Hiking in Israel offers a wide array of experiences and adventures, for all ages and experience levels. The Israel National trail, spanning 620 miles from north to south of Israel, encompasses most of Israels most significant and beautiful hiking trails. It is no wonder then, that the best day hikes are found on the trail. Here are the 10 best day hikes for individuals and families looking for hiking Israel. Rating the best day trips on the Israel National Trail is not an easy task. If I had to write about only one trip, Karbolet Mountain would win the prize. Many hikers find this the most beautiful day on the trail, but it is also the most challenging one. The common opinion is that the Negev desert is the most beautiful part of the trail. The Negev is my own personal favorite as well. 75% of Israelis agree with me.
When hiking through the desert you sometimes get the feeling of being alone in front of the earth and god. The Negev night sky is different; it has many more stars than any other area due to low population and low light pollution. The sight is astonishing. Waking up to a cool desert morning feels like nothing else. Everything is blissfully quiet. I will recommend 5 trails in the Negev area, and five north of Arad. In my personal opinion these are all nicer than those in the northern part of Israel, but they are not arranged in order of preference (except for mount Karbolet which I will write about first).
If not stated otherwise, you can approach the start and end of the day hike with private vehicle or taxi. Logistics of getting there and back would usually be driving your car to one end, and pick up by taxi back to your car on the other end. All trails are described walking north to north.
Detailed trail descriptions from both directions along with topographical maps that allow you to navigate are in the Hiking Israel National trail guide (The Red guide).
1. Karbolet Mountain: This is the most beautiful as well as the most challenging day trip. It is 18 km long. It starts at the gate of the Oron plant, and ends in a night camp in Mador Stream, accessible only by 4X4. This hike is for experienced hikers only, and the view is magnificent throughout. You will walk on the edge of a ridge, to your west an abyss, and to your east a 45 degrees slope. Many compare this to walking on the edge of a knife.
There are a few steep climbs and down-hills along the way. You should carry at least 6 liters of water per person and more on hotter days. Walking on the ridge is slow and difficult, but coming down through Afran stream is the harder part. You MUST exit Afran stream before night fall, the trail is dangerous to walk with impaired vision conditions. Plan your time carefully, and make sure you do not enter into darkness hours. Take a flashlight, for any case. If time doesn’t allow getting out through Afran stream, you should avoid it and exit through Mador stream instead.
HIking from Oron through Mador takes about the same time as only the downwards part through Afran, despite the latter being longer. This segment is not recommended for large groups between October and March as they tend to hike slowly. Also it is recommended to keep your groups small and agile. Hiking in a desert area on your own is dangerous, small mishaps can turn into big ordeals under desert conditions. Travel safely, and enjoy.
2. Nadiv Gardens to Caesarea: This is a 10 km long hike. It is easy and suited for families. You won’t need more than 3 L of water per person and there are sufficient refill spots. You can add “Taninim river” (Alligator River) to your trail to extend it to 13 km. This is one of the most diverse day hikes on the Israel National trail and has a lot to offer: Nature and beautiful flower blossom in springtime, wonderful scenery, archeological sites and an amazing sea shore. It starts in the beautiful Ha-Nadiv gradens, especially beautiful during spring time. The “Carmel Edge” (Hotem Ha’Carmel) offers breathtaking views, and walking down is steep but short and quick. Be careful if recent rainfalls have left the ground slippery. In rare occasions Taninim river is flooded, you should bypass it through the old Benyamina quarry, and go back north. You walk along Taninim river and then cross route 4 via an underpass. You will see the 10th Roman legion symbol carved in stone, they’ve built the aqueduct. Cross Jiser a’ Zarka and reach a picturesque fishermen village. Walk south along the beach to reach Caesarea where you can enjoy a tour of the old ruins.
3. Small Crater edge to Ein Yorke’am: 15 km long and aside from a intermediately difficult downhill on Ma’ale Yamin, climbing a 10 meter ladder, and a short walk along a cliff, the trail is fairly easy. You should carry 4 L water per person. Walk from road 227 to a beautiful overlook of the small crater. Return and continue west to Mezad Zafir. The view of the Yamin Planes is nice. In Ma’ale Yamin the eco of your voice sounds longer than 5 seconds, give out a shout and hear it for yourself. Beautiful blossom happens in fall time. Go down the Yamin stream and continue west to Wadi Hatira. Go up the Palmach ascent, using a 10 meter high ladder. Arrive at Ein Yorke’am.
4. From Gazit junction to Upper Nazeareth: 18 km, intermediate-advanced trail, especially going up the Tabor mountain which is steep and challenging. Carry 4 L water per person. Your efforts will be rewarded with the breathtaking view from the Tabor Mountain. Go down to Shibli through the Ben-Keshet forest and up Debora Mountain, where you observe the Mt. Tabor. Go down and up the Barak stream through the Nazareth Iris reserve, blooming in Feb-Mar. End in upper Nazareth.
5. From Mitzpe Ramon to Mif’ar Gevanim on route 40: 14 Km (19 if you continue to the field school of Mitzpe Ramon). 5 L water per person. Going up to “Ramon tooth” is difficult and so is “Zohalim Valley”. If you do not want to pass by the field school, go down to the crater on the green marked trail and join the Israel national trail after 1 km. This will save you 5 Km. The view from Mitzpe Ramon boardwalk is one of the most beautiful views on the Israel National Trail. There is only one tree along the way and you may rest in its shadow. Continue south towards “Ramon tooth – Shen Ramon”, a steep climb and then go down east and climb back up through “Zohalim Valley” for another beautiful view of the Crater. The hike ends on route 40.
6. Sataf to Bar Giora: 15 km, intermediate hike. Especially nice during springtime. Start at the Sataf. In winter time in early morning, Sorek river valley is often wrapped in heavy fog, which is a beautiful site from above. Go down the Sataf to Sorek stream, continue towards Ein-Heindak and up to Hirbat Sa’adim on the Ma’ayanot trail (Springs’ trail). The view going up is beautiful. Go down to Refa’im valley, which is rather steep. Go up Kobi stream to Ein-Kobi. Continue through some pine tree woods. Bar Giora is on road 386, a few hundreds of meters from the trail.
7. Barak stream to Zihor: 30 Km, intermediate or more due to its length. It’s a steep uphill climb in the Barak Canyon and a steep down hill in Vardit Canyon. Carry 5 L water per person. Go from Barak night camp, about 2 km off route 90, and continue in Barak stream and up the Barak Canyon, using ladders and pegs attached to the rocks. Continue on a mostly planar trail and reach the Vardit Canyon, go down using ladders and pegs as well. In winter time after flooding, you can swim through water-full pits. Exit through Vardit Canyon and walk the wide Paran river valley, south to the Zihor junction.
8. Yesha junction to Dishon village: 16 Km, easy to intermediate, suitable for families hiking Israel. Take 4 L water per person. Pass a beautiful outlook of the Hula Valley on Keren Naftaly. Best season is spring. Walking the Dishon river is fun and very beautiful.
9. Be’er Metek to Timna Park: 15 Km, accessible only by 4X4 from route 12. The view of Timna is absolutely breathtaking. Ma’ale Milhan is steep and beautiful. Pass “Bik’at Sasgon” and the impressive Sasgon Mountain. From Tinma park entrance go up the Timna mountain from which you will view the whole area. In the afternoon the desert colors are especially eye catching. End by the Timna lake. Carry 5 L water per person. Walking up Ma’ale Milhan is difficult and so is the climb to mount Timna.
10. Mt. Meron: 13 Km, beginning in Hirbat Humema and ending in Meron village. Suitable for families. 3 L water per person. Going up Mt. Meron is a bit difficult but not too steep. Climb Mt. Neria for a beautiful overlook. Continue to the peak trail, towards the peak day camp. From there down towards Hirbat B”ak, Hirbat Shema and Moshav Meron (Meron village).