trails well. To find out more, visit: uae-trekkers.com, facebook.com/groups/uaetrekkers