This weekend trip, my family and I take our 1993 FZJ-80 Land Cruiser, affectionately nicknamed “Elso”, over a 2,000-metre pass in the Omani Hajar Mountains to explore “Snake Canyon” in Wadi Bani Awf – if you do not like the idea of navigating a high and narrow but well-maintained mountain track, then you might want to avoid this trip! The open views over the majestic mountains are well worth it, just drive slow and confident, and keep the rubber firmly on the dusty track!
To camp up there, as you follow the tarmac road up, you will reach the pass where there is a parking lot. You will see a dirt track leading west along the ridge: if you follow it you will find fantastic views, excellent camping spots (but exposed to the wind), a marked hiking trail (see the yellow, white and red paint signs on rocks), and finally a red telecommunications tower.
The next morning, back to the parking lot and down the other side of the mountain, the tarmac ends and a graded dirt track takes over. The valley then twists and turns, among sharp peaks on all sides, presenting many photo opportunities. Check the weather forecast and at any sign of rain do not risk getting trapped in the tight valley – the villagers have of course built their houses above the reach of flood waters, so you’d be alright where they are, but the track in-and-out routinely gets washed away, and then you’d be cut off for however long it takes to get the road fixed: it could be an awesome vacation!
But it could also become a very dangerous situation – this youtube video shows the area during a flash flood:
Download the KML file for your GPS by clicking here. Once downloaded, you can import the file into your GPS device and take it on the road, or double-click that file and it will open automatically in Google Earth if you have that installed (all adventurers should! Google Earth).
View Snake Canyon in a larger map
The track is clearly sign-posted, but I would not recommend going in without a GPS device.
The idea is, if you’re up to it, to enter Snake Canyon at one end, cross all the water pools and waterfalls, and then exit at the other end. This youtube video shows what it’s like:
Some climbers have set up serious climbing routes, but to run those you would need pro equipment and appropriate skills. Here we met a group of Italian canyoners who had specifically made the trip to experience this wadi. It took them 3 hours from end to end.
We were content to go in as deep as we could without ropes and risking broken legs, and enjoyed the hike immensely.
When you reach tarmac, a left turn takes you to Rustaq, and then Ibri, back towards the UAE. it is also possible to turn right and return via the coastal road, through Sohar.
My disclaimer is here.