Jerusalem, Travel

Five Things I Learned Hiking HaMakhtesh HaKatan in the Negev

Looking across HaMakhtesh HaKatan from the ascent.

Hiking in the Negev in Israel is as beautiful as it sounds, and something I’ve wanted to do since we arrived a few years ago.  As our time in Jerusalem is growing short, I ditched my spouse and kids, and signed up for a group hike in the HaMakhtesth HaKaton, a small crater in the Nagev.  The Makhtesh Katan is one of five craters in Israel, and seven in the world, created entirely by erosion.

The 12km hike itself was absolutely stunning; however, it quickly turned more technical that I’d expected, and was quite beyond my abilities (and certainly my comfort level).  It was absolutely stunning, but easily the toughest hike I’ve ever completed. I wasn’t the only one to find the the hike challenging, and our group ended up spending several hours seeking our way in the dark.  Nothing like panicking because you’re in the middle of the desert in the dark with no cell phone signal and no map and you can’t find the nex trail marker.  I was mentally preparing to spend the night; however, thanks to some experienced hikers and amazing teamwork, we made it out safe and sound.

Hiking through creek beds inside the crater.

In retrospect, I knew better than to show up to a hike unprepared, and I should have done a few things differently.

Bring extra snacks

I brought plenty of food for lunch and snacks, but not enough to cover three extra hours of strenuous and stressful hiking. I should have brought several protein bars, just in case. We were all grouchy because we were stressed and worried. I didn’t need to be grouchy because I was hungry too.

HaMakhtesh HaKatan in the Negev, Israel
View from the tough ascent up the side of the crater.

Bring a flashlight

Because I thought the hike would end long before dark, I neglected a few “rules.” Like making sure I had a flashlight, just in case. I wasn’t the only one, and we ended up navigating by our cell phone light. Yikes.  Again, experienced hikers and group leaders brought the lanterns that led us out of the park.

HaMakhtesh HaKatan in the Negev, Israel

Make sure I understand which trails we’re following

We had a scary moment about an hour before twilight. Half of our group had pressed ahead, and our knowledgable trail leaders were behind helping a few folks who were having trouble reaching the top of the ridge. Should we follow the black trail or the green trail? Someone said that the black trail would lead to a road, but that other hikers had followed the green trail. We guessed the green trail, and we were right. Other hikers guessed wrong and ended up miles off track (but safe and sound, to be perfectly clear).

Here I am posing at the halfway point. This is almost to the top of the crater. Little did I know how much harder the second half would be!

Turn back when I realize that the hike is going beyond my ability to finish by dark

I had no idea that I was going to find the second half of the hike so challenging. We were all expecting an easy 6k back to our cars. However, I did realize pretty early on that my group was moving faster than my ability level. Despite all of the running and training I’ve been doing lately, I’m still 100 lbs overweight and I’m still slow. I should have spoken up early and found some folks to either follow an easier trail or turn back with me.

Be self-reliant

The last 3km of the hike, I depended heavily on my trail mates to get me over some tough spots. Some of that was because I’d twisted my ankle, but a great deal of it was because I was scared and in over my head. A lot of that could have been avoided had I done the above, that is, had I come prepared and been honest with myself about my abilities.

And one thing I’m glad I did do: challenge myself to go on more adventures!

Finishing the hike was hard! But I didn’t have a choice, so I did it. And I’m glad I did. I have a much better sense of where my abilities are now, and what I need to do to become a stronger hiker in the future.  And I’ll never neglect the Ten Essentials again.

Looking into the MaMakhtesh HaKatan crater
The only photo I took on the second half of the hike, from the top of the crater looking in.

HaMakhtesh HaKatan, Negev, Israel

20 thoughts on “Five Things I Learned Hiking HaMakhtesh HaKatan in the Negev

    1. Nadine, I live in Jerusalem. Since the Negev is only a few hours south of me, it was a no-brainer to check hiking there off my bucket list when the opportunity presented itself.

  1. I was hiking that place about ten years ago – but can’t remember which Makhtesh it was, could be the Gadol (Big one). Anyway, our group also got lost a bit, and we had kids with us! In the end hiked much longer than planned, but can’t remember now how long… I had injured my knees while going down the Machtesh and it was an additional issue – I was quite fit back then so the distance wasn’t an issue. We had very experienced guides with us – but the desert is unforgiving!

  2. The “ten essentials” are promoted lots in Washington for hikers. You never know when they may come in handy, even on a day hike in the mountains. Even tho the hike was sometimes difficult I bet it felt super good to finish and push yourself. Way to go!

  3. What an experience! Going past dark, without my husband in tow, would have been such an awful feeling! I am so glad you persisted and came out safer and wiser, more of a journey than a hike! The main point is, despite all obstacles, you conquered, so kudos to you!!

  4. Wow~ What a hike! I hope your ankle healed up fast. Unfortunately, I learned early on about running out of the necessities while hiking. Once it happens, you do your best to never let it happen again. It’s a good reminder to have a flashlight on hand, as you never know when darkness may set in. It looks beautiful and I’m glad you got to experience it.

  5. Great list- I’ve never done a desert hike like this before but these are some great things to keep in mind. I think I need to start doing more basic hikes before I jump into a desert hike. Otherwise, I might end up in a bad situation!

  6. This hike looks incredible! I love hiking and may have a chance to visit Israel at the end of February! It’s always good to challenge yourself to take more adventures, and I try to do that myself constantly!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge