Head to the mountains and let dogs be dogs, explore new terrain and challenge both hound and human with an excursion that will have you both addicted to the outdoors.
We spent most of the last desert UAE winter slowly making our way around the mountain paths to bring you the Howl & Growl guide to galloping around the rocky roads of the UAE with your sidekicks. No matter what fitness level you are, or what type of dog you have there is something for everyone, and the ability to make it as adventurous or relaxing as you want.
Love at first hike
See our favourite places for hiking with dogs!
We head to our fellow UAE neighbours in Ras Al Khaimah, who have the vantage point when it comes to mountains and wadis.
Wadi Shawka -route via the Dam.
Distance from Dubai: Approximately 97 km
Parking: Car Park in the Wadi Showka Dam Park (toilet facilities, kids play area)
Date Completed: Dec 2018
Start Time: 9am
Finish Time: Midday
Distance: Approx 10km
Dog Pack: Pomeranian, Desert Mix, Pomsky, Korean Jindo Mix
Google: Wadi Shawka also spelled Showkah.
On arrival you will see steep steps in the parking area that lead to the road above. Turn right at the top and you will have a view of the dam. Continue along the road to begin your hike. Ramble along the road and then you will see the path that takes you off up into the mountains. An easy climb but the surface is loose rock so always mind your step and if you have your dog on the lead they will naturally move quicker so be careful they don’t end up pulling you over. Therefore we recommend a longer lead or to walk off leash if your dog is trained. The first part of the climb is a gentle incline and decline and then the path opens up to a wider landscape which becomes a flatter walk leading you around to the base of the dam.
With this route you can opt to make it slightly more challenging by walking close to the dam where you have to scramble across the rocks by the dam to get to the carpark. Doing this route requires you to lift the dogs to help them down some steep steps at the other side of the dam.
If this isn’t your kinda hike, then stick to the loop. Remember you always have the option to do the hike as a return route just turn around and head back if you or the pups have had enough.
2. Wadi Shawka-route via adventure camp
Distance from Dubai: Approximately 97 km
Off road driving for about 15 minutes to get to the starting point 4x4 better but we manage in our small VW
Parking: at base of the adventure camp
Date Completed: From Dec 2018 to present
Various Start Times: Sunrise, 9am & Midday
Finish Time: Usually about 3-4 hours
Distance: It’s a Return route so as long as you want it to be.
Dog Pack: Pomeranian, Pomsky, Korean Jindo Mix, Salukis,Husky Mix, Spaniels
Human Packs: All ages including kids aged 5-13 years old, fitness levels good as requires helping the younger kids and dogs over boulders and with scrambling.
Google: Emirates adventure camp (gravel road driving for approx 15 mins)
This is one of our all time favourites as it is a bit more adventurous and has multiple water pools up through the valley, plenty of opportunities to scramble over the rocks until you get to the middle of the wadi which opens up to an open flatter stretch of space.
There is always an option for an easier route. Give scrambling a go (first picture), or simply go through the water or climb up a steep but easy trail and down the other side if you prefer to stay dry. We like to use a harness with a handle on the top so that we can easily grab the dogs and pull them out of the water, or up over boulders if necessary. We have a water baby (Luna) and two water shy dogs (Bear & Xena), so do what works for your pack or use it as an opportunity to practice some swimming.
Smaller dogs like Xena, need a helping hand at the beginning getting up onto some rocks and then she will merrily go on her way. Luna & Bear as medium size dogs tend to bound up and over most rocks with ease. There are a few spots at the beginning where they can get up, but not down, so we simply go ahead and pick them up and safely down the other side. This is because we like to climb the rocks, if this isn’t your thing, then just go through the water.
The water can be above head height at some points in the season but only at the first pool if there has been LOTS of rainfall, however each week it gets less and less. After that the maximum depth of the pools is mid thigh height. The further in you go, the shallower the pools, therefore it gets easier if you’re doing this for the first time.
Be careful on the rocks in the water, as these can be slippery. Avoid stepping on any rocks that have the greenish slime on them as this can be extremely slippery.
To summarise, you are walking up through the middle of the wadi and there are options to veer off to the left and climb up and down steep slopes for a view, or just stick to the flat and turn back when you’ve had enough.
At the beginning of the trail there is an option to bypass the wadis, by keeping right and following a rocky trail. However this is a bit of a dead end. You can climb high and get a spectacular view above the mountains, but with the dogs I prefer to stick to the wadi basin level.
3. Wadi Tayyibah, Sidr, Asimah (Fujairah & RAK)
Distance from Dubai: Approximately 125km
Date Completed: Feb 2019
Start Time: 1pm
Finish Time: 4pm
Distance: Return route so as long as you want it to be. The region is made up of multiple Wadis that intersect
Dog Pack: Pomeranian, Pomsky, Korean Jindo Mix, Salukis,Elderly Spitz
Human Packs: All ages including kids aged 5-13 years old.
Driving: Can be difficult, better in a 4 x 4. Feasible in a regular vehicle but cannot drive as far in.
The first stop took us through the town of Masafi, the big suppliers of bottled water. It’s a very green, bustling little town. We settled upon a part of the Tayyibah wadi which is lovely to walk through and see date palm plantations, wells, roaming sheep and goats and local houses. We drove through as far as we could without having a 4x4 but found this left us with a long monotonous road. It was still nice for a ramble but not as exciting us our usual hikes.
This is the foothold of Wadi Sidr & Asimah. We started this hike later in the day and the light was stunning. There are lots of shady spots so opportunities for some respite from the sun. As you can see from the pictures, those dogs with little legs will need a helping hand over the larger boulders. How far you go into the mountains is up to you, but going slow and steady makes this a feasible path. We need to return again to do the full scope of the area, but we managed about 3 hours on this first attempt and is now a huge contender to our favourite Wadi Shawka route..this is a real hidden gem!
4. Munay Dam & Wadi Al Helo
Distance from Dubai: Approximately 104 km
Distance: onwards 13km to Wadi Al Helo
Date Completed: Feb 2019
Start Time: 9am/11am
Finish Time: 10am/1pm
Distance: This is more of a scenic spot than a hike. Return route for both locations.
Dog Pack: Pomeranian, Pomsky, Korean Jindo Mix
Human Packs: Team Howl & Growl
Driving: Parking by the Dam. It shows on google maps as “Hiking Parking”. You can drive off-road but to make the most of the walk it is better to walk from the parking.
Wadi Munay is approximately 30 minutes drive past Wadi Shawka and is a nice spot for a beginners hike. The sediment from the dam makes the path really soft for the dogs to chase each other around and a few trees make for a lovely shady picnic spot. We didn’t go deep into the mountains but the varied terrain is said to lead to an ancient settlement. The wadi was empty of water at the time but there were signs saying no swimming or camping in the wadi. Off the tracks we did see a group who had set up camp and a few remnants of a campfire much to the dogs delight.
Wadi al Helo is a quaint little town that happens to be a UAE heritage spot. There are various spots to explore to take you off on a trail. We chose a dirt road behind the local school and followed it down a path where a few camels were hanging out. We disappeared off to one of the tracks at the side of the wadi trail. The terrain is bouldery to begin with and then opens up to flatter ground. You can climb up a few of the mountains but it is quite loose fragmented rock so watch your footing. All our 3 dogs managed it fine but Xena needed a bit of help on the descent. There was only one small wadi pool at the time.
We covered both locations in about 4 hours and you could drive another 21km to get to the Wadi Al Helo tunnel on the Sharjah-Kalba Road. We decided to head to the Khor Kalba beach instead however we didn' get out with the dogs.
To be continued…..Sept 2019
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