This beautiful nature reserve is home to Nahal David (David's Stream) and the cave at Nahal David is believed to be the place where David hid while Saul hunted him down three thousand years ago (I Samuel 24:1–22). When Saul stepped into the cave, David resisted the urge to kill the king. He cut off a piece of his robe instead as an act of reconciliation.
The clearly marked trail rises past several pools and small waterfalls to the beautiful upper waterfall. There are many steps, but it's not too daunting. Allow at least 1¼ hours to include a refreshing dip under one of the lower waterfalls. Look out for ibex (wild goats), especially in the afternoon, and for the small, furry hyrax, often seen on tree branches. Leopards here face extinction because of breeding problems and are seldom seen nowadays.
If you're a serious hiker interested in further adventure, don't miss the trail that breaks off to the right 50 yards down the return path from the top waterfall. It passes the
remains of Byzantine irrigation systems and has breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. The trail doubles back on itself toward the source of Nahal David. Near the top, a short side path climbs to the remains of a 4th-millennium-BC Chalcolithic temple, the treasures of which can be seen in Jerusalem's Israel Museum. The main path leads on to the streambed, again turns east, and reaches Dudim Cave, formed by boulders and filled with crystal-clear springwater. Swimming in "Lover's Cave" is one of the most refreshing and romantic experiences in Israel. Since this trail involves a considerable climb (and hikers invariably take time to bathe in the "cave"), access to the trail is permitted only up to 3½ hours before closing time. Reaching Ein Gedi from the north, the first turnoff to the right is the parking lot at the entrance to Nahal David.
Rte. 90, Ein Gedi, 86980, Israel