Stairway to Heaven Hike – Ras Al Khaimah (UAE)

There are some who do not fear death,

for they are more afraid of not really living…

One wrong step or a slippery stone could send you to hell rather than heaven, despite the name Stairway to Heaven….


Stairway to Heaven – A dangerous mountain trail which is an old shepherd’s route that links Oman mountain village with Ras al khaimah in Wadi Ghalilah. This hike is infamous for causalities, serious injuries and helicopter evacuations for some of the unfortunate  hikers. This hike is very tempting, will take 10 hours for the round trip, if you know the way. This may not be an expert level hike, but what makes it dangerous is the exposed rocks and the length of  unmarked trail. So if you are lost for two hours off the trail, you will have to deal with open rocks and snakes in dark in one  of the toughest terrain in the region. If you are an experienced hiker, know the route and prepared well, this could be termed as intermediate hike. I have been to this area a couple of times before for a short trek. I try to follow a GPS track for the hike downloaded from Wikiloc using a mobile app which doesn’t have turn by turn navigation option. I was able to cover around only 20-30% of the trail in 6 hours time in those hikes. I tried to find the way up could not make it because of various reasons. But all those attempts gave me an idea about what I am going to deal with and prepare well to survive in the mountains. Most people just follow the marked trail and comeback. Only a few complete the full circuit/loop. I met some of them on the way and they suggested to go up with some experienced hiker/guide who have done this before or prepare to stay overnight at the top. As per my experience and from online resources, I came to know that it takes around 3 hours to reach the top, then 4 hours to reach to the marked trail and another 3 to get back to the starting point (without break, without getting lost). So if you are not fit enough for full day hike or if you get lost, you will have to sleep under the stars somewhere in the mountain with snakes and goats as your company.


4.30 AM Start from Dubai

7.00 AM Start the Hike, Survive, Get back alive before getting dark.

There was not much of preparations required other than some basic gear and packing the food. Weather is important, if it is rainy or too much cloudy, don’t attempt this since Wadi Ghalilah area is very vulnerable for flooding and its very difficult to navigate if there fog in this area.  The altitude of the starting point was around 200m, maximum altitude reached was 1670m with accumulated elevation of 1950m and covered a distance of 17km in 12 hours. There was some higher peaks on the route, which I have to avoid since I was running out of time.

Way up…
Oh light, guide me…
One of the many points makes you think whether to turn back or carry on…
Calcium stones??? Similar to those found inside the caves
The terrain and the huge rocks will make you think again (Altitude – 839m)
Looks like dead end, not really…
Getting closer to first stairway…
Finally The Stairway ~ The first one ~ The easiest one, I could say…
Wait,wait,… for a selfie…
Sometimes there won’t be any clue for the path ahead
Don’t look down, if you have Fear of Heights!!! (Altitude ~1000m)
Lost!!! Dead end!!! Met a snake over there, turn back to find way….
Next Stairway…
Longest Stairway, difficult to notice from far. Feels like its getting longer as I climb up
Lost again… Dead end. Have to follow a Goat to get back on track
Almost at the top, that a lone survivor of goats attack…
The top of Stairway to Heaven – 1260m (Whistle in the background…)

The top of Stairway to Heaven (1260m) is not the highest point of the hike. Technically the top part belongs to Oman and there is a small farm over there at the top. I spoke to someone over there in Hindi and he offered me tea. Again the trail was going up and I hit maximum altitude of 1670m on the way.

The view of the farm from far
Rocks looks different with mix of copper/iron
Long walk, Follow the goats or GPS
Another small farm with goats and donkeys (Donkeys are used to transport food items and water)
The terrain gets rough again!!!
One of many old village ruins on the way
From here I can see the marked trail
The beginning/End of marked trail (Almost 2 hours late than expected)
Love this place…
Red Bull didn’t give me wings, I have to walk on my own…
Found someone crazier than me!!!
Sun is running away leaving the golden glow behind…
Mountains don’t stop calling me…
Getting dark… End of photos…

Sunset was around 5.30. I was supposed to reach near the marked trail before 4 so that I will return back to the parking before its dark. Unfortunately I was delayed by more than an hour, so that I have to walk in full dark for long. I had a torch with me, still it was difficult to walk in the valley with out any other ray of light. The descent was slippery and I was not having a trekking pole with me. On the way I got a raw wood stick fair enough to use as a trekking pole to walk faster (sometimes run) on the slippery terrain. I get back to parking by 7 O clock for a short drive to Abu Dhabi (285KM)….

This is the path I followed (Follow the link below for details)

Stairway to Heaven (Wikiloc Map)