Somewhere near the twists of the Tzin Canyon, or Wadi El-Fikra, a spring emanates, coloring the desert green, serving as a principle water source for animals, and delighting the hearts of hikers who come to visit it and bathe in it. A sharp point, called Hod Akev, juts out from above the spring, where a tall hill arrogantly rises upward, in the junction between the spring and the Tzin Canyon, from which the desert landscape is breathtaking. This circular route includes all this goodness and much more.
Rules of thumb for hiking
The route we propose here is a 16-km circular route [about 10 miles]. It suitable for good walkers and it takes a whole day of hiking. It is imperative to start early in the morning on hot days and take into account that the hike will take at least 7 hours so that you do not get stuck in the dark (especially during the winter). It is crucial to drinking a lot and cover your head during the hike.
A shortened version of the hikeis to forgo the Hod Akev ascent, thus subtracting 4 km [2.5 miles] from the route and making it an easier hike, but this alternative is much less interesting. Note that the ascent and descent to Hod Akev are extremely steep.
4X4 vehicle owners– it is possible to get up close to the spring and to take a circular route that includes Ein Akev and Hod Akev. The length of this route is about 9 km [5.6 miles].
An alternative, non-circular itinerary– after following the route to Ein Akev, described below, instead of continuing to Hod Akev, continue southward with the Akev Stream until reaching Upper Ein Akev, and from there continue walking westward on a dirt road marked in blue in the footpath marking map until reaching the Nabataean city of Avdat. A visit to this site at the end of the route is spectacular, but it necessitates leaving a second vehicle at the Avdat campsite.
Lodging– is available at the nearby Sde Boker Nature Field (tel. 08-6532016) or at the close-by night-camp which is located at the beginning of the route at the Tzin Canyon .
How to get there
Departing from Be’er Sheba drive south on Highway 40. Turn left at the Tlalim Junction and right at the Halukim Junction. Pass the turn into Kibbutz Sde Boker, and continue for 3 km [1.9 miles] then turn left [1 on the map] following the sign toward Ben Gurion’s Tomb and Ein Avdat. You can either park the vehicle at the payment point at the entrance to the Nature Reserve  and start walking down the trail, or pay and drive further down the road another 1 km [0.620 mile] to the start point , which will spare you the climb back to the parking lot at the end of the hike.
If you chose to park next to the ticket office  locate a footpath marked in red that descends to the Tzin Canyon and reaches the bottom of the canyon .
All 3 options – next to the point where the curves in the road end, you will see a good jeep trail marked in red. The lower parking is located here and it is from here that you start climbing the Ma’ale Divshon ascent. The mountainside which is marked in green ascends from the Tzin Canyon to the Avdat Highlands. The climb is difficult but not long and as you climb, you will see the breathtaking view of the area unfold in-front of you. When you finish the climb, you will start an easy hike on the highlands. Every now and then the desert ochre is broken with the color of a bushy bean caper, and you can see artemisia sleberi, gymnocarpos decander, peaumuria negevensis, and noaea mucronata growing on the calcareous slopes.
About 1 km  further on those with sharp eyesight will notice a transparent footpath marking [two white strips with nothing between them] pointing toward the edge of the gorge. From this observation point there is a spectacular view toward the dry waterfalls of the Tzin Canyon.
Continue walking for another 0.5 km [0.3 mile] and you will reach the Divshon stream’s riverbed . A Bedouin encampment of the El-Azazme tribe is located in close vicinity to the streambed.. You can usually get a refreshing cup of tea there that will warm your heart and belly for few shekels … Down on the riverbed are some ancient manmade dams, remnants of man's agricultural activity in this area. The rainfall in this area does not exceed 100 mm annually. The loess soil prevents water absorption, therefore various agricultural facilities for storing rainfall were invented. Most remnants are from the beginning of the Nabataean Period (1st to 7th century AD In Israel) and this area was the agricultural and logistical frontier of Avdat, the nearest Nabataean city.
From this point we will walk another 3 km [1.9 mile] on the footpath until we reach the Ein Akev Ascent .
From here you can already see many 4X4 vehicles parking down near the spring. When you reach the bottom of the descent notice the signs that direct you to various trails - there is something misleading about them. It isn't necessary to go down the stream toward the parking lot in order to find the spring; just keep walking straight (north) toward the edge of the gorge that looks out over the pool. At a certain point (to your left) there is a trail marked in blue that descends from the edge of the cliff toward the spring.
In Arabic Ein Akev is called Ein 'Um Ka’ab which means spring of stone. The stone after which the spring was named is a black flint stone that lies in the Upper Ein Akev Spring and it differs greatly from its white surroundings.
Lower EinAkev where weare is a fracture spring. The emanating water falls from the head of the waterfall down into a round pool, about 7-m deep [23 feet]. The pool is full of water all year round and this water feeds the thick natural vegetation, the Nubian ibexes, and other wildlife of the area. Ein Akev is one of a series of fracture springs that flow along the northern boundary of the Avdat Highlands. These springs emanate from chalk and limestone from the Eocene Epoch, the bedrocks that compose the Avdat Highlands. The calcareous horizontal layers rest upon slanted Mar stone layers. Rain water permeates through the chalk stone and stops at the impenetrable mar stone layer. Thus the water flows subterraneanly above the mar stone layers and gushes out as a spring at the edge of the gorge.
Water-loving plants, such as, southern maidenhair fern, common reed, common southern cattail, Dutch rush, Aethel and others are found in the area surrounding the spring. A number of small palm trees that grow on the edge of the gorge complement the picturesque atmosphere. The spring water serves as a foundation for the rich wildlife: above the water you will find dragonflies and antlion. Mammals like the Nubian ibex, the hyena, and the gray wolf also enjoy the water and traces of heir footprints can be seen near the spring.
Among the birds of the area you will find rock pigeons, blackstarts, wheatears, streaked scrub-warblers, desert swallows, long-legged buzzards, peregrine falcons, sooty falcons as well as griffon vultures. In the Sde Boker area there is a feeding station for birds of prey and two pairs of vultures were observed there in the past, one of them successfully nurtured 3 nestlings which left the nest and migrated southward.
After a refreshing swim in the spring (take care to leave the area clean) continue on the trail marked in blue to exit the pool area. Before long you will come across a red marked trail  that climbs toward the Hod Akev peek. At this point you can choose either to stick to the full route or to give the Hod Akev climb a miss, in order to shorten the 4 km hike, you would need to take the less interesting 4X4 dirt road. If you choose the latter option you will continue walking on the 4x4 road marked red in the footpath marking another 3.5 km [2.0 miles] and when you reach the red-marked trail  turn left with the red trail until you reach the beginning point .
If you choose the Hod Akev option the red-marked trail and will lead you on a climb that ends in a steep slope toward Hod Akev . From here the whole view of the winding Tzin canyon and its drainage base near the Dead Sea and Arava Junction will be revealed to you. On your north you will see the Tzror Mountains, and on your west Sde Boker and Ben Gurion Collage [also Sde Boker Collage]. This is a good place to take a rest and have a snack. Be careful not to stand too close to the edge of the canyon since it is easy to slip and roll down the mountain.
From Hod Akev continue north on the red-marked trail that quickly descends toward Tzin Canyon. At the end of the descent  you will come to a 4x4 route that is green-marked . Turn left and continue walking on this trail for about 1 km until it intersects with a blue-marked trail . Turn left (southwest), walk another 1 km until you come to a junction with a red-marked trail . At this point continue right on the red-marked trail and continue with an easy hike for another 4-km [2.5 miles] until you reach the parking lot where you left the car at the end of the serpentine curves leading to Sde Boker College.
Other sites to see in the Sde Boker area
Ben Gurion's Tomb- Ben Gurion, who passed away on December 1, 1973 asked to be buried next to his wife Paula Ben Gurion who died a few years before him, and that the tomb be located on the edge of the ridge with its spectacular view of the whole Tzin Canyon. Entrance is free and the location is near the ticket offices at the beginning of the road descending to the Tzin Canyon .
Avdat – An archaeological restoration of the Nabataean capital city of the Negev. In the Nabataean Era (5 – 6 AD) it served as the commercial hub of the entire Negev due to its medial position on the Incense Route between Petra and Gaza. Among the remains you will find churches (that were built after some of the Nabataeans became Christians), houses, wells and of course – a great observation point of the whole area (the Avdat city is built on an elevated highland). Search for the Avdat route on this site.
Ein Avdat– one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the country - a spring and a waterfall, water plants and animals that come here to drink – all these give Ein Avdat a feeling of a real oasis. Search for the Ein Avdat route on this site.
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