Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Gesher Alma to Horvat Hamama

After completing the segment from Nabi Yusha to Gesher Alma, we were quite tired and broken. We were all girls, and it isn’t so easy to carry about 12 kilos along a 14-km trail. But we didn’t want to give up after a day, so we woke up early in the morning and continued to the next segment. This time, our destination was Horvat Hamama.

The segment from Gesher Alma to Horvat Hamama is about 17-km long. It takes you through the outstanding Dishon Wadi, brings you to a beautiful water spring, passes through the enchanting Bar’am Forest, and ends with a glimpse of Mount Meron. The hike is quite easy. The challenging part comes at the end, with a steep climb towards Horvat Hamama. For us, it took about 10 hours to complete.

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 at least 5 liters 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), as there are many places that are exposed to the sun.

· 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. The signal in the Dishon Wadi is a bit problematic.

· 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 Amud Anan which shows you the trail (in orange) or the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. We got lost a bit, because we weren’t paying attention to the map.

· The trail is marked with the Israel National Trail colors, orange-blue-white. Most of it is also merged with the red-marked trail.

· 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?

If you just want to hike this segment without hiking the previous one, you can get on bus number 34 from Kiryat Shemona and get off at the “Dishon Junction” bus station. From Kiryat Shemona, the ride takes about 30 minutes. From the junction, you will need to walk along road number 886 for about 30 minutes until you reach Gesher Alma. It is located south of Dishon.

The hike:

Israel National Trail map for the segment from Gesher Alma to Horvat Hamama
The trail map, taken from israelhiking.osm.org.il
Israel National Trail map for the segment from Gesher Alma to Horvat Hamama
Israel National Trail map for the segment from Gesher Alma to Horvat Hamama

We woke around 5:30 AM and walked up to road number 886. No cars were driving at this hour of the day, so we could cross the road quite safely (1). The trail continues from the other side of the road, on a path full of white riverbed stones. We walked with a head flashlight for a while, until we met a group of day hikers. They were two men and a lot of small children.

“Wow! Impressive that you got the kids up so early,” one of my friends told them.

“Yeah,” they smiled and added, “You don’t need a flashlight, you know. There’s enough light from the sky, and you can adapt your eyes to the darkness.”

So, we turned off our flashlight and continued in the darkness. The cliffs on both sides of the wadi were outstanding, especially in the light of twilight. Slowly-slowly the shadows left the stones and their colors were uncovered. The Dishon Wadi is the largest river in the Eastern Upper Galilee. Until 1948, it still had water flowing through it all year round. But since 1948, the river flows only during winter, after severe rainfall. There were supposed to be several water springs along the way, but we didn’t notice them. The most popular spring is called Ein Aviv and is supposed to be located about 3 km from road number 886. Maybe it is most visible in winter, when the water flow is stronger.

The Dishon Wadi on the Israel National Trail
The Dishon Wadi at twilight
Inside the Dishon Wadi in the Upper Galilee
Inside the Dishon Wadi, when the sun was up

We continued on the wide Jeep road for about 6 km until we reached another road, this time road number 899 (2). Just before the road, we found two weird spiral booths, a few plastic chairs, a wooden platform, and rifle bullets, which were still full. We guessed that there was some sort of fire range there. The whole scene reminded me of something I saw a few weeks back, in a documentary about a Hasidic Jewish branch called Breslov. In that documentary, they said that one of the things that Breslov people do is go out to the forest on their own, sit on a chair and connect to GOD. The plastic chairs, with all the trees around them, looked like perfect chairs for the Breslovs.

On the Israel National Trail from Gesher Alma to Horvat Hamama
One of the plastic chairs in the forest

We crossed road number 899 carefully and continued on the wide path, that crosses through Dishon Wadi. There were more and more trees, because we were also entering the borders of the Bar’am Forest. Beside trees, there were also a lot of cows that were freely roaming around.

About 2.2 km from the road, there’s a fork in the trail (3). The right turn leads to a challenging trail in Nahal Aviv, while the left turn continues on the Israel National Trail. We continued on the Israel National Trail and walked for about 1 km until we reached a point where you can accidentally turn left to the road (4). Of course, we accidentally took the turn to the road, but very quickly understood that the Israel National Trail wasn’t continuing from there. So, we went back to the trail and saw the mark straight ahead. It took us through the thicket of trees and bushes, over some huge stones, straight to Ein Aravot.

On the Israel National Trail, hiking through the forest
Hiking through the thicket

Ein Aravot is a large and beautiful spring, which isn’t so natural. It is fed by the waters of “Mekorot”, the national water company of Israel, that is trying to revive the Dishon stream. Just before we came, there was a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews bathing in the spring. According to Jewish belief, a water spring is the highest spiritual form of a mikveh. After they left, my friends got into the water, which reached a bit above their knees. We were alone for a little while, and then came a huge group of INT hikers. They were all in their mid-20s, boys and girls, who had joined together during the hike. We met them a lot during our trip, so stay tuned for more.

Ein Aravot on the Israel National Trail
The Ultra Orthodox man looking at Ein Aravot

We didn’t like all the noise, so we continued on our way through the tunnel, that passes below the road, which seems to be located a bit above Ein Aravot. From there, we continued on a wide dirt route, on a very easy trail, which is mostly exposed to the sun. There was a point where we saw a huge ascent ahead, that looked SO steep, and there were no trail marks in sight. We said: “It couldn’t be that we have to climb THIS.” So, we turned left on the more normal-looking trail and after a while saw a trail mark.

On the wide trail

Then, about 2.5 from Ein Aravot, we reached the entrance to the Bar’am Forest Reserve (5). We lied down to rest under the shade of the trees and then entered the forest. The trail turned narrower and there were huge stones once in a while, which we had to pass by. It also started to slowly ascend, and again, we started feeling the weight on our shoulders and thought about leaving the trail the moment we could. Well, not all of us. One of my friends looked at us astonished and said: “Are you really thinking about giving up after two days? You need time to adapt to the weight.”

The Bar'am Forest Reserve
The Bar’am Forest Reserve

We left the forest after about 900 meters and turned right onto a wide Jeep route (6), that was also exposed to the sun. After a while, we found a large tree on the way and rested beneath it for about two hours, because the heat was unbearable and we were tired. We made coffee and ate some bread with raw tahini. Then, we talked about why each one of us decided to hike the Israel National Trail. One said that she feels that the Israel National Trail is over-rated, because there are so many other beautiful trails in Israel, and the fact that you’ve hiked the Israel National Trail doesn’t mean you’ve seen the best of the country. One said she sees the trail as something Zionistic and that she wants to discover more of the country by hiking. One said that it’s a challenge, and she wants to see how much she can do. I also said that it’s a challenge, and that I’m always seeking new ways to challenge myself. And that beside that, I also want to explore more of Israel by hiking this trail.

The trail meets road number 89 about 1.8 km from the start of the Jeep route (7). Here, we had to carefully cross to the other side, where we saw a faded sign telling about the Israel National Trail. We continued on the trail for a while and saw a “Trail Library”, where people can leave books for hikers, and hikers can borrow books for the trail.

This is where we crossed on road number 89
Trail Library on the Israel National Trail
The Trail Library is that orange-blue-white box

Then, we continued through the forest on the trail, that was slowly ascending. At some point, the trail turns left and then becomes very steep (8). It was so steep, that I could barely raise my head to look upwards. The trail passes by the Mount Meron Booster, which increases the water pressure of “Mekorot”, and continues in a very steep way to a dirt road. We crossed the dirt road to the other side and continued on a milder ascend, which eventually led us to a beautiful viewpoint of Mount Meron’s summit.

Mount Meron on the Israel National Trail
Just before the full view of Mount Meron’s summit is revealed

From here, we continued downwards to the Horvat Hamama Campground, which is a huge campground with water faucets and places for bonfires (9). Next to the campground, there are supposed to be the ruins of Hamama, a settlement from the Byzantine period, but it was too dark for us to see.

We arrived on a weekend, so the place was full of people with cars. It took us some time to find an empty space for our sleeping bags. It was on a slope, underneath some pine cone trees. Soon after we’ve settled down, one of my friends said that her brother was coming to make us vegetarian Potjiekos. It was warm and delicious, and filled us with new energy for the following day.  

When we woke up the other day, we discovered that we had slipped down during the night and that we were surrounded by fallen pine cones. Luckily, they didn’t hit us. If you decide to camp here, make sure to camp away from the trees. Another close-by stay option is the Mount Meron Field School, which offers a place for tents at a small fee. For more information, check out their website – Mount Meron Field School.

Continue to the next segment – Climbing Mount Meron, from Horvat Homama to HaPitul Campground.

How much time does the trail take? About 10-11 hour, depending on your pace and fitness level.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, because of the length and the fact that it’s mostly exposed to the sun.

It is about 17 km long. You can also hike it from the other direction.

When is the best time to hike? We hiked in mid-October, but I think it would be much nicer to hike this tail in the spring, around March. Just make sure it didn’t rain before you start the hike, because then it would probably be very muddy.

I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!

If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can take bus number 367 from the Mount Meron Field School to Safed Central Station and continue from there, according to your final destination.

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:

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Dan to Kfar Giladi

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Kfar Giladi to Nahal Kedesh

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Nabi Yusha to Gesher Alma

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Hiked the trail on October 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

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