‘Secret staircase’ - Musandam mountains ‘Secret staircase’ - Musandam mountains

The best hiking trails in the UAE

Get out of the city and see some of the UAE's picturesque landscape with our guide to some of the best hiking trails in the region

To many, Dubai is a glittering metropolis, filled with the world’s tallest buildings and luxury hotels but surrounded by a vast, barren and arid desert...but what people don’t realise is that Dubai is a region with a varied, beautiful landscape, and tourists need to learn that the most stunning scenery in the UAE is only available to those who are willing to walk for it.

With perfectly suitable temperatures for nearly nine months of the year (with cool evenings suitable for willing campers too) why not try a little adventure the next time you visit Dubai? Top tip: This is still the desert, adequate sun protection, lots of water and common sense apply to all of the below!

‘Secret staircase’ - Musandam mountains

This easy to moderate climb is accessible by road from Dubai but users will need to bring passports to cross the Oman border. It is a three-hour trek where you access secret staircases which were handbuilt by Pakistani goat herders. You will reach Twaifat and Yehnadj, two villages famous for their ancient gravestones and Petroglyphs. To reach this walk head to the back of Dibba beach, and from there it’s a 30-minute drive into the wadi (valley)... you will need a 4X4 to handle the rough terrain.

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Wadi Tayyibah - Dibba Al Fujairah

wadi-tayyibahWadi Tayyibah - Dibba Al Fujairah

A popular hike that won’t have you in too much pain in the next day is Wadi Tayyibah, an old East Coast road 20 km north of Masafi. There are new roads now in place but parts of the old route remain and it’s still used by local farmers and villagers who work at small date farms along the route. It’s a one-way hike in which you’ll view natural pools and traditional irrigation systems, the old village of Tayyibah, and the town’s museum, which gives an insight into the traditional way of life...The route is a great spot for picnics too, so pack a basket and make a day of it. Head to village of Al Hala and park there; take care not to block any residential access and avoid in rainy season as parts of the route may get blocked.

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Jebel Qihwi - Hajar Mountains

jebel-qihwi-1Jebel Qihwi - Hajar Mountains

You’ll need to cross just over the border into Oman for this hike but the scenic drive and picturesque views from the summit make it worth the extra effort. It’s one of the highest mountains in the region, (it’s a seven-hour round trip) so although you won’t be doing any technical climbing a good level of fitness is required. The hike itself starts as a path but expect to use your hands for balance as you near the top as the path turns to rocks. The last twenty metres are particularly difficult so if you want to reach the summit, some basic climbing equipment is advised. Best months: October - April

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The Shawka Dam Loop - Fujairah

shawka-damThe Shawka Dam Loop - Fujairah

The Shawka Dam Loop is a 10km loop located in the Shawka Dam, Fujairah which is about two hours from Dubai. The route here is well used by bikers and walkers so expect good gravel roads or well-trodden tracks. You’ll get a glimpse of desert life and agricultural life (on a good day you’ll catch camels, goats, donkeys and a variety of birdlife). There are hikes for different abilities in the area; If you wish to do something a bit more adventurous it’s best to organise a guide in advance or go with competent people who know the area. If you want to spend the night, there are some popular camping spots here too. 

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Jebel Hafeet - Al Ain

jebel-hafeet-1Jebel Hafeet - Al Ain

We saved this one for last because this is one for the more experienced hikers. Located in Al Ain which is just under two hours from Dubai this can be done in a day trip. The mountain is the third highest in the UAE (although commonly mistaken as the highest) with a 1,240km peak. This is steep and not suitable for an average walker, some serious terrain must be covered; trekking poles, trekking boots and plenty of water are advised. Because it’s such a steep climb, it’s best to avoid doing this one in the middle of the day; try it at sunrise or sunset... the view once you reach the top will be worth it.

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1 Wadi Tayyibah - Dibba Al Fujairah
2 Jebel Qihwi - Hajar Mountains
3 The Shawka Dam Loop - Fujairah
4 ‘Secret staircase’ - Musandam mountains
5 Jebel Hafeet - Al Ain