UAE’s natural topography makes it a premier adventure destination for land-based outdoor activities. It’s majestic mountains, for one, provide the most scenic and challenging trails for hikers.
Hiking in the UAE should be on your list of weekend getaway destinations, whether you’re a local or tourist. Discover the natural wonders of the UAE on foot by yourself or with a group of adventure-seekers with the same goal. In this guide, we’ll help you dive deep into the various hiking trails and communities near Dubai while offering tips and tricks along the way.
Things to Know Before Your First Hiking Activity in the UAE
Hiking is an ideal outdoor activity for families and groups of friends. It’s also a powerful cardio workout with moderate difficulty. If you’re about to plan your first adventure, here are some things you need to know and do before hiking in the UAE.
What it’s Like to Hike in the UAE?
Hiking is a long-distance walk following a specific trail. It can be a form of exercise or natural leisure activity, so it offers a lot of health benefits. Hiking can improve your blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and enhance mental well-being.
UAE’s breathtaking and natural sceneries can give you the proper break you need from the busy city. Using hiking as a natural exercise and leisure activity, you can explore some of the best places and hidden gems of Dubai for free, as part of a group, or with the help of a local tour operator.
Who Can Hike near Dubai?
Hiking is an activity with low to moderate difficulty, depending on the hiking location and duration. It’s recommended to only participate in this activity if you can withstand the challenges involved.
Hiking Age Restrictions
Kids can get started hiking any time. However, parents and guardians should be mindful of the length and duration of the hiking trail. Children ages 0 to 3 can hike up to 2 miles. Children ages 4 to 7 can hike up to 4 miles. Children ages 8+ can hike up to 10 miles, but they shouldn’t carry heavy loads.
If you’re hiking with acquaintances, you can simply follow the appropriate hiking miles for children mentioned in this guide. However, if you’re hiking in Dubai as part of a local group or organization, it’s best to follow their specific age restrictions.
Hiking Backpack Weight Restrictions
There are no weight restrictions for how much you can carry in a hike. After all, it’s your backpack. But a general rule is to carry a loaded backpack that doesn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight.
Does Hiking Requires Skills and Experience?
Experienced hikers can easily handle long-distance walks in different locations. While first-time hikers would find the activity challenging, hiking doesn’t really require skills and experience. First-timers could improve the outcome of their first experience by improving their flexibility, endurance, and tolerance.
Is Hiking Safe and Regulated in the UAE?
Hiking, on its own, is very safe. It’s the hiking location that you should question. Local authorities regulate popular and registered hiking locations in the UAE. As such, you’ll need permits from local authorities to hike there. However, wilderness areas—even those with trails—are usually not regulated. It’s best to avoid them as you won’t know the dangers they hide until you get trapped in one.
To ensure your safety, don’t ever hike alone, especially if you’re new to Dubai. Always hike in groups or with hiking organizations. Lastly, don’t forget to get permission from operators or local authorities guarding the hiking trail.
All tour companies and organizers of mass-participation activities in Dubai follow special health and safety measures to combat COVID-19. Hiking organizers in the UAE are required by the World Health Organization (WHO) and local authorities to ensure social distancing among guests, conduct temperature checks for staff and guests, and promote contactless payments. Some operators may limit the number of participants and visitors per hiking activity.
Hikers, too, are required to follow individual safety protocols. Visitors should wear face masks when hiking, practice social distancing, and avoid physical contact among staff and other hikers, and submit basic personal information and other documents for contact tracing purposes.
When Is the Best Time to Hike in Dubai?
Like other physical exercises and activities, it’s best to hike in the early morning to maximize your trail time. This schedule will also allow you to avoid Dubai’s heat in the afternoon and watch the sunset over the horizon.
It’s not recommended for first-timers or hikers in a new territory to hike at night, even with the proper equipment. Hiking without natural light can be dangerous as it gives you a limited view of your surroundings.
How Long Should You Hike?
The duration of your hike depends on your itinerary or planned activity, the actual hiking location or route, and your tolerance or fitness level. If you’re a first-timer, you should only try hiking under 5 miles with minimal climbing. From there, you can gradually increase your tolerance level and try longer hikes.
What are the Best Hiking Trails in the UAE?
Make Dubai and other parts of the UAE your starting line as a hiker. Hiking in UAE and its natural topography offers challenging trails and beautiful sceneries that can surely ignite your passion. Here’s a list of best trails in or near Dubai for tourists and first-time hikers:
Hatta Wadi Hub
Hatta Wadi Hub is a mountain town offering various outdoor activities, both free and paid; some are organized by local travel and tour companies. Hiking trails at Hatta Wadi Hub circle around the majestic Hajar mountains, the tallest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula. They are perfect trails for beginner, intermediate, and advanced hikers. Aside from hiking, tourists can also try other activities like archery, kayaking, or ax-throwing.
Al Qudra Lake
The actual Al Qudra Lake is an ideal place for wildlife spotting, lakeside camping, group picnics, and desert cycling since it’s a man-made desert oasis. But the nearby natural dunes in the area are perfect hiking trails for beginners. The trails are easy to follow, so they work for inexperienced hikers looking for outdoor leisure activities.
Al Rabi Trail
The Al Rabi trail in Khorfakkan is one of the best hiking trails for beginner and intermediate hikers. It’s only 90 minutes away from the end of downtown Dubai, easily accessible by tourists and residents. The entire trail is 5.3-kilometer long, with an elevation of 395 meters. Besides hiking, Khorfakkan offers other outdoor activities, such as sea diving, parasailing, and picnics.
Only an hour away from Dubai, Jabal Hafeet offers majestic ranges and views perfect for hiking and sightseeing. The hiking trail at Jal Hafeet begins from Green Mubazzarah park and ends at the tower of one of the highest peaks. It’s a short hike, so beginners can definitely start their journey here.
Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah is in the heart of UAE, and it stands as one of the biggest cities in the country. Because of its size and topography, Ras Al Khaimah offers numerous hiking trails. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced hikers can start their paths at Wadi Monay, Wadi Shawka, The Hidden Oasis, or Stairway to Heaven.
Preparation and Planning Tips
You’ve been introduced to the wonders and beauty of Dubai and the UAE from the perspective of a hiker; let’s now head to the actual preparations and procedures involved in planning the activity.
How to Get to the Best Hiking Trails near Dubai
Exploring the mountains and natural outdoor locations of the UAE is pretty easy, especially if you’re planning to hike at popular hiking trails. There are hiking groups and travel companies offering a full itinerary with pick-up and drop-off services, but if you plan to hike with your friends and family alone, here’s a guide to get to the best hiking trails in the UAE.
How to Get to Hatta Wadi Hub
Hatta Wadi Hub is located near the Dubai-Hatta road. Travelers with private or rented vehicles can easily reach the hiking trail approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from the city center through Sharjah-Kalba Road/E102.
If you want to commute, city buses can take you to Hatta Wadi and its surrounding areas. Take bus E16 and alight at Hatta, Bus Station. There are no direct metro lines that can take you to Hatta Wadi Hub.
How to Get to Al Qudra Lake
Al Qudra Lake sits on the outskirts of Dubai. Travelers with private or rented vehicles can easily reach the trail approximately 48 minutes from the city center through E11 at Al Qudra Rd/D63.
If you want to commute, long-distance buses can take you to Al Qudra Lake and its surrounding areas. Take bus 67 and alight at the Seh As-Salam Farm – 2 station. There are no direct metro lines from the city that can take you to Al Qudra.
How to Get to Al Rabi Trail
Al Rabi is located in Khorfakkan, a city of the Emirate of Sharjah. Travelers with private or rented vehicles can easily reach the trail approximately one and a half hour from Dubai’s city center through E88 at Khorfakkan Road.
If you want to commute, long-distance buses can take you to Khorfakkan and its surrounding areas. Take bus E700 from Dubai RTA bus company. There are no direct metro lines from the city that can take you to Al Rabi.
How to Get to Jabal Hafeet
Jabal Hafeet is a tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi, so it’s easily accessible from Dubai. Travelers with private or rented vehicles can easily reach the trail approximately 2 hours from Dubai’s city center through Al Ain – Dubai Road/E66.
If you want to commute, long-distance buses can take you to Jabal Habit and its surrounding areas. Take bus numbers 13D, 24, E303, E303A, E304, E306, E307, E307A, and E400, depending on your location. If you want to take the metro, take the Red Line to Stadium Metro Station, and hire a taxi or Uber to Jabal Hafeet.
How to Get to Ras Al Khaimah
Ras al Khaimah is a large city in the UAE. Travelers with private or rented vehicles can easily reach Ras al Khaimah from the city center in approximately one hour and 30 minutes through Al Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd/E311 or Emirates Rd/E611.
If you want to commute, city buses can take you to Ras al Khaimah and its surrounding areas. This option is the cheapest and most straightforward mode of transportation. Take an Al Hamra bus heading to Ras al Khaimah from the Union Bus Station. Buses operate daily between 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.
What Are the Things Hikers Need to Prepare?
Hiking is a long journey on foot, so you definitely need to prepare some things to make your journey as hassle-free and comfortable as possible. Here are some of the most important things you shouldn’t forget to prepare for your first hike:
Hiking doesn’t require a particular type of sports clothing, but make sure to bring comfortable and flexible clothes to match the current weather. You can dress in layers. You can wear long-sleeved shirts, t-shirts, shorts, or pants. Avoid denim jeans at all costs.
If you don’t have hiking shoes or sandals, go with your most comfortable running shoes or sneakers. You can choose to wear open-toed shoes if you’re comfortable in them.
Food and Drinks
Bring a reasonable amount of food based on the duration of your hike. Don’t fill your bag with heavy items that you won’t need or consume during the activity. It’s best to bring a big bottle of water and light or compact food.
Accessories and Equipment
Whether you’re casually hiking or aiming to cross a challenging trail, don’t forget to bring accessories and equipment that can protect you against various natural conditions. Here are some of the most useful hiking gear essentials you should bring:
Sun protection accessories and cosmetics, such as sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
Map or compass
Small multi-tool kit
Towel or toilet paper
Who Offers Group Hiking Activities near Dubai?
Hiking is usually a free outdoor activity for everyone, but it still depends on the location of the hiking trail. If you don’t want to prepare for hiking activities on your own or you just want to meet local hikers in Dubai and the UAE, here are some of the recognized hiking groups and travel companies you can reach out to:
UAE Trekkers is a tourism and hiking company operating in Dubai and other parts of the UAE. They have certified all-female hiking guides that know the areas of Ras Al Khaimah, Hatta, and Showka mountains well. They offer group and private hikes, high-altitude hiking, and other weekend adventures, making them one of the most active groups promoting hiking in UAE.
AFT Outdoor Adventures Dubai
AFT is one of the widely recognized local hiking communities in Dubai. They have over 8,000 members at the time of writing. Aside from hiking activities, they also organize free fitness training and local sports events.
An actively operating travel and tour company in Dubai, Adventuri Outdoors offers affordable outdoor activities and experiences. They organize hiking, backpacking, abseiling, canyoning, and mountain climbing activities for as low as 280 AED (76.23 USD)
Trekkup Dubai is a local and public trekking and hiking community in Dubai. The organization currently has over 9,000 members. Through wide connections, they can organize local, national, and international hiking and trekking events.
MAG Adventures Dubai
MAG is a travel organization that organizes weekend trips from Dubai to Oman and other unique adventure hikes worldwide. MAG usually plans hiking with pools, desert camping, and beach and mountain chillout trips.
Final Hiking Tips for First-Timers
The destination should be your priority when you go hiking near Dubai as a first-timer. Then, you also need to consider your physical, mental, and emotional readiness before you embark on this adventure. Hiking is a fun yet tiring activity. Make sure you’re prepared and determined to reach the top of your destination.
What to Do After Hiking in the UAE
Hiking is the perfect weekend getaway for tourists and locals alike. It’s an outdoor activity like no other. If you’re looking for more land adventures in the city, try camel riding and dune buggying. Book a complete desert safari adventure if you want to explore the vast deserts of Dubai.