What to Know before going Hiking in Israel
- Be realistic: If you don’t have a lot of time in Israel, it might be good to consider joining an organized hike, just to avoid surprises and unnecessary stress from schedules that are too tight, since this might seriously hinder your experience. If you are not in a rush, and want to
- explore freely, then independent hiking is for you.
Try to avoid holidays and weekends, because that’s when the trails are mostly crowded.
Don’t try to enter fenced areas – they are fenced for a reason. You might put yourself in danger of stepping on a land mine if you do so, and you would probably not enjoy the experience too much
For an authentic expedition hiking in Israel, let go of your need for luxury and sense of individualism, and open up your heart and mind to encounter new people and fresh experiences. A practical way to do this is to, for example, choose to stay in a dorm instead of a hotel room, share a ride with somebody else. Getting out of your comfort zone could possibly stretch you at first if you’re not used to it, but it will surely enrich your life in many ways.
We strongly recommend that when you go hiking in Israel, you do not do it in the summer, especially in the months of July and August, for that is the hottest time of the year and you are at greater risk for dehydration, exhaustion, or heat stroke
Multi-Day Hiking in Israel
- The Israeli National Trail: This is the pinnacle of the hiking in Israel experience– it has been labeled as “epic” by National Geographic. The trail stretches through the entire country. If you wish to do the whole trail, come prepared with some time, since it’s over a 1000 km long. You may also choose to complete shorter bits of the trail if you wish to do so. Something interesting about this particular trail is that along the way there are helpers, also called as “trail angels’ ‘. The trail angels live close by the trail and help backpackers with food supplies, provide electricity to charge their gadgets, and even offer them a place to stay for the night. In the southern parts of the trails there is basically no infrastructure, so to be able to safely complete the trail in the desert areas, you would have to secure enough water and food supplies required for survival along the way by burying, or “planting” them to the ground before starting the trail, since there are no shops anywhere. If this sparked your interest, here’s a link with useful information about the INT.
- The Jesus Trail: In Nazareth lies the start of the Jesus Trail, a path to make pilgrimage to Jesus’ birthplace and explore Galilean towns. Stretching about forty miles, the trail runs to the Sea of Galilee. An unlikely pair established the trail fairly recently, in 2007. David Landis, an American Christian and avid hiker, along with Maoz Inon, Israeli Jewish owner of the Fauzi Azar aimed to connect important Biblical towns. The hostel is a popular stay where Christians, Muslims, and Jews can all harmoniously rest before taking to the trail. Over the course of the four-day trek, one can expect to see Byzantine mosaics, pavement from a Roman Road that was once a part of the Silk Road, and an Orthodox Jewish farm known for producing synagogue furniture. To walk the Jesus Trail is to experience the past, present, and future simultaneously.
- The Golan Trail; The Golan Trail starts at Mount Hermon in the North, and moves down South to the Sea of Galilee. On your way down, see a kibbutz, Gamla reserve, or simply take in the sights of the Israeli scenery. The hike is of medium difficulty, and we suggest going from North to South, because if done the other way around, you will be going completely uphill.
If you are looking for a place to stay for a low price near Eilat, choose Abraham Hostel!
If you are looking for a place to stay near Nazareth, choose Abraham Hostel!
One-Day Hiking in Israel
- In the North
- Jilabun Stream: This stream, located in the Golan, is a long, winding stream with a lot of natural wonders to see! The hike will typically start at Hurbit Nabuwiya, and you will make your way through the Golan’s lava stone into a canyon. Then, you will get to see the famous Devorah waterfall–the second highest waterfall in Israel! Throughout the remainder of the hike you will get to see a natural spring water pool, a lava cave, and ancient flour mills.
- Zavitan Canyon in the Golan Heights: The name Zavitan literally means “shape”, and it hints to the beautiful texture of the rock walls that you encounter by hiking here. You can get to this trail by taking a bus from Tiberias. From Tiberias you can find your way to Qatzrin and take a bus to Zavitan from there. It is much easier to get there with a car though. The canyon is in a national park so you are not allowed to camp here (by the way, there are forest guards on patrol to ensure this won’t happen). The further down you go down the trail, the less people you will see. For a peaceful place, look for the Lower Zavitan stream. This place is also amazing for swimming and if you’re brave, also for jumping to the water from the rocky heights.
- Hasbani River: The Hasbani makes up the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights. This river gets its water from two springs in Lebanon and flows into the Jordan River. Walking through this river is easy enough for anyone of any age to do. The cool stream takes you on a scenic venture through pink flowers, singing birds, and a canopy of bright green trees. There are some rocks and tree roots under the water, so just go slowly. This hike is simple, beautiful, and fun
- Nahal Kziv: Located in Mitzpe Hila, Northern District HaZafon, this trail is simple but intriguing. It has a waterfall and ruins from an ancient fortress from the time of the Crusades. The trail is of medium difficulty (probably suited for teenagers and older). This path can be both hiked and walked, and dogs are allowed as long as they are on leashes. There are a lot of signs so you cannot get lost. Have yourself a relaxing summer’s day in Nahal Kziv!
A good place to stay in the North before you embark on your hikes is in Abraham Hostel!
- In the Center
- Ha’sharon Nature Reserve: If you wish to hike in a more centric location in Israel, this one’s for you. It’s an easy one-day hike and only about 30 minutes away from Tel Aviv. Here are the details: The starting & end points of the trail are located at the Sharon Park parking lot, West of Gaash.The entrance is free of charge, and you can come all year round. It is an easy hike, and there are trails that do not involve walking through water, if that is what you’re looking to avoid. Children can do this hike, too. It takes about two hours. To get there, take Nativ Express, line 606 from Tel Aviv to Shfayim.
- The Sharon Beach National Park: North of Arsuf and west of Lagash, has one of the most beautiful observation decks to see when hiking in Israel. It’s a four-mile strip. The limestone cliff, which rises to a height of 40 meters above the sea, offers a wonderful view that includes a white beach, an inviting sparkly blue sea, flowers, trees and and it is easily accessible. You will also find a wide wooden deck built a few years ago on the edge of the cliff. At a short distance to the south you can see the houses of Arsuf. Entrance is free of charge, you can go all year round, children can do this, too. It takes about two hours, and the bus route is Nativ Express, line 606 from Tel Aviv to Shfayim.
- British Park: This park stretches for about 10,000 acres. It includes forests and woods, flowers, archaeological sights, and scenic lookouts. The park is usually humid, but gets hot in the summer. Some of the park’s main attractions are Tel Azeka, a Biblical city, Hurvat Shikalon, a hill with winepresses, Mitzpe Masua, an observation tower & restaurant, and Tel Goded, ruins of an ancient settlement. There is a lot more to be seen at this giant park, so spend a day there and explore!
- Caesarea National Park: This is a beautiful, recovered archaeological sight. Today the sight houses an amphitheater that hosts concerts, an Old City with boutiques and shops, beautiful beaches, and villas. The sight can mainly be accessed by car, so most people choose to take tours there. King Herod built a harbor here that has been restored. There is also an underwater city, and you can dive through the ruins of the ancient Museum! This place is highly recommended.
- In the Mountains around Jerusalem
- Spring Valley Park (Park HaMaayanot): Located in the Beit Shean Valley, this park is home to an abundant amount of water. Although the Beit Shean Valley, itself, is dry, this park gets its water from Mount Gilboa. That is why this park is so fascinating–especially in Israel–it does not seem like it should have as much water as it does! Entrance to the park is free. You can walk through it, ride your bike, take the park’s own shuttle or rent a golf cart. The four main springs you want to visit are Ein Migdal, Ein Shokek, Nahal Kibbutzim and Ein Moda. On a hot day, come to Park HaMaayanot and enjoy all it has to offer!
If you are looking for a place to stay in Jerusalem, look no further than Abraham Hostel!
- In the South
- Important Reminders for Desert Hiking
- Bring lots of water, because you need to stay hydrated in the heat.
- Start hiking in Israel early in the morning, before the sun rises, to hike in the cool air as much as you can. Bring a headlight with you so you can see in the dark.
- Eat salty snacks, because the salt in your body will help absorb & retain the water
- Wear light, breathable clothing
- Important Reminders for Desert Hiking
- Masada: Masada is an ancient fortress on a plateau with a mind-blowing view of the Dead Sea. If you can manage to get there to see the sunrise, it’s an experience you will definitely never forget. Going there by public transport is a little bit complicated though, since there are very few buses a day and it’s a slow ride. Also the stops are not the same each time so it can become a little bit of a hassle, that’s why if you wish to go there the easiest and more recommendable way is to take a pre-organized tour. It will make your experience much more pleasant and enjoyable. Still, if you wish to go by bus you can check the timetables from www.bus.co.il , but make sure you are prepared and flexible for change. There’s also a cable train that goes straight to the top for people who don’t want or aren’t able to do the actual hike.
- Mitzpe Ramon: Mitzpe Ramon is a town that sits on top of the Ramon Crater in the Southern, desertic part of Israel. The view to the crater will blow your mind, and it’s a perfect place for hiking. Mitzpe Ramon crater, as well as the surrounding areas, are suitable for both beginners and more advanced hikers. It’s easy to get there by car and by public transport. Once you are there, you can challenge yourself more by setting goals, doing extra trails around, or booking a night in a hostel and extending your hike on the spot. Advanced travelers could even camp in these areas. Tip: from the Green Backpacker hostel you can get advice and custom made Mitzpe Ramon trails. They will listen to your desires, needs and experience and give you advice on the most suitable trails for you. The israeli national trail actually passes through Mitzpe Ramon, specifically through the Ramon crater. On this trail you can find a lot of Israeli backpackers.
- Ein Gedi & Arugot Stream: The Ein Gedi Nature reserve contains springs, waterfalls, cliffs, and rocks. It is located in the He’etekim Cliff in the Judean Desert. One of its main attractions is the Arugot Stream, a water source that flows into a Hidden Waterfall and pools. There is a trail alongside the stream to walk across for a good workout!
- Mount Sodom: This hill is apart of the Judean Desert, and lays just south of the Dead Sea. It started to rise hundreds of thousands of years ago, naturally. The mound is made up of about 80% salt, with a small portion of limestone and clay on top. Hiking in Israel at this place sounds amazing–just do not lick the salt!
- Ein Avdat: The Tsin Stream has created a canyon, located in the center of the Negev desert. The canyon is known for the Ein Avdat Waterfall, which flows into a pool. Another attraction is called Monks’ cave, which in Byzantine times were used by monks for peace & quiet. Lookout over the entire canyon at the En Ma’arif lookout point.
A great tour to Masada is with Abraham Tours!
- In the Eilat Mountains
- The Red Canyon: Feel the rocks under your feet as you trek through the scenic array of red, white, and orange mountain passes. The sun’s reflection on the sandstone makes the rocks glow red like fire, similar to the Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona. These natural structures encapsulate the spirit of the Israeli mountains: mighty yet beautiful.
- Timna Park: An alternative to the Red Canyon is Timna Park. Timna park is the larger park of the two and is known to have been the first ever copper mine in the world. Therefore, you will not only see several different minerals and stones in the valley, but you will also encounter remnants of mines and furnaces from ancient Egypt. Due to its sheer size and rich history, Timna makes for an unforgettable hike. Visit their website for shuttle information and hours of operation.
- Barak River: Found in the Arava Desert, this stream bed and canyon is typically dry. When it does rain, though, the Barak River will flood. Water will flow through the river, and the canyon will have natural pools. There is a limestone gorge (narrow valley) within the stream. Take in the scenery while it is wet, and enjoy a natural stream and pool for a limited time!
If you do not want to hike, and would prefer to ride a cool car through the mountains in Eilat, check out Abraham Tours’ Jeep Tour!
The best advice I can give is to come fully prepared and take care of the logistics well in advance. If you’ve done your research, it’s easy to focus on enjoying the experience to the max. There are many good options for trails that–in the end–it’s really up to you to decide which path to take. Check out this link for more options of independent hiking trails in Israel. Remember that it is about the journey, not just the destination!