Nahal Hameara: A Fun Trail in the Jerusalem Mountains

This weekend, I finally met up with my friends, whom I’ve hiked with on the Israel National Trail, and we went hiking together. The last time we hiked together was long ago, so we chose an easy trail that wouldn’t challenge us too much. We picked the trail of Nahal Hameara, which means “The Cave Wadi.” It’s a fairly easy trail in the Jerusalem Mountains, only about 40 minutes to a one-hour drive by bus from Jerusalem. If you want to explore the beautiful region of the Jerusalem Mountains, it’s a lovely trail that includes a bat cave, a natural slide, and an ancient fortress. 

Trail length: About 8 km. It’s a one-way trail that can be turned into a circular trail if required.

Trail duration: Around 4-5 hours, depending on your pace, fitness level, and the amount of time you spend at the slide.

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate. There are some places where you need to climb down some boulders, but if you hike a lot, it’s pretty easy.  

Best season: The bat cave is closed from November to March, so it is best to hike this trail in October, April, or May. We hiked in December without visiting the bat cave, and it was also nice.

Water along the way: There’s no drinking water along the way. Make sure to pack enough. You can fill water at the starting point.

View the full trail on a map here.

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Safety instructions and general notes

  • The hike is under your full responsibility, so please be careful. 
  • Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water per person, and wear a hat. You can pack some snacks for the way. Also, make sure to bring a garbage bag so you can take your trash with you.
  • Make sure to start the trail enough time before sunset so you will not get stuck in the dark. I’d recommend beginning the trail before 10 AM. 
  • DO NOT hike after rainfall! It could be very slippery. 
  • There’s no phone signal in many parts of the trail.
  • The trail starts on a red-marked trail, continues on a black-marked trail, and ends on a red-marked trail.

Where to stay near the trailhead?

As mentioned, the trailhead is only about 40 minutes to one hour by bus from Jerusalem, so you can stay in Jerusalem and easily get to the trail whenever you want. Here are some recommended places to stay in Jerusalem.

How to get to the head of the trail?

The trail starts at Bar Bahar near Bar Giyora. To get there from Jerusalem, go to the bus station “ICC Jerusalem/HaNassi HaShishi,” a 5-minute walk from the Central Station, and get on bus number 192. Get off at “Nes Harim Junction” (צומת נס הרים) and go on the trail behind the station to Barbahar. The bus is not very frequent, so I recommend checking on Moovit for the best route based on your departure point and time.

The hike in Nahal Hameara  

The maps and elevation chart are from Israel Hiking Map

From Barbahar to the Crusader-era fortress

We started our hike from Bar Bahar (1), a lovely restaurant and coffee shop with a fantastic view of the Jerusalem Mountains. One of my friends ordered a cup of coffee while the rest of us went to the restroom. Then, we walked toward the decorative wall to the west and carefully crossed the road. We continued on a gravel trail to the west, about 280 meters until we saw the Nes Harim Cemetery to our left (2). There’s a parking lot there, where you can park if you’re coming with a car.

From this point starts the red-marked trail. After about 150 meters, there’s a sign talking about the USA Independence Park, and the red-marked trail turns to the left (3). The trail turned to gravel again and gradually descended. After about 470 meters, we reached a trail junction, turned left, and ascended on a black-marked trail (4). The trail rises above the vineyards of Nes Harim and reaches a few beautiful caves that overlook the view. This is where we stopped for breakfast.

Then, we continued on the curving black-marked trail between the green vegetation, which at some point started a steep rise. Near the end of the climb, we turned left onto a red-marked trail, which took us up to Bayt’ Itab (5), an ancient fortress from the 12th century. The fortress belonged to a Crusader knight. Later, in the 19th century, an Arab village was built around the ruins, and the fortress was renovated. The village was abandoned in 1948 during the Independence War.

We climbed up the stairs of the fortress and enjoyed the beautiful view from the top. In the distance, we could see the city of Beit Shemesh. Then, we continued on the red-marked trail, which starts descending from this point.

This is where the actual hike starts
The vineyards and the caves above them
The fortress of Bayt 'Itab

From the fortress to “the Slide”  

A few steps from the fortress, we passed by a bunch of cactuses, which stand as evidence of the existence of an Arab village here in the past. Every time you see cactuses in Israel, it is most likely that those cactuses belonged to an Arab village because they were the ones who used to plant them.

The red-marked trail becomes a bit more difficult from this point, with more boulders on the way. In some places, you have to use your hands for support while you climb down the boulders. It passes through the forest and keeps descending.

About 3 kilometers from the ancient fortress, we reached one of the highlights of this trail – “the Slide.” (6) It’s a natural slide about 3 meters tall and 10 meters long. If you’re coming with children, this is definitely a great place to stop! We were all grown-ups but still enjoyed some time there, sliding down “the Slide.” There was also a piece of cardboard, which we used as a sled. It made the sliding smoother. I recommend bringing a bit of cardboard with you if you want to enjoy “the Slide” even more. You can keep your bags at the bottom of “the Slide,” climb up to the top, slide down, and climb up again until you’re tired of sliding.

The cactuses
Sliding down "the Slide"

Passing by the bat cave on our way back home

When we got tired of sliding, we continued down the trail and, after a few minutes, reached the second highlight of the trail – the Twins Cave, a cave full of bats. Unfortunately, the cave is closed from November to March because of the bats’ winter hibernation. If you enter during this time, it can kill them because they wake up and burn valuable energy stored for winter. So, of course, we did not enter the cave. But my friend, who had done this trail when the cave was open, said that it’s a large cave with a huge population of bats and it’s really worth a visit.

From there, it’s a short way to the end of the trail. About 1.3 kilometers from the cave, we reached the parking lot of the Nahal Dolev Twins Cave Nature Reserve (7). You can leave a car here if you’re coming in two cars and want to drive back from this point to the start of the trail, where you left your other car.

Because we didn’t come in a car, we continued on the dirt road for about 600 meters until we almost reached the main road. A bit before the main road, there’s a dirt road that goes to the right (8), toward the bus station next to Zanoah (9). From there, we caught bus number 619 to Jerusalem.

The cave was closed due to the bat hibernation

Circular options for this trail

If you prefer to come in a car and do a circular trail, there are two options:

  • A circular trail to the Crusader fortress and back – Follow the instructions until you reach the fortress. Then, instead of continuing west on the red-marked trail, retrace your steps on the red-marked trail and continue all the way back to the parking lot next to the cemetery. This trail is about 4 kilometers long.
  • A circular trail to “the Slide” and the Twins Cave – You can park your car at the Nahal Dolev Twins Cave Nature Reserve parking lot and walk on the red-marked trail to the Twins Cave and “the Slide” and back. So, it’s more of a back-and-forth trail. It’s about 3 kilometers long.

Travel insurance

No matter where you travel, it’s always a good idea to consider travel insurance. 

If you’re a tourist and plan to hike on nature trails while traveling in Israel, you might want to consider travel insurance, just to be on the safe side. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.

Disclaimer: I receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. I do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Conclusion

Nahal Hameara is a lovely trail in the Jerusalem Mountains, not far from Beit Shemesh. It’s perfect for families with kids because of its natural slide and bats’ cave. If you’re looking for a relaxed and fun trail near Jerusalem, this could be it.

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Yours,

Lior

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