Level of difficulty: slightly strenuous
The spectacular En Gedi Nature Reserve, just west of the Dead Sea shore, is blessed with two year-round streams, the David Stream in the north and the Arugot Stream in the south. The four springs in the reserve, originating in rainfall in the Judean Mountains, have a total flow-rate of some 3 million cubic meters of water per year.
The combination of En Gedi's location and its fresh water sources allow a wide variety of plant and animal species to thrive side by side. Flora include the acacia, the Christ-thorn and the Sodom apple, alongside streambed vegetation like giant reed and cattail, while the cliff walls are home to various types of moss and ferns, like maidenhair.
Among the mammals in En Gedi are herds of ibex and groups of hyrax, which visitors can meet close at hand. Nocturnal animals include foxes, wolves, hyenas, and even the occasional spotted leopard.
Many remnants of human settlement have been found in the reserve, including a temple going back to the Chalcolithic period (5,000 years before the present).
A Jewish settlement existed at En Gedi for more than 1,200 years, beginning in the seventh century BCE. In the third century, they build a synagogue whose beautiful mosaic floor is a highlight of the visit to En Gedi. The remains of components of ancient irrigation systems show how the inhabitants
used the fresh water to irrigate their cultivated terraces. Ancient En Gedi was famous for its dates and for balsam, a plant from which a costly perfume was produced.
The reserve offers a number of trails, from easy ones to those for experienced hikers.
The three main trails in the En Gedi Stream.
The lower David Stream (easy): The trail passes waterfalls and pools, and leads up to the beautiful David Waterfall. Along the way are trees typical to the reserve, among them acacias, Christ-thorn and Egyptian balsam.
The Upper David Trail (for experienced hikers): The trail begins at the David Stream and continues up the slope to the Shulamit Spring, the karstic Dodim Cave at the top of the David Waterfall, and the En Gedi Spring. The trail also takes in the Chalcolithic temple and other antiquities.
The Tsafit trail to the dry Window Waterfall and canyon, the En Gedi Spring and the lower David Stream (for experienced hikers): This trail follows the seam between the arid part of the reserve and the oasis. It begins at the En Gedi Field Study Center and continues along the northern bank of the David Stream, descends to the dry Window Waterfall, framing a wonderful view of the David Stream, the Dead Sea and the Mountains of Moab, and finally crosses to the southern bank of the stream to the En Gedi Spring, ending at the lower En Gedi Stream.
The walk to the Arugot Stream, one of the largest in the Judean Desert, crosses an untamed landscape with year-round flowing water. The trail leads to the Hidden Waterfall and back, or to the upper pools and back.
Three trails in the reserve are for very experienced hikers. They ascend to the desert plateau, with spectacular views of the Dead Sea, the desert to the west and the Mountains of Moab to the east. The En Gedi Ascent (HaTsits Ascent) and the Isi’im Ascent are actually ancient trails.
Ascent from the Field School to Mount Yishai: A hike through the desert plateau to the En Gedi lookout, and via the En Gedi Ascent to the lower David Stream, ending in the David Stream reserve.
Ascent from Tel Goren to the En Gedi Spring: From the spring, the trail continues up the En Gedi Ascent to the lookout at the top. It continues along the desert plateau to the top of the Bne HaMoshavim Ascent and back down to the Arugot Stream, ending at the cashier's booth of the Arugot Stream reserve.
From Kibbutz En Gedi to the desert plateau via the Tsruya Ascent: A hike from the desert plateau to the top of the Isi’im Ascent and back down to the Arugot Stream, ending at the cashier’s booth of the Arugot Stream reserve.
Visitors should ask the rangers in the cashier’s booth for specifics before taking any of these trails.
How to get there:
The reserve is located off the Dead Sea road (no. 90) about one kilometer north of Kibbutz En Gedi.
Israel Nature and Parks Authority