The Large or Great Makhtesh is not the largest. The truth is that when the Large Makhtesh was mapped Makhtesh Ramon was not yet mapped. The “makhtesh” is a unique Israeli experience. They are found only in Israel and northern Sinai. They are definitely not volcanic craters. This is not Hawaii. Makhteshim were not created by asteroids, meteors or extraterrestrials. These steep rock cliffs surrounding a closed valley drained by a single wadi are the product of erosion. Various cultures call them erosion cirques, steephead valleys or box canyons. There are five makhteshim in the Negev: the largest Makhtesh Ramon, the Large Makhtesh (Makhtesh Gadol for Makhtesh Khatira) and (just as in the story of the Three Bears) the Small Makhtesh (Makhtesh Katan), as well as two small “baby” makhteshim on Mount Arif, south of Makhtesh Ramon.
The Great/Large Makhtesh is a natural wonderland: spectacular panoramic views, colored sand and fossil trees. The view points can be accessed by 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive vehicles and buses. For those of you who are more adventurous and like the extreme you can hike through it. In winter you may be surprised by flooding, so check the weather before you begin. In the summer don’t forget 3 liters of water, sun glasses, sun guard, hat and hiking shoes. I also advise a hiking cane.
Ma’ale Avraham Krinitzi
A road from the top of the Makhtesh Hagadol to the foot of the cliff was paved by the IDF Paratroop Corp. The roadway was named Ma’ale Avraham Krinitzi after the mayor Ramat Gan which adopted the Paratroopers. At the head of the road, near the Paving Monument, you can enjoy the panorama of the entire Makhtesh. The Quartz Arenite refers to the Fossil Trees, below. This crater too offers trails for walking, jeeps and bicycle riding.
According to my Arabic speaking friends there is a speller in the Arabic on the Quartz Arenite sign.
It is highly recommended to stop at the shaded picnic area to fill small bottles with colored sandstone sand. The sandstone in the Large Crater oxidized with many different minerals, creating chalk-white, yellow, orange, vermillion, red, purple, blue colored sand. You can take some sample home. What a wonderful activity for children and a great gift to bring home.
Another spectacular hike is the decent from Mount Avnon to the Makhtesh Hagadol. The view from the top is a must.
First of all, these are not trees and secondly, they are not fossils, at least according to the latest geological theories. Previously thought to be petrified ancient tree trunks 120 million years old, they are now believed to be quartz crystals embedded with iron which gives them the reddish color. Decide for yourselves.
Say Negev and you have said colored sand. This is not a wilderness, it is a geological Disney Land!
This is also a recommended hike route. I have been there, I did it.
The most difficult and breathtaking route around the Large Makhtesh is by way of the southern rim and Har Karbolet. On one side a deep precipice and on the other side razor sharp rocks which force you to navigate along the ridge. This is one of the most popular sections of the Israel National Trail. Enjoy!