A Favorite Hike: Nahal Darga

One of my favorite hikes in Israel is described in a recent story in the Jerusalem Post.  The Nahal Darga is a large canyon that drains the Judean Wilderness into the Dead Sea.  The marvelous hike combines spectacular views, historic caves, and challenging climbing.  Jacob Solomon’s article offers sage advice, but if you’re planning to heed the call, do not make the same mistake that he does and miss the real jewel of the hike, that is, climbing down the canyon itself!  Some excerpts from the article:

This is a memorable, varied and demanding full-day route. Shaded for much of the way, the earlier parts follow the deep, steep-sided gorge of Nahal Darga, and the sun should be well behind the Judean Hills by the late afternoon descent to the finish at Mitzpe Shalem. Check the flash-flood forecast immediately before this excursion….
You have reached one of the last stands of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132-135 CE), led by Simeon Bar Kosiba, a.k.a. Bar Kochba. The official Roman conversion of Jerusalem to the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina with a temple to the god Jupiter fired a rebellion of sufficient magnitude for Emperor Hadrian to bring down his premier general Severus, then in Britain. The fighters retreated, making their last guerrilla-style stands in these mountains in the hopeful but erroneous belief that the geographical obstacles you have just surmounted might deter Hadrian’s imperial army.

If you do opt to climb through the canyon, you must be in good shape, you may need climbing rope, and you will get wet and probably dirty.  You also would be wise to leave anything behind that cannot get wet, including your camera. 

Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107575Nahal Darga from above
Wadi Murabaat, Bar Kochba cave, view from interior, tb021107619Wadi Murabaat = Nahal Darga, Cave where Bar Kochba scrolls found

Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107581

The best part of the hike is through the canyon itself 
Nahal Darga, Wadi Murabaat, tb021107612 
The best time of the year to hike Nahal Darga is February to April.  After that, the temperatures are too hot and the water becomes too putrid.

5 thoughts on “A Favorite Hike: Nahal Darga

  1. Is there a time of the year when the water is NOT putrid? I have vivid memories of jumping into black slick and emerging with plastic bags and other rubbish stuck to my body. But for me, the payoff of the hike was quite high–I got an ibex out of it, one that I greet every morning with a kiss. (That was one of the first hikes I did with Yael).

  2. Hey Todd,

    A few buddies and I would love to do this hike and were wondering if you could elaborate on your suggested canyon descent. If we go down into the canyon how far do we go and how do we rejoin the main trail?


  3. Adam – there are a number of things about this hike that make it difficult for me to give advice in a blog comment. The trail is well marked and once you're in the canyon, it's a one-way route (down to the Dead Sea). You need two vehicles – one to drop you off at the top near the field center and another to pick you up where the Darga crosses the highway (you will not want to climb back up to the car at the top after the hike). If you don't have the 1:50,000 map of the area, I highly recommend you get it.

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