The plateau above Ein Gedi Nature Reserve – in fact, the eastern edge of the Judean Desert – is about 200m above sea level, 630m above the Dead Sea. Five trails head from the Ein Gedi area up to the plateau and its spectacular panoramas, taking you well away from the madding crowds.
The reserve’s most difficult hike (six to eight hours) links Wadi Arugot with Wadi David via the Desert Plateau, Ein Gedi Lookout (Mitzpeh Ein Gedi) and Ein Gedi Spring. Marked by black blazes, it should only be attempted by very experienced hikers.
From north to south, the five challenging trails that lead up to the plateau are the Yishay Ascent (Ma'aleh Yishai), which climbs Mt Yishai (begins at the Ein Gedi Field School); the Ein Gedi Ascent (from Ein Gedi Spring, on the hillside between Wadi David and Wadi Arugot); Bnei HaMoshavim Ascent (an especially difficult route that begins at the upper section of Wadi Arugot); Ha’Isiyyim Ascent (from near the top of Wadi Arugot); and the Tzruya (Zeruya) Ascent (from near Kibbutz Ein Gedi).
A 1:50,000-scale SPNI trail map, sold at the entrance to Wadi Arugot, is a must for all these routes, which are closed in extreme heat and when there's a danger of flash floods. Park staff are happy to help with planning; before heading out, it's a good idea to let them know your route and phone number.
Just outside Ein Gedi Nature Reserve are two sleeping options custom-made for hikers: a hostel and a field school. Both are often full, especially during the school year, and Thursday and Friday nights are often booked out months ahead. Don’t show up without reservations. About 3km south, Kibbutz Ein Gedi has a splendid guesthouse.
This area has very few dining options, so arrive with picnic supplies or consider having dinner at your hotel or hostel. Lunch is available at Ein Gedi Spa.
At the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel, the cafe (dairy; open daily) attracts a mix of tourists and kibbutzniks (kibbutz members). A copious, kosher meat buffet dinner costs 110NIS (140NIS Friday); nonguests are welcome if there's room (there usually is, except on Jewish holidays).