Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Tel Afek to Shoham

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After sleeping next to the railway at Tel Afek, we woke up to another day on the Israel National Trail. We planned to hike to Shoham and stay at a relative’s house. It isn’t exactly on the trail, but it’s a small detour away.

The segment from Tel Afek to Shoham is quite boring. One interesting spot is an ancient mausoleum. The other is an impressive memorial for the fallen soldiers of an Israeli armored corps brigade. But the highlight of this segment was the ice cream factory store in Shoham Industrial Park. They sell ice cream at ridiculously cheap prices! 

Trail length: About 20 km. You can also hike it from the other direction. If you want to go to Shoam, it’s an additional 2 km back and forth. 

Trail duration: About 10 hours, depending on your pace. 

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate. 

Best season: Fall (October-November), Winter (December-January), and Spring (February-April). 

Water along the way: There is a drinking tap at the Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground, at the beginning of the segment. Next, there’s a water tap at the “Water Corner” (about 4.2 km from the start). You can also fill water at the ice cream store in the Shoham Industrial Park (about 16.2 km from the start). 

Stay options at the end of the trail: There are many trail angels in Shoham. Check the list here.

Table of contents:

Safety instructions and general notes

How to get to the head of the trail?

The trail from Tel Afek to Shoham

Safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with heatstroke. There are many parts without shade on this segment. Also, after rainfall, parts of this segment could be muddy.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). For this segment, you will need to download this map. The maps are extremely basic but give you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

This segment starts in Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground. It’s possible to reach the spot by car, but there’s no organized parking lot there. From road number 486, you will need to turn onto the road that merges with the Israel National Trail. It will take you to the campground.

By public transportation:

In any case, you will need to reach Afek Junction (in Hebrew: צומת אפק). The trail crosses the junction. So you can skip the first 1.5 km of the segment and join it there. No matter where you come from, you’ll need to change buses in the middle. It’s best to use Moovit or Google Maps to find the best route for you.

The trail from Tel Afek to Shoham:

From Tel Afek to road number 6:

The first part was quite uninteresting. We woke up early and left Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground (1). We walked a while parallel to the railway and then continued on a flat road to Afek Junction (2). There, we carefully crossed road 483 and then continued on a straight dirt route between the agricultural fields. After about 1.5 km, it turns left toward road number 6 and the railway. We stopped a short while later for coffee and waffles.

Then, after taking a group selfie, we continued a few steps and turned right. Now, we were parallel to the road and the railway. After about 600 meters, we reached an old bridge from the Ottoman era (3). This bridge was part of the Eastern Railway. It crossed the Sharon Plain and the eastern Negev to Sinai. The Ottomans used it to transfer soldiers and resources during World War I. Later, the British expanded it to Haifa. Following the establishment of the Coastal Railway, we stopped using it in 1969.  

Ben Gurion International Airport is nearby, too, so we got to see some airplanes flying over our heads. You might see some, too.

The Ottoman era bridge

We continued another 1.9 km and reached a tunnel underneath the railway (4). We passed through it, turned right, and continued for another 840 meters. Then, we crossed a bridge over road number 6. We stopped in the middle of the bridge to take another group selfie. We also took a few moments to watch the cars rushing beneath us.

Road number 6 from the bridge
1 – taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map
3 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map
4 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map

From road number 6 to Mazor Mausoleum:

We left the bridge and turned right onto a small dirt route that went along the agricultural fields. There, we met an old man in a Jeep, who stopped by us. “I’m proud of you,” he said. It wasn’t uncommon because many people have stopped to tell us how proud and impressed they are. It seems that a lot of people dream of hiking the Israel National Trail. Not many do it. We took it as a challenge, and we were doing quite well. So, we were proud of ourselves, too. 

We continued by the fields for about 900 meters and then climbed up to road number 444 (5). The road passes near Elad, a city established for the Ultra-Orthodox and Religious Zionist Jewish populations. We crossed the road and continued on the trail that goes parallel to it, to the south. Make sure to walk beyond the road railing.

After about 680 meters, we reached the Mazor Mausoleum (6), one of the most preserved Roman buildings in Israel. It was built for an unknown couple in the 3rd century CE. They must have been important or wealthy because not many got the honor to get buried in a mausoleum. Later, Muslims added a prayer niche to the southern wall of the building. It was used as a mosque and was called Maqam en Neby Yahyah, “Shrine of the Prophet John.” Prophet John is John the Baptist. Because of its sacredness, no one harmed it over the years. When we were there, it was under repairments.   

Mazor Mausoleum
5 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map

From Mazor Mausoleum to Shoham Industrial Park:

We continued another 460 meters and reached a big wooden sign with a map of Giv’at Koah Forest (7). The forest, which is also known as Qula Forest, was planted by KKL in the 1950s. From the sign, we continued straight on the peeling asphalt route. Very quickly, it turned to a wide and easy dirt path.

The signpost of Giv’at Koah Forest
Walking through the forest

The trail curves through the forest for about 1.6 km until it reaches road 465 (8). We carefully crossed the road and got to an impressive memorial for 147 fallen soldiers of the 27th Brigade (9). This Israeli armored corps brigade is also known as the “Fist and Lance Brigade.” It was founded in 1952 as the first reserve brigade in the IDF. They took part in many battles, including the Sinai War, the Six-Day War, and the Yom Kippur War. The memorial site includes one tank and two half-tracks which were damaged by the Egyptians during the Six-Day War. There’s also a large explanation sign, but it’s in Hebrew.

The trail continues through the forest on an easy path for about 1.5 km. Then, we reached a moderate climb that led us to a large electricity pole connected to an electricity line. A short while later, we stopped for one of our “conversation circles.” During “conversation circles,” we sat down to talk about various topics. This time, someone put a horrible song about rape and murder and asked what we feel about it. Is hurting someone else part of human nature? I’ll keep it as a point of thought.

From the electricity pole, we went on for about 850 meters. Then, we reached a tunnel underneath road 6 (10). Then, we walked through a large quarry and entered the boundaries of Shoham Industrial Park.

6 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map
7 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map

In Shoham Industrial Park:

Shoham Industrial Park is a compound full of industrial headquarters. We walked south on the main road. After about 800 meters, we spotted a gas station to the right of the road. Every time we saw a gas station on the trail, we thought about the popsicles and ice creams sold there. So, we almost went over there. But then, we spotted a large statue of an orange-haired baby, the trademark of Bamba (11). Bamba is one of Israel’s most beloved snacks. It’s made from peanuts and corn. We hurried over to the statue to take another group selfie.

Then, we noticed a small ice cream store nearby. It was the factory store of Nestle. When we entered, we were amazed by the prices. They were so good that each of us bought two and even three ice cream bars. The seller was also friendly. We sat down on the small porch of the store and chatted with him a bit. The store is open Monday to Thursday from 1 PM to 6 PM and on Friday from 9 AM to 2 PM. If you love ice cream bars, it’s a great place to visit!

Ice cream!!!
8 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map

From Shoham Industrial Park to our endpoint:

After eating all the ice cream bars, we continued about 260 meters and then turned left onto a dirt path (12). Very quickly, it became an asphalt route that went up the hill. Now, we entered the boundaries of Shoham Forest.

At the top of the hill, we reached Horvat Tinshemet, “the Owl Ruins” (13). Most of the ruins are not accessible to the public. But there is an impressive mosaic floor that was part of a Byzantine-era church called St. Bechachus Church. There are even signs in English, which explain what you can see on the ancient floor. One of the fascinating findings in the church is the Tyche Medallion, which shows the pagan goddess of fortune and fate.

The church at Horvat Tinshemet

From the church, we continued on a paved route for about 670 meters until the base of Saflulim Hill (14). In Hebrew, “saflul” is the outer casing of the acorn. Just before we started climbing the hill, a man got out of his car and asked us: “Excuse me, do you know what’s a saflul?” My friends explained to him, and I continued up the hill.  

There’s a nice view from the top, but nothing too impressive. Then, the trail starts descending. About 1.4 km from the top of the hill, we decided to stop for the day (15). This endpoint is in the middle of nowhere, but there’s a trail that leaves the Israel National Trail and turns right toward Shoham. It has no specific color mark.  

Shoham is one of the wealthiest towns in Israel. It is named after one of the 12 stones on the Hoshen, the sacred breastplate worn by the Jewish high priest.

9 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map
10 – Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map

How to get from the trail to Shoham?

From the endpoint, we turned right onto a trail that went in the direction of Shoham. After about 800 meters, we turned right. Then, after about 480 meters, we turned left to a tunnel underneath road 444 (16). From there, we went into Shoham and walked for about 20 minutes to the commercial center. There, there’s a supermarket and some restaurants. It’s near Edmond Safra Square on Emek Ayalon Street.

We got some supplies, bought something to eat, and then contacted our relative. We were lucky to stay at her place because it rained that night.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

If you want to leave the trail after this segment – You can catch bus number 500 from Shoham. To all major places, you will need to change buses, so it’s best to check the best route for you by using Moovit or Google Maps.

Read more:

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Looking for a tour guide on the Israel National Trail?

Contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com or read more here.

Pin this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com. I also offer guided hiking tours on several segments of the Israel National Trail.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Tel Aviv to Tel Afek

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The previous day, we arrived in Tel Aviv and had an interesting night at the Roof Farm. We woke up early to catch the bus to this day’s segment and got off on road 482. Then, we walked off the road to Yarkon Park and continued east on the Israel National Trail. By doing this, we actually skipped about 3.8 km of the trail. I think we missed all the interesting spots in the park. But… That’s what we did.

The segment from Tel Aviv to Tel Afek is easy and fun. It goes along the meandering Yarkon River, the largest coastal river in Israel. In the end, it reaches the Yarkon National Park, where the sources of the river are located.

Trail length: About 20 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 6-10 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Fall (October-November), Winter (December-January), and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: There are drinking water taps close to the starting point of the segment, in Yarkon Park. Then, after you leave the park, the next drinking tap is only next to the Baptist Village (about 17.5 km from the start). There’s also a drinking tap at the campsite at the end.

Stay options at the end of the trail: There is a free campsite at the end, with a drinking tap. The campsite is called Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground. I also know you can stay at the nearby Baptist Village. You can find the contact details in this list.

Table of contents:

  1. Safety instructions and general notes
  2. How to get to the head of the trail?
  3. A bit about the Yarkon River
  4. The trail from Tel Aviv to Tel Afek

Safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with heatstroke. There are many parts without shade on this segment. Also, after rainfall, parts of this segment could be muddy.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). For this segment, you will need to download this map and this map. The maps are extremely basic but give you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

This segment starts in Yarkon Park, next to road number 482. It’s hard to find parking in Tel Aviv, so it’s best to come by public transport. If you still want to come by car, you can park at the Yarkon Park Parking Lot and continue on foot to the start point.

By public transportation:

From Tel Aviv, it depends where exactly are you coming from. It’s best to use Moovit or Google Maps to find the best route for you. Type in the search “Raoul Wallenberg” (in Hebrew: מבצע קדש/ראול ולנברג). This is the station we got off.

From Haifa, it is best to take a bus or train to Savidor Center Station in Tel Aviv. From there, take bus number 142 or any other bus that arrives at “Raoul Wallenberg” station (in Hebrew: מבצע קדש/ראול ולנברג). It takes about an hour and a half to arrive.

From Jerusalem, go to the Central Station and get on bus number 480 to Savidor Center Station in Tel Aviv. From there, you can take bus number 143 or any other bus that arrives at “Raoul Wallenberg” station (in Hebrew: מבצע קדש/ראול ולנברג).

A few words about Yarkon River:

f

Since this segment goes parallel to the Yarkon River, let’s learn a bit about it. The Yarkon River spreads to a length of about 27.5 km. It meanders all the way, which gave it its Arabic name, “al-Auja”, which means “curving”.

The river was a source of water for many settlements, that were established on its banks. One of those settlements was Tell Qasile, founded by the Philistines in the 12th century BCE. Another settlement was Tel Afek, which was established as a city in Herod’s time, in the 1st century BCE. He called it Antipatris in honor of his father, Antipater.

Today, the river looks ridiculously small and not at all threatening. But long ago, this river was flowing with a lot of water. People had to go to the river’s sources to be able to pass it. That is why it was a natural obstacle in both ancient and modern times. During World War I, the Turks established a line of defense along the northern bank of the river. They tried to block the British but were unsuccessful. Later, when the British ruled the Land of Israel, they transferred the water of the Yarkon to Jerusalem.

When Israel was founded in 1948, we started using more and more of the water. The flow got terribly slow, and the river shrunk. We also started draining sewage into the river. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a river of sewage, filled with toxic substances, organic garbage, flies, and more. Following the Maccabiah bridge collapse in 1997, we understood how dangerous the water is and started working on rehabilitation of the river. Still, the water isn’t suitable for swimming.    

The trail from Tel Aviv to Tel Afek:

From road number 482 to road number 5:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We took the bus to “Raoul Wallenberg” station (1). From there, we got off the bridge of road number 482 and entered Yarkon Park. Before starting the hike, we stopped for coffee and cookies on a stone picnic table.

After the refreshments, we continued on our way. People were jogging, walking, and bicycling in the park. We continued for about 1.7 km on the asphalt trail until a right turn onto a dirt route (2). The route goes right next to the Yarkon River. We couldn’t see the flow because of all the water plants growing next to it, but you can sense it. The humidity was terribly high.

The righ to turn to the dirt path

After about 540 meters, we reached the bridge of road number 4 (3) and passed underneath it. We continued on the trail for about 2.5 km and arrived at a big sign talking about a stone dam (4). It said that the stone dam is supposed to help mix the water and clean them. There are several dams like this along the Yarkon. From there, we continued another kilometer to the bridge of road number 5 (5).

Orchards on the way

From road number 5 to Abu Rabah mill:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

The trail continues on quite a boring route along the river. Most of the way, you can’t see the river because of the water plants. Then, after about 5.2 km, we reached a charming point where the trail is shaded by an archway of reeds. This shading archway continues for a while. When we got out of it, we could see Tel Qana to our left, in the distance (6). There was once an ancient settlement there, on the banks of the Yarkon River. Today, it’s a small mound.

We crossed an old bridge above Nahal Hadar (7), a small seasonal river that flows to the Yarkon. Afterward, we turned right with the trail, passed through another archway of reeds, and reached another bridge (8). This time, it was a small bridge of the Yarkon River. We crossed it to the other side of the Yarkon and slowly left the side of the river.

The shaded passage
Tel Qana in the distance

At some point, we took a wrong turn, that brought us nearer to the river. Then, we thought we lost the trail because it seemed the trail was on the other side of the river. So, we thought about crossing the Yarkon River, but the flow was too hard. Nitai crossed it by passing over some stones. But the rest of us didn’t want to take the chance. So, we retraced our steps and reconnected to the Israel National Trail. It went far away from the river, on a wide Jeep route. Then, it returned to the river and reached Abu Rabah mill (9).

The mill was built in the 1880s by Sheikh Abu-Rabah. It ceased working as a flour mill in 1948. In 1950, it was used to irrigate the citrus groves of an agricultural contracting company. Today, it’s no longer functional.

The Abu Rabah mill

From Abu Rabah mill to the Baptist Village:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

Next to the Abu Rabah mill, there was an easy way to cross the river. Then, we continued for about 900 meters until the bridge of road number 40 (10). We crossed beneath it, although it was super muddy. Then continued for a bit until we reached an old, crumbling building. This is where we met our friend, Oria, who wanted to join us for a day and a half.

We met Oria over here

Then, we continued together for about 1.5 km and reached the Lea House (11). We didn’t look inside because it looked like an old and crumbling building, too. But we did stop next to the bank of the Yarkon River and took an afternoon nap. Lea House was built in the 19th century, in the heart of the orchards. There was a pumping facility on the first floor, that was used to pump water from the river to the nearby orchard. The second floor was built later and was most likely a vacation house for the orchard owners.

After the nap, we continued for another 350 meters and then passed by a shaded sitting area (12). There was a big sign there, saying that hikers and bikers were welcome to sit over there. They just asked to keep the place clean and quiet.

A rooster next to Lea House
The shaded sitting area

From there, we continued another kilometer until we reached the bridge of road number 5 (13). Here, the path underneath the bridge was completely muddy and part of it was flooded. So, we walked on the concrete sidestep, at the side of the tunnel.

230 meters afterward, we reached a bridge that crossed to the other bank of the river. We crossed it and then continued 840 meters to the Baptist Village (14).

Below road number 5

From the Baptist Village to Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground:

The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We stopped to fill water at the drinking tap next to the Baptist Village. The Baptist Village was established in 1956 by a group of Christian Baptists from the USA. At first, it functioned as an orphanage and then turned into a school. Today it functions as a hostel and church for the Baptist community. Next to the drinking tap, there was a sign explaining the place. They also organize educational conferences for teenagers and soldiers who are part of the Messianic Jewish community. We opened the drawer next to the sign and found a lot of books connected to Jesus and Christianity.

The Baptist Village

Then, we continued for another 600 meters and crossed underneath the railway (15). From there, we walked another 500 meters to the back entrance to Yarkon National Park (16). There were no entrance fees. Right next to the back entrance, we saw the “Pillbox”. This circular structure was built by the British in 1936 to guard the railway from Arab rioters. The railway line that passes next to the “pillbox” was constructed in 1921. It was built to connect Petach Tiqva to Rosh Ha’Ayin. This way, the citrus fruit growers of Petach Tiqva could transfer their fruits more easily to Jaffa Port.  

We continued parallel to the railway for a short while and then turned right toward the Water-Lilly Pond (17). It’s a short detour off the trail. There’s a lovely pond over there, covered with yellow water lilies, also known as Nuphars. We stopped to rest nearby the pond and talked about jealousy, especially among women. Then, another hiker joined us, and we talked to him for a bit before continuing to the campground, which was 800 meters away.

The Pillbox and a train that went by

The Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground:

The campground is quite basic, with a flat area to place a tent and a drinking water tap. Beyond the fence is Tel Afek, which is part of the Yarkon National Park. According to archeological excavations, it seems that it has been settled continuously for about 5,000 years, from the Copper Age. A city and a fortress were built here by Herod the Great in the 1st century BCE.  I’m not sure if you can enter that area for free, because the trail doesn’t pass near the fortress.  

A bit south to the campground is a small pond, which is beautiful at sunset. There are also some herb plants that grow around it. The problem is that it draws mosquitos. This was one of the only places on the trail that we used our mosquito repellent. Oh, and there’s the train that passes nearby almost all night long.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Tel Afek to Shoham.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment – You will need to walk about 1.6 km to road 483 and catch a bus from the station called “Afek Park/483”. You will probably need at least 2 buses, so it’s best to check the best route for you by using Moovit or Google Maps.

Read more:

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Looking for a guide on the Israel National Trail? Contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com or read more here.  

Save this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Herzliya to Tel Aviv

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After hiking from Poleg Beach to Herzliya, we woke up for another day on the Israel National Trail. This time, we planned to hike a short segment from Herzliya to Tel Aviv, only about 13 km. This is because we wanted to take half a day off in Tel Aviv.

The segment from Herzliya to Tel Aviv is extremely easy because it goes mainly along the coastline. On the way, you’ll pass through Herzliya Marina, walk on the seaside promenade, and stop by the Tel Aviv Port. We proceeded a bit beyond the port and also walked a bit in Yarkon Park. Expect to see lots of people jogging, running, and bicycling around you.

Trail length: About 13 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 5 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Fall (October-November), Winter (December-January), and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: There are drinking water taps all along the beach and Yarkon Park, so don’t worry about it.

Stay options at the end of the trail: There are a lot of stay options in Tel Aviv. We stayed at Roof Farm, which is a shared eco-harmonic community and urban roof farm. They offer cheap accommodation for INT hikers, though we’ve had better stays with trail angels. If you prefer some extra comfort, there are great hostels in Tel Aviv. I recommend Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv, Roger’s House, and Little Tel Aviv Hostel.

Some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with heatstroke. There is no shade on this segment.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). For this segment, you will need to download this map. The maps are extremely basic but give you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

This segment starts at Zebulun Beach in Herzliya, also known as Sea Scouts Beach (in Hebrew: חוף צופי ים). By car, you can reach Ramat Yam Street in Herzliya and park above the Sea Scouts compound. The parking lot is called Nine Beach Parking (in Hebrew: חניון ניין ביץ’). If you want to leave a car at the end of the segment, you can park at The Tropic Garden Parking (in Hebrew: חניון הגן הטרופי). This parking lot is situated in Yarkon Park.

By public transportation:

By public transportation, it is easier to reach the Herzliya Marina, which is also part of the Israel National Trail. So, instead of reaching Sea Scouts Beach, you can reach the marina.

From Tel Aviv, take bus number 90 or 91 from Savidor Center Station. Get off at “Arena Mall” (in Hebrew: קניון ארנה). Here, you can connect to the Israel National Trail, which passes through Herzliya Marina, right next to the station.

From Haifa, it is best to take a bus or train to Savidor Center Station in Tel Aviv. From there, take bus number 90 or 91 to the “Arena Mall” (in Hebrew: קניון ארנה). Connect to the trail at Herzliya Marina.

From Jerusalem, go to the Yitzhak Navon Train Station and take the train to Herzliya. From the Herzliya Train Station, take bus 39 to “Arena Mall” (in Hebrew: קניון ארנה). Connect to the trail at Herzliya Marina.  

You can use Moovit or Google Maps to find the best route for you.

The trail from Herzliya to Tel Aviv:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il

From the Sea Scouts to Herzliya Marina:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We woke up early and started walking from Sea Scouts Beach (1) to Herzliya Marina (2). It’s a short distance of about 1.2 km. The trail took us into the marina, so we got to see the boats anchored there. There was also a man, who was seated in an electric wheelchair in front of the sea. He was singing “Praise Jerusalem” (in Hebrew: שבחי ירושלים). It was early morning, the sun was barely up, so it was a very moving and surreal moment. He explained that he was singing in honor of Yitzhak Rabin, our fifth prime minister, who was killed by a Jewish assassin in November 1995. Rabin tried making peace with the Palestinians, but there was a lot of opposition against the Oslo Plans.

Hear the song sung by Daklon on Youtube:

Herzliya Marina was opened at the end of the 20th century, following a lot of resistance. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel protested against the vacation houses, that were built in the marina right next to the water. There were also other reasons to believe that the marina will cause harm to the environment. As you can see, that didn’t stop anyone from building it.

The Herzliya Marina

From Herzliya Marina to Tel Aviv Port:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We exited the marina and got onto the beach again (3). Now, we were entering the boundaries of Tel Aviv. Many people were on the beach, jogging, running, walking. There were also people in the water with their surfboards and SAP boards. It was amazing to see how active the beach is at such an early hour.

People on the beach near Herzliya Marina
Walking on the beach and in the distance, the tower of Reading Station

We continued on the beach for about 4 km until we reached Tel Baruch Beach (4). There, we left the sand and got onto the seaside promenade. After about 2 km, we reached a bridge (5), from which we could see the tower of the Reading Power Station.

The first power station in Tel Aviv was built in 1923 in one of the city’s neighborhoods. But as the city grew and developed, there was a need for more electricity. So, the Reading Power Station was established in the 1930s, on an empty area north of the Yarkon River. It was named after Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading, who was a Jewish-British politician and judge, who served as Lord Chief Justice of England. He was also an active Zionist, who helped in the establishment of the power stations in the Land of Israel. Today, the power station operates on natural gas.

We crossed the bridge and after about 450 meters reached another bridge, called Wauchope Bridge (6). This bridge leads to the Tel Aviv Port. It was built in 1937 as a service bridge to the construction site of Reading Power Station. Originally, it was called Reading Bridge, but somehow it got the name Wauchope Bridge. Sir Arthur Wauchope was the High Commissioner for Palestine during the British Mandate. He was present at a cornerstone ceremony of another bridge nearby.

After crossing the Wauchope Bridge, we reached Tel Aviv Port (7).

The Wauchope Bridge to Tel Aviv Port

From Tel Aviv Port to Yarkon Park:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We sat down on a bench next to the bridge and ate some snacks. Then, we went to look for a restroom in the area. We asked for directions and found it after a while.

Following an Arab strike in Jaffa Port, the Jewish people of Tel Aviv understood that they had to have their own port. That’s how the first Hebrew port in the world was established in 1936. When Ashdod Port was opened in 1965, the Tel Aviv Port and Jaffa Port stopped receiving cargo ships. Today, Tel Aviv Port is one of the leading recreational, commercial, and entertainment districts in the city.

From Wauchope Bridge, the Israel National Trail turns left (south) along the Yarkon River. There’s a lovely promenade, where people jog, walk, and bike. The Yarkon River is the largest coastal river in Israel, at a length of 27.5 km. In Arabic, it is called “al-Auja”, which means “the meandering”, because it meanders and twists to the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times, many settlements were built next to the river. Today, its water is polluted and therefore is not suitable for human beings.

After about 330 meters, we crossed another small bridge (8) to the other bank of the river. Then, we continued through the pleasant Yarkon Park for about 3 km, passing underneath some more bridges on the way. A short while after passing under Highway 20 (9), we decided to stop for the day.

Reading Station from the small bridge over the Yarkon River
Walking next to the Yarkon River

We turned left onto one of the park’s trails and made our way to Rokach Avenue. There, we got on a bus to the Florentine neighborhood, where our accommodation was located.

Our day off in Tel Aviv:

A few words about Roof Farm:

Before we began venturing Tel Aviv, we wanted to leave our bags at Roof Farm, where we planned to stay. The place is located in an old, unmaintained building in Florentine. We had to climb up a lot of stairs and then were greeted by one of the house residents. He showed us the rooftop, where we were to sleep. It was full of mess and there were two dogs, that barked non-stop. It was a bit terrifying, but we decided to give it a go anyway. The guy brought us some mattresses, which were terribly dirty, and we told him that we will come back later. We left our stuff, took only our valuables, and went back to the street.  

Later, when we talked to some other people at Roof Farm, we figured that it was a temporary residential place for people with problems. There was a guy with some leg injury, who couldn’t work much. There was someone who left the Orthodox Jewish community and couldn’t stay at his parent’s home. Most of the people were Anglos, aka people who speak English in Israel. We even found out that the dogs had problems because they had some sort of trauma.

What we did in Tel Aviv:

So, the first stop after Roof Farm was the Carmel Market. This is the most popular market in Tel Aviv, with lots of food options. Each of us ate at a different place. I stopped at “Challah” (in Hebrew: חלה), a small booth selling only one thing – schnitzel in challah bread. It costs only 35 ILS and is delicious!  

Challah with schnitzel – delicious!

After eating lunch, we sat down at the entrance to the market and enjoyed the street shows. On one side, there was a man singing old songs, and on the other side, a woman belly-dancing. The man got angry at the woman because she came a bit after him and turned the music on at full volume. That made it hard for him to sing. But in the end, they got to some sort of agreement.  

Afterward, we got on a bus to a travel equipment shop because some of us needed some additional stuff. And after waiting a long time in line and getting what we wanted, we returned to Roof Farm.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Tel Aviv to Tel Afek.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment – You can easily find relevant buses in Tel Aviv. Use the navigation apps to find the best route for your destination.

Read more:

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Looking for a guide on the trail?

Contact me for a guided tour on the Israel National Trail

Pin this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com. I also offer guided hiking tours on several segments of the Israel National Trail.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Poleg to Herzliya

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The restaurant deck didn’t help us much. We still woke up with lots of sand in our sleeping bags and clothes. But things could have been worse. We got our things ready and started making our way to our next destination on the Israel National Trail. This time, it was Zebulun Beach in Herzliya, lso known as the Sea Scouts Beach.

Check out the previous segment – From Bet Yanai Beach to Poleg Beach

The segment from Poleg to Herzliya was one of the most beautiful ones on our trip! At some point, we climbed up to the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea and got a fantastic view of the stunning turquoise water.   

Trail length: About 16 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 6-8 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Fall (October-November), Winter (December-January), and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: There’s a water tap near Poleg Beach, on the promenade that leads to the neighborhood. Next, there’s a gas station near road number 2, where you can get water (about 3.9 km from the start). You can also ask for water at the entrance to the Apollonia National Park (about 13 km from the start). At the endpoint, you can fill water from the cooler at the Sea Scouts’ compound in Herzliya, after you’ve asked for permission.

Stay options at the end of the trail: We stayed at the Herzliya Sea Scouts compound because they are Trail Angels. Keep in mind that you NEED to prearrange your stay. You can find the full list of Trail Angels here. In the list, Herzliya is spelled “Hertzlia”.

Important to know:

Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with heatstroke. There is barely any shade on this segment, therefore it could be dangerous. After rainfall, parts of the trail might be muddy and that could be frustrating.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). For this segment, you will need to download this map and this map. The maps are extremely basic but give you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

This segment begins at Poleg Beach, which is located on the southern side of Netanya. To reach Poleg Beach from Jerusalem, you can get on bus number 930 from Jerusalem Central Bus Station and get off at Hasharon Junction (in Hebrew: צומת השרון). From there, you can catch bus number 138 to Ramat Poleg station (in Hebrew: רמת פולג) and then walk about 10 minutes to the beach. It will take you about 2 hours to reach Poleg Beach from Jerusalem.

From Tel Aviv, you can catch bus number 623 from Derech Namir (in Hebrew: דרך נמיר) and get off at Ehud Manor/ Menahem Begin station (in Hebrew: אהוד מנור/ מנחם בגין). From there, it’s a short 15 minutes walk to Poleg Beach. Overall, it will take you about one hour to reach from Tel Aviv to Poleg Beach.

From Haifa, you can get on bus number 947 from Hof HaCarmel Central Station and get off at Netanya Central Station. From there, you can catch bus number 15 to Ramat Poleg station. It will take you about 2 hours to reach Poleg Beach from Haifa.

Anyway, it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. If you’re having trouble, you can contact me through Facebook or lior@backpackisrael.com.

The hike on the Israel National Trail:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We woke up early, before the restaurant opened, and left Poleg Beach (1). About 1.2 km from the beach, we reached a passage underneath road number 2 (2), passed it, and then turned right onto a small bridge that crossed the Poleg Stream. Then, we went parallel to the stream on a lovely route that went on for about 600 meters before it turned right towards two small buildings. I have no idea what those buildings are, but they look like a wreck.

The lovely route on the Israel National Trail
The buildings on the trail

We passed the buildings and saw a group of soldiers sitting around a picnic table that stood behind the buildings. A few steps afterward there was a memorial stone (3), that was placed there in memory of three men from moshav Udim. They guarded a construction site in Udim and were killed in 1948 by Arabs, who wanted to steal their weapons. We stopped to rest there for a while.

While we were resting, a large group of soldiers arrived and asked us if we could help them navigate. They were young recruits, who were practicing navigation. We tried to help them, but then their commanders appeared, and they quickly pretended that they haven’t asked us anything, as it isn’t allowed.

Afterward, we continued on the trail for about 1.7 km. The trail passed through lush vegetation, beautiful orchards, and we also walked alongside a small asphalt road. Then, we reached the shopping center at Yakum Junction (4). There are lots of restaurants and shops over there, so you can stop to eat something, get supplies, or fill water.

We didn’t stop at the Yakum Center and continued on the trail, that crosses road number 2 on a pedestrian bridge. After crossing the bridge, we turned right (north) onto the red-marked trail, which overlaps the Israel National Trail for a short while. A few steps afterward, at the line of trees, we left the red-marked trail and turned left with the Israel National Trail.

The pedestrian bridge over road number 2

We continued on the trail for about 800 meters and reached an opening in a fence (5). There was a large sign on the fence, saying “If you put your litter in the garbage – you’re a pro! If you littered the beach – you ruined the view!” It sounds better in Hebrew. But it seems that the sign doesn’t help, because there was plenty of garbage right next to it. Next to the opening in the fence, there were two signs, one welcoming you to Hof HaSharon National Park and one with instructions for surfers.

The opening in the fence… and the trash

Hof HaSharon National Park is in my opinion one of the most beautiful parks in Israel, with impressive kurkar cliffs over the Mediterranean Sea. The kurkar is an aeolian quartz sandstone with carbonate cement, that is typical of the Israeli coastline. Apart from the fantastic views of the sea, there is also a variety of sea-side plants and flowers, that cover the dunes of this splendid national park.

We passed through the narrow opening and started walking on the dunes. Here and there, the Mediterranean Sea peeked in the horizon. The trail marks weren’t so clear, but we knew the general direction, so we made our way southward. The trail continued through the dunes and on the edge of the kurkar cliffs for about 2.8 km. On the way, there was a stunning viewpoint, with two white benches overlooking the sea. We stopped there for a few minutes, relaxed in front of the view, and took some photos.

Walking through the dunes
Beachside plants on the way
Benches with a view!
The view of the Mediterranean Sea

After 2.8 km, we made our way down to Gaash Beach (6). A short while later, we hiked up again. We continued on a dirt trail for about 1.4 km and then reached a small road and a roundabout (7). Next to it stood a blue sign that said “Shfa’im” (שפיים) and pointed to the left. But we didn’t go to Shfa’im. We continued straight on the roundabout and returned to a dirt trail.

We walked on the dirt path for about 660 meters and then arrived at a dirt parking lot, where there were a few cars (8). Then, we turned left and cut right, through a dry field. Looking back, we weren’t supposed to cut through the field. The trail continues straight and later turns right. But it didn’t matter because we rejoined the trail a few minutes later when we got to an asphalt road (9).

Next to the road, we saw several interesting sculptures, which are part of Park Dina, a sculpture park in the middle of nature. The sculptures were made by both local and international artists, who were inspired by the power of Mother Earth.

At that point, we also met a dreadlocked man, who stopped by us with his Jeep. “Do you need water?” he asked us, “I can go down to the beach with the Jeep and fill your bottles.”

We took advantage of his offer and handed over all our bottles to him. Then, he drove away. We settled down beneath a large tree that stood to the side of the road and waited. The minutes passed by, and I was starting to think that he might never return. But then he appeared with his Jeep, stopped next to the tree, and brought us our bottles full of cold water.

Under the tree, waiting for our water bottles

Nitai talked to him a bit. It turns out that he lives close by, in an old bus.

“Do you want to smoke something?” he asked us after a while, and my friends, who are addicted to smoking, took advantage of the offer. Till then, they didn’t get many opportunities to smoke on the hike. So, they sat down under the tree and smoked together.

I went aside because I wasn’t feeling so good, and just wanted to continue. I hoped that they’ll stop smoking soon. But they smoked on and on. Only after 15 minutes or so, they were ready to go. It was too long for me, but once we started walking, I felt much better.

We continued on the Israel National Trail for about 2.2 km until we reached the parking lot of Apollonia National Park (10). This lovely national park lays on a kurkar cliff above the Mediterranean Sea. It includes the remains of an impressive Crusader-era fortress. The trail doesn’t pass through the national park, but if you want to visit, it’s possible. Just remember that it costs 22 Shekels per adult.

The entrance to Apollonia National Park

From the parking lot of Apollonia National Park, we continued about 500 meters and then reached Sidna Ali Mosque (11). This mosque is located on the cliff as well. It was once the mosque of the Arab village, Al-Haram, which was depopulated during the Independence War.  Since 1990, the building returned to the hands of the Muslims and is functioning as a mosque again. In the center of the mosque is a tomb of a local Muslim saint called Ali bin Olim, who was a great scholar and miracle maker.

There were two elder people on a bench near the mosque, who offered us chocolate. If you plan to hike with a big backpack, chances are that people will be nicer to you and might even offer you tasty food. We ran across a lot of people, who for some reason thought that they needed to give us something tasty to eat or drink. Maybe we looked exhausted.

From the mosque, we continued down to Sidna Ali Beach (12). We stopped there for a while and then I decided to continue to the endpoint on my own. I wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to reach the end of the day. From Sidna Ali Beach, the trail continues for about 1.4 km until it reaches the Sea Scouts compound on Zebulun Beach (13). On the way, you pass by lots of shops, restaurants, and outdoor training areas. As I passed by a training area, someone shouted at me: “You’re doing the Cross-Israel Trail? The trail crosses you!” Yes, there are weirdos here and there.

Sidna Ali Beach

We have talked to the Sea Scouts about two days before we arrived, so we were welcomed there by the manager. Though, it didn’t feel too safe sleeping there because the compound is open, and anyone can sneak in at night. Yeah, anyone could have sneaked in when we were camping in the middle of nature, but somehow, it felt safer sleeping in nature than on the city beach of Herzliya.

Anyhow, we bought some food supplies in a nearby grocery store, made dinner, and went to bed early as usual. Till the next day.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Herzliya to Tel Aviv.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment – It’s quite easy to get from the endpoint to Tel Aviv. You’ll just need to walk another 1.5 km or so to the Herzliya Marina and from there, catch bus number 90 to Tel Aviv. For other destinations, it’s best to check the public transportation navigation apps.  

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Pin this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com. I also offer guided hiking tours on several segments of the Israel National Trail.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Bet Yanai Beach to Poleg Beach

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After a fantastic night at our Trail Angels’ house at Kfar Vitkin, we woke up early and started walking towards Bet Yanai Beach, our starting point for our day on the Israel National Trail. The walk took us about 20 minutes. As we came closer to Bet Yanai Beach, we noticed a large pool of water, situated right next to the beach. This pool of water, called Bet Yanai Lake, was formed following construction works in the 1990s. A huge pit was dug into the ground, and the sweet groundwater penetrated it.  To fight the flies that came to the pool every summer, the regional council brought mosquitofish, which got rid of them.

Check out the previous segment – From Sdot Yam to Bet Yanai Beach

The segment from Bet Yanai Beach to Poleg Beach is very pleasant and easy. It starts on the beach and then passes through the marvelous city of Netanya, known as the capital of the Sharon plain. Most of the way includes fantastic views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Trail length: About 14.5 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 5-7 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Fall (October-November), Winter (December-January), and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: It’s possible to fill water at Bet Yanai Beach. Next, there are some water taps along the Netanya Promenade (about 8.5 km from the start). You can also get water at the end point, at Poleg Beach. There’s a restaurant over there, and there is a water tap on the street that leads to the neighborhood.

Stay options at the end of the trail: The people at the restaurant at Poleg Beach granted us permission to sleep on the deck of the restaurant. You can also ask them if you can do the same.

Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· This segment passes through a city, so you will be able to get supplies or water fairly easily.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. There is no shade on this segment.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). This map is extremely basic but gives you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

To reach the head of the trail, you will need to reach Bet Yanai Beach (in Hebrew: חוף בית ינאי). There isn’t a direct bus from Jerusalem, so if you’re arriving from there, it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. If you’re coming from Tel Aviv, there is a direct bus from Tel Aviv Savidor Central railway station (number 704). You will need to get off at “Hadassah Neurim Boarding School” (in Hebrew: פנימיית הדסה נעורים) and from there continue on foot to the beach. If you’re coming from Haifa, there is a direct bus from Hof HaCarmel Central Station (number 910). You will need to get off at “Yanai Junction” (in Hebrew: מחלף ינאי). If you’re having trouble finding the right route, feel free to contact me through Facebook or lior@backpackisrael.com.

The hike on the Israel National Trail:

Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the segment, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We started our hike from the large wooden sign that stood above the beach (1). This sign talks about Welus, the first Jewish immigrants’ ship that left Europe and reached the Land of Israel as part of the Ha’apala. The ship reached this beach in July 1934, with 350 Jewish immigrants on board. The Ha’apala, which means “ascension”, went on until 1948. Thousands of Jews reached the Land of Israel this way, which was illegal at the time because of the British restrictions regarding the number of immigrates that were allowed to enter. Most of the immigrants were refugees escaping from Nazi Germany and Holocaust survivors.

The wooden sign on Bet Yanai Beach

Then, we went down to the beach and started walking southward. The sky had lovely pinkish colors and the weather was fantastic. After a while, we passed through some construction site on the beach itself. About 3.3 km from Bet Yanai Beach, we reached Tzukei Yam Beach (2). Here, there’s a monument for Amnon Pomerantz, who was killed by a terrorist while on reserve duty in the Buriej camp in Gaza in 1990. The monument is in the shape of a surfboard because Amnon loved the sea and was one of the first people to surf on this beach.

The surfboard monument to Amnon Pomerantz

We continued for another 3.7 km and passed several beaches until we reached Sironit Beach (3). On the way, we saw a lot of people who were jogging, walking, or doing some other sports activity. Some of them seemed surprised to see us, with all of our hiking gear, and asked what we were doing. “Are you doing the Sea-to-Sea Trail?” someone asked us. “No, we’re doing the Israel National Trail,” we replied. The Sea-to-Sea Trail, known in Hebrew as the Yam Le’Yam Trail, doesn’t pass here at all.

At Sironit Beach we got on the Elevator to the Sea. While there was a sign that said that there was an entry fee to the elevator, there was no one who asked for payment, so we got into it and took it up to the Netanya Promenade.

The Elevator to the Sea

Today, Netanya is known as the capital of the Sharon plain. It was established in 1929 as a moshava, which was a Jewish rural form of settlement. Many of its residents made a living from orange orchards, that were grown in the area. As the city expanded, these orchards were later covered by new buildings.

We followed the trail marks and continued on the promenade. The views of the Mediterranean Sea are breathtaking. There were places where we left the promenade for a while, but most of the way was full of beautiful sea views.

The Netanya Promenade

Then, after about 3.7 km, we reached the Victory Monument in Netanya (4). This magnificent monument marks the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Originally, the monument was supposed to be placed in Jerusalem, but because of the great number of Holocaust survivors and former fighters in the Red Army who live in Netanya, they changed their minds and placed it here. It was made by Salavat Scherbakov, Vasiliy Perfiliev, and Michail Naroditsky.

The first thing we saw were the huge white wings, that look like an angel’s wings. These wings are supposed to resemble peace and hope. Then, we walked through a dark tunnel with all kinds of reliefs that tell the story of the Jewish people. There’s also an option to hear audio guidance. Next to the monument, there’s also the building of Yad LaBanim, an organization that works to commemorate the fallen soldiers of Israel.

The Victory Monument in Netanya

We continued to Ben Gurion Road, one of the main roads of Netanya, and walked along with it for about 1 km until we reached the left turn to the Winter Pond Park (5). The pond is one of the last remaining ponds in the Sharon plain, as most of the ponds were dried up in the early 20th century. The pond is also called Dora Pond after the military camp that existed here during the Independence War. We didn’t see the pond, maybe because we weren’t there in the right season or because we didn’t look enough, but the park was very pleasant. We stopped under one of the trees, closed our eyes, and enjoyed a few minutes of rest.

The Winter Pond Park

After resting a bit, we exited the park and continued a short way to a bridge over Ben Gurion Road (6). We passed over the bridge and then got a bit confused because we couldn’t find the trail mark. But soon enough, we were able to get back on track. A bit southward to the bridge, there’s a turn into the dunes.

The bridge over Ben Gurion Road

This sandy area is called the Iris Nature Reserve. It’s full of beautiful beach plants and flowers, that grow very well in the sandy dunes. Nearby, we could see the skyscrapers of Netanya. I was really impressed that they kept this little piece of nature in the middle of the city.

We continued through the nature reserve for about 1.3 km, on a trail that overlaps a blue-marked trail, until we reached the beach (7).  Then, we continued southward for another 600 meters until we reached Poleg Beach, where there was shade and a restaurant (8). Some of us went to cool down in the sea, while some of us went to get some refreshments in the restaurant. There’s an incredibly fun vibe over there, with nice music and places to sit. Though, the prices for food and drinks are quite high.

When we asked the person behind the counter if it’s allowed to camp on the beach, he said: “If you’re Israel National Trail hikers, you can stay on our deck.” We were happy to accept the offer, as it’s not so fun sleeping in sleeping bags on the sand.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Poleg to Herzliya.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment – There aren’t any direct buses from Poleg Beach to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so you’ll need to switch somewhere. You will need to enter the neighborhood of Ramat Poleg to catch a bus there. It is a 10 minutes’ walk from the beach. If you want to get to Haifa, you can catch bus number 910 from Udim Junction, which will take you directly to Hof HaCarmel Central Station in Haifa. The Udim Junction station is about 2 km from Poleg Beach.

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Pin this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com. I also offer guided hiking tours on several segments of the Israel National Trail.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Sdot Yam to Bet Yanai Beach

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After a pleasant night at Sdot Yam, with a few drops of rain, we woke up early and started making our way to our next destination, Bet Yanai Beach. My boyfriend joined us the other day, so it was nice having another person in the group. We needed the diversity, after being with each other for over two weeks.  

Check out the previous segment – From Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam

The segment from Sdot Yam to Beit Hanania was easy and fun, with diverse landscapes. We walked on sand dunes, walked next to streams, walked through the city of Hadera, and walked through the Hadera Forest. We even got to see the making of a video clip next to the Hadera West Railway Station.

Trail length: About 23 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 8-10 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: It’s possible to get water at Sdot Yam. About 720 meters from Sdot Yam, you can also get water at the cemetery to the left of the road. There are some more water taps along the way, but they didn’t work when we tried them. The next point is at the Hadera West Railway Station (about 11 km from the start), where you can ask to fill water inside the train station. There is also a water tap next to the Turtle Beach over Alexander Creek (about 19 km from the start). There is a water tap at Bet Yanai Beach.

Stay options at the end of the trail: Since 2020, it is not allowed to camp at the Beit Yanai Beach. I know that some people continued a bit further and camped on one of the beaches ahead, but not sure if it’s legal. We stayed at a Trail Angel’s house at Kfat Vitkin. You can check the list of Trail Angels here. Relevant places are Kfat Vitkin, Beit Herut, and Hofit.

Want a guided tour? Check out my guided tours on the Israel National Trail.

Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. There is barely any shade on this segment. Also, some parts of the trail might be muddy after rainfall.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout most of the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). This map is extremely basic but gives you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

To reach the head of the trail, you will need to reach Sdot Yam (in Hebrew: שדות ים). There isn’t a direct bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. If you’re having trouble finding the right route, feel free to contact me through Facebook or lior@backpackisrael.com.

The hike:

Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Data taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We got out of Sdot Yam (1) and continued eastward on the road for about 800 meters. Then, we turned right onto the sand dunes (2). There’s a trail mark that points to the right direction. It was quite tough walking on the dunes, as the sand is not solid, and every step was a bit of a challenge. In the distance, we could see the chimneys of the Orot Rabin power station, the largest one in Israel.

The chimneys of Orot Rabin in the distance

We continued through the dunes for about 570 meters and then the trail became easier. We left the dunes and started walking on a plain trail, that led us to a small road (3). There’s a sidewalk at the side of the road. We walked westward on the sidewalk for about 430 meters and then turned left (4). Now, there was no sidewalk, but there was a margin. About 700 meters from the left turn, there was a gas station at the side of the road (5). If you’re short of supplies, you can purchase some at the gas station.

On the sidewalk, just before the left turn

A bit after the gas station, there’s the entry gate to Orot Rabin power station. The station was established in 1981 and supplies about one quarter of the country’s electricity. In recent years, the power station is undergoing changes to operate on gas instead of coal.

We carefully crossed the road and started walking on a path, that bypasses the power station. At the point where the trail turns slightly to the right, there’s an impressive monument with the Ten Commandments (6). The sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not murder” is more noticeable than the rest. This is connected to Israel’s fifth prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by a Jewish extremist during a peace rally in 1995. The Orot Rabin power station is named after him.

The monument next to Orot Rabin

The trail continues for about 670 meters parallel to the road and then turns right and continues for another 700 meters along the Hadera River (in Hebrew: “Nahal Hadera”). Then, we reached a beautiful harp bridge, which connects the two banks (7). We crossed the bridge and stopped for breakfast and some rest next to the southern bank of the river. There is a lovely promenade and benches next to the water. You can also see the Orot Rabin chimneys from up close. I think the Nahal Hadera Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Israel.

The harp bridge at Nahal Hadera Park
The chimneys from up close

After some rest, we continued along the promenade towards the beach, which was nearby. If you want to stick to the trail, you need to turn left into the park. But because we were excited to be next to the sea, we chose to walk along the beach for about 1.4 km and then turned left and got back to the trail (8). We continued southward down a tiny asphalt road. After about 600 meters, we turned left onto another road. There was a small patch of green lawn further ahead (9), where we stopped to eat some more food.

Then, we continued on the trail through the city of Hadera. It is well-marked. Keep your eyes out for trail marks on electricity poles and traffic lights. Hadera was first established as a moshava in 1891 and was one of the first modern Jewish settlements in the Land of Israel. After a while, we reached the bridge over the railway (10). It was Saturday, and the road underneath the bridge was full of cars. It seemed that something was happening over there, so we stopped on the bridge and peered down. We realized that the cars were all parking and that there were people, who were filming some sort of clip.

The filming set next to Hadera West Railway Station

The trail took us down to the Hadera West Railway Station, so we could ask the people what they were doing. It turns out that they were filming a new music clip for Bar Tzabary’s song, Hadera“. Tzabary isone of Israel’s rising singers, best known for his song “Johnny“.

We passed the filming set, continued parallel to the railway, and then turned left into the Hadera Forest (11). This is the largest eucalyptus forest in Israel, spreading over 1,500 dunams. The people of Hadera planted these eucalyptus trees starting 1896, in hope that they would dry the swamp that existed here and caused many diseases. They thought that the trees consume a lot of water from the ground and therefore can dry it completely, but that was wrong. The swamp was dried up only in the 1930s when drainage channels were dug and carried the water of the swamp to Alexander Creek.

The ecalyptus trees of Hadera Forest

We stopped to rest around one of the picnic tables, which stood next to the park’s entrance and searched for a drinking water tap, but there was no water tap in the area. We continued for about 2.5 km along the edge of the forest and then turned slightly left (12) and left the side of the forest. The trail does a kind of half-circle here, along agricultural fields. In the winter, there’s supposed to be a winter pool nearby, known as Birket Ata (Ata Pool). This pool is a relic from the swamps which existed here in the past.

Soon enough, we started walking on sand dunes again, which slowed us down. We also stopped to help a family, who got stuck with their car in the sand. We tried lifting their wheel, but with no success. “You’ll have to call your insurance,” we told them after a long while, and then continued our way through the rough dunes. It’s important to keep your eyes out for the trail marks because the trail doesn’t really look like a trail. There’s sand everywhere.

Sand everywhere!

After about 650 meters of walking through the sand, we arrived at Emek Hefer Industrial Park (13). We got a bit lost here because we couldn’t find the trail mark, so we simply continued straight ahead until we got united with the trail again. But what you need to do is turn left onto the outer road of the industrial park and continue on this road until the last roundabout. At the last roundabout, turn right and connect to the dirt path, that continues southward.

We continued for about 1 km on the dirt path and then turned right and went a short way to the Turtle Bridge over Alexander Creek (14). It is one of the most important and beautiful streams in the region and is home to a population of soft-shell turtles, that can weigh up to 50 kilograms each. Starting from the 1960s, this stream suffered from pollution from nearby settlements and agricultural actions, which harmed the soft-shell turtles that lived here. A clean-up project began in 1995 and today, it is quite clean again.

There was a lot of commotion around the Turtle Bridge because it was Saturday, and many families were out and about. We could barely move around all the people. But we had to cross the bridge to fill water at the tap that existed on the other side. Then, we crossed again and turned left (northwestward) to the trail.

The view from the Turtle Bridge

The trail crossed underneath the railway and continued parallel to the tracks for about 390 meters until it turns left back towards Alexander Creek (15). At this point, there was lots of mud, which we had no way to avoid. And then we started walking along the channel of the Alexander Creek.

After about 1 km, we reached the Samara Ruins (16). The building on top of the hill was built by Abdallah Samara at the end of the 19th century. Samara was a resident of Tulkarm, but he had land in this area, which he wanted to look after. Later, the Ottoman authorities turned the building into a customs station, where they took taxes on watermelons that grew in the Hefer Valley and were imported to the entire empire. The watermelons were carried along the stream on top of rafts, to a port on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The trail took us up to the building for a beautiful observation point and then came back down to the side of the creek.

Samara Ruins

We continued for about 1 km and reached an area under construction. We crossed underneath road number 2 (17) and then arrived at a huge parking lot full of cars. The map tells to cross the creek on a bridge somewhere, but we couldn’t find the bridge, so we simply went straight and parallel to the creek until the point where it spills into the Mediterranean Sea. Then, we took off our shoes, crossed the small channel, and started walking along the beach to our final destination for the day – Bet Yanai Beach. 800 meters and we were there (18).

When we arrived, we found out that it is not allowed to camp on the beach. They have changed the rules. So, we quickly picked up the phone to Trail Angels in the area and luckily, found a Trail Angel who was willing to host us at short notice. We were so happy. Before going to the Trail Angel’s place, we stopped to eat something at the shopping center just across the road. There’s also a supermarket there, so you can get supplies if needed.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Bet Yanai Beach to Poleg Beach.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can catch relevant buses from the bus station at Yanai Junction. There aren’t any direct buses from there to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so you’ll need to switch somewhere. If you want to get to Haifa, you can catch bus number 910 from Yanai Junction, which will take you directly to Hof HaCarmel Central Station in Haifa.

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Save this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam

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It rained all night. At some point, one of the dogs of Beit Hanania tried to enter the moshav’s veterans club. We had placed a chair on the door because the door couldn’t get locked from the inside and it was opening again and again. When we heard that the dog was trying to move the chair, we woke up and put another chair on top of it. We thought maybe that would block the dog from entering. But the dog was stubborn and continued pushing the door. In the end, the dog won, and we let it in. It found a cozy spot on the floor, next to our mattresses, and stayed there the entire night.

When we woke up early morning, it had stopped raining. We decided to set off on a shorter segment that day, worried that it might rain again. The dog joined us, although we asked it to stay at Beit Hanania. It already happened to us in the past, that a dog had joined us. We hoped that it won’t be for the whole day.

Check out the previous segment – From Shfeya Junction to Beit Hanania

The segment from Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam was quite easy, as we had already arrived at the coastal plain. There were no major climbs or descends. Everything was quite flat. We passed by the ancient aqueduct to Caesarea, visited the fishermen village at Jisr az-Zarqa, walked along the beach for the first time on our hike, and then stopped for ice cream at Caesarea National Park.

Trail length: About 8.5 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 5 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Best season: Fall (October-November) and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: There’s a water cooler next to the minimarket in Beit Hanania. Next, you can buy water at Jizr al-Zarqa (about 2 km from the start point). There are some drinking water taps along the beach. You can also get water at Caesarea National Park (about 7 km from the start point) and in the end, at Sdot Yam.

Stay options at the end of the trail: I know that some people camp at Aqueduct Beach, about 2 km before Sdot Yam, but I think that’s not legal. The area is a bit problematic for sleeping outdoors, because a lot of beaches don’t allow camping. We stayed at a trail angel’s place in Sdot Yam. You can check for trail angels in the area. In the list of trail angels, Sdot Yam is named “Sedot Yam”.

Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. There’s no shade on this segment. Also, the first part of the segment may be muddy after rainfall.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 8 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout most of the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior than what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). This map is very basic but gives you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

To reach the head of the trail, you will need to reach Beit Hanania (in Hebrew: בית חנניה). There isn’t a direct bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. If you’re having trouble finding the right route, feel free to contact me through Facebook or lior@backpackisrael.com.

The hike:

Map of the segment from Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map/
Map of the segment from Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map/
Map of the segment from Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map/
Map of the segment from Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/map/

We walked to the front entrance of Beit Hanania (1) and turned left. There’s a large sign of the Israel National Trail right next to the entrance. We walked up to it, read the information, and then continued along the dirt road that went to the west. It was all full of puddles, which we avoided. The Hadrianic aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima, also known as the “high-level aqueduct”, made its way along the left side of the path. This aqueduct was built in the 2nd century CE, to deliver water over 16 kilometers, from the springs near Shuni to Caesarea Maritima.  Right next to Beit Hanania, we spotted an ancient inscription, talking about the part that the Tenth Legion (Legio X Fretensis) made in the building of the aqueduct.

The inscription on the high-level aqueduct

After a while of hiking on the dirt path, we realized that we were off the trail. From a look at the map, it seemed that we should have continued on the road within Beit Hanania, that goes to the left side of the aqueduct. We were at least one kilometer away from the entrance to Beit Hanania, so instead of making the whole way back, we cut through and tried finding our way back to the trail, which was parallel to us, on the other side of the aqueduct. We rejoined it at the point where it crosses Ada Stream (2).

The stream was flowing, and we didn’t want to get wet, so we crossed it by walking over a set of rocks, which were aligned from one side to the other. The dog that joined us from Beit Hanania was huge and not so thoughtful, so it tried crossing the stream while we were on the rocks. It shoved through and almost knocked us down into the stream.

Ada Stream crossing

From the stream crossing, we continued through very muddy terrain. After a while, we also started making our way through hills of garbage. This was not surprising, as we were at the outskirts of the Arab settlement, Jizr al-Zarqa. I don’t know why, but every time we were at the outskirts of an Arab settlement along the trail, we had to cross through garbage.

Hiking through the hills of garbage with the dog

The dirt path led us to an undercrossing underneath road number 2 (3). The undercrossing is very narrow, so when you cross it, you need to stick to the side as much as possible so that the cars will be able to pass without passing over you. It was a bit problematic with the dog, because it shoved through and got stuck in the middle of the way, what made our crossing longer. But nevertheless, after a few seconds, we were in Jizr al-Zarqa.  

Undercrossing road number 2

Jizr al-Zarqa is the only settlement along the coastal plain, that has a majority of Muslim Arab residents. Its name means “the bridge over the blue stream”, referring to the Taninim Stream. People have been living here for about 500 years. At the beginning, most of the residents made their living from fishing. Today, there are not many fishermen left. The settlement is very poor, there are high levels of unemployment and crime. But in recent years, the residents are trying to turn the place into a touristic venue. A hostel was established here, and guided tours are being offered through the village.

We passed through the main road and looked for a bakery, where we could get coffee and a pastry for breakfast. We didn’t find anything that looked good enough, so we stopped at a place with some benches in the middle of the village and ate the food that we already had in our backpacks. It was also late enough to look at the dog’s collar and try to find its owner’s phone number. There was a number on the collar, but it was quite faded. We tried calling it and there was no answer. We hoped that the owner will get back to us and continued our way.

“Stop the Hate” in Jizr al-Zarqa

I think we didn’t stick to the trail so much, because instead of hiking along the Taninim Stream, we continued straight to the fishermen village (4). There, we got to walk on the beach for the first time on the Israel National Trail. There were some beautiful boats parking in the water at the front of the village and we thought that it was a great place to stop for another round of food. We tried calling the dog owner again and this time they answered. So, we waited for them to come and pick up the dog.

The boats near the village

After they came, we continued on the beach, along the stunning Mediterranean Sea. We didn’t see any trail marks, but according to the map, we were supposed to continue south along the beachline.  The sand was stiff, maybe because of the rain that hit it during the night, so it was quite easy walking on it

 We hiked along the beachline for about 2.7 km until we reached the Aqueduct Beach (5). This is where you can see the high-level aqueduct at its greatest, with its impressive arches. If you go towards the east and pass the small parking lot of the beach, you can also see the low-level aqueduct, which also led water to ancient Caesarea. This aqueduct was built in the Byzantine area, after the high-level aqueduct.

Along the beachline
The Aqueduct Beach

After a while, we left the beachline and went a few meters to the east, to the trail that went parallel and above the beachline. About 700 meters from the Aqueduct Beach, there’s an ancient round structure (6), which is a remnant of a tower in the ancient defensive wall of Caesarea. A while afterward, we reached a well-maintained promenade and the remains of the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue of Caesarea (7). It is believed that this synagogue was where the First Jewish Roman War started in 66 CE. There’s not much to see there today, only the floor. We stopped there to look at two lizards that were running after each other and then continued on the promenade towards Caesarea National Park.

The ancient round building
The ancient synagogue of Caesarea

Instead of encircling the ancient walls of Caesarea, we continued straight into the national park. We crossed through the ancient north-western gatehouse, which had some beautiful mosaics inside, and then continued along the promenade until we reached the port area of Caesarea, where all the restaurants are located (8). You can see some ancient remnants here, but the most impressive remnants lay deep within the national park, in the section that requires payment. There was no cashier at the point where we entered, but I do think you need to pay a small amount to enter the port area, too. If you have time, I truly recommend paying a bit and entering the national park itself. It’s very impressive, with an ancient Roman theatre, amphitheater, bathhouse, and lots of mosaics.

The first settlement here began in the 4th century BCE, when a trading station was established here on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Later, in the Roman period, in the 1st century BCE, Herod identified the potential of the place and starting building here a grand port city. He named it Caesarea, in honor of the Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar, who gave the territory as a gift to Herod. There was no natural bay in Caesarea, so Herod built an artificial port, one of the largest ones in the Middle East and the most sophisticated at that time.  

We stopped to eat ice cream and use the clean restrooms of the national park. Then, we exited the place through the main gate of the park and continued on our way to Sdot Yam, which stands about 1.5 km from the national park. We reached the front gate of the kibbutz (9), contacted our trail angel, and settled down at his place. It was quite early, so we even got a chance to spend some time on the nearby beach.  

The defensive walls of ancient Caesarea

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Sdot Yam to Bet Yanai Beach.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can catch relevant buses from the bus station at Sdot Yam. There aren’t any direct buses from there to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa, so you’ll need to switch somewhere.

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

Want a guided tour? Check out my guided tours on the Israel National Trail.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Save this post for later!


Hiked the trail in November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

4-Days Hike on the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail

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Many claim that Ramot Menashe, known in English as the Menashe Heights, is one of the most beautiful regions in Israel. Spread between Mount Carmel and Mount Amir, this area is full of flowers and endless meadows, natural water springs, and streams. Just before Passover, at the peak of springtime, my friends and I decided to go hiking on the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail. This trail is quite young, as it was marked only in 2013. Maybe that is why it’s not so established. It’s not always clear where you can set up your camp, and water is a big problem if you don’t have water purifying equipment. But nevertheless, it’s a stunning trail at springtime. I would recommend hiking it only in springtime.

The trail stretches to a length of about 65 km, from Ofer to Binyamina. which means you can complete it within 3 to 4 days if you keep a good pace. We took the 4-days option, but added a few kilometers of the Israel National Trail, which connects to the trail from the north. So, at the end of the day, we didn’t really reduce the number of kilometers we had to hike each day. In this post, I’m going to break the trail down into days, so you can understand how it goes. You can divide the days differently, according to your hiking pace.

Before I begin, here are some important things to note:

*The hike is under your full responsibility, so please be careful while hiking.

*Drinking water taps are limited along the trail. You can bring water purifying equipment or pack more water bottles on your back. Take into account that many grocery stores are closed during Shabbat, from Friday eve to Saturday eve, so there’s no way to buy water at that time.

*There aren’t many designated camping areas along the trail. In general, you can camp anywhere as long as it isn’t a nature reserve or a military training zone. Just keep in mind that Jeep, ATVs, and motorcycles might drive on the trails during the night, so keep away.

*There’s a military training zone south of Bat Shlomo, on Mount Horshan. Usually, there’s no problem hiking there on the weekend (Friday-Saturday), but it’s always best to get in touch with the headquarters and ask them if it’s safe to hike. Their phone number is – (+972) 04-9538506.

*Many parts of the trail go along or nearby bike singles, so be careful not to get ran over by an extremely fast biker.

*Not all areas of the trail have good network connection. For example, when we camped near HaShofet Stream, we had no connection at all and couldn’t talk with anyone on the phone. Keep that in mind.

*Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water for each day (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Also, make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

*Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. Many parts of the trail are completely exposed to the sun. Also, it’s not recommended to hike after rainfall, because the trail could be muddy and slippery. There are some places where there are very steep climbs and descends.

*Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin each day hike before 6 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail.

*Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. Many parts of the trail are poorly marked. In springtime, the vegetation grows a lot and hides the trail marks. If you have a good mobile battery for your phone, it might be best to use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map or Amud Anan. With GPS, you can see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior to what’s shown on your map. The apps and maps are not always updated.

*The Ramot Menashe Regional Trail is marked by an orange stripe or an orange dot (if it overlaps another trail color).

*If you need any further help with planning your hike, you are welcome to contact me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

The official starting point of the trail is moshav Ofer. To get there, you need to get to Ofer Junction and from there, get on bus number 693, which will take you directly to the moshav. From the bus station in Ofer, you will need to walk about 1.2 km to the trail, located south of Ofer.

We didn’t start from moshav Ofer. We started from Ofer Junction. From there, we walked about 1.5 km, along road number 7021, to the Israel National Trail (1).

The hike:

Day 1 – From Ofer Junction to Bat Shlomo:

Short overview: On this day we hiked half on the Israel National Trail and half on the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail. It was a pleasant and beautiful hike, which passed by lots of flowers, trees, and cows.  

Trail length: About 10.5 km, including the 5 km from Ofer Junction to the start of the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 5-7 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Water along the way: You can get water at the Ofer Junction gas station, and some people say there’s drinking water at the Forestry Offices of Carmel Alonim (about 1.6 km from Ofer Junction). Next, if you really need water, you can get off the trail and go to the grocery store at moshav Ofer (it’s about a 1.5 km detour from the trail, near the start of the Ramon Menashe Regional Trail). You can also get water at the end of the segment, at Bat Shlomo.

Stay options at the end of the trail: We stayed at Bat Shlomo.

Map of the first day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the first day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the first day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Elevation chart for Day 1, from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We started our day around 10:30 AM, from the gas station at Ofer Junction (1). Here, we used the restroom, bought some bread and spreads, and sat down next to one of the picnic tables to eat a late breakfast.

Then, about an hour later, we started making our way to the head of the trail, which was located about 1.5 km away. We had to walk along the side of the road until we reached the right turn to the Israel National Trail (2). Yeah, we had to hike a bit on the Israel National Trail to reach the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail. The wooden sign pointing to the right said: “The Forestry Offices Carmel-Alonim”.

The right turn to the trail

A few steps after the turn, we reached a site connected to the Fire on the Carmel in 2010. It seems like the Christians for Israel community in the Netherlands donated money for the rehabilitation of a forest park after the fire, and their names are honored here.

Honoring the donors

We continued and passed by the forestry offices (3). People say there are some drinking water taps next to them, but we didn’t look.

We continued about 250 meters until we reached a memorial site for Staff Sergeant Gal Bason (4), who fell in battle during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. Gal loved exploring Israel’s nature, so his family decided to build the memorial site here, on the Israel National Trail, which Gal hiked before his recruitment. Unfortunately, the buttons which are supposed to play the soundtracks weren’t working.

The speakers at the memorial – weren’t working
The climb after the memorial

From this point, the trail turns right and starts climbing up huge boulders through the charming forest. It was quite a challenging climb, which required some hand climbing, but it was over after a very short while.

Then, the trail became mild and quite easy. We could see the tall trees all around us, and started seeing the beautiful bloom of flowers, which were at that point mainly yellow mustard flowers.

At some point, there was a weird sign, which we probably didn’t understand, because we accidentally shifted off the Israel National Trail. When we didn’t find any new trail marks, we opened Amud Anan and saw that we’ve strayed a bit, so we made our way back on track. Soon enough, we started seeing the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, a stripe of beautiful blue in the horizon. There was also a grove of impressive olive trees.

Olive trees and a stripe of sea

A lone man was walking toward us from the other direction, with a small backpack on his back. “Hello,” he greeted us with a smile, “Doing the Israel National Trail?”

“No, we’re doing the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail,” we replied, “What about you?”

“I’m on the Israel National Trail, came all the way from Eilat,” he replied, “Just left my big backpack at my friends’ house. In this area you don’t need to carry so much.”

“Wow, that’s really impressive!” we told him, talked a bit more, and continued on our way.

A short while later we reached the access road to moshav Ofer (5), crossed it, and opened the gate that led to the continuance of the trail. There was a barcode next to it, saying “Ofer Forest – Junction between the Israel National Trail and the road to moshav Ofer”. But we decided not to scan it. Let me know if you do! (;

From the access road, we continued on quite an easy trail. We stopped after about 10 minutes in a grove of olive trees, made coffee, and ate some snacks. Then, we started making our way down on an easy to moderate descend. After a short while it became easy and mild again.

We hiked for a while more and then met our first cows on the trail. Cows are almost everywhere on the trails of northern Israel, so we weren’t surprised to see them. Nitai made some cow noises, and one of them replied to us, which kind of made us nervous. It even started walking after us. So, if you don’t want to mess around with the cows, don’t make any noises and just walk past them with confidence. We’ve never had a cow harm us.

About 1.8 km from the access road to Ofer, we finally reached the left turn to the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail (6). The sign next to the turn says “Ofer” and there’s a green mark on it, although it’s marked in red on the map. The Ramot Menashe Trail is marked by an orange dot or stripe, but at this point overlaps the red-marked trail.  

Pointing to Ofer and the Ramot Menashe Regional Trail

We turned left and hiked on the wide, open dirt trail for a while until we stopped for shade under a tree. Then we understood that we’ve gone too far, and that we missed the right turn onto the trail. We retraced our steps and found the trail mark, about 870 meters from the start of the Ramot Menashe Trail (7). You can barely see it, because the color is faded, and there’s a lot of vegetation. So, make sure to look closely to the right to find it.

See the trail mark?

Now, the trail starts going through the green fields and colorful flowers. It’s a celebration for the eyes. It goes on an easy and pleasant path for about 2.4 km. Just make sure to keep an eye out for the trail markers. Then, we arrived at an area full of yellow mustard flowers, that overlooks the moshava of Bat Shlomo (8).

Bat Shlomo was one of the first Jewish residents in the Land of Israel, established in 1889, during the Ottoman Empire. It was funded by the Baron Rothschild, a Jewish philanthropist, who funded many Jewish residents these days. It is named after Rothschild’s mother, who was the daughter of Shlomo (“Bat Shlomo” means “the daughter of Shlomo”).

Overlooking Bat Shlomo in a field of yellow flowers

From there, we continued down the trail to the outskirts of Bat Shlomo (9), turned right and then right again, and started walking through its streets. We stopped by the local grocery store, which is situated on the trail, to get some fresh bread and supplies. Then, we crossed the main road to the other side of Bat Shlomo, which is the older side, and made our way to the organic farm at the outskirts of the moshava (10). We have already been to the farm when hiking the Israel National Trail, so we decided to stop there for the day. But please note that it’s possible to stay there only if you make pre-arrangement.

A short while after Bat Shlomo is a nature reserve and military training zone, so if you plan to stay overnight in the area, try camping a bit before Bat Shlomo.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, there is a bust station at Bat Shlomo Junction. Use Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you.

Day 2 – From Bat Shlomo to Nahal HaShofet

Short overview: It was a long hike. We passed through a few forests, but mostly was exposed to the sun. There were many points along the way, where we could see the beautiful surroundings from above, and we also got to cross some streams.  

Trail length: About 21 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 8-11 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Water along the way: You can get water at Bat Shlomo. The next point is the compound of the Regional Council of Megiddo (about 15 km from the start of the trail). There’s a drinking water tap next to the offices. Next, some people said that you can fill water in Emek HaShalom Farm (about 18.5 km from the start of the trail). That’s the last point for filling water on this segment.

Stay options at the end of the trail: We stayed near Nahal HaShofet. There are all kinds of options here – you can camp near Ein Faror or further on, in the Haruvim Parking Site. If you want to stop after 15 km, you can camp outside the compound of the Regional Council of Megiddo.

Map of the second day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the second day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the second day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the second day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the second day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the second day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Elevation chart for Day 2, from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We started our day early and made our way towards Mount Horshan, which is a nature reserve and a military training zone. We called the army a day before to make sure that it is ok to hike there on Friday, and after nagging them a bit, they replied that there is no problem.   

A few steps from the organic farm of Bat Shlomo (1), we reached a water crossing of Nahal Tut, the “Strawberry Stream”. The whole path was flooded, and we didn’t want to get our shoes wet or to take them off, so we used the pipeline at the side of the path and grabbed it as we passed over some stones to the other side of the stream. A short while later, we reached another water crossing, this time of Nahal Dalia, the Dalia Stream (2). This is one of the main streams, that take the water of Ramot Menashe to the Mediterranean Sea. There was no pipeline here, so we prayed that the water won’t penetrate our shoes and ran through the shallow water to the other side of the stream.

Crossing Nahal Tut

From the Dalia Stream, the trail takes a slight turn left and makes its way into Park Alona. In the distance, we could see the impressive Mount Horshan, which we were to climb soon. After a short while, we reached a junction of the red, blue, and green marked trails. Here, we continued on the green-marked trail, which also had the orange Ramot Menashe trail dot above it. This led us very soon to a sign about the Mount Horshan Nature Reserve and a huge concrete block saying “Danger. Firing Zone. Entrance is forbidden.” Because we had already coordinated with the army, we continued into the firing zone.

Mount Horshan from a distance
Danger! Entering the military training zone

About 100 meters after the trail junction, there’s a right turn up to Mount Horshan (3). The marking isn’t so visible, so just make sure to keep your eyes to the right. The climb up also doesn’t look so sympathetic, but don’t worry – after about 80 meters of steep climbing, you turn right onto a much milder trail, marked in blue color. This trail makes its way through the charming forest of Mount Horshan and occasionally, there’s an opening in the forest and you can gaze down on the landscape below. We could see Bat Shlomo again, this time from the south.

The climb up to Mount Horshan
View of Bat Shlomo from Mount Horshan

After about 1 km, we reached another trail junction, and turned left onto the red-marked trail (4). From here, there’s a mild climb to the peak of Mount Khorshan, and then the trail starts mildly descending until it reaches another trail junction (5). The red-marked trail led to the right, and the orange-marked trail led to the left, so we continued on the orange-marked trail.

We continued on the trail for about 390 meters. On the way, we passed by some beautiful cows. Then, we reached a junction with a black-marked trail (6), where we stopped to make coffee and eat breakfast. Afterward, we turned left onto the black-marked trail and tried to follow it through the lush vegetation, but the trail marks were no where to be found. I opened the Amud Anan app and saw that we have strayed off the trail and that we were extremely near the red-marked trail, which also went in the direction that we needed. “We can get on the red-marked trail and then rejoin the Ramot Menashe Trail later,” I told the group. At the end, we decided to split up. Some of us decided to try and find the right track, and some of us decided to go on the red-marked trail. I went on the red-marked trail, which led to another trail junction of the red, green, black, and orange trails (7). There, we waited for the other part of the group. They arrived about 10 minutes after us and claimed that the trail was charming.

Some cows on the trail

From this point, the trail continues through a beautiful forest and after crossing the black-marked trail, starts mildly descending for about 550 meters, until it reaches a dirt road (8). Beyond the dirt road, there’s a lone tree and next to it, a cattle gate. We crossed the cattle gate and then started ascending upwards. Everything around us was green. The vegetation was so high. There was also no shade at all. And then, we reached a point where we could see the whole surroundings beneath us.

See that tree? You need to get there to continue the trail

We continued on the trail, which wasn’t so clear, jumped over a gate, and started descending through the greenery. A short while after passing a lone Alon tree, we reached another cattle gate and turned left onto the trail, which at this point overlaps a green-marked trail (9).

We stopped for late breakfast about 200 meters later, at the crossroad between the green and the blue marked trails. From this point, the trail overlaps the blue-marked trail and the whole trail is exposed to the sun. We hiked on for about 650 meters and then reached a cattle crossing, which is supposed to block entrance to cows. Here, there was a weird mark on a pole, which seemed to be pointing into the lush vegetation. We thought that it made no sense, so we continued straight on the blue-marked trail. Looking back, we were supposed to turn into the lush vegetation. But it didn’t really matter, as the blue-marked trail reconnected to the Ramot Menashe Trail later (10).

We arrived at a sign talking about the “Ramot Menashe Biosphere Park”. Next to it, a huge group of motorcycles were getting ready for their Friday motorcycle ride. We waited for them to start driving away, and then hiked below the bridge of road number 6 (11). From down below, it didn’t seem too impressive, although it’s one of the most famous roads in Israel. It is the longest highway in Israel, stretching to a length of over 200 km.

Road number 6 – crossing underneath

There are tons of yellow mustard flowers over here. We hiked on the flat trail for about 820 meters, and then turned left (12) and started climbing upwards. On the way, we saw a cute crab, that somehow got here. We continued for about 1.3 km until we reached a water crossing (13). Looking back, we weren’t supposed to cross it, because the trail bypasses it, but we were so tired and yearning for a piece of shade, that we crossed it without thinking twice. At the other side of the stream was a pleasant area with trees, which gave lots of shade. We sat down on the ground, ate an apple, and relaxed for a while. Behind us, we could here the croaking of the toads or frogs in the stream. After a while, a group of children and their parents arrived. Their tour guide told us that they were on a plant-picking tour. There are a lot of edible plants in the region of Ramot Menashe, amongst them mustard flowers, asparagus, and malva, what makes the region a paradise for plant gatherers.

The stream which we crossed

We continued right on a blue-marked trail for about 200 meters, turned right with the trail, and then reunited with the Ramot Menashe Trail. Then, there’s a long 3-km hike on a segment that overlaps the blue-marked trail. There were a few times that we had to leave the main route, because Jeeps were driving there, and then we walked next to the lovely cyclamen that grew along the right side of the route. There are supposed to be two water springs near the end of the 3-km, but we didn’t see them.

At the end of the 3-km, we reached road number 672 (14). Carefully, we crossed to the other side of the road, where there was a long asphalt path that went northward. We continued with the path for about 1.3 km and then crossed another road (15) to the compound of the Regional Council of Megiddo.

The road we had to cross

It was afternoon when we got there, and after walking for so long under the sun, we had to stop for an afternoon nap. Since it was Friday, there was no one at the regional council offices, so we used the opportunity to nap on their lawn. Afterward, we filled our bottles from a drinking water tap, that was in the inner yard of the offices and continued our way.

We exited the compound from its northeastern edge and descended for about 1 km, until we reached a right turn onto a blue-marked trail (16). From there, the trail is very wide, easy, and exposed to the sun. After about 1.2 km, we climbed a few meters to the left, and then turned left, and continued on the trail for another 1 km, until we reached the right turn towards a red-marked trail (17). Don’t expect to see the Ramot Menashe trail mark over here, because we didn’t find it. If you don’t turn right and continue a few steps ahead, you’ll reach the Emek HaShalom Farm, where some people say you can fill water.

The way down from the Regional Council of Megiddo

We continued on the red-marked trail for about 580 meters, with lots of stinging nettles all around us. To the right, you can see the trees next to Ein Faror, if you plan to camp there. After 580 meters, we reached a place where lots of families were doing BBQ and picnics, next to the flow of Nahal HaShofet (“the Stream of the Judge”) (18). The stream is called after the United States Circuit Judge, Julian William Mack, who also happened to be Jewish and served three years as the head of the Zionist Organization of America.

We went on for about 1 km, with fields of crops and the HaShofet Stream flowing to the right and tall trees growing to the left. Then, we decided to stop in a place that seemed suitable for camping, right next to the stream (19). Because it was Friday evening, we figured that the nearby Haruvim Parking Site (“Carobs Parking Site”), which was less than a kilometer away, might be crowded and noisy. Was it legal camping where we camped? I’m not sure. It’s not so clear if the specific spot is part of the nature reserve of HaShofet Stream. I recommend being on the safe side and camping at Haruvim Parking Site. It’s a picnic area, but I guess you can also camp there (and correct me if I’m wrong!)

On our way to the camping site

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can only do it by hiking another 2 km to Hazorea and taking a bus from there.

Day 3 – From Nahal HaShofet to Joop Westerweel Parking Site:

Short overview: It was also a long hike, but it felt a bit more shaded, at least at the beginning. We began our hike along HaShofet Stream, with its charming waterfalls and pools, and then hiked through a beautiful forest, where there were some steeps climbs and descends. Actually, there were several steep climbs along this segment, and that’s why I rated it as an easy-moderate trail.  Most of it is easy, but there are some challenging parts. The most interesting place, in my view, is the Mishmar HaEmek Monument, which also has a fantastic viewpoint over the Jezreel Valley.

Trail length: About 19 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 8-11 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy-moderate.

Water along the way: If you really need water, you can try to buy some from the grocery store at HaZorea (about 2 km from the start of the trail). The next option to fill water is at the cemetery of Mishmar HaEmek (about 8.5 km from the start of the trail). Finally, there should be water at Ein HaShofet (about 14.5 km from the start of the trail). You’ll need to make a 700-meters detour into the kibbutz. We couldn’t find a water tap, but we asked some foreign workers for water and they gave us.  

Stay options at the end of the trail: We camped at Joop Westerweel Parking Site. I’ve also heard of people who camped near the Raz Reservoir, about 1.5 km away from our parking site.

Map of the third day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the third day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the third day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the third day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the third day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Elevation chart for Day 3, from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We started early from our camp site (1) and hiked for about 600 meters until we reached the entrance to Nahal HaShofet Trail (2), an established paved route that goes along HaShofet Stream. It was fairly dark,but we were still able to see the small and charming waterfalls, hear the flow of water, and stand next to the beautiful pools that formed here and there. “Too bad it’s not hot,” we said, because if it was, we might have dipped a bit.

One of the waterfalls of HaShofet Stream

After about 720 meters, we left the side of the stream and started ascending upwards (3). We could see the houses of Hazorea in front of us. After another 600 meters, we were already on the road of the kibbutz. A few steps afterward, we returned to a dirt path and stopped there for coffee and snacks. When we were done, we had to climb down some rocks to reach the road again, because the trail overlapped it. They were super slippery, and I accidently slipped down them. So, be careful, especially after rain!

Hazorea from above

We continued about 500 meters on the road, passed by a horse range, and arrived at the entry gate to the kibbutz (4). There, we met an early jogger, exchanged a few words, and turned right onto the trail, that continues down an asphalt route, aligned by yellow mustard flowers and trees with yellow flowers, which my friends suggested were orange wattles.

After about 450 meters, we turned right and started climbing upwards on a curvy trail (5). At some point, the trail turns extremely steep, but it doesn’t go on for too long. At the top, we got to appreciate the fantastic view of the Jezreel Valley. From there, the trail is extremely beautiful. It passes through the forest, with a large variation of trees and flowers, crosses a few asphalt roads and a stream, includes some descends and ascends, and after about 3.8 km it reaches road number 6953 (6). Not all the trail marks on the way are visible and clear, so make sure to keep your eyes out for marks and keep your map at handy.  

The first steep climb up
Beautiful blossom on the trail
Walking between pine trees
Cyclamens on the trail

We crossed the road towards Mishmar HaEmek, another kibbutz in Ramot Menashe. At the entry gate, we turned right and continued on an easy, shaded dirt path along Mishmar HaEmek Stream. After about 420 meters, we turned left (7) and started climbing a very steep climb up through the forest. A few meters after the steep climb, we reached the Mishmar HaEmek Cemetery and a memorial site to Irma Lindheim (8), who was an American Zionist fund-raiser and educator, who moved to kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek at the late stages of her life. At this point, we found a water tap, where we were able to fill water.

Memorial site to Irma Lindheim

The trail continued upwards through the forest, but there weren’t any major climbs. After about 1 km, we got out of the forest, although there were still some trees in the area, and hiked alongside a road. We hiked for about 400 meters more and then turned left and continued hiking on the road all the way to the Mishmar HaEmek Kibbutzim Memorial (9).

To get to the Mishmar HaEmek Kibbutzim Memorial, you need to stray a bit off the trail, but it’s worth it. This memorial was built in memory of the kibbutz members who fell in the battles of Israel. It is made of a concrete tower, overlooking the kibbutz of Mishmar HaEmek and the Jezreel Valley. Though, you don’t have to climb up the tower to enjoy the view. In the distance, you can even see Mount Tabor!

The view from the Mishmar HaEmek Kibbutzim Memorial

After appreciating the memorial, we continued on quite an easy trail, that overlaps a black-marked trail, for about 1.2 km. Then, there was another steep climb up to Hurvat Ha-Ras (10). This site sits on the top of a high hill, which was used as a strategic point by the Israeli forces during the Independence War, when there was a need to protect Mishmar HaEmek. There are supposed to be some archeological remnants over there, but we only saw a lot of vegetation. We circled the top of Hurvat Ha-Ras and then started descending downwards on a moderate descend, which later turned into a flat Jeep route.

About 2.5 km from Hurvat Ha-Ras, we reached the back entrance to kibbutz Ein HaShofet (11). At this point we already needed water, although we still had some water till the end of the day. According to our research and the map, there was supposed to be water in Ein HaShofet, but to get there we had to walk at least 700 meters forth and back. Because we weren’t sure that there was water and because we were already quite tired, we decided to send only one of us, Ayelet, to check if there was water over there.

The back entrance to Ein Hashofet

She went and after about 15 minutes called us on the phone: “There wasn’t a water tap where we thought, but there was a hut with a few foreign Thai workers. I told them I need water, so they let me fill from their water tap. I told them you might come, too.”  

We decided that we didn’t want to waste time, as the sunset was close. Instead, we asked Paz if she could ask her parents to bring us some water to the camping site. They live in the north, and they planned to pick her up anyway. After they approved that they would bring us some bottles and jerricans of water, we continued on our way.

From Ein HaShofet, the trail continues straight to the west. For some reason, we turned left and continued to the south. Only after a few minutes, we realized that we left the trail completely, and had to cut through the fields of vegetation to get back on track. The trail is fully exposed to the sun, but it’s extremely easy, so we were able to hike it very fast. About 3.8 km from Ein HaShofet, we reached road number 672 (12) and turned left. Then, we walked along it in a woody area for about 700 meters until we saw the Joop Westerweel Parking Site in front of us (13). It’s a bit off the trail, but very close by.

Joop Westerweel was a schoolteacher, who became a Dutch World War II resistance leader and helped save hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust by organizing an escape route for them. He was caught by the Nazis, who executed him. For his actions, he was named Righteous Among the Nations. The place where we camped was a memorial site for him and other Dutch people, who helped save Jews during the Holocaust. It’s actually a picnic area, but we found a quiet spot to place our sleeping bags for the night. Just make sure not to camp under one of the Eucalyptus trees over there.

The Joop Westerweel Parking Site

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you need to walk about 2.5 km northward to Dalia Junction and catch a bus from there.

Day 4 – From Joop Westerweel Parking Site to Binyamina:

Short overview: This day was full of water and was overall super easy! Though, it was almost always exposed to the sun, which was hard, especially near the end of the segment, when it was already afternoon.

Trail length: About 17.5 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 6-8 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Water along the way: The only place where you can fill water is at the Alona Cemetery (about 10 km from the start of the trail).

Stay options at the end of the trail: The trail ends at Binyamina.

Map of the fourth day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the fourth day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the fourth day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the fourth day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the fourth day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Map of the fourth day of our hike, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Elevation chart for Day 4, from israelhiking.osm.org.il

We woke up super early because we really wanted to reach Binyamina this day. We left the Joop Westerweel Parking Site (1) and carefully crossed road number 672. We walked in the darkness for a while, but luckily the trail was very flat and easy. After about 1.4 km, we decided to stop above the Raz Reservoir (2) for coffee and sunrise. This beautiful reservoir is a natural one, that fills up every winter.

We stopped for coffe and sunrise in front of Raz Reservoir

When the sun rose, we continued on the easy trail through breathtaking landscapes, that included sweeping fields of green, hills, and agricultural crops. After about 1.4 km, we reached the water crossing of Nahal Taninim (“the crocodile stream”) (3). Then, we climbed up about 400 meters to a fenced station, turned around to appreciate the view of the fields below, and continued right along the station and right onto an asphalt route.

Down from the reservoir
At the top of the climb and towards the right turn

We continued another 330 km until we turned left (4) onto a dirt path and started making our way downwards. After about 750 km, we reached Ein Nili (5). This amazing water spring is a great place to rest and enjoy some refreshing water. We stayed there for a while before heading on.

The trail continues through an agricultural area for about 1.3 km, until it turns right back into the wilderness (6). After about 300 meters, we turned left, passed a cattle gate, and started climbing upwards to the top of a hill that overlooks the surroundings. We rested up there for a few minutes and then started climbing down, towards the crossing underneath road number 6 (7).  

Going underneath road number 6

The trail continues through lush vegetation, trees, and flowers for about 3.6 km, with some easy climbs and descends. and then comes out of the forest and arrives at the banks of the Nahal Taninim (8). There were a lot of people splashing around over there. We turned left, passed by the Alona Cemetery, where it is possible to fill water, and walked all the way to road number 6533 (9). There, we turned right, crossed a small bridge above the stream, and turned left back to the trail, which continued along the stream, now on its other bank.

Nahal Taninim, by the way, is called after the crocodiles, that were spotted in its waters until 1912. It seems that the crocodiles were present here from the 5th-4th century BCE. A local legend says that they were brought here by the ancient Egyptians. According to the legend, two Egyptian brothers wanted to rule over Caesarea. One of them brough the crocodiles in hope that they will eat his brother, who had to wash in the waters of the stream regularly because of his medical condition.

The bridge over Nahal Taninim

It was quite a hot day and we were starting to melt from the heat. The path was completely unshaded, because all the shade from the trees was going to the other direction. We knew that there should be a water spring soon, so that motivated us to continue. We hiked on for about 1.4 km until we finally reached it – Ein Aviel (10). We were amazed from how stunning it was. The spring was partly shaded by the trees and reeds around it, there were all kinds of small hideaways where you can sit and chill out, and there was plenty of room in the water. When we arrived, it was full of kids, who were enjoying their early Passover break. But they left after a while.

Ayelet decided to cut off from the trail at Ein Aviel. There’s a passage, that connects the water spring to moshav Aviel. It’s a short walk to the nearest bus station. So, if you’re tired of the trail or your short on time, you can stop here. A lot of people do it. Actually, the rest of the trail till Binyamina is quite boring.

Ein Aviel

Although we’ve heard that the rest of the trail is boring, we decided to do it anyway, because if we’re already there, why not see if the reviews are accurate? After splashing around in Ein Aviel, we got back onto the unshaded trail and walked for about 5.3 km until the first spot of shade (11). These 5 kilometers are devastating, especially when it’s hot. You just walk and walk next to the stream, hear the buzz of the insects, see some agricultural fields to your right, and yearn to reach Binyamina, which can be clearly seen up ahead.

The first spot of shade on these 5 kilometers were two massive trees, which provided plenty of shade next to what seemed to be a horse farm. We sat there for a while, gathered our last drops of energy, and then set off to Binyamina. We crossed the small bridge over the stream, turned right and continued for about 1 km till the access road to Binyamina (12). All the way, we sang the song of the acclaimed Israeli poet, Ehud Manor, “The Days of Binyamina“. This song depicts Manor’s yearning to his childhood in Binyamina. Binyamina was another settlement funded by the Baron Rothschild back in the Ottoman days.

We turned left, entered the moshava of Binyamina, and made our way to one of its fantastic restaurants, to finish the hike with a good taste.

Save this post for later!


Hiked the trail on March 2021.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com. I also offer guided hiking tours in Israel.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Shfeya Junction to Beit Hanania

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It rained for about two days. During that time, we stayed at an organic farm in Bat Shlomo. When it ended, we woke up early and made our way to the Bat Shlomo Junction. From there, we got on a shared taxi to Shfeya Junction, although we could have waited two minutes more for a bus, which is cheaper. The drive was about five minutes, so we could start the hike very quickly.  

Check out the previous segment – From Ein Hod to Ofer Junction.  

The segment from Shfeya Junction to Beit Hanania was a charming one. It started with a bit of confusion, but very soon we found the trail, hiked through beautiful woody landscape, visited the amazing gardens of Ramat Hanadiv, and enjoyed a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Trail length: About 13 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 5-7 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy-moderate.

Best season: Fall (October-November) and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: There’s a supermarket near road number 652 (about 6.8 km from the start point), where you can purchase water. There’s free cooler water at Ramat Hanadiv (about 8.2 km from the start point). There’s also a drinking tap just before you reach the tunnel below the railroad (about 11.5 km from the start point). And of course, you can fill water at the end point in Beit Hanania.

Stay options at the end of the trail: As far as I know, there’s no camping ground near Beit Hanania (let me know if I’m wrong). Because of the forecasted rain, we decided to call a Trail Angel and ask about shelter in Beit Hanania. The lovely lady let us sleep inside the veterans’ club of the moshav. If you also want to stay at a Trail Angel’s place, you can check out trail angels in the area. I know there’s also a hostel in nearby Jisr az-Zarqa.

Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. Also, it’s not recommended to hike after rainfall, as the trail could be muddy and slippery.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 6 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout most of the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior than what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). This map is very basic, but gives you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

To reach the head of the trail, you will need to reach Shfeya Junction (in Hebrew: צומת שפיה). There isn’t a direct bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. If you’re having trouble finding the right route, feel free to contact me through Facebook or lior@backpackisrael.com.

The hike:

Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/

From the bus station at Shfeya Junction (1), we crossed to the other side of the road and followed the Israel National Trail marker, which took us down to an agricultural route. We continued on this route for a short while, parallel to the busy road until we reached a point where we couldn’t spot the trail mark anymore. There were a lot of dry weeds, which might have been hiding the trail marks, or maybe, they weren’t marked properly. Anyway, we tried walking in all kinds of directions until we glanced at the trail map through our phone and continued in the right direction, which was east.

Shfeya Junction. The trail starts from the left side
Hiking on the agricultural route parallel to the road

After a few meters, we reached the flowing channel of Dalia Stream, a place where we had to climb down a slippery slanted wall of stones and cross a very muddy area. I guess that when it’s dry, this place isn’t difficult. For us, it took a while to cross safely without slipping.

The Dalia stream flowing channel

About 800 meters from Shfeya Junction, we reached an undercrossing of a small road (2), which links between Zikhron Yaakov and road number 70. And then again, we were hiking on an agricultural route, with a lot of agriculture around us. At some point, there starts a mild ascend, but it’s nothing difficult. The landscape turned woody and the trail was super muddy. Our shoes caught more and more mud as we went, so every step became heavier and heavier. Of course, we stopped to get the mud out of our shoe soles once in a while, but it was a helpless battle.

The undercrossing

About 2 km from the undercrossing we stopped to rest under some big trees. The guy who we met at Bat Shlomo, Shavit, joined us for the beginning of the hike, so he sat down to eat with us. Then, we continued on our way according to the trail marks, along the overhead power lines.

About 1.5 km from the stop, we arrived at an old quarry (3), which has turned into a wall-climbing site. From there, we continued on a very easy route, that made its way through another agricultural area.

After about 2 km of walking on dirt paths and small paved routes, we reached a huge parking lot of Readymix Industries (4). The huge concrete mixer trucks were moving around the parking lot, and we had to find a path between them. Compared to them, we felt like little ants, that could get smashed any minute.

Readymix Industries – the trucks!

We passed the trucks successfully and then continued a few hundred meters till road number 652. We crossed the road and stopped at a supermarket, which stood on the other side (5). There was a shaded picnic table next to the supermarket, so we took advantage of the shade and sat down to eat lunch. Like always, it was made up of a few pieces of bread, tahini, and tomatoes.

We crossed the supermarket’s parking lot and continued through a gap between two concrete obstacles. A few meters afterwards, we arrived at the parking lot of the ORT Binyamina High School (6). ORT is the largest educational network in Israel for science and technology education. Next to the parking lot, we saw a Dabur-class patrol boat, which was placed there as a memorial for the fallen soldiers who used to study at ORT Binyamina.

See the Dabur boat in the back?

We passed by the Dabur and continued on a short path, that led to the entrance of Ramat Hanadiv Park. The park encompasses about 5,000 acres and is the southernmost tip of the Carmel Mountain Range. We hiked along the pleasant trail for about 250 meters until we reached the ancient ruins of the Ein Zur Bathing House (7). The bathing house was built in the 1st century BCE and was active until 70 CE. It was used by the residents of nearby Hurvat Elek. The water came from the adjacent water spring, Ein Zur. A tunnel was dug to the source of the spring, and an impressive water aqueduct carried the water from there to a storage pool. It is one of the most complete ancient aqueducts discovered in Israel. You can still see water flowing through it like in the past, which is a wonderful sight.   

Looking inside the Ein Zur Bathing House
Ein Zur water aqueduct

From Ein Zur, we continued upwards on the Israel National Trail, marked here also by a blue-marked trail. The trail here is well-maintained and there are even small stairs, which make it easier to climb. After a short while, we saw the ruins of Hurvat Elek. This small town was established during the Hellenistic-Roman period, around the 1st century BCE. The name, “Elek” is probably connected to the leeches, which were found in the nearby water spring, called “elek” in Arabic.

The ruins of Hurvat Elek

We continued about 550 meters on the blue-marked trail until we reached a small gate, that led to the central part of Ramat Hanadiv – the Memorial Gardens (8). Here, we said farewell to Shavit, who continued on the Israel National Trail. We decided to have a look inside the Memorial Gardens. These beautiful gardens are a combination of European formality and Mediterranean vegetation. They were built in honor of the Baron de Rothschild, who is also known as the “well-known philanthropist” (in Hebrew: “Hanadiv Ha-Yaduha”). Ramat Hanadiv literally means “the philanthropist plateau” or “the generous plateau”. Baron de Rothschild donated a great amount of donations to the Zionist movement, which helped establish many of the Jewish dwellings in the Land of Israel, amongst them nearby Zikhron Yaakov. Without those settlements, we might not have been able to establish a state.

The small entrance to the Memorial Gardens

The entrance to the gardens is free of charge. They are open Sunday to Thursday and Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM, and Friday from 8 AM to 2 PM. Out first stop was the restrooms, which were so clean and shiny. Then, we continued into the gardens themselves. At the entrance, there’s a blue gate with the symbol of the Rothschild family above it. The bronze shield is supported by a lion and a unicorn, which both symbolize control and power. On the bronze shield itself are an eagle, a lion, an arm with a fist, and a hand holding five arrows. Those five arrows symbolize the five sons of the Rothschild family. Together, they are strong and cannot be bent. This symbol was hung above the Rothschild’s family house in Europe, when it was not allowed to show Jewish family names on the door.    

The blue gate into the Memorial Gardens

The guard beyond the blue gate was very friendly, asked us to keep our masks on throughout the entire visit, and offered to leave our large backpacks near the entrance. “I’ll keep an eye on them,” he said.

The Memorial Gardens include several areas, including the Rose Garden, the Cascade Garden, the Fragrance Garden, and the Iris Garden. We strolled around until we found the Crypt, where the tomb of Rothschild and his wife is located. Before his death, Rothschild requested to be buried in the land that he loved so much. The bones of the couple were brought from Paris and buried here in 1954.

The Rothschild Crypt

After visiting the gardens, we bought some ice cream bars at the park’s kiosk and then continued on the Israel National Trail. From the Memorial Gardens, the trail turns south onto a red-marked trail and continues through the woody landscape, though it is not very shaded.

About 1.5 km from the Memorial Gardens, we reached Hurvat Akav (9). This is a fascinating archeological site, that includes ruins from the Second Temple period and the Byzantine period. At first, it was an impressive Jewish villa. Later, it turned into a large farm with horse stables and storage rooms. In Arabic, this site was called “Masur el-Aqeb”. It is located on the highest point of Ramat Hanadiv, at a height of 141 meters above sea level, what offers a fantastic view of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s no wonder that the Jewish family in the 1st century CE decided to build their villa here.

Hurvat Akav
The view of the Mediterranean Sea from Hurvat Akav

We stopped for a while to admire the stunning view. A small group of hikers arrived a short while after us and started chatting with us. It turned out that one of them was hiking with some of us in the south, when we were hiking as part of the Nifgashim Be’Shvil Israel group. “Where are you planning to sleep tonight?” we asked them. “I don’t know,” one of them replied, “I think somewhere around the Aqueduct Beach.” “Hope that no one will tell you to leave from there,” I said, because I know that there are some places along the beach which are forbidden for camping. “I hope so, too,” he said, and they continued on their way.

We left a few minutes after them and continued for about 500 meters southward. To our right still lay the fantastic view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Coastal Plain. Then, we reached an opening in a fence, with two signs next to it (10). The signs said that we were about to start hiking down a slope covered with remnants of an ancient burial site. The site includes about forty stone tumuli, which are rectangular burial chambers, surrounded by circles of fieldstones and covered by a heap of soil. It is believed that it was created by a group of shepherds, who lived in this area of the Carmel between 2500 to 2000 BCE.

Down the slope of Mount Carmel

We continued slowly down the slope, which was quite steep. Near the end, there was a place with a wired fence on the ground, probably meant to prevent the stones from crumbling and falling down. It was a bit challenging to cross this wired fenced piece of ground, and Paz even slipped and fell with her head down. Luckily, she didn’t get hurt. So, just watch your step. About 500 meters from the top of the slope, we reached the tracks of the railway (11). Here, we turned slightly left and continued parallel to the tracks. Don’t attempt to cross the tracks, because it’s dangerous!

Parallel to the railway

We continued for about 550 meters parallel to the tracks and then arrived at a drinking water tap (12). A few meters afterwards, we could see the undercrossing beneath the railway. We climbed down some steps and then saw that we had a problem. The whole crossing was flooded by the Taninim Stream. In Hebrew, “taninim” means “crocodiles.” In the 4th-5th centuries BCE. There was a town nearby called Crocodeilopolis, which means “the city of crocodiles”. In 1912, a crocodile was hunted in this stream. The legend tells that the first two crocodiles were brought here from Ancient Egypt. Luckily for us, it seems there are no more crocodiles in the stream.  

We stood in front of the flooded crossing and pondered what to do. There was no other way to cross the railway that run above. After a few minutes, we understood that there were large boulders at the side of the undercrossing, which we could stand on while crossing. Though, we still got quite wet.

Crossing below the railway

After crossing the railway, we continued on a gravel path, which at this point was also marked by a green-marked trail. In the distance, we could see the southwestern edge of the Carmel Mountain Range, which is dubbed in Hebrew “Chotem HaCarmel”, which means “the nose of the Carmel.” After about 360 meters, we reached the remains of the Abu Nur flour mill (13). This mill, which was active until 1922, functioned thanks to the water of the Taninim Stream, which were taken to it by a dam and water cannels.

“The Nose of the Carmel”

From there, we continued through the green fields for about 610 km until we reached another undercrossing, this time beneath road number 4 (14). What was special about this undercrossing was that it had a huge block of stone inside it, so we had to lean down and stay low in order to cross through it.

Then, it was a short 200 meters walk to Beit Hanania (15). Beit Hanania is a moshav founded by Jewish immigrants in 1950. Near the entrance to the moshav, you can see an ancient aqueduct, which was part of the water system to Ancient Caesarea. If you’ll take time to look at the aqueduct, you can spot two construction inscriptions made by the Legio X Fretensis, a legion of the Imperial Roman army, dated to the 2nd century CE.

The aqueduct near Beit Hanania

We entered Beit Hanania, made our way to the center of the moshav and called our Trail Angel. Very soon, we were able to settle down in the moshav’s veteran’s club. It was early afternoon when we arrived, but we were quite exhausted from about two weeks on the trail, so we had to get some rest.

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – From Beit Hanania to Sdot Yam.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can catch relevant buses from the bus station at Beit Hanania Junction. There aren’t any direct buses from there to Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so you’ll need to switch somewhere. If you want to get to Haifa, you can get on bus number 921, which reaches Haifa within 40 minutes.

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

Want a guided tour? Check out my guided tours on the Israel National Trail.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

Save this post for later!


Hiked the trail on November 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Ein Hod to Ofer Junction

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The other day we were too exhausted to hike all the way to Ein Hod. Instead, we took a bus to the Ein Hod Junction and found our Trail Angel’s place nearby, at the bottom of the village. We quickly made dinner and fell asleep the moment we put our heads on the mattresses. Then, we woke up early, as usual, and started another day of hiking. Our feet were still quite tired from the other day, but we decided that we’ll do as much as we can. “It turned out that as much as we can” was about 12.5 km, from Ein Hod to Ofer Junction.

The segment starts beside banana plantations and then rises up and makes its way through fields of prickly pear cactuses. After leaving the cactuses, it arrives at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve, where you can argue about human evolution. It continues upwards until it reaches the Ofer Lookout Tower, with beautiful views towards the coastal plain, and then makes its way down to the road that leads to Ofer Junction.

Trail length: About 12.5 km. You can also hike it from the other direction.

Trail duration: About 6-8 hours, depending on your pace.

Difficulty level: Easy-moderate.

Best season: Fall (October-November) and Spring (February-April).

Water along the way: You can get water in Ein Hod before starting the day. You can also fill water in Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve (about 4.5 km from the start of the trail). I’ve seen posts by other hikers saying that there’s a water faucet about 1 km south from the Ofer Lookout Tower, but haven’t seen it myself. You can also buy or fill water at the gas station at Ofer Junction.  

Stay options at the end of the trail: We didn’t camp outdoors because of rain, but it seems that there might be a camping area about 600 meters from the gas station of Ofer Junction, called The Olives Campground. If you go eastward from the gas station and turn on the first road right, you’re supposed to see it after a while. We stayed at a Trail Angel’s place in moshav Bat Shlomo, two bus rides away. But there are other trail angels in the area.

Before we begin, let’s go over some safety instructions and general notes:

· The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.

· Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water (and 5 on hot days), and wear a hat. Pack food and snacks for the whole day, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you, including toilet papers.

· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because it’s not enjoyable and can end with a heatstroke. Also, it’s not recommended to hike after rainfall, as the trail could be muddy and slippery.

· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 6 AM so you will have time to rest a bit during the hot hours of the afternoon and still get it to the end of the trail. 

· The phone signal is good throughout most of the trail.

· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail isn’t always well marked, so it’s good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior than what’s shown on your map. You can also download the trail map in English (created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). This map is very basic, but gives you a general sense of the trail.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white.

· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk. Of course, you can also talk to me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

How to get to the head of the trail?

To reach the head of the trail, you will need to reach Ein Hod Junction. There isn’t a direct bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so it’s best to use a navigation app like Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. From the junction, you will need to enter the access road to Ein Hod and walk about 550 meters until the right turn onto a dirt route. Continue a bit on the route and you’ll see the head of the trail to your right.

The hike:

From Ein Hod to Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We left our Trail Angel’s place in Ein Hod (1) early in the morning. The place was actually right on the Israel National Trail, so there wasn’t a lot of room for confusion. We walked about 150 meters westward on the dirt road and then turned left onto the trail, which is only marked by the Israel National Trail colors at this point. After a short while, we passed by the back entrance to Yotam’s Wayside Inn (2). There’s a lot of buzz around this place. I myself didn’t get the chance to peek inside. This inn aims to empower people with special needs through travel, music, the sea, and the land. If you want, you can stay to volunteer during your hike. We planned to stay at this inn but found that it was completely full, so instead we stayed at Hed’s place, which was great and probably quieter.

A couple of minutes later we reached a gate in the fence, which we opened and passed through. A short while later we were walking right next to the banana plantations. The plantations go on and on, but you need to keep your eyes to the left, to spot the left turn from the plantations (3). We missed it and realized that we were on the wrong track only when another hiker shouted towards us from the other side of the fence: “Did you see a watch over there?” We didn’t find the watch, but we did wonder why is he over there, while we were where we were. So, we went a long way back and found the turn, which we have missed.

The banana plantations

This part of the trail is not very clear. We turned on the GPS and just tried to find the best way to the trail. There was a lot of rubble and rocks everywhere. After a while, we spotted the trail mark again. From this point, the trail continues above the fields and plantations, on rocky terrain. About 750 meters from the left turn, we reached another gate. We opened it and passed through.

There’s a gate back there…

After the gate, we started seeing more and more prickly pear cactuses. During my tour guide course, we learned that wherever there are cactuses in Israel, probably there was once an Arab village. Here, in this area, there was once an Arab village called Mazar.

In Hebrew, this type of cactus is called “Tzabar.” It seems that the Israelis love it because anyone Jewish who has been born in Israel is often dubbed “Tzabar”. This is because the Israeli Jews are rough and prickly from the outside and sweet from the inside, just like the fruits of the tzabar, called prickly pears. Many Israelis love to eat the prickly pears. Ayelet couldn’t resist and picked one from the cactus with her bare hands. She tried to peel it, but was not too successful, because she still got some thorns on her tongue. Nevertheless, she was extremely happy that she got the chance to eat the prickly pear. “It was worth it!” she said.

There were a LOT of cactuses

We got a bit lost in the field of cactuses but were able to find our way back to the trail. Then, we started ascending higher and higher above the coastal plain. To the right, we could see the beautiful patches of agricultural fields and plantations of the coastal plain. There were few points where we had to climb up boulders, but it wasn’t difficult.

The agricultural fields and plantations of the coastal plain

About 4.5 km from the very start of the trail, we reached a cattle gate that led into the Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve (4). As in many other national parks and nature reserves on the Israel National Trail, you don’t need to pay an entry fee to enter this park as an INT hiker. We entered and sat down next to one of the picnic tables, facing the cliff, which holds some prehistoric caves.

Was there evolution or not?

Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve is home to four UNESCO-listed caves, each proclaimed a site of outstanding universal value by the organization. The study in these caves began in 1928, and the findings were remarkable. According to the research on site, it seems that the neanderthal and the homo sapiens both lived here in an overlapping period of time. A lot of prehistoric objects were found here, too. That’s why scientists are so excited about this place. They can try to learn about the evolution of human beings from this place.

The cliff of Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve

One of my friends said that she doesn’t believe in evolution and that this place doesn’t really mean anything. Apart from her, all of us believed that you can learn about human evolution from this place and that human evolution existed. In Israel, evolution is a very controversial topic, as some religious people believe that GOD created us as we are today and that there was no development. They think that scientists are here to challenge the Torah (the Bible) and damage the status of GOD. If you also have people in your group who don’t believe in evolution or do believe in evolution, don’t be too hard on them. Remember that it’s the person’s beliefs and that you can’t really change them.

From Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve to Ofer Tower:

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/
Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

We left the reserve and continued ascending on the trail. The trail goes on for about 2.3 km and then reaches an old building with a white dome (5). This is the Tomb of Shaykh Amir, which was built in the early 19th century in the Arab village of Jaba. The village was depopulated during the 1948 Independence War.  

The Tomb of Shaykh Amir and some tired hikers

We continued on the trail and started an easy-moderate ascend towards the Ofer Lookout Tower. About 470 meters from the tomb of the shaykh and a few steps away from the tower, we reached Ido Lookout (6). It’s called after Ido Meir Cohen, who passed away from an illness at the age of 43 while serving as a combat soldier in Shayetet 13. The lookout faces the Mediterranean Sea and looks over the agricultural fields and plantations and coastal plain settlements.

The Ido Lookout

We continued towards the tower (7), which stood nearby. The pine trees which we see here today were planted a short while after Israel was established, in order to provide employment options for the residents of the area. In the 1960s, the tower was built in the heart of the forest thanks to donations given by Jewish communities in New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong. It was built for the forest keepers, who used it to locate wildfires. When the pine trees around the tower grew higher and blocked the view, they made the tower higher. And today, it soars to a height of four floors.  

The Ofer Lookout Tower

From Ofer Tower to Ofer Junction:

The trail continues from the eastern side of the picnic area, which encircles the tower. It’s easy to get confused because there are so many trails in this area, so make sure you see the Israel National Trail mark. There’s also a yellow bicycle sign.

We continued on the descending trail for about 200 meters until we reached a sign showing us the “Bericha Trail” (8). The trail is 2 km long and is centered around the story of the Bericha Movement, an underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors immigrate to the Land of Israel after World War II. It wasn’t easy, because when the war ended, the British mandate ruled the Land of Israel and limited the number of immigrants who were allowed to enter. That’s why many immigrated illegally. We followed the Israel National Trail, so we didn’t go on the Bericha Trail, but if you have time, it leads to the same point.

The Bericha Trail sign

We hiked through the forest, passed by a few parking and picnic areas, and after about one km reached the point where the Bericha Trail and the Israel National Trail meet for a very short while (9). There’s a huge space with picnic tables, which you need to cross and then you’ll see the trail mark point to the right.

From there, we continued downwards on the trail for about 1.2 km and then reached a monument for Moti and Itai Sharon (10). Moti Sharon was an IDF helicopter pilot. In 1988, while on a mission to place a border stone between Israel and Egypt, his helicopter’s tail broke off and he crashed. His son, Itai, passed away in 2006 during a selection process for the IDF’s combat pilot course. If you’ll look closely, you can see that the monument resembles parts of a helicopter.

Monument for Moti and Itai Sharon

The trail continues to descend from this point. After about 440 meters, we reached a point where we weren’t sure if we should take the left-side or right-side trail (11) because the trail mark wasn’t clear. The left-side trail is the one you need to take.

We continued descending for about 800 meters and then met road number 7021 (12). Here, we were already exhausted, carrying our exhaustion from the day before. So, we rested on the side of the road for a while, thinking about our options, and decided that we have no more energy for the day. Nitai was also having a swollen leg, so he couldn’t really continue in his state.

We walked westward on the side of the road for about 1.2 km until we reached a gas station (13). There, we bought some ice cream, as part of our trail tradition, and sat down on the sidewalk to look for transport options to our Trail Angel in Bat Shlomo. When we finished the ice cream, we discovered that there’s also an excellent restaurant next to the gas station, called Diner Rosa. If you like meat and don’t care about Kosher, their food is delicious!

Map of the trail, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il/

After filling ourselves with food, we made our way to the bus station at Ofer Junction. We took a bus to Furaidis Junction and from there, a bus to Bat Shlomo Junction. Our Trail Angels were the owners of a beautiful organic farm, where we spent two nights of rain.

After some rain in the organic farm of Bat Shlomo

That’s all for now. I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

Continue to the next segment – Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Shfeya Junction to Beit Hanania.

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can catch relevant buses from the bus station at Ofer Junction. There aren’t any direct buses from there to Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so you’ll need to switch somewhere. If you want to get to Haifa, you can get on bus number 921, which reaches Haifa within half an hour.

Get ready for the trail by reading my post – The Israel National Trail: Ultimate Preparation Guide.

And check out previous segments of the Israel National Trail.

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Hiked the trail on November 2020.

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If you need any help with planning this hike, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com. I also offer guided hiking tours on several segments of the Israel National Trail.

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Yours,

Lior