Israel: Every hiker's dream
You would never guess that a country only 85 miles wide and 300 miles long would be such a hiking hotpot.
Well, think again!
Israel has over 6,000 miles of hiking trails crisscrossing throughout its diverse and breathtaking terrain. Not bad for such a small country!
Israel’s unique climate brings with it the dry and rolling sand dunes of the desert to compete with the country’s beautiful green and forested north. From aquamarine oceans to snowy mountains, Israel has it all, which makes its hiking culture even more exciting for both Israelis and tourists alike!
From a young age, Israelis learn to love the great outdoors. School trips are often hikes in the country’s rich and historical landscape, and as kids get older, camping becomes a popular activity. National holidays are spent with filled parks and hiking trails, BBQs, and outdoor fun. Walk the streets of any major city, and spot hiking stores on every corner, stocked with “pakal cafes” and camelbacks for water. It is no surprise that the most popular shoes in Israel are shoresh (hiking sandals) and Blundstones (hiking boots). We are nature-obsessed!
The impact that nature has on the Israeli nation is clear. The land is a part of us, and we are a part of it. And the best way to honor our favorite land is through, well, hiking!
Here is a list of some of the top hiking spots in Israel:
Jerusalem and Judean Desert
1. Masada- a short 20-minute drive from the Dead Sea lies one of Israel’s most historically renowned mountains, known for its indispensable role in Jewish history under Roman rule. Originally built by King Herod, a group of Jews escaped to this cliff mountaintop in 73CE to fight Roman persecution during The Great Revolt, and are remembered in Jewish history for their heroic fight for freedom. Today, you can hike up to the mountaintop on the “snake path”, and explore the story of these last standing Jews in the preserved structures and ruins. In Israel, history is almost always found in nature.
2. Ein Gedi- right on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea sits a magical natural oasis of breathtaking views, waterfalls, shady hiking trails and natural springs. Ein Gedi is one of Israel’s most popular nature reserves about an hour outside of Jerusalem. Leave the city, and enter a new world rich with wildlife, babbling streams and lots of green. The Arugot Stream is a famous hike that leads you to a refreshing waterfall, also known as David’s waterfall, which is said to have been used by King David himself! There are plenty of hikes to choose from here, from more challenging climbs, to family strolls in and out of water. Pack your shoresh!
3. Wadi Qelt- another hike right outside of Jerusalem, this famous water hike runs along the ancient city of Jericho, in a canyon of the Ein Prat nature reserve. The wadi, or valley in Arabic, runs all the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, and its banks are the historical home to numerous monasteries and ancient aqueducts. You can even go repelling into the canyon!
4. Nachal Amud- one of Israel’s most famous northern hikes runs between Meron mountain and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). This scenic route takes you through the refreshingly long and shaded Amud creek, and has an option for hiking into the mystical city of Tsfat! In the summer this hike can be found busy with children and their families enjoying the cool waters. Grab your hat and bathing suit, and jump on in!
5. Nesher Park Hanging Bridge- looking for an adrenaline rush? This nature park just a few miles outside of Haifa’s central hustle and bustle comes equipped with 2 long and hanging bridges, suspended over a deep and green valley. The 70-meter-long bridges are part of a simple and short loop trail perfect for families, with the added bonus of the breathtaking views the bridges offer of Haifa’s natural forest. The trail is also home to many picnic spots, caves to explore, and colorful wildflowers along the way.
Negev and Southern Region
6. Ramon Crater- as you begin your drive down to Israel’s southernmost tip, you hit the vastness and beauty of the Negev- Israel’s desert. Located in the Negev is one of the most jarring and magnificent wonders to be seen, and is the largest crater in the world! Just next to the southern city of Mitzpe Ramon, this crater is home to dozens of hikes and trails. Many people choose to camp out in the crater and experience the starry night sky like never before. There is a quiet magic among the sand dunes on Israel’s desert. Don’t forget to hydrate!
7. Red Canyons of Eilat- these colorful canyons are actually connected to a wadi that begins in Egypt and travels all the way into Israel! Overtime, the valley began carving its way into the red sandstone, and created the red canyons that we have today. The hike is accessible and light, as you wind your way through the narrow and deep red rocks.
8. Mount Shlomo- looking to really challenge yourself? Har Shlomo is one of southern Israel’s hardest hikes, with its steep and rocky trails leading up to one of the highest peaks on the area. Geologists say the mountain rock is as old as 500 million years old, making this hike a unique opportunity for those brave enough. Both the ascent and descent are steep and jagged, and require good hiking boots and balance. The mountain hike can be done in a loop, or from one campground to another.
Cross Country Hikes in Israel
9. Yam Le Yam- translated as “sea to sea”, this 3–5-day cross country trail follows the whole width of the country, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, beginning in Israel’s northern city of Nahariya. The trail is one of Israel’s most popular ones, hiked by all ages, with options for camping out, or sleeping in local villages along the way. Each day includes a natural spring, in addition to the changing and diverse scenery as you progress through this 89-kilometer hike. Experience the vast beauty of this country in under a week!
10. Shvil Yisrael: The Israel National Trail- probably the most internationally recognized and popular trail in Israel, the Israel trail guides you across the country, from the tip of the south to the top of the north. This 680-mile hike travels along the desert dunes, into the agricultural green plains, through Israeli cities, among the shady forests, and up the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon. It has become somewhat of a rite of passage for both Israelis and tourists alike, and can be covered in about 2-3 months. There are organized programs for this hike as well as solo trekkers looking to explore the wilderness at their own pace.