Beyond the ultra-modern cities and bustling souks, there are endless opportunities for outdoor adventure in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Whether you’re interested in trekking up a rugged mountainside, navigating your way through desert dunes, or hiking around a lush desert oasis, the country is brimming with gorgeous natural scenery and hiking trails suited for all fitness levels. What’s more, many of the best trails can easily be reached from the major cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, making them great for day trips and short excursions. Read on for a list of the best hikes in the UAE followed by a helpful set of answers to frequently asked questions about hiking through this unique travel destination.
Wadi Al Far, Jebel Jais
Distance: 5 km
Time: 5 hours
As one of the most famous hiking spots in the United Arab Emirates, Jebel Jais also boasts the highest mountain peak in the country. The mountain is just a two-hour car ride away from downtown Dubai in the neighboring emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. From short family-friendly walks to steep climbs for advanced hikers, the area is filled with over 80 kilometers of trails suited for all experience levels. If you’re looking for a challenge, head out on the Wadi Al Far Trail. The initial ascent is steep, gaining about 900 meters in elevation and taking about two hours to climb all the way up. Once you’re at the top, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning viewpoint overlooking the sprawling mountain range and a beautiful old village.
Balcony Hike, Jebel Jais
Distance: 4 km
Time: 2–3 hours
Backed by the stunning display of rugged mountains, Balcony Hike is a great option for an easier hike on Jebel Jais. The trail sits right beside the highest peak in the UAE at an elevation of 1,300 meters and leads to a breathtaking viewpoint with panoramic views. There are no steep climbs along the way and the hike is only about two hours round trip, making this a great trek for beginners to explore a higher elevation and admire the sunset. If you have the time, it is definitely worth taking it slow and enjoying the jaw-dropping landscape as the setting sun changes the colors of the vast mountainous terrain.
Hatta Wadi Hub Trails
Distance: 0.3–7.5 km
Difficulty: All levels
Time: 1 hour–full day
With over 32 kilometers of hiking trails and expansive pools of calm turquoise waters, Hatta is another one of the best places for hiking in the United Arab Emirates. The trails cut through the foothills of the Hajar Mountains and are color coded by difficulty level (green, blue, red, and black) ranging from beginner to advanced and varying in elevation gain between 50 and 784 meters. A few of the hikes lead up to the famous 60-meter tall Hatta sign, while others wind through lush farmland or lead you to the Hatta Heritage Village landmark. Hatta is an exclave of Dubai located just about 90 minutes away from downtown, making this the perfect spot for a day trip.
Hajar Hiking Trail
Distance: 5 km
Time: 4–5 hours
For a more advanced trek with rewarding scenery and an experienced guide, try this steep climb from Dibba, Fujairah. The trail starts at the Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort, where guests can book a guided hike, and winds through the valley floor and up the breathtaking Hajar Mountains. The scenery is often described as otherworldly, with 360° views of the fascinating rocky terrain, and the route passes by several old homes and mountain villages.
Distance: 5 km
Time: 3 hours
This laid-back hike starts at the Al Tayyibah Heritage Museum in Fujairah and winds around natural springs and traditional irrigation systems in the Hajar Mountains. The trail is pretty flat and easy, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way and have a picnic or just enjoy the views. If you visit in the winter time, you’ll also be met with pleasant weather and luscious greenery, making this one of the best hiking spots in the United Arab Emirates for a relaxing day trip.
Distance: 8.4 km
Time: 4 hours
Another awesome mountain trail in the United Arab Emirates for experienced hikers looking for a challenge, Jebel Hafeet lies along the border of the UAE and Oman and boasts the third-highest peak in the country. The steep climb starts at the bottom of the mountain in Green Mubazzarah Park and offers magnificent views of the Al Ain Oasis, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lush mineral springs, green scenery, and ancient irrigation systems look picture perfect against the brilliant golden mountains. Conveniently, Al Ain is located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and is just 150 kilometers inland from Abu Dhabi City.
Distance: 10 km
Time: 3 hours
Offering beginners and experienced hikers alike a fantastic opportunity to trek through the Hajar Mountains, this long but relatively easy loop trail starts near the Wadi Modaynah Dam in Ras Al Khaimah. The trail is also perfect for mountain biking, and there are plenty of flat areas and convenient stopping points where you can soak in the scenery of the gorgeous, mountainous terrain. Some hikers choose to camp out near the dam in order to get an early start on the trek, but this is definitely not necessary since the loop is just 90 kilometers away from Dubai and takes about three hours to complete.
Distance: 19 km
Time: 10 hours
Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, the Wadi Ghalilah climb is a steep ascent along an old shepherd’s route that connects Oman and Ras Al Khaimah through a series of stone walkways. Only experienced hikers and climbers with proper gear should take on this notoriously dangerous trail, as it is filled with large loose rocks and requires a high level of fitness. Although the climb is long and strenuous, this is also one of the best hiking trails in the UAE, and the expansive views of clouds and mountains at an elevation of almost 2,000 meters make it well worth the effort.
Distance: 5 km
Time: 2–3 hours
Rounding off our list is another of the best hikes in the UAE for beginners, the Al Rabi Hiking Trail in Khor Fakkan, an exclave of Sharjah on the Gulf of Oman. The route winds through a gorgeous green mountain range and opens up to panoramic views of the city and the shimmering blue waters of the Gulf. Al Rabi is a very popular hiking spot, largely due to the unique sea views and high level of accessibility. The hike starts at the Al Rabi Tower right in the city of Khor Fakkan and is conveniently located just 90 minutes away from Dubai. It is a great trek for beginners, although with an elevation gain of about 200 meters, it does require a fair amount of effort.
Frequently Asked Questions
What to Pack for Hiking in the UAE
Water is the most important thing to pack, as desert conditions will often leave you without access to fresh water throughout your hike. If you’re taking on a longer or more challenging trek, you’ll also definitely want to bring along some hiking snacks and even meals. Since the UAE is filled with difficult hikes along mountainous terrain, it is best to come prepared with a good pair of hiking boots. Loose clothing, sunscreen, and hats will also help you stay safe and comfortable in the desert heat.
When Is the Best Time to Hike in the UAE?
The best time to go hiking in the UAE is during the winter months or between November and April when the weather is cooler and more mild. The rest of the year sees extremely high temperatures that can leave you prone to dehydration and heat exhaustion if you’re not careful.
What Is the Best Easy Hike in the UAE?
The Balcony Hike at Jebel Jais is one of the best and easiest trails in the United Arab Emirates. The trail is pretty clear with only minor climbs and descents, yet it gives hikers the chance to trek next to the highest peak in the country, a stunning natural wonder that stands at twice the height of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
Hopefully this list serves as a helpful introduction to the many outdoor adventures that await in the UAE. Whether you’re looking for a scenic family-friendly trail or a steep ascent to test your stamina, you’ll find a ton of incredible hikes there.