Hiking // How to hike to the highest public point in the United Arab Emirates at Jebel Jais // UAE
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
With this UAE hike, you’ll be the highest member of the public in the country and almost twice the height of the world’s tallest tower…
Reach the highest public point in the UAE
Amazing photo opportunities
Suitable for standard forms of fitness
AED 5 per person to park
UAE’s highest public point is not actually the highest point in the country
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When you are planning a trip to the highest public point in the United Arab Emirates, you need to realise you won’t be in a high-speed lift heading towards the top of the world’s highest tower, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
Sadly, it’s a little more effort than that…
But I have good news! It is a heap more fun and an even better achievement, and cheaper.
Jebel Jais is the mountain that leads you to the (public) roof of the UAE. Nestled on the UAE/Oman border in Ras Al Khaimah it’s a mountain that is easily accessible by car with a brilliant mountain drive in store before you start hiking.
Jebel Jais is part of the Al-Hajar mountain range, the biggest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula and from Dubai it is about a two-hour drive away.
It is however a straightforward drive with highways taking you to the foot of the mountain before you turn on to the mountain road where you’ll weave upwards for about 30 minutes before reaching the hike starting point. Once you turn off the highway, the road is signposted ‘Jebel Jais’.
The start point of the hike is at the Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park
The starting point of the hike is at the Viewing Deck Park. It’s on the right as you drive up the mountain road, about 2 kilometres before the end of the public road. The higher you go on the mountain road, keep an eye out for it and you can’t miss it with its big sign when you reach it.
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It’s a perfect starting point including great facilities with toilets and brilliant views across the surrounding mountains. There is a food hut, but don’t rely on it being open.
In my experience it is only open at weekends and not before 8am. It does serve great refreshments though including ice cream which when you finish the hike, is the perfect conclusion.
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You do have to pay to park in the car park, and you will be charged AED5 for every person in the car. Take cash with you.
Before you start the hike, you will need to register at the booth next to the food hut so your whereabouts on the mountain is known. Having said that, I have been before when nobody has been around so it is a bit hit or miss.
Either way, tell a friend or family member who is not hiking with you where you are going and what your schedule is.
To start the hike, you’ll cross the main road, walk up some stairs and reach another viewing area where you can look towards the coast before embarking on your mission to reach the UAE’s highest public point!
The Jebel Jais hike begins with a steep climb
The hike is signposted. At intermittent points you will see posts that will have arrows on them to keep you on track. To the summit, you’ll be following the green ‘Ghaf Summit 7’ signs.
Also along the way, there are paint markings at pretty regular intervals with the colours maroon, white and yellow which will keep you going in the tight direction.
The first 30 minutes of the hike will wear you out. It’s a steep climb to the top of the first high point, marked with a massive UAE flag.
After the path begins with a gradual incline you will quickly move into a steep ascent climbing steps pretty much all the way to the top.
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If you want to do this part in the shade, the earlier you set off the better. The sun will already be on this part of the mountain before 8am.
It is a fun, intense start and the legs will be working hard, and you’ll more than likely be out of breath on occasions, (well, I was) but the views get better and better the higher you go.
Reaching the first UAE flag
Eventually, just as you think the steps will never end, you’ll see the first summit come into view. It is called the Viewing Deck Park Summit at 1,415 metres.
Take the opportunity to sit by the flag, take in the view, have some water, but most importantly get your breath back.
Once you are ready to carry on, you will rejoin the ‘Ghaf Summit 7’ path and walk around 25 minutes to the second rest point.
This stretch is pretty straightforward with undulating tracks but nothing too steep or tricky. You’ll more than likely come across some goats that are roaming the mountain.
At times, you will see their climbing abilities are quite extraordinary as they clamber around the rock faces.
The second rest point is like a bus stop
Rest point two looks more like a bus stop. It’s a bench with a roof for some shade and a decent place to stop for a bit. You can take in more amazing views and also look up to the summit, which would be around your 11 o’clock point as you look out towards the road.
When you get up to begin hiking again, be sure to follow the ‘Ghaf Summit 7’ track, which heads behind the bus stop style rest point. There is a path that leads you in front of the rest point but this is the ‘connection’ path and takes you straight back to the public road.
It’s like an escape route if you decide you don’t want to continue the main hike. I have mistakenly taken this path before and it’s a little frustrating when you realise your mistake and have to turn back to where you were. Still, a few more steps added!
Be careful around some parts of the path as it goes quite close to the edge
Much the same undulating nature follows for this next stretch and you’ll notice the path at times comes very close to the edge. It’s not a problem and you don’t feel unsafe, but if you are hiking with kids, just be aware so that they aren’t running blindly away from you.
You’ll pass the Jebel Jais adventure base building on your right as you weave across the mountain before you eventually come across a stone seating area with a couple of stone tables. It’s not a bad place to sit for little breather before you start heading upwards again to reach the summit.
After that, you will actually drop down onto the tarmac mountain road. The road at this stage isn’t a public road so the only traffic you’ll maybe encounter is cargo traffic passing into Oman, Jebel Jais adventure transport busses and cyclists.
The final climb to reach the UAE’s highest public point
After a short walk up the road where you’ll pass a second massive UAE flag, you’ll rejoin the mountain path and head up for a steep climb to the summit. It’s not as bad as that first initial climb, but it still takes some work – as all final ascents to a summit should!
You will then reach the first summit signpost which marks the north summit point, and not far after that you will reach your destination, the south summit. The UAE’s highest public point!
Here is why the UAE’s highest public point is not actually the Jebel Jais summit
Now, the interesting point to remember about reaching the UAE’s highest public point is it is not actually the summit of Jebel Jais.
Don’t let this deter you though! It’s still pretty good to know you’re at the highest public point in the country.
The reason for the highest UAE public point not being at the summit is that the peak of Jebel Jais actually sits in Oman.
The climax to this hike is a high point on the west side of the mountain, at 1,640 metres which marks the highest point the public can get to in the United Arab Emirates. The peak is another 300 metres further up, but there is no access.
The highest peak in the UAE is actually Jebel Yibir but as a military base is located at the top of the mountain, there is no public access.
I can’t help but think it would be nice if some kind of agreement between Oman and Ras Al Khaimah could be made to allow hikers to continue to the peak of the mountain.
As enjoyable as getting to the UAE’s highest public point is, to then step in to Oman and reach the peak at 1,934 metres would just make it a little bit more special.
Still, if you reach the UAE’s highest public point, which is marked by a signpost, then take a step to the higher side of it, you are technically then in Oman. Otherwise that would be the highest public point. Make sense? Yep.
It’s a good spot at the summit for some lunch and a rest. There isn’t any shade up there but you can find some rocks to sit on and take a breather. You’ll probably feel like it – I know I did. It’s a good photo to get too next to the summit signpost.
The return journey after reaching the UAE’s highest public point
The hike is not a loop, so essentially the summit is the half way point. You’ll head back down the same way you headed up.
The great part about this hike is the cooler temperatures you experience. It is often around 10 degrees cooler on this hike compared to sea level temperatures.
Don’t get me wrong, in the summer months it is still hot but it is more likely to be in the mid-thirties rather than the low-forties. There is also a nice cool breeze at times.
Think hot European summer climates rather than very hot desert Middle Eastern climates. If you’re hiking in the winter, it’s worth taking some warmer clothes with you just incase you feel chilly at times.
Take care when descending the final stretch
On the final descent down that dreaded first steep climb you did, be a little careful on the steps and downward paths. The sand can be a little slippery and the gravel loose, so it’s just a case of taking your time.
Proceed with caution as they say!
Once you’ve got down, well done! Congratulations, you have made it to the highest public point of the UAE and been almost twice the height of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa - with not one single lift in sight!
Time for you to give yourself a tap on the back and grab an ice cream from the food hut. It’ll taste delicious – (if it’s open).
Jebal Jais is a must-do hike
For residents of the UAE, this hike is a must-do – you have to climb to the highest point in every country you live in, right?
Mind you, don’t remind me of the time I lived in Nepal…
* That’s an Everest joke – I haven’t lived in Nepal.
For visitors to the UAE, whether you’re in Dubai or staying somewhere else then Jebel Jais is a great day out. You don’t need technical kit. Shorts, t-shirts, a good pair of solid trainers (although some good hiking boots are better) and a backpack of supplies such as water and sandwiches will do you fine. Your standard holiday items basically.
This hike is doable for most people. Yes, it’s challenging at times, but in equal measure there are parts that are pretty straightforward and you can leisurely walk along the paths.
Let’s me know when you do the hike and reach the UAE’s highest public point and don’t forget to tag images of your experiences on The Sports Explorer’s Instagram page.
How to get to Jebel Jais:
From Dubai, head north on the 311.
Turn off to the right at junction 126 which is shortly before the 311 bears left as it enters Ras Al Khaimah city.
Follow the road through to the 611 and head north signposted ‘Oman’.
Around 15-20 minute further, turn right, signposted ‘Jebel Jais’.
Follow the mountain road and Jebel Jais signposts up the mountain road to the Viewing Deck Park.
*Navigation apps will be able to guide you to Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park.
Jebel Jais hike requirements:
A good pair of hiking boots are recommended but suitable trainers are okay.
Plenty of water – I recommend around 3 litres, especially in the hotter months.
A towel – to keep dry from perspiration.
A backpack with supplies such as food and snacks.
A charged mobile phone.
Sunscreen and a hat.
First Aid kit.
Take cash to pay for parking.
Average time for full hike - 4 hours.
A mask is mandatory when within the Viewing Deck Park and also social distancing is in place around all public areas.
On the hike, be mindful of bumping into other hikers so have your mask at hand.