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Israel National Trail

Hiking tracks

Israel National Trail

Named one of the "holy grails of hikes.", Israel’s national trail is placed among the top 20 epic hikes in the world and is a renowned attraction among the international hikers community. 

Inaugurated in 1995, the Israel National Trail (INT) is a 620-mile (1,009 km) trail that crosses the entire country from North to South. Hikers on the INT experience an amazing variety of natural and human landscapes, exposing them to Israel's many eco-systems and habitats.

The most common way to hike the INT is North to South. The northern part, while beautiful and exciting is at an easier level, allowing beginners a better chance to get in shape for the long trail, acclimatize and adjust to the trail life. This of course depends on the time of year you set out as it is better to try and avoid reaching the southern desert in the hottest months of the summer season.

Hiking Seasons

It is recommended to hike in the INT during two main seasons - from mid-February and mid-May, and from September until December. The summer (mid-May to late August) is too hot to walk on the path, while during the winter months (late December-January) it can often be rainy and too cold for an enjoyable experience.

Trail Angels

Hiker on the INT in need of assistance can enlist the help of "trail angels" along the Israel National Trail who give a helping hand and often offer a place to stay free of charge to passing hikers.

 

Part 1 – Tel Dan to the Roaring Lion Monument

Distance: 13.5 km

Water along the trail:
At starting point
Hatzbani Stream
Snir Stream – inside the nature reserve (admission fee required)
Gas station near Snir Bridge
End point (Tel Chai monument)

Trail Angels: Kibbutz Dan

Description:

The trail begins at the Beit Ussishkin Museum in Kibbutz Dan, located in the northern Hula Valley below the Dan River. At the museum, you can learn about wildlife and nature in the Hula Valley and Upper Galilee region, and gaze northward towards Mount Hermon.

The trail passes nearby the Dan Nature Reserve (the Israel Trail intentionally bypasses nature reserves and national parks). At the observation point, facing north, you'll see the impressive Nimrod Fortress just straight ahead. Nimrod Fortress is a 13th century Muslim fortress strategically located on the route to Damascus, 800 meters above sea level. From the observation point, you can also see Mount Hermon, Israel's highest mountain, rising 2,814 meters above sea level and situated on Israel's border with Lebanon and Syria. The highest peak of the mountain is within Israel's borders and is 3,236 meters high. In the winter, the entire region is blanketed in snow and the Hermon becomes a ski resort and winter tourism site. The trail runs through the valley where the Israel-Syria border meets the Lebanon border.

The trail continues to the Snir Nature Reserve (Hatzbani), the only site along the trail where admission is charged. Hiking alongside the rushing stream is a very enjoyable experience. The air is cool and the platanus trees growing on the banks of the stream offer plenty of shade. As tempting as it may be, bathing in the stream is forbidden. Not far away is a fish restaurant, which you may even be able to smell from the nature reserve. The trail continues alongside the road past Kibbutz Maayan Baruch toward the Yuval village.

From there, cross the bridge over Nahal Ayun, a river that flows all year round. In the winter and spring, the area is covered in colorful wildflowers, including irises, anemones, cyclamens and lilies. The trail then continues towards Kibbutz Kfar Hagiladi and ends at the Roaring Lion monument. The monument was erected in memory of the eight pioneers who gave their lives while defending the land, including Joseph Trumpeldor, a national hero.

 

Part 2- Tel Chai to Koach Fort
 

Distance: Approximately 18 km

Water along the trail: 

Starting point (Tel Chai Roaring Lion monument)

Mishkenot Haroim – water tank located inside the ranch (follow signs from the trail)

Yesha (Koach) Fort – end point, in the park

Trail Angels: Mishkenot Haroim. If the water tank is empty or any assistance is required along the way, contact Chanaya – 050-5272422

Ramot Naftali – luxury guest room for hikers, free of charge

There is an option of volunteering in the ecological farm in exchange for full board and classes.

Shimon Osher – 050-7379218

Description:

The trail begins at the Roaring Lion monument which was erected in memory of the fallen warriors in the battle for Tel Chai. One of these warriors was Joseph Trumpeldor, a national hero. The trail then continues towards route 9977, crosses the road and heads eastward for about 200 meters along a leveled trail. Before reaching the Tel Chai College, turn onto a short trail and head down to a path dotted with statues. Turn right to continue west. This area belongs to the Tel Chai statue park, where artists create their works of art on site and leave them there for the public to enjoy.

After leaving the park, the route bends leftward towards a trail marked with green markers, through forests planned by the JNF. The next stop along the way is Ein Roim, a nice picnic area that is a perfect place for breakfast and a cup of coffee. When you're ready to move on, follow the gently sloped trail heading downhill to the south. After about three kilometers, you'll notice several Juda's trees that bloom with glorious purple flowers between February and April. The trail then heads right.

You are now standing below the Ramim mountain ridge, about 2 kilometers from Kiryat Shemona. At this point, you can choose how to proceed. The first option is to head south on the Israel Trail. The second is to turn left and hike down to Kiryat Shemona, and the third is leave the trail, and head right to visit the Ramim ridge, then turn back to continue on the Israel Trail.

We recommend leaving the trail for a closer view of the Ramim mountain ridge, despite the steep ascent. Along this 2 km trail are signs with explanations about the region. Looking down, you'll see the Hula Valley which was formed some four-million years ago as part of the Great Rift Valley. The cliff on which you are standing was also formed by the Great Rift, and ancient geological layers can be observed, one above another. You'll pass by 12 different signs, each describing a different geological era. You will also see fossil remains of fish and reptiles embedded in the stone, proving that the entire region was once beneath the sea.

Hike back to the trail and leave the green trail after about two kilometers, and continue along the blue trail which leads to Yesha Junction. At this point, the trail passes through the Nahal Kadesh nature reserve. Enjoy the beautiful, lush vegetation along the trail, and the breathtaking Hula Valley landscape below.

After about two kilometers, you'll reach the Lipa Gal observation point, named for a JNF employee and nature lover. Sit down on the bench and relax for a few minutes while you enjoy the pleasant breeze and lovely view of the Hula region and surrounding mountains.

Next, walk through the canyons of Nahal Kadesh, where you may catch a glimpse of the rock badgers that live there, if you're lucky. Be careful in the winter and spring when the rocks are slippery. Turn into the southern tributary, climb out of the river channel, and cross the fence surrounding Yesha Fort to reach the entrance.

The fort marks the end of this trail and is one of the five forts built by the British Mandate that ruled the region until the State of Israel was established in 1948. It is an excellent observation point that offers strategic control of the entire region and the main highways. Today, the fort serves as an army base.

 

Part 3- Yesha (koach) Fort to Nachal Dishon
 

Distance: 20 km

Water along the trail: At Nahal Dishon before reaching the road, Ein Aviv – a Mekorot site. The faucet is located to the left of the entrance to the site.

Trail Angels: Kibbutz Yiron – accommodations in rooms equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, showers and more for only 10 NIS. Sleeping on the public kibbutz lawns is prohibited.

Description:

After the trail leaves Yesha Fort, it passes by the ruins of Nebi Yusha located south of the fort. This is a holy site for the Muslims who believe it to be the burial site of the biblical Joshua. Muslims believe that visiting this grave brings health, fertility and marriage. This is an excellent place to stop for breakfast. From Nebi Yusha, follow the Israel Trail for about two kilometers until you see the green trail marker. Follow the dirt road through the thicket towards Keren Naftali Mountain. The 500 meter climb is steep but well worth the effort. This is the highest observation point in the region; it is a triangulation point, meaning it is the highest point to have been surveyed and marked. When creating a trig point, the idea is for two additional trig points to be visible from each so that surveyors can calculate their precise location by measuring their distance from each of the three points. Keren Naftali Mountain offers an excellent opportunity to see what a trig point actually looks like. You’ll see three metal poles with an iron triangle welded to them.

At Keren Naftali, you’ll find the ruins of a Hellenistic temple from the Roman era. Lovely Atlantic terebinth trees grow among the ruins. There is a mosaic at the site and several burial caves have been carved into the stone. You’ll also enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire Hula Valley, Golan Heights, Hermon Mountain and the Upper Galilee.

From there, follow the trail towards Nahal Dishon. The river channel is brimming with lush Mediterranean vegetation, including oak, terebinth, birch, carob, olive, and Judas trees. At this point, the trail is marked in red. The cliff to the side of the trail is a nesting site for birds of prey and in the spring, the region blooms with orchids and irises.

Note that during the winter months, the river channel may be full of water.

As you hike along Nahal Dishon, you’ll see Ein Aviv, a spring from which water is currently pumped. In November, the saffron flowers blossom approximately 150 meters along the trail past Ein Aviv. In the wadi just past Ein Aviv, you’ll find the ruins of windmills that were once operated by the river and serve as living proof of the water that once flowed through the Dishon.

After hiking two kilometers further through the river bed, you’ll see a shape on the mountain to your left that resembles a rhinoceros’ horn. This means that you’ve nearly reached the end of the trail. When you reach the area below the horn, you’ll see the entrance to the Dishon cave above you. The trail ends at route 899. 

Part 4 - Nachal Dishon to Mount Meron
Distance: 14 km
 

Water along the trail: There is water available at the Mount Meron Field School (Rashbi’s grave), and at the gas station at Meron junction (500 meters off of the trail).

Trail angels: Mount Meron Field School, the “pipe” at Nahal Zivon

Camping: Pisga camp site
 

Description:The trail begins alongside route 899, ascending south from Avivim junction towards Yiron and Avivim. One kilometer north of the junction is a wooden sign indicating the entrance to the Nahal Dishon nature reserve. Follow the wide dirt trail alongside the road and Nahal Dishon. Between mid-October and mid-November, the saffron flower blooms along the slopes of Puah Mountain (visible on your left, to the southwest). The saffron is a beautiful flower from the iris family. It has a lovely orange-yellow hue that resembles an egg yolk. If you visit the region during this month, look for this wildflower. Continue to follow the trail and cross the road to its southern side. After about three kilometers, the trial turns left and passes by Ein Aravot. Years ago, bathing in the spring was permitted, but today it is fenced off. Walk around the fence to reach the south side of the road. You will now see a red trail marker, indicating the continuation of the trail. The trail crosses Nahal Dishon several times, making it a rather wet experience in the wintertime. Several hundred meters after Nahal Dishon connects with Nahal Gush Halav, you’ll reach a cattle fence. Follow the trail for another 300 meters to enter the Bara’am Forest nature reserve, leading into a small grove of terebinth trees, which is a wonderful place for a picnic breakfast and a cup of coffee.
 

Follow the red trail and when Nahal Zivon meets Nahal Dishon, bear right to reach Nahal Zivon. This is one of the loveliest portions of the Israel Trail. The shade of the large trees growing alongside the stream and the moss-covered stones make the trail pleasant and cool. The roots of the trees form stairs to help you climb up the river channel. The trail leads to a clearing and intersects with a trail marked in black. Turn left and continue following the red trail. At this point, the Meron mountain ridge, one of the highest peaks in Israel, becomes visible, rising 1,208 meters above sea level. There is a trail leading around the peak of the mountain, offering glorious views of the Upper Galilee. Several holy Jewish and Druze sites are located at the foot of the mountain. The trail leads to route 89. Cross the road and look for the trail markers on the other side. Continue to follow the red trail until you reach the Israel Trail marker once again. This will take you up the mountain, through an oak tree grove and towards the Mount Meron Field School. Follow the trail to the Hamama ruins, where a black trail begins and leads to the peak of Mount Meron.
 

Water is available near the ruins of Hamama. From here on, you will be following the black trail markers along an uphill trail. It is not very steep and there are plenty of places to stop along the way and rest in the shade. The vegetation along the trail is dense and includes terebinth, oak and occasionally even red-trunked arbutus trees. You’ll pass by the Neriya observation point which features a well-marked sign that explains exactly what you are looking at. From there, you can see the Nahal Dishon channel, Kibbutz Sasa, the Golan Heights, the villages on the northbound road, and a large portion of the trail that you have just hiked. The black markers on the trail meet up with the red trail markers and there are now two options. You can turn right, leave the Israel Trail and hike down a short but steep trail leading to the end of the route, or you can turn left towards the trail along the Meron mountaintop, circle the mountain and add an extra half-hour to your hike. The trail ends at the Pisga camp site.

 

 

 

Difficulty - EASY

North
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