The beautiful fall weather we’ve had recently makes this the ideal time of year for hikes that are too difficult in the summer heat, and also not the best option once the rains and flash floods begin. In other words, be sure to take advantage of this time between summer and winter to explore some of the best nature trails in Israel.
Below you will find descriptions of three of my favorite hikes that are perfect for the whole family.
1. AGMON HAHULA PARK
Cranes, for example, have made this place a permanent stopover on their way south. The birds, who come to have a drink and rest, coexist in harmony with the other fauna of the park area. The large lake is the most unique feature of the reserve, and visitors can observe many types of birds as they rest, drink and frolic in the lake.
There is a 8.5 km. Loop trail that circumnavigates the lake, and one of the great things about it is that you can stop anywhere you like along the way for a picnic or rest. Alternatively, you can rent bikes or golf carts that you can ride / drive through the many trails and all the green surroundings.
Visitors can stop at three different panoramic views around the lake, where they can look through telescopes and read about the various types of birds that pass through the region. And for those of you who would like to take a closer look and learn a little more about the birds, you can join a guided tour and ride a tractor from one section of the reserve to another on roads not open to the public. During this excursion, you will enjoy very close views of the birds. This experience is especially exciting at dawn or dusk, which are times of the day when the birds are busy with their daily rituals.
Additionally, Agmon Hahula Park features a botanical garden with an eclectic collection of over 70 different aquatic plants, some of which date back to the days when the park was covered by a swamp. However, keep in mind that this is the most popular season for park visitors, so there may be longer lines at the entrance and at each attraction.
Directions: Drive on Highway 90 and turn right when you see the parking area sign.
2. NAHAL OG
The northern Dead Sea area is the perfect place to walk in the fall before the rains begin. This impressive region is full of trails for experienced hikers, as well as many easy hikes for families with children. Nahal Og is one of the most pleasant canyons to hike, and the path that I am about to describe is completely familiar. Also known as Wadi al-Muqallek, Nahal Og is one of the longest and most striking rivers in the region, especially as it is one of the few trails that is appropriate for families, although it requires climbing or descending stairs. During the hike, you will pass through pools of water and have many magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, including the Dead Sea.
The circular trail begins at the foot of Har Hatzofim and is essentially situated between two rivers: Nahal Kadmon and Wadi Qelt. Because the trail is circular you only need a car for this hike.
Park in the large parking area near Kibbutz Almog and from there follow the red trail signs. You will soon come across a large garbage can at a T-junction, where you will need to decide which direction you want to take on the circular path (that is, whether you prefer to start with a descent or an ascent).
If you take the direction that goes down, just know that in this case you will be going down a ladder. If you start in the direction it goes up, you will end up going up the ladder. In my experience, families with children are more likely to enjoy taking the ascending path.
From the beginning of the trail next to the parking area, the path is quite steep as it descends to the riverbed. I recommend taking this section in stride, especially if you have children with you. When the trail flattens out, take the path to the right, following the green trail markers, which will take you back to the parking area where you left your car.
Along the way, you will hike through a deep canyon, and if you look at the sides of the rock, you can see the layers of the rock that have been worn away by years and years of water flowing through the canyon. You will pass through a small pool of water, which is at its lowest point at this time of year. Soon, when the winter rains come, the pool will be completely filled. You can hang out in the water or just continue on the trail. You will soon reach the ladder, climb it, and then continue along the path.
Directions: Drive on Highway 1 towards the Dead Sea. Just before the turnoff to Kibbutz Almog, turn right into the dirt parking area.
3. A HEMED
Ein Hemed is located in Nahal Kislev, a river that originates from nearby Mevaseret Zion, passes through Ein Hemed, and then continues until it merges with Nahal Sorek. The stretch of the river that passes through the nature reserve is 600 meters long. There are remains of a crusader fortress that was built on the site, which can be found by following the path through the park.
This trail is suitable for families and takes about an hour to complete. It begins in the parking area and runs along the riverbed. Very quickly, you will reach the first pool, which is quite shallow, and you can see the water gushing out of a crack in the stone. You can stop and get your feet wet there for a bit before heading back on the trail. As you continue, if you look to your left you will see a wall and hiding behind it you will find the Ein Hemed spring. The water is channeled through an underground pipe that leads to a large pool below, which is bordered by a dam at the end.
Some people who consider this spring to have supernatural qualities come here to perform Jewish rituals, such as tashlich, the symbolic casting away of our sins before Yom Kippur, or to make a pilgrimage to the place to feel closer to God. But whatever their beliefs, everyone enjoys coming to Ein Hemed to enjoy the fresh water and lush green surroundings.
When you’ve had enough time to enjoy the pool, it’s time to get back on the trail, which continues from the right side of the pool and leads into an olive grove and the Crusader Fortress. Still standing are the two-story high walls of a rectangular structure, with an entrance from the courtyard located on the opposite side.
There were large corridors on either side of the courtyard, with decorations on the walls. There are stairs that lead to the second floor, from where you will have a great view of the region. There are also remains of a vaulted ceiling and an olive press nearby.
Directions: Coming from the west on Highway 1, turn right at the Hemed intersection. After 150 meters, turn right at the next intersection and drive until you reach Ein Hemed.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.