The Israel National Trail, which is about 1,000 km long, is the most popular hiking trail in Israel. After my friends and I completed the first segment from Kibbutz Dan to Kfar Giladi, we continued to the second part of the trail. It takes you upwards, to the ridge of the Naftali Mountains, and offers enchanting viewpoints over the Hula Valley. The segment connects Kfar Giladi to Nabi Yusha, but we had to cut the trail at the entrance to Nahal Kedesh because of the awful heat and shortage of time. In this post, I’ll share my hiking experience from the segment we did.
The hike took us about 9 hours and is about 20 km long. It is of mid-level difficulty, as it is a long trail, with many descends, and many parts that are exposed to the sun. But the views from the top of the Naftali Mountains are worth it!
General instructions and safety notes
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 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. Also, when you do your needs, do not leave toilet paper behind.
· Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius), because many parts of the trail have no shade. We hiked when it was 28 degrees Celsius and it was unbearable in the afternoon.
· 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 very good.
· Before you begin the hike, make sure you have a good trail map. The trail is well-marked, but it’s always good to have a map. You can also use a navigation app such as Amud Anan which shows you the trail (in orange). With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly.
· 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.
How to get to the head of the trail?
If you are staying in Kfar Giladi, you need to make your way down to the Kfar Giladi cemetery. We went to the Roaring Lion Monument at the back of the cemetery and then descended the staircase that is opposite to it. We continued south, down the inner road of the kibbutz, until we saw road number 9977 in front of us. Then, we spotted an underground pedestrian tunnel, that crosses the road to the other side. This tunnel is marked with the orange-blue-white trail marker. If you aren’t staying at Kfar Giladi, you can find this underground tunnel on the southern side of Kibbutz Kfar Giladi.
The hike starts from Kibbutz Kfar Giladi (1). Kfar Giladi was established in 1916 in the middle of nowhere, close to the border with Lebanon. At that time, the French had a mandate over Lebanon. The people of Kfar Giladi believed that by settling there, they are forming the borders of the future Jewish state.
After a great night at Kfar Giladi, we woke up early and made our way to the Kfar Giladi cemetery, also known as HaShomer Cemetery. HaShomer was a Jewish defense organization, which operated during the British mandate. Some of its leaders established Kfar Giladi. Many of the defenders are buried here. At the back of the cemetery stands the famous Roaring Lion Monument, which bears the names of eight people who died during the Battle of Tel Hai in 1920. Tel Hai was another settlement, which was established to the south of Kfar Giladi.
At this point, a cute, white and dotted dog, joined us. She wanted to play with us, gave us small stones to throw her, and we immediately became friends. We started making our way to the underground pedestrian tunnel that crossed road 9977, and she followed us. We tried to tell her to stay, but she crossed the underpass with us (2).
From the underpass, the trail continues on a dirt road, which goes down a long set of stairs. The information boards which we saw along the way told us that this was the “Trail of the Wounded”. It was the original route, that linked Kfar Giladi to Tel Hai and was used to transfer the wounded and dead during the night of the Battle of Tel Hai. The trail continues for about 200 meters and then turns right (3). There’s a short but steep descend and then the trail turns right again and begins a mild climb through a beautiful forest. This is also the site of the Sculpture Garden, where the greatest Israeli sculptors and renowned sculptors from abroad installed different sculptures from 1980 to 1994.
After about 500 meters, we reached the entrance to the Naftali Mountains Forest Reserve (4) and continued up the path into the reserve. Very quickly, the trail leaves the asphalt path and goes into the forest. The trail is very narrow at this point, and the bushes and trees are all around you. When we got out of the dense part of the forest, we saw a small green bridge. Instead of going on the bridge, we went right, in the direction of the Israel National Trail mark. The trail slowly started ascending through the impressive Naftali Mountains Forest, and we could start seeing the beautiful view of the Hula Valley to our left side.
From this point on, the trail continues on a wide and quite easy trail through the forest. There are some places where there is a fork in the route, but you should just keep on the orange-blue-white trail and you’ll be fine. About one hour or 1.5 km from the start of the wide route in the forest, we reached a steep descend. At the end of the descend we saw three other hikers, standing in front of an orange cow.
“Hey,” they waved at us, “Do you know how to get rid of a cow?”
But before we could reply, the dog which had accompanied us starting running towards the cow and barking at it. Everyone became hysteric. The hikers asked us to take control of the dog, but she was too determined. She ran back and forth towards the cow, barking at it again and again, until it finally turned around and started running in the other direction, away from us.
I shrugged, “I guess that’s how you get rid of a cow,” and we continued on the trail, leaving the other hikers quite baffled behind us.
We continued for a short while more and then stopped for breakfast next to a cow barrier, which is supposed to prevent cows from crossing into certain areas. I am not sure how much this thing works.
The dog joined us for breakfast, although we had nothing for her. Then we started wondering if she’ll be accompanying us for the entire trail and noticed a phone number on her collar, together with her name – Tshika. We called the number and reached the Tshika’s owner, who claimed that Tshika was a very playful dog who usually goes on hikes in the area. Unfortunately, there was no way we could bring the dog back to Kfar Giladi, so we told the owner that we will take her with us until the end of our trail. She said she could come to pick her up at the end. We couldn’t give her food, but we did give her some water. Then, after seeing a hoard of wild boars crossing the trail behind us, we stood up and continued on our way.
The next interesting stop is the Ramim Cliff Lookout (5). From this point, you can go down the Geological Trail, which links to the Geological Park next to Qiryat Shemona. But we continued on the Israel National Trail. Of course, before continuing, we stopped for some photos of the landscape. Beneath us, we could see the beautiful view of Qiryat Shemona in the Hula Valley.
From the lookout, the trail continues up into the forest. At the end of the short climb, we turned left onto the red marked route, which is also the Israel National Trail. Near this point (6) operated an iron mine in the 1950s. You can still see one of the red mine wagons on a piece of track.
We walked and walked, viewing the beautiful Hula Valley to our left. A short while after we crossed under the cables of the Manara Cliff cable car, the trail started descending in a winding path. Mid-way down we spotted the small truck, painted in orange-blue-white, just like the Israel National Trail (7). My friends were quite excited about this truck and stopped here for a lot of photos on top of it. It stands in the compound of the Manara Cliff, where you can rest for a while in the shade. But you need to leave the trail a bit in order to get there. So, after taking some photographs, we retraced our tracks and continued down the trail.
At the end of the descend, we reached a crossroad of the red and green marked trails. We continued right, on the green marked trail, which overlaps the Israel National Trail (8). The trail turns to a white gravel route, with no trees around, and no shade at all. It starts climbing up again. We reached that point around 10 AM and it was SO hot! But at least the view was still outstanding. About 200 meters from the crossroad, we reached the Alef-Khet Lookout (9), another beautiful lookout over the Hula Valley. There’s also a “Trail Library” here, where hikers can borrow reading books on the way.
The trail quickly turns to an asphalt route and continues along the ridge of the mountains for about 3 km until it breaks down from the green-marked trail. This part of the trail has almost no shade at all, so try getting here before it gets too hot. There is a big tree, which offers some shade, right at the point where we turned left (10) to the Israel National Trail. From this point, the trail continues on a dirt route and makes its way next to beautiful plantations. About 1.5 km down this route, we reached the blue-marked trail and continued left with it (11).
The trail becomes rocky and continues through the forest until it reaches the red-marked trail (12). There, we turned right onto the red-marked trail. At some point, we reached a gate, which we had to open in order to continue on the trail. Make sure to close the gate after yourselves! The trail continues for about 5 km, with almost no shade, but with breathtaking views.
At around 2:30 PM we reached a gate, which led to the road number 886 behind it (13). At this point, we decided to leave the trail and make our way to the nearest bus station. This point is right next to the Nahal Kedesh Reserve. We had to get back home early for the upcoming holiday, which was Shavuot. The dog, Tshika, was also exhausted. We couldn’t give her much water, because we had to drink too, and she was panting hard. We waited for her owner to come and then concluded our two-days hike.
To sum it up, this trail was breathtaking all the way! When you start climbing up the Naftali Mountains, the route starts being very scenic and continues this way throughout the entire trail. We hiked near the end of May and it was already very hot, so I would recommend coming here around February-March, when weather is usually better and everything is blossoming in the area.
How much time does the trail take? About 8-10 hours, depending on your pace and the number of stops you make on the way.
It is about a 20 km trail. You can also hike it from the other direction.
When is the best time to hike? February to April or October to November, as long as it didn’t rain before you came.
I wish you a fantastic hike above the Hula Valley!
More hiking trails which might interest you:
Hiked the trail on May 2020.
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