The Israel National Trail, which stretches to a length of about 1,000 km, is the most popular hiking trail in Israel. The first segment starts in the northern part of Israel, at Kibbutz Dan. It takes you through the beautiful landscapes of the Upper Galilee and passes by some of the most refreshing streams. Since mid-May, The Israeli government has loosened the COVID-19 restrictions, so I decided to go hiking with some friends before it will get too hot. In this post, I’ll share with you my hiking experience from the first segment, from Dan to Kfar Giladi.
The hike takes about six hours to complete and is 14 km long. It is quite easy, as there are almost no climbs along the way. Get ready for a relaxed trail with lots of water and cows!
Since 1.9.2021, this trail segment is no longer part of the Israel National Trail. Now, the trail starts from Kfar Giladi. This means that there will no longer be a trail mark of the Israel National Trail along this segment.
Before we begin, let’s go over 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 wear a hat. Pack food and snacks if you want to stop somewhere, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you. Also, when you do your needs, do not leave toilet paper behind.
· Do not attempt to hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), as parts of the trail have no shade.
· Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM). Try to begin the hike before 9 AM so you will also have time to stop at the streams along the way.
· The phone signal is very good.
· The trail passes through a nature park, which requires an entry fee. You can do a detour and not pay, but then you will be missing the marvelous reserve.
· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. In most places, the trail is well marked, but you should have a map for reference so you won’t miss a turn. You can also use a navigation app such as Amud Anan which shows you the trail (in orange). If you will use GPS, you can also see where you are exactly.
· If you need any further help with planning your trail, I recommend posting on the Israel National Trail forum on Tapatalk.
How to Get to the Head of the Trail?
The starting point is at Kibbutz Dan, located in the northern part of the Upper Galilee. You can get there by taking a bus to the central station of Kiryat Shmona. From there, get on Egged bus number 36 and get off at “Dan/Center” (“Dan/Merkaz”) station. If you are arriving from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, get ready for about a 3 to 4 hours’ ride.
Before you begin the hike, I recommend staying the night at Kibbutz Dan. Dan allows Israel National Trail hikers to camp in their kibbutz, behind the Beit Ussishkin Museum. There is a large lawn there. You can camp with a tent you’ve brought or with your sleeping bag. There are picnic tables and drinking water faucets. The kibbutz grocery is also very close by, so you can stock up on food before you start the hike. You need to coordinate your stay in advance with +972-52-8357014 (Roni). There is an option to pay 30 ILS to access restrooms.
The hike starts from Kibbutz Dan, which is called after the Israelite town of Dan mentioned in the Bible. It was established in 1939 as one of the “wall and tower” settlements and is very close to the Syrian and Lebanese borders.
After a wonderful night in Kibbutz Dan, we started our hike from the yellow gate (1) near Beit Ussishkin Museum. It was closed, so we asked someone who passed by to open it for us using their phone. Then, we turned left onto the asphalt road and started walking northward. After about 500 meters, we arrived at a fork in the road (2). On the left side is the entrance to the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, one of the most beautiful and important reserves in Israel. One of the most amazing finding from Dan is an ancient gateway from the 18th century BCE. If you haven’t visited it, you might want to visit it a day before you start the trail.
We turned right and continued on the road. It turns to a dirt road and arrives at another fork, where there’s a memorial for two people who were killed during a terrorism attack in 1975. We turned left at the fork and continued on the dirt road along the fence of the Tel Dan Reserve. There were a few people, who were doing archeological works over there, so we told them “good morning”.
We continued along the trail. To the right, in the distance, you can spot Mount Hermon. It only had a little bit of snow on top of it, a remnant from the winter. After about 1 km, we reached a place with shade and a place to sit, but it was too crowded with flies for us to sit there. There was also the “Trail Library”, a wonderful initiative which lets hikers borrow reading books during their hike. There were quite a lot of books inside!
At this point, you’re already hiking beyond the “Green Line”, the demarcation line set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and Syria. Before 1967, the Syrians had a closed military zone in this area. Kibbutz Dan, like many Israeli settlements in the area, suffered a lot from the bombs that the Syrians dropped on them throughout the 1950s and 1960s. That is partially why Israel decided to conquer this area in the Six-Day War of 1967.
We continued on our search for better shade, but there were no trees around. There were lots of cows in the area, drinking from the water of the Dan Stream and eating the grass. About 500 meters after the “Trail Library”, we reached a crossing of the Dan Stream (3). It was flowing quite strongly. We changed to sandals and crossed the refreshing water, which barely reached our knees. Then, we decided to stop for breakfast right next to the stream, although there was no shade around.
After breakfast, we continued left on the trail, until we reached another water crossing. This time, there were a bunch of rocks in the middle of the water, so we climbed onto them and crossed without getting wet. From this point, the trail gets a bit confusing and isn’t very well marked. I would use a map. The trail winds to the right and then follows along a fence. In the middle of the trail are huge rocks, which aren’t fun to walk on, so we walked close to the fence where there were no rocks.
We continued more or less straight, walking through the dry flora until we reached a gate that led to an asphalt road (4). Here, we turned left on the road and continued along it for about 500 meters until we saw a lot of cars and people to the left. We decided to see what’s all the commotion about, so we left the road and checked it out (5). There was a gushing stream over there, but there were too many people, so we decided to get back onto the trail.
The asphalt road continues until it reaches the entrance to the Snir Stream Nature Reserve (6). The Snir Stream is the longest of the Jordan River tributaries and flows all year round. It is a beautiful reserve and is the perfect place to go to cool down when it’s hot. The Israel National Trail also runs through it. To enter you need to pay 28 ILS per adult or use the Israel Pass. My friends decided that we had enough water for today, so we made a detour and skipped the reserve. If you also want to make a detour, continue straight on the road to the small promenade that bypasses the reserve. We walked alongside the reserve fence. At some point, we could see into the reserve and spot the gushing Snir Stream. It was flowing strongly!
After about 1 km on the bypass, we reached the exit gate from the reserve. Then, we continued about 200 meters until we reached a road. We turned right and saw the Snir Bridge in front of us (7). There were a lot of people over there as well, who were playing around in the water of the Snir Stream.
We crossed the bridge and continued along the road. We turned right onto the road leading to Ma’ayan Baruch and passed by the popular site of Hagoshrim Kayaks. This is one of the most boring parts of the trail. We walked along the road, there was no shade and It was blazing hot. After about 1.5 km we reached Ma’ayan Baruch (8) and decided to stop in the kibbutz for lunch and a siesta. There are picnic tables right next to the gate and lots of trees, so we could enjoy some shade.
After the siesta, we walked back to the trail, which at this point leaves the road and continues into the orchards next to Ma’ayan Baruch. About 800 meters from the kibbutz, there is a short ascend, which I think was the only serious climb along the way. When we finished the climb, it wasn’t so clear if we should turn left or right because we couldn’t find the trail-mark. Using our map, we decided to turn right and soon enough saw a trail-mark which took us along the orchard and then started taking us out of there, to another road. We arrived at the road (9) and turned right. Then, we continued on another boring part of the trail, along the roads that connect between the settlements. The trail goes on the roads, so keep safe and stay away as much as possible from the cars. These aren’t central roads, so there aren’t a lot of cars.
About 1.2 km from the point where the trail met the road, there is a bridge over the Ayun Stream (10). This stream is also a tributary of the Jordan River and originates from two springs in southern Lebanon. We left the road and went down to the stream, where we saw a family playing around in the water. We found a trail that went along the stream and settled in a spot where there were no people. The water was refreshing after the long walk in the sun. We stayed there until we saw a crab walking around in the water. Then we decided to continue on our way.
The rest of the way was also along the road. It went left into the fields after about 500 meters (11), but soon enough we had to cross back to the road and pass to the other side. Then we made our way up to Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, the ending point of this segment.
Kfar Giladi was established in 1916 by members of Hashomer, one of the Jewish defense organizations that operated in the Land of Israel during the British mandate. It was one of the only Jewish settlements in this part of the Galilee. It was abandoned for ten months in 1920, after the battle that took place between Jews and Arabs in neighboring Tel Hai.
We stayed the night at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi. There is a “Trail Angel” that offers a place for hikers for 20 ILS per person. You need to contact +972-50-4746222 (Liora) after 4 PM. “Trail Angels” exist all along the Israel National Trail and are people who are willing to host hikers for free or for a small amount of money. If you want to sleep in luxury, you can always book a room at the Kfar Giladi Hotel.
To sum it up, the first segment of the Israel National Trail is a fun and beautiful one. It’s also very easy, so if you’re a beginner, it’s a good trail to start with. We hiked near the end of May, so the landscape was starting to turn a bit yellow, but I guess that if you hike in the area around February-April it would be much greener and more blossoming.
How much time does the trail take? About 6-8 hours, depending on your pace and the number of stops you make on the way.
It is about a 14 km trail. You can also hike it the other way around, from Kfar Giladi to Kibbutz Dan.
When is the best time to hike? February to April.
I wish you a fantastic hike in the beautiful Upper Galilee!
More hiking trails which might interest you:
Hiked the trail in May 2020.
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