Ras al-Khaimah, UAE

Wadi Shah Hike

Forrest Mallard

A most wonderful trip with breathtaking scenery. Behind every curve, something new is waiting to be discovered. There is a variety of terrain and sightseeing. The full circuit is about 13 km over varying terrain including boulder hopping, dry waterfalls, dizzying heights, abandoned mountain villages, farms, and donkey trails.

Location

Ras al-Khaimah, UAE

Directions

Day

Wadi Shah

Ras al-Khaimah, UAE

Ru’us Al Jibal

In the eastern part of Ras Al Khaimah is a spectacular mountain range called the Ru’us Al Jibal. These mountains were formed more than 70 million years ago. Jebel Jais at 1,934m is not only the highest peak in Ras Al Khaimah but in the entire UAE. A key feature of the mountains is the abundance of wadis as well as hiking and mountain bike trails.

Wadi Shah Hike General Information

– Circular trip
– Distance: 13 km
– Duration: 8 hours, including stops
– Activities: steep climbing, scrambling

About Wadi Shah Trail

This is a most wonderful trip with breathtaking scenery. Behind every curve, something new is waiting to be discovered. There is a variety of terrain and sightseeing: boulders, deep canyons, impressive views, steep mountain slopes, petroglyphs, fossils, great pools (depending on rain), ancient villages, Shihuh architecture, and a date palm plantation (the village is still inhabited intermittently), and great hiking. All in Wadi Shah.

Wadi Shah Trail Checkpoints

Here are some general coordinates for the hike that work well on Google Maps. I’ll be doing this hike again in 2019 and will re-check the coordinates then.

01 – Parking / Start Hike —— 25.888036, 56.135812 —— 404 m
02 – Triple Waterfall —— 25.900300, 56.166850 —— 597 m
03 – Start Trail Up —— 25.900202, 56.167689 —— 605 m
04 – Entrance Gate —— 25.903843, 56.170438 —— 759 m
05 – Village 1 —— 25.908065, 56.169812 —— 869 m
06 – Cemetery —— 25.911071, 56.167916 —— 979 m
07 – Highest Point Hike —— 25.910062, 56.160133 —— 1073 m
08 – Water Reservoir —— 25.912963, 56.157567 —— 1035 m
09 – Village 2 —— 25.914371, 56.156200 —— 1010 m
10 – To Ridge —— 25.915125, 56.154233 —— 975 m
11 – Fields —— 25.913589, 56.149165 —— 874 m
12 – Start Trail —— 25.913965, 56.149127 —— 873 m
13 – Entrance into Wadi —— 25.908326, 56.149333 —— 586 m

Starting Wadi Shah Hike

Regular sedan cars can reach this parking area. There is no requirement for a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach this location.

Start point is opposite Jebel Jais Via Ferrata office. There is a guard that is usually stationed at this location telling you where you can and can not park. If he asks you to move your car, simply ask him where is the best place you can park nearby. There are restrooms at this site as well, but not open for public use.

From the parking area, just follow the winding wadi in the direction away from the road, and it will gradually climb. For the first few kilometers, the trail is almost flat, easy-to-walk terrain with small gravel. As you approach the turn to start the real climb, the boulders will become larger and larger, so there will be a bit of scrambling.

It will become obvious that this route is still being used regularly by the locals. Well-polished rocks along the path the path as well as maintained rock stairways will make the trek a lot easier to follow as there are relatively no markers along the way.

Follow the Gorge & Stay to the Left

The gorge will become rougher and narrower. Just follow the canyon up the gorge for even larger boulders, more scrambling and, if there has been some rain, refreshing pools. Just follow the wadi, nothing easier than that. And whenever the wadi splits, stick to the left side.

After a fairly long climb, you will reach tall man-maid walls and lots of palm trees providing a fair amount of shade for you to sit for and rest out of the sun. Here you will probably meet several of the local goats, that are more than willing to help you dispose of any banana peels and apple cores. You have reached the old date palm plantation. A short climb from this location and you will enter your first mountain village on the above plateau.

The mountain village is quite extended and vast. It covers several hills and plateaus and has many terraced fields and stone houses.

Most of the houses are old and abandoned but others have been renovated recently and are obviously inhabited intermittently. Please be courteous and respectful if there is a building that looks like someone still lives there. A padlock on a weathered door or pottery that is arranged in an area can give you an indication that someone still lives here.

The location is absolutely beautiful, as even the ruins of several stone houses look to be as if they were just built yesterday. Almost vertical mountain slopes to one side of the village, and a deep canyon with pillars of rock on the other.

It will be hard to find a spot here in the shade to take a break again, but if you look around, you can find a spot out of the sun that will fit at least a few people. This is an ideal spot to have a break and to spend at least an hour in order to inhale the mysterious beauty of this mountain village.

With a bit of luck, you will even be offered a cup of tea by one of the Pakistani housekeepers or by the Emirati owner himself.

Now just head east, over plateaus, more terraces, and abandoned villages.
Now proceed over the ridge (highest point of the hike, waypoint 7) and prepare yourself for some more stunning views on the other side of it. The adjacent wadi is lying below you and you will notice a winding tarred road in the far distance.

Another village comes in sight and this is the place you will walk to. Head for the water reservoir and from there a trail leads to the village which is guarded by Pakistani housekeepers.

Traverse this settlement until you have reached the far end and start your way down via the trail which leads over the ridge to some fields in the distance.

From these fields, a perfect mountain path will bring you down smoothly, zigzagging over the slope until you arrive in the wadi.

This is the only time during my first trip to this location where I became lost. Up until this point as you crossed the top of the mountain, you have not had to follow a set path as you have been crossing a wide plateau. That wide flat area ends here, and past these houses are cliffs that have dropoffs that are several hundred feet.

There is only one, small, narrow pathway that leads from this point to the bottom of the mountain, and it can be difficult to find. We had some help from the Pakistani farmers that lived in the house. They pointed us in the right direction, and every time we started to make a wrong turn we could hear them yelling at us to correct our route. Super-friendly guys and they really helped us out.

From there the trail will obviously lead you to the tarred road, the end of the hike, and back to your car.

Difficulty

You need to be fit for joining this hike, it’s not a stroll in the park. There is an extended period of non-technical climbing involved, and you will be exposed to the sun for the entirety of the trek. There is no shade on this trail. Make sure you pack enough food and water to keep you well-hydrated and energized.

Choose the cooler months for hiking in the UAE.

Being exposed on a mountain plateau or a plain with additional heat reflected by the overheated rocks can be threatening. Dehydration is fast and brutal. With little or no water on the road and extremely high temperatures in the summer, the hiking season should be limited to the winter.

Gear Needed

– proper hiking boots/shoes (not sneakers or running shoes!)
– backpack (with waist straps preferred)
– at least 3 liters of water plus 1-liter electrolyte drink
– snacks, fruits, vegetables
– sunscreen
– hat/cap
– sufficient hiking experience and good physical fitness
– a full stomach

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