The hike in the Zin Valley is a classic desert hike – a trail that has it all: amazing views of the wilderness of the Zin Valley, the biggest spring in the Negev, Ein Akev, a small Bedouin farm and tea house, and an ancient Nabataean city. The hike is an easy going 16km full day hike on a trail which is accessible via public transportation at both ends. And, no matter where you start the trail, there is cold beer waiting at the end!
- Starting point: Midreshet Ben-Gurion
- End: Avdat National Park
- Difficulty: Medium
- Length: 16.5km
- Time: 6-7 hours
- When to go: Mid September to mid June.
Zin Valley Hike
The Zin Valley Hike is simple. The most complicated thing is getting used to Israel’s trail marking system, which is itself simple to learn. In this case, finding the trail-head is easy. After getting off the bus at Midreshet Ben Gurion cross the road and walk for 50m to the entrance of the Ein Avdat National Park (you don’t need to pay). Keep walking on the road until you see a sign pointing to a red trail on your right hand side. That’s the start of the trail system and hardest part of this hike!
The first part of the hike is a short, steep downhill section taking you down into the Zin Valley and giving you a first look at the amazing landscape around you.
After crossing the dry Zin River-bed, you will come to a junction, take the green trail to the Dyvshon ascent. This steep but again short climb takes you to the other side of the valley. Take it easy, climb slowly and enjoy the views you will experience during the ascent and after getting to the top. Take a short break to get your breath back while feeling the desert wind on your face.
From that point the trail walks on flat land just above the valley. You will come across a small Bedouin farm which offers tea and sometimes basic food. It’s not the most beautiful place but it will give you a firsthand view of the Bedouins in the Negev. The trail continues along the valley crossing a little wadi with a big dry horse-shoe like water fall. Shortly after that, the trail continues down on a nice path into the valley, near Ein Akev, the largest spring in the Negev.
You will come to the junction of a few trails. The blue one takes you down to the spring. The spring itself is a big pool which collects drops of water from above. This great oasis is a source of life for birds, Ibexes, and other animals who make their home in this part of the desert. After swimming in the cold water, take the opportunity to stop for something to eat or drink in the shade before climbing back up to the junction and continuing on the green trail. The trail continues along the small wadi. Very shortly after returning to the green trail, there is another junction where we leave the green trail and take the black one which takes us up the wadi. You are now leaving the beautiful Zin Valley behind and heading towards the ancient city of Avdat.
At some point you will start seeing something very unusual for the desert, a forest of green Phragmites, a grassland in the depths of the desert. Walk alongside it for a few hundreds matters until at some point the trail crosses it to the other side. At the other side, you will see a small pool which is another small spring: the upper Ein Akev.
From here we will take the blue trail to the right, looking for the sign to Avdat. Now the trail climbs out of the wadi back to the flat land. It’s not a short climb like the once before but only the first part is steep. Along the way you will see more and more signs of ancient agriculture as we get closer and closer to this ancient city. When you see the gas station and the McDonald’s sign you’ll know that you are there. From here you can take the bus back to Midrasha Ben Gurion (and the start point) or to any other place around (buses from here head to Mitzpe Ramon or Beer Sheva). Spare some time to go into the Old City (there is a entry fee) after getting some frozen coffee at the Aroma Coffee Bar.
Shai Yagel is head of trail marking in Israel for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. He can be contacted for any questions via Facebook.