There are many areas to hike from well-laid out and marked trails to very difficult unmarked ones. Popular ones with families are Shawka, Fossil Rock, al Rabi, Seven Summits, Abadila, Tayyibah, Tawyeen and Jebel Jais. You can find information on all these trails and more on Wikiloc.
Please do your research before going and ensure all safety precautions are adhered to as there are rescues from mountains nearly every weekend of inexperienced and/or ill-prepared hikers. There are many groups that offer organised hikes with experienced guides.
Jebel Jais is not only the tallest mountain in the UAE, but home to the longest zipline in the world, Sky Flight, along with the Sky Tour and Sky Maze. It is also a popular hiking spot with trails of varying difficulty as well a popular camping and picnic spot.
On the way up, there are a few rest areas for camping or having a picnic. Most don’t have seating so you need to have your own or a mat if you plan on stopping there. Some have toilets and there are a couple of food trucks along the way.
Not far from the top, there is a viewing deck with a play area on one side and cafe trucks with seating on the other. There’s a small entrance fee of 5 dhs. Children under 5 go free. It is here that the upper trails start, with the simplest being easy-moderate. The same trail continues on to a higher peak. The view is well worth the effort.
Further up still is another area with more food trucks and rest places. One of the trucks sells delicious legemat, Emirati fried doughballs drizzled in date syrup.
If you want to do any of the activities at the Toroverde aerial adventure park, you need to book in advance and show your booking to be allowed to pass to the top. The same applies for the restaurant 1484 by Puro.
The Flight is a single zipline over 3 kms long. You ‘fly’ in a horizontal position at over 120kph. The Sky Tour is a series of 7 ziplines over 5 kms. This is done ‘sitting’ in a harness and reaches up to speeds of around 60kph. It also includes a walk over a bridge with stunning views. Lastly the Sky Maze is an adventure playground for adult and youngsters alike. You can find out more and book on their website.
You don’t need to go to the top for something to do. There are several lower hiking trails as well as adventure companies based near the foot of the mountain such as Challenging Adventure, Adventurati and Bear Grylls. And then there’s the Via Ferrata too. If you want to hike to the peak of Jebel Jais, you can do that from Wadi Ghalila further north, but it is a difficult hike and should only be undertaken by experienced hikers and/or with a guide.
You pass through Wadi Shaha and Wadi Beeh first and pass a dam with a lake and some old ruins on the way The road up to the top is long and winding, but it is wide and well-paved. Just make sure you remember to fill up your tank before turning off the highway, then sit back and enjoy the view.
The picturesque valley of Wadi Ghalila lies not far from the Oman border and is surrounded by the beautiful rock formations of that area, in particular the beautiful striped mountains with layers of varying colours and shades. Some almost look like paintings rather than a natural work of art. Look out for other formations too.
In the last three photos above, notice the different rock formation in the first two and the huge boulders that have fallen down in the last photo.
Following the recent rain, you can find beautiful fields of purple flowers to walk through or sit and picnic in. Within these fields you’ll also find remnants of old buildings constructed out of rocks fallen (or possibly also brought down) from the mountains. Look out for butterflies.
As you drive around the valley, you’ll come across many old buildings, most of which would have been stores for grain, etc and some animal enclosures. There is the odd house around too. Look carefully on the mountainsides for farms and houses. These are only accessible by climbing, but, of course, are all private property.
The road to the dam has many tiny hamlets on either side of the road with both new villas and old houses and farm buildings. At the time of writing, the dam itself was dry and there is work ongoing at the site, but just past the bridge over the dam on the right, there is a stairway to a hike on the right. Although the first part has actual steps made by the locals, it soon turns into a path and both parts are scattered with loose rock, so care and decent footwear is advised. It leads to the Jebel Jais road and affords a view of several wadis from the top. More information here.
Further down the valley is the Stairway to Heaven, but you’ll have to walk from the road to the beginning of the hike. It is by no means an easy walk or climb and should only be attempted by experienced mountain climbers with appropriate gear and in a group. There have been multiple deaths, injuries and lucky escapes on the mountains, so don’t take this lightly. I’m guessing the helipad near the dam is partly for the mountain rescue helicopters. There are several trekking companies who guide people on this route.
Lastly, you can find quiet area to pitch a tent, either at the foot of the mountains or up the mountains themselves if you go on a hike.
Have fun but be sure to leave the valley in its original beautiful state and leave no trace of your visit behind!