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near Mitzpe Ramon, Southern District (Israel)
The desert section of the Israel National Trail (Shvil Israel) has dramatic scenery with wadis, canyons, mountains and ancient remains. It also includes some exciting sections at height, up and down ladders and metal rungs set in the rock. I have documented the trip in my blog (https://johnponint.blogspot.com/2020/01/israel-national-trail-plans-and.html), and attached is the route I walked, including diversions off trail to collect groceries and for accommodation. This is part 2 of my route, part 1 is at https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/israel-national-trail-part-1-eilat-to-mitzpe-ramon-through-the-desert-48087942 , part 3 is at https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/israel-national-trail-part-3-arad-to-tel-aviv-48175384 .
If you are thinking of walking the Israel National Trail please buy the guidebook ("Israel National Trail: Hike the land of Israel" available from amazon.co.uk). With detailed maps it assists navigation and gives the background on sights you pass, without which you will miss the significance of some heap of stones. More importantly it references essential practical information, such as details of how to obtain water and where you can buy groceries.
This was a particularly bare and exposed night camp. In common with most National Parks night camps there were no facilities, not even water, but there were some areas of gravel behind low semi circular walls which made easy places to my pitch tent (some night camps have stony ground that it is difficult to put pegs in). The mountain opposite was Mount Sodom, created by a salt diaper.
The Amiaz West night camp is nearby which is in a wadi with acacias, but I struggled to find a place to pitch my tent that did not have large stones, and I was worried about flooding in the event of rain.
Not an official campsite, but the guidebook said you can camp here. Not the most beautiful spot.
This petrol station has a convenience store. Although not very near the trail, as I had been a few days without passing any facilities, I hitched a lift down to it (on Route 25) with some friendly drivers and had a welcome coffee and croissant.
At this location there is a tank of water with a ramshackle tap for you to refill your supplies. It is accessed through the fence of an army base (with lots of aerials). There is a sign to it but it seems to point in the wrong direction.
Ein Bokek is a town, dominated by hotels, beside the Dead Sea. There is a public beach where you can prove how easy it is to float on salt saturated water (then shower off the salt at some showers nearby). The areas of white crystalline salt took me by surprise although they really should not have. It is also the lowest place on earth.
Remains of an ancient fort built to protect travellers on the spice route.
A dramatic canyon with a steep climb down into it, assisted by metal rungs cemented into the rock. At the bottom of the first narrow canyon is a deep pool, then you have to climb over large boulders, the remains of old rock falls.
An area for camping with no facilities.
The climb up this mountain was not too difficult but getting down was more challenging.
Mitzpe Ramon is a town with accommodation, a supermarket, cash machines, cafes, pubs, sculpture park and a visitor centre. It stands in a dramatic location at the top of a cliff (which you have to climb up)
A typical night camp in the desert, apart from a sign indicating you can camp there is nothing there.
A slightly more sheltered campsite that some with gravel filled circles with low stone walls for camping. Unlike most such campsites, water is available from a tank at the nearby military installation.
Masada is where the Jews took a stand against the Romans in around 70 AD. It is a mountain with steep sides in all directions, Herod built a palace on top and no doubt enjoyed the magnificent views down to the Dead Sea. It was also a fortress and after being taken by the Jews in the Great Revolt, the Romans built a huge earthwork ramp to defeat the siege that stands to this day. There are also later Christian remains.
Masada West campsite is a National Parks site with toilets, showers, water, picnic tables and Bedouin style tents (although I used my own). In February, when I visited, I was the only one there!
A small town and also the final resting place of Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. His and his wife's tomb are on the edge of a cliff next to a landscaped park. There is a pub serving food and good beer, a grocery store, a shop and a post office. Although not directly on the Israel National Trail it is a good place to stock up on food as there is not another town for some days.
This is one of the more dramatic sections of the Israel National Trail as the path climbs up a steep valley to a ridge which it then follows for several kilometres. There are cliffs on one side and a steep slope on the other. The ridge forms the side of the "Large Crater", not a real crater but an erosion feature.
This is a narrow canyon in soft sediments, which were deposited in an ancient lake. The sediments contain some artistic "slump structures" visible on the sides of the canyon. These were formed when sediment slumped down into deeper parts of the lake, perhaps as the result of an earthquake.
Nahal Tzafit is a wadi on the new diversion of the trail down to the Dead Sea. There are two exciting sections around drys waterfall.
Not the most picturesque place to camp but there is a water supply. It is right next to the entrance gate of phosphate mine and processing plant. Lorries go back and fore all the time, and there is a nearby railway line you go under to reach the campsite.
A tricky descent around a dry waterfall involving a narrow ledge and a climb down aided by metal rungs, railings and a ladder.
Location of a water tank with a tap protruding through the fence of some military establishment with a lot of aerials. You can top up your water here.
Remains of a Roman guard pots near the edge of he empire protecting certain trade routes.
Not a crater but an erosion feature created by erosion. First the rocks were gently folded, then the hard rock at the top was eroded away over a broadly circular area. Of the features in the Negev called craters, this is the most perfect one, being more circular in shape.
Petrol station near route with convenience store, closed when I passed, but claiming to offer coffee as well as basic supplies.