Home » Hiking Down the Carmel Through Wadi Kelah and Galim

Hiking Down the Carmel Through Wadi Kelah and Galim

by backpackisrael
Published: Updated: 12 minutes read
The tznirim in the Carmel

The Carmel is one of the most beautiful mountains in Israel, rising to a height of around 550 meters above the magnificent Haifa Bay. During Chol Hamoed Sukkot, my family and I decided to hike down part of the mountain, through the beautiful Wadi Kelah and Wadi Galim. 

Wadi Kelah is a dry wadi that flows southwest of Haifa University through the chalky Carmel and into Wadi Galim. Part of the wadi, surrounded by cliffs, is called “Little Switzerland” because the people who named it thought that it resembles Switzerland’s green and beautiful landscapes. I’ve been to Switzerland, and I don’t agree with those people. Switzerland is something else! But still, the Carmel has its charm. 

Wadi Galim and Wadi Kelah can be hiked in many different ways. There are shorter and longer hikes than the one we chose. We chose the one that is about 6.5 km long. Since it is a one-way hike, we decided to do it downhill. It’s an excellent trail for families and groups of friends who are looking for a pleasant hike near Haifa. 

Trail length: About 6.5 km / 4 miles. It’s a one-way trail.

Trail duration: Around 3-5 hours, depending on your pace and fitness level and the number of breaks you take along the way.

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate. However, it is important to note that there are some places where you need to climb down or up bars stuck in the rock, sort of ladders, so it might be more difficult for people who are afraid of heights. 

Best season: Spring (February-May) is probably the best season to hike this trail, when it’s not too hot. It is not recommended to hike after rainfall because the trail could be slippery and you might fall! 

View the full trail on a map here.

Safety instructions and general notes

  • The hike is under your own responsibility, so please be careful.
  • Make sure to bring good hiking shoes, at least 2 liters of water, and a hat. Most parts of this trail are shaded by the Carmel Forest, but there are still some places exposed to the sun. Also, this trail is full of stones and pebbles, so expect a bumpy trail unless you’re wearing really good hiking shoes.
  • Always stay on the marked trail. The trail starts on a green-marked trail, then moves to a red-marked trail, a blue-marked trail, and ends on a black-marked trail. A trail mark appears every few meters, so keep an eye out for it.
  • Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer, around 5-6 PM, in Winter, around 4-5 PM) and begin your hike at least six hours before sunset.
  • Do not attempt to hike this trail after or during rainfall, as it can become very slippery and dangerous.
  • There are at least five places where you will need to use bar ladders to climb up or down the trail. The climbs are very high. If you are hiking with children, make sure to secure them from behind as they climb the ladder. Put your hands on theirs and secure their backs.
  • This trail is usually full of groups of hikers during holidays and weekends (Fridays-Saturdays), so if you don’t want to wait in line for the ladders, come on a weekday. 

How to get to the head of the trail?

The hike we chose to do begins at the Little Switzerland Parking Lot (in Hebrew: חניון שוויצריה הקטנה), which is located deep in the Carmel Park. One of our family members gave us a lift with her car to the head of the trail. That’s the ideal way to get there, but if you don’t have anyone who can give you a lift, you can either hike along the road to the starting point (about 2.5 km, 40 minutes hike from the park entrance) or start the hike near the entrance to the Carmel Park, near the Haifa University, on the green marked trail that goes down from the Upper Hai Bar Parking Lot. This trail will take you on a trail that is a bit different from ours. In this post I will focus only on our trail. If you want to get to the Carmel Park by bus, you can take any bus going to the Haifa University.

By the way, not far from the Little Switzerland Parking Lot is a free campground. You can come here in the evening, camp overnight, and then start the trail early in the morning.

The hike in Wadi Kelah and Galim

Map of the Nahal Kelah hike
Map of the trail, taken from Amud Anan
Nahal Kelah elevation chart - downhill
Elevation chart of the trail, taken from Israel Hiking Map

Hiking through Wadi Kelah to Wadi Galim

So, we started our hike at the Little Switzerland Parking Lot (1). From there, we started descending on a green-marked trail, which included two points where we had to hike downhill carefully because they were a bit high. It’s best to get low, sit on the rocks, and then make your way down.

After we passed the second high descent, which was covered with tree roots, we went a few more meters and reached a fork in the trail (2). Here, you can either turn right and return with the red-marked trail to the Little Switzerland Parking Lot or continue left, as we did, and hike a short distance to the bridge over Wadi Kelah. On the way, you can look to your right and see the beautiful concaved cliffs of the wadi (called “Tsnirim” in Hebrew).

Rocks at the beginning of the trail
The beginning of the trail
The tznirim in the Carmel
Tznirim in the Carmel

The bridge was made by the British during World War II in preparation for the possibility that the Germans might conquer the Land of Israel, what they didn’t do at the end.

At the bridge (3), there is another trail junction. We got on top of the bridge and then turned right to a steep descent on the blue-marked trail. The descent included a bar ladder, so that helped.

From this point, the trail continues mainly in the amazing forest of the Carmel, inside Wadi Kelah. Along the way, there are some steep descents, including bars. Also, there are some points where you leave the trees and get a bit of sun. If you’re lucky to be on the trail alone, you can listen to the forest’s life —animals walking through the bushes, birds chirping in the tree canopies, and the wind quietly brushing the foliage.

After about one kilometer, we arrived at another trail junction (4), where Wadi Kelah meets Wadi Galim. If you choose to take the green-marked trail from Haifa University, you will eventually reach this point, too. We continued left on the blue-marked trail down Wadi Galim.

Bars in the rock along the Wadi Kelah hike
Some of the bars along the way...
Trail post showing different trail directions
Continue on the blue-marked trail to "Tirat HaCarmel"

Wadi Galim till the end

From this point, the wadi slowly starts to open and the trail becomes more exposed to the sun, although there are still some parts covered by the Carmel forest.

After about 2.5 kilometers and a few more high descents, we got to a very open space, where there were some trails going in different directions (5). If you look to your left, you will see a huge cave situated up above called Oranit Cave. This cave was most probably used in Prehistoric times because prehistoric tools were found inside it. Today, it is home to a large number of insect bats. From October to March, the cave is closed to the public because that’s the time when the bats enjoy their wintertime rest. It is possible to hike up to the cave on a trail that is not marked by any specific color but exists. You can see the gate that indicates the beginning of the trail, which isn’t long but is a bit steep, so mind your steps.

It was very hot when we got to this point, so we decided to skip Oranit Cave and hike instead to a spring that is situated about 400 meters away. We turned right on the black-marked trail and began hiking to the spring called Ein Kedem (6). Because it was a very hot day, the spring was full of people. It was a fantastic spring, with very cold water! You can either walk through the spring’s tunnel or get into its pool, which is covered by a stone roof and is full of water! The water got up almost to my waist. It was a great way to cool ourselves down after the hike.

Ein Kedem spring with lots of people
People at Ein Kedem

After cooling down, we returned on the same black-marked trail to the crossroad (5). From there, we continued on the blue-marked trail right (west) towards the endpoint. The trail goes on for about 1 kilometer until it arrives at a small farm, where it ends (7). We said hello to some orange cows that were roaming around and then walked into Tirat Carmel, the city which is situated at the end of the trail (or the beginning of the trail, if you choose to hike up the mountain). The road is called Ha-Kahruv Street (in Hebrew: החרוב), and if you don’t have anyone who can pick you up from this point, you can walk a bit more to one of the bus stations in the neighborhood and take a bus back to Haifa. I advise you to check your possible bus routes before going on the trail using Google Maps or Moovit. One of the nearest stations to the end of the trail is called “Lev Ha’Ir Mall/Herzl“.

Reddish cow
Cute reddish cow!

Conclusion

If you like forest landscapes and trails that involve climbing up or down ladders, hiking down Wadi Kelah and Wadi Galim could be the perfect hike for you! It’s family-friendly and fun. 

You can check out my list of hiking trails in Israel to get inspired for your next hike. And if you’d like to explore the Carmel more, you can try hiking Mount Carmel on the Israel National Trail.

Wishing you a beautiful hike in the Carmel!

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Yours,

Lior

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3 comments

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat – Backpack Israel January 15, 2019 - 11:23 am

[…] Hiking Down the Carmel Through Wadi Kelah and Galim […]

Reply
Erik March 28, 2024 - 5:51 pm

We may have hiked a different trail, then. I mean I did the same route, but could not find any “difficult’ or “Challenging” or any of that, very easy (not so easy on my shoes though which got ruined). Also I do not understand the “climbing” wordings. It is a hike. (Especially if you come down). One thing we tend to agree on are the Holly cows at the end– adorables.

Reply
backpackisrael March 28, 2024 - 11:04 pm

Thanks for your feedback! I did this hike long ago and with less experienced hikers, so it probably affected my wording choices (“a bit challenging”, etc.) Now, after hiking quite a lot in recent years, I can understand what you are talking about and will work on rephrasing. The “climbing” wording is influenced by some Hebrew word that describes going down or up a ladder, but I do agree now that it is not the best wording in English. Thanks again!

Reply

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