Four months have passed since my last hike on the Israel National Trail. Last time, I completed the second segment from Kfar Giladi to Nahal Kedesh. It was summer back then, so it was too hot to continue. This time, my friends and I decided to start hiking from mid-October, which was quite ideal. We started from the third segment and aimed to reach Jerusalem. It took us about one month. In this post, I’ll share our experiences from the third segment of the Israel National Trail, from Nabi Yusha to Gesher Alma.
What I learned from this month on the trail is that the experience changes from one person to the other. Some people run the trail, and some people take it easy. We were in the middle. That’s why you might see different segments in different places on the web or in books. You decide how to divide the trail. The segment from Nabi Yusha to Gesher Alma is about 14 km long, offers some beautiful views over the Hula Valley, passes by impressive agricultural fields, and takes you down to the Dishon Wadi.
It took us about 11 hours to complete and was rather tough, but maybe because it was our first day with heavy backpacks on our backs we felt it was harder than it really was. It is a mid to hard level trail, with two major ascends and one very steep descent into the Dishon Wadi.
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, including toilet papers.
- Don’t go on the hike when it is too hot (over 30 degrees Celsius). Also, don’t go after rain, because the steep descent to Dishon Wadi could be 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. When hiking in the Dishon Wadi, there was no signal.
- 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 lost the trail about three times and had to go back.
- The trail is marked by 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?
We arrived at the head of the trail a day before the hike. From Jerusalem, we took three buses, and it took us about 3.5 hours to reach the place. You can use Google Maps or Moovit to find the best route for you. The starting point is called “Yesha Junction” (in Hebrew: צומת ישע). In general, you’ll need to reach Kiryat Shemona and from there, take bus number 34 to Yesha Junction. The trail starts right next to the junction. If you stand on the northern side of the road, you’ll see a bus station on the other side of the road. The trail begins to the left of the station.
We started our day just before sunrise, from the campground of HaElot Parking Lot (1). We arrived at the campground a day before, so that we would be able to start hiking early. The campground is about one kilometer from the start of the trail, right next to the road, and has a water faucet and places for bonfires. There are no restrooms. It’s also full of ancient Pistacia trees, which makes it a very beautiful place for camping. If you want to camp closer to the trail, there should be a camping area below Metzudat Koach, the Yesha Fortress, near the junction.
We continued eastward, along road number 899, to the start of the trail. To the north, we could spot the building of Metzudat Koach, also known as Yesha Fortress. The British wanted to defend the northern borders of Palestine (the Land of Israel) during the Arab revolt of 1936-39, so they built a number of police forts. One of them is Metzudat Koach, which was built in 1937. The fort was conquered by the Israeli forces in the 1948 Independence War and today, it is used by the Israel Border Police.
We reached the junction, crossed the road eastward and continued beyond the bus station. After a few steps, the trail begins to the right, and we started walking on a dirt path (2). From here, you can get a first glimpse of the Hula Valley. We got to see it with the sunrise over the Golan Heights.
We continued down the path, that started making its way southward, and within a few steps reached the grand shrine complex of Nabi Yusha. Nabi Yusha was a small Palestinian village, that was depopulated during the 1948 Independence War. The place was believed to be the burial grounds of the prophet Yusha, Nabi Yusha. Later, there were some who recognized the place as the burial place of Joshua from the Hebrew Bible. The abandoned shrine that we see today was established in the 18th century and is still quite impressive, with its huge stones and dome. We took a short detour into the complex and peeked into the different rooms. One of them looked like a mosque, with a mihrab and Arabic inscriptions on its walls.
From the shrine complex, we continued on the path, which goes through the forest. To the left, we could see the beautiful views of the Hula Valley. 800 meters afterwards, we reached a cattle gate, that led us to a wonderful viewpoint over Agamon Hula, the Hula lake (3). There was a bit of morning fog, so we couldn’t see it very well, but I’m sure that on clear days it’s an amazing sight.
From there, we continued on the dirt path for about 1.5 km until we reached a small ascend of about 40 meters. At the end of that, we reached a dirt road and merged with a green-marked trail (4).
We continued eastward on the road until we spotted a nice tree close by and decided to stop underneath it for breakfast. It turned out that no one wanted the chocolate spread that I was carrying, so we stopped someone who was day hiking on the trail and asked him if he wants to take our chocolate spread for free. It was just way too heavy – 500 grams!
After breakfast, we started hiking towards Keren Naftali, the mountain in the distance. On the way, we passed by the Keren Naftali Vineyard, that belongs to the Golan Heights Winery, and also got to see an onion field. The mountain of Keren Naftali rises to a height of 510 meters above sea level, but we just had to ascend about 70 meters, which wasn’t too bad. At the top of the mountain (5), there’s a beautiful viewpoint over the Hula Valley and an archeological site from the Roman period. But what interested us were the three metal poles, that joined together to create a triangular shape, with an iron triangular at the top. If you’ll also wonder what is it, then I’ll tell you – It’s called triangulation point 510. There are many triangulation points throughout the country, which were established here by the British in order to perform topographical measurements. Keren Naftali is the highest point in the area.
We started climbing down the mountain on a moderate-level trail and reached a place with lots of cows. We hiked past them and started walking in a barren area, with almost no trees or bushes. From the bottom of the mountain, we continued for about half a kilometer until we spotted some packing factory in the distance (6). After a while we also found a big tree and rested underneath its shade. According to several resources, there’s supposed to be a water faucet at the western side of the factory, but we didn’t check it.
When we got close to the factory, we couldn’t find the trail mark and must not have looked closely at the map, because we missed the trail and got off it for a short while. We were able to get back on it after using GPS. The dirt path continued with almost no shade and it was quite hot, so we were losing water very quickly. About 500 meters after the factory, we reached a fence and a water pipe, which we had to cross by jumping over it (7). Then, the path continues for a bit and turns right onto a kind of jeep route.
We walked on the dirt route for about 4 km with almost no shade and a lot of agricultural fields until we reached a kind of cattle pen (8). Here, we had to jump over another fence and continued along the dirt route. And again, we didn’t pay enough attention to the trail marks and got off the trail. The trail takes a right turn from the dirt route about 400 meters after the cattle pen, so make sure not to miss it. There are a cattle gate and a big green sign there, right next to a water pipe (9).
From that point, the trail gradually rises until it reaches the point where it descents down to the Dishon Wadi (10). The 100-meter descent is super steep and can really hurt the knees. Lucky that I had my walking poles with me.
When we reached the bottom, we turned right and merged with the red-marked trail. It makes its way through the Dishon Wadi, with beautiful cliffs on both sides. lots of shade, and cows. If we weren’t short on water, we might have enjoyed this part of the trail even more.
We continued for about 2.5 km on a wide and stoney jeep route through the Dishon Wadi until we reached the Ein Aviv water faucet (11) and joyfully filled our water bottles and washed our faces. From there, it was a short 800 meters walk to the campground near Alma Bridge (in Hebrew, “Gesher Alma”) (12).
The Gesher Alma Campground is a flat and barren area, located right next to road number 886. It has not facilities at all. When we camped there, we could hear the noise of cars from the road, but there weren’t too many. I personally heard the howling jackals much more. The lights from the road may also be distracting. If you prefer a cozier place to sleep, you might want to try to find a Trail Angel in Dishon.
The next day, we continued to Horvat Hamama.
To sum it up, the trail from Nabi Yusha to Gesher Alma is quite long and challenging at times. The shrine at the beginning is very impressive and the views along the way are also nice. But there’s barely any shade, so if you’re hiking in a hot season, make sure to bring enough water with you.
Continue to the next segment – From Gesher Alma to Horvat Homama.
How much time does the trail take? About 10-11 hour, depending on your pace and fitness level.
Difficulty: Moderate to hard.
It is about 14 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.
I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!
If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can hike about 2 km along the road to Dishon and take bus number 34 from Dishon Junction to Koach Junction. There, you’ll find many buses to various destinations.
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 October 2020.
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