After a tough night at Rob Roy, we started the next segment of the Israel National Trail. This time, we planned to reach Kfar Kisch, which was about 20 km away.
The segment from the Jordan River to Kfar Kisch starts on a rather flat plain but very quickly begins to climb up the Yavne’el Plateau. Overall, we climbed about 500 meters. I’m sure there are some stunning views from the top, but we couldn’t see much because of the haze. At the end, there’s a long and gradual descend, and in the distance – the beautiful Mount Tabor. It was a hard day, that took us more than 12 hours to complete, but I was proud that we were able to do it in spite of the previous night, during which we barely slept.
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), as most of the segment is exposed to the sun. Also, after rainfall, this trail could be a bit 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.
· 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 the Israel Hiking Map. With GPS, you can also see where you are exactly. Though, remember that wherever you do see a trail mark – this trail mark is superior than what’s shown on your map.
· 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 just want to hike this segment without hiking the previous one, you will need to reach Rob Roy. There are frequent buses from Tiberias Central Bus Station to “Bet Yerah Regional School” bus station, which is the nearest to Rob Roy. From there, you’ll need to walk about 10 minutes to the head of the trail, which is located to the south of Rob Roy’s main entrance, next to the Jordan River. It’s best to use a navigation app like Moovit or Google Maps to find the best route for you.
So, as I’ve already mentioned, we started with a lack of sleeping hours. We woke up very early, as usual, and made our way out of Rob Roy‘s main entrance. I remembered that the previous day I saw a trail mark on the way to Rob Roy, which pointed to a specific direction, so I suggested we go back to the trail mark and begin from there. We walked to the road, where I saw the trail mark, and followed it. But very quickly we realized that it was taking us back into Rob Roy. We entered through the back gate, crossed the compound, and again exited through the front entrance.
“Where do we need to go?” we looked helplessly around us. But it was too dark to see anything. We started walking in some direction, but we couldn’t spot any trail marks. So, I told everyone to stop, turned on my Amud Anan map and the GPS in my phone, and started tracing my way to the trail. It turns out that the trail is a small path, that leaves to the south of the Rob Roy parking lot (1), and makes its way adjacent to the Jordan River. “It’s here!” I shouted out to them, and they joined me on the trail.
The Jordan River is the most famous river in Israel, and flows all the way to the Dead Sea. At its southern part, it separates between Israel and Jordan, and is connected to many Biblical stories. Because of the pitch-darkness, we couldn’t really see the Jordan River, but we knew that it was to our left side. Here and there, we could see dark figures of people, who have probably spent the night on the river banks. We continued along the Jordan River for about 1.2 km until we turned left onto a wide, gravel road (2).
The sun had already risen, but it was still quite pleasant. We continued on the gravel road for another kilometer. Several Jeeps passed by us, and again, we almost lost the trail, but were able to find our way back. Then, we saw a huge ascend and figured that we need to climb it, because… I don’t know why. So, we climbed the short but extremely steep ascend, which is intended for highly-skilled Jeep drivers, and reached the top of the mound (3). The view was nice, but there was no sight of a trail mark.
“Look,” Nitai called me and pointed below us, “Do you think that’s a trail mark?”
Yes, it turns out that we were supposed to bypass the mound and go around it.
There was a Jeep on the mound and next to it stood a man with a professional camera. Nitai went up to him and asked how can we connect to the Israel National Trail without climbing down the mound. “You can just continue straight on the mound and it will take you to the green-marked trail, which is part of the Israel National Trail,” the man replied and then added, “I hiked this part of the trail with my son a few weeks ago. You see that Pistacia tree at the top of the hill? You’ll need to climb all the way to that point, which is the middle of the trail. From there, it’s all the way down to the end of the segment.” From that moment on, we considered the lone Pistacia tree at the top of the hill as a marker.
We walked a few dozen meters and got back to the trail, which at this point overlaps a green-marked trail. To our right was a valley and to our left, the edge of the Yavne’el Plateau. On the way, we saw a sign that told us that we were hiking in the Yavne’el Stream Nature Reserve.
We continued for about 3 km until we reached a signpost and a left turn onto a black-marked trail (4). The sign pointing to the left said “Ye’ela Woods”.
We climbed over the cattle gate and continued into the woods. At this point, the trail starts mildly ascending. We hiked straight through the tall and yellow weeds, passed another cattle gate and then started walking along a small stream, that was flowing to our right. We crossed the stream and after a while, started a steeper climb. The landscape around was beautiful in my view, although it was mostly yellow. There were a lot of big and small rocks, that gave it an interesting touch. We descended a bit and then had to climb on huge rocks, to finally reach a “Farewell” sign, which marked the end of the Ye’ela Woods. It was just about 700 meters from the beginning of the black-marked trail to this point (5).
We rested a bit on a few large rocks and looked at what we’ve already done. Then, we continued, passed through some cattle gates and after a few dozen meters saw a bunch of trees and several cabins in the distance. “I think that’s Ein Sunny,” I told everyone, so we walked a short way towards the cabins. The other night I was going over the trail and saw that Ein Sunny was where we could fill our water bottles. For those of you who want to split the segment, it’s also a place where you can stay the night.
We entered Ein Sunny (6). The hour was still quite early, so it felt very dozy. “Hello,” we stepped up to the girl, that was standing behind the small kiosk near the entrance, “Where can we fill water?”
“The spring is over there,” she said and pointed somewhere.
We said “thanks” and started looking around for the spring, but it was no where in sight. “Sorry,” we came back to her, “Where did you say it is?”
But before she could answer, a tall man with curly brown hair came out of one of the buildings, and told us: “I’m sorry, it’s too early in the morning. She still hasn’t woken up,” and marked to follow him. “I’m Sunny, welcome to our place,” he said and pointed at a small pool of water inside the compound. “This is our water spring. The water comes directly from the Earth, so it’s the best you can get. Just fill it using the small cannel,” he explained and then left.
We climbed down to the water pool and took turns in filling our bottles with the small stream of water that came out of the ground, through the small cannel. It took us quite a long time. I personally couldn’t even do it, because my bottles were too big to fit in the water passage, so I had to fill in someone else’s bottle and then fill mine. When we completed the water-filling process, we went over to thank Sunny and exited through the back entrance, which led to the trail. On the way out, we spotted a girl with a bunny tied to a leash.
We continued climbing on a rocky path. On our right, there was a herd of cows, that were grazing the weeds in the area. We crossed below a pipeline and afterward, turned left onto a red-marked path (7), which was wide and easy-going. Now we could see the cows much more clearly, walking around in endless fields.
We walked about 250 meters on the red-marked path and then turned right onto a black-marked path (8), that led us up to another place that looked like Ein Sunny, but of course wasn’t Ein Sunny. Here, just before the trail started climbing the steep side of the mountain, there was a water tap. Next to it was a sign saying “Drinking water. Sea of Galilee water, filtered by a filter, slow sand, we enjoy drinking them. The water was not checked by the Ministry of Healthcare. The responsibility is on the drinker.” Too bad that we didn’t know about this water tap, because it seemed much easier to fill water here than at Ein Sunny’s spring.
We turned left and started climbing the steep side of the Yavne’el Plateau. It was still morning, but the sun was already up in the sky, the humidity was terrible, and the heat was rising fast. The trail, from its very beginning, is exposed to the sun. So, hiking up was quite challenging.
We got confused halfway up the trail and instead of continuing up, turned left. After several minutes we returned to the trail, continued straight and then turned a bit to the left. There was a wired fence, blocking the path. There are some weird obstacles on the trail now and then, like big pipes, locked gates, and so on, so we figured it was fine climbing over the wires. Also, right after the wired fence we saw a trail mark pointing to the right, so we knew that we were on the right track. About 900 meters from the water tap, the trail started becoming milder. We sat down under a rare piece of shade and pulled out our breakfast – tomatoes, cucumbers, pitas and tahini. But soon we realized that the pitas have started developing mold, so we stopped eating them and focused only on the vegetables.
From this point, we could clearly see the Pistacia tree in the distance, standing all alone at the top of a hill. It seemed so close, but still, it took us about 600 more meters to reach it.
On the way, a group of elder people passed by us and greeted us with “good morning.” We replied “good morning,” but didn’t believe that it was still morning. It felt like we were hiking for so many hours… It must already be afternoon! But when I looked down at my watch, it said 10 AM.
After a small ascend, we arrived at the Pistacia tree (9). No one was there, so we had the shade all for ourselves. The view was hazy. If it hadn’t been hazy, I’m sure it would have been stunning. I think you can even see the Sea of Galilee from this point.
We continued a short while more and stumbled upon a big sign (10), that told the story of Aaron David Gordon, a Zionist ideologue who lived in Degania, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The sign said that Aaron David Gordon used to explore the hills and mountains around the Sea of Galilee, and that one day, at the foot of this very mountain, he revived the Hebrew word, “chavaya”, which means “experience.” Hiking in this area is without a doubt an experience, so I can understand him.
We continued from this sign right, onto a trail that had only the Israel National Trail mark. A short while later, we reached a fork in the route and continued on the left trail. The man that we met at the beginning of the day was wrong. From the Pistacia tree there are still some ascends. Only after another 800 meters or so the trail becomes flat and slowly-slowly starts descending.
About 1.7 km from the sign (11), we saw two hikers in front of us, who were looking at their map, a bit clueless. It was weird, because at this point it seemed like there was no room for confusion. Nitai even went ahead of us and was starting to disappear in the horizon. “Hey,” I told them, “What’s up?”
“There’s supposed to be a turn here,” they replied.
We looked around and there was no trail mark and no visible alternative route in sight. But we decided to look more thoroughly, left the visible trail and climbed a tall pile of dirt that stood to the left of the trail. Then, we spotted the trail mark, hiding on a stone that has been flipped over. The hikers continued on their way, and we started shouting after Nitai, but he had already left our eyesight.
“Why does he always run ahead?” we grumbled, and one of us volunteered to go after him.
At the end, after long minutes of waiting, our friend came back without Nitai. But we did get a phone call from him. He said that he stumbled upon the two hikers, who told him to call us. “I’m on the trail ahead. It seems there are two possible ways to get to the same place,” he told us and added: “I’m waiting for you here.”
So, we continued on our way. In the distance, we got a glimpse of Mount Tabor for the first time. We walked on a black-marked trail, through agricultural orchards, for about 580 meters until we reached point where it meets a blue-marked trail (12). At this point we also found Nitai, sitting in the shade with another hiker which we’ve met many times before, Yair.
We turned right onto the blue-marked trail, which continued descending. In the distance, we could still see Mount Tabor, but it was too hazy to see it clearly. Mount Tabor is a beautifully round mountain, connected to Biblical stories and to Jesus. Traditionally, some Christians believe that Mount Tabor was the place of Jesus’ transfiguration. After about 1.7 km, we arrived at the perfect place for an afternoon nap – Ein Ulam (13).
Ein Ulam is a nice water spring, that fills an underground pool. If you’re tall enough, you can access the pool through the two shafts above it. If you aren’t, you can pull up the jerrycans that are tied to ropes outside, and splash some water on yourselves. Don’t attempt to enter if you don’t know how you’ll get out of there! We spent some time under the shade of the trees around the spring and waited for the heat to calm down a bit.
From the spring, we continued about 370 meters and then Yair told us to follow him. “There’s supposed to be a shortcut here, that can save you 3 kilometers,” he said and turned right instead of continuing on the Israel National Trail (14). He explained that the “Red Book”, which is very popular amongst INT hikers, says that there’s a shorter path, which will most probably be marked later on. The problem with shortcuts like this one is that the trail isn’t marked, so there’s more room for mistakes, especially if you’re not hiking with a GPS. We got off the trail at some point and thought of checking our direction only after we stumbled upon a whole stinking skeleton of a cow. Only then did we turn on our GPS and look for the right direction. We had to climb up quite a far way and then continued on the shortcut all the way to Ein Rekhesh. The shortcut, by the way, really did save us 3 km. It was only 2.8 km long.
Ein Rekhesh (15), another water spring, looked very nice, but we were afraid that our water will run out and that the darkness will come down on us, so we didn’t stop there. We continued about 630 meters on the unmarked trail, passed through an area full of cattle, and then turned right and got reunited with the Israel National Trail, which at this point overlaps a black-marked trail (16). The huge mound which you will probably notice is called Tell Rekhesh. It is believed to be the place of the Biblical town of Ankharat. Archeological findings suggest that people have settled here around 3,000 BCE, and of one of the most interesting findings is an ancient synagogue from the time of the Second Temple.
We continued about 300 meters on the black-marked trail and then continued straight on a green-marked trail (17). After about 1.3 km we reached a fork and continued left on the green-marked trail (18). There’s a small water crossing there, which had some water flowing over it at the time of our hike, but I’m not sure if water flows there all year round. From there, the trail continues about 450 on the green-marked trail and then turns right onto a red-marked trail. At this point (19), there’s a bigger water crossing. When we were there, it was a bit challenging, because the flow was so intensive that it seemed like we are crossing a river. Most of us tried to not get wet by jumping from one stone to another, but Paz decided to take off her shoes and walk through the water barefoot, which was probably easier.
The red-marked trail continues on a very easy and wide route about 1.2 km until it reaches the access road to Kfar Kisch (20). We had coordinated with a Trail Angel in advance, so we climbed up to Kfar Kisch (21) and found our way to the Trail Angel’s place. It was a large open shed, with lots of boxes, overlooking the view of Mount Tabor in the distance. There were even mattresses. Seemed magical.
We settled down in front of the view. I opened the map to show the following day’s segment to Nitai and Ayelet, but then I felt something sharp plunge into my elbow. “Oh, something got into me,” I started crying. Nitai looked at my elbow and said: “It’s a bee.” I’m terrified of bees, so… It was terrifying. “A bee?!” I cried out. He said: “Yes, let me take her away.” He pulled her out of my elbow and checked if the sting was still there. It turned out, that our host was a beekeeper, and that all the boxes around us were dry beehives. My worst nightmare.
At dinner, another group of hikers sat with us and told us their story. They are easy-going, don’t wake up early every morning, and don’t hike too many kilometers every day. They stop every now and then to volunteer along the trail, and are really enjoying it. It just shows that there are many ways to hike and experience the trail. After we finished chatting, one of them gave me his mosquito net, so I could feel safer sleeping in that mega-beehive. I was still a bit nervous, but as you will read in my next post – we slept fine, opposed to the previous night.
How much time does the trail take? About 12 hours, depending on your pace and fitness level.
Difficulty: Moderate to hard level of difficulty, because the trail is very long, it includes a major ascend, and there’s no shade along the way.
It is about 20-km long. You can also hike it from the other direction.
When is the best time to hike? We hiked in the end of October, but I think that this segment will be the most beautiful and comfortable during the spring, from February to May. Just make sure not to hike after rainfall.
I wish you a fantastic hike on the Israel National Trail!
If you want to leave the trail after this segment, you can catch bus number 42 from Kfar Kisch to Afula Central Bus Station. From Afula, there are many lines to all the major destinations in Israel.
Continue to the next segment – Hiking on the Israel National Trail: From Mashad to the Hermits’ Mill.
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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