After hiking the Israel National Trail, I wanted more. It opened my appetite. So, I went hiking on the Ramot Menashe Trail and then moved on to the next challenge – the Golan Trail. I hiked this trail in October 2022 with my small group of friends, and it was fantastic, even though it wasn’t the ideal season. In this post, I’ll share my experience from the Golan Trail and give you tips on how to make the most out of the hike.
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A few words about the Golan Trail
The Golan Trail is one of the most well-known hiking trails in Israel, spreading about 120 kilometers – about 75 miles – from Mount Hermon in the north to the Mevo Hama Forest in the south. It passes through beautiful landscapes and forests and offers gorgeous views of the Sea of Galilee. It also takes you to famous battlefields connected to the wars between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights in 1967 and 1973. So, you’ll not only pass by charming landscapes but also by old tanks, bunkers, and minefields. And, of course, it passes by some ancient and modern villages. The Golan Trail is a mix between beautiful nature, battle legacy sites, and history.
How long does it take to hike the Golan Trail?
The Golan Trail is divided into 13 short segments, each ranging from 6 to 12 km. But if you’re an experienced hiker and plan to hike the whole trail in sequence, you can easily do about two segments each day. It usually takes about 7 to 9 days, depending on your pace. We did it in a week at an easy-going pace.
How does the Golan Trail mark look?
The trail is marked by a green-blue-white mark, which appears on stones and signs along the way. The Golan Trail is extremely well-marked compared to other hiking trails in Israel. There are frequent signposts showing the direction and the distance from one point to another. We were able to hike the trail without using our maps at all.
Safety on the trail
The Golan Trail passes by many minefields. That’s why it’s crucial to stay on the trail and be more cautious. If you see a suspicious artifact next to the minefield fences, stay away from it and report it to the authorities. It could be a mine that drifted out of the fenced area.
Besides minefields, there are also military training areas, which you can see on the hiking map. They appear as reddish areas with diagonal lines. In some places, there is also a sign that indicates the entrance to the military training areas. You can freely walk there on weekends (Friday and Saturday), but if you plan to hike on weekdays, you need to coordinate your hike in those areas with the military HQ at (+972) 04-6977808.
There are also places where the trail crosses roads or walks alongside roads. So, be careful.
Here’s a beautiful video by Benedict Dopplinger that shows some of the highlights of the Golan Trail:
Need help planning your hike?
I offer consulting services for the Golan Trail. Check out my trip-planning service. If you just want to ask a few questions, you can contact me via email@example.com and I’ll be happy to try to help.
A few words about the physical side
The easiest way to hike the Golan Trail is from the north to the south. The first segments are quite easy, but it starts getting challenging more or less from Daliot Campsite, when the trail starts going up and down wadis. If you haven’t hiked a long trail before, you should get prepared. Remember you’re going to travel long distances each day with a heavy backpack on your back and sleep outdoors without showers. If it’s your first trek, here are some tips to make the hike more pleasant:
Carry as little as you can.
I’m going to talk about the packing list later, but the key is to carry as little as possible. Carry only what you will definitely need. Believe me, your back will be thanking you later. In general, you should not carry more than 20 percent of your body weight. So, if you weigh 80 kilograms, you should not carry more than 16 kilograms on your back. Remember that you will need at least 3 kilograms of water each day, and sometimes more on hotter days. You’ll also need to add food items and cooking equipment. So, take that into your calculations when packing the backpack.
Take long walks with your backpack a few days before the start of the trek.
To get used to the weight, I recommend packing all your equipment in your backpack and going on long walks with it in your nearby surroundings. This way, you’ll understand if you need to get rid of some more equipment and get used to the feeling of the backpack on your back. Inexperienced hikers usually pack many unnecessary items.
Listen to your body and take a rest when you need it.
Long hiking trails offer you a great opportunity to connect to your body. Listen to it, recognize when it is painful, understand its limits, and take rest when you need it. It’s possible that you will need multiple stops throughout the day, shorter segments, or more frequent day-offs.
Bring a good sleeping mat and sleeping bag.
It’s super important to get good sleep on the trail. If you plan to sleep outdoors, bring a good sleeping mat that will support your back and a sleeping bag that fits the forecasted temperature. If you want to stay warm in your sleeping bag, I recommend putting on light clothes before entering it. You can also try sleeping inside without clothes at all. I tried it when it was cold outside and it was hot in the sleeping bag. Find good sleeping bags on Amazon.
Bring a first aid kit.
It’s always good to take a first aid kit. You never know what will happen on the trail. Some people experience blisters in the first couple of days, so bring something for that. All kinds of bandages could also be helpful, and iodine. You can find first aid kits on Amazon. Try picking a lightweight one.
When should you start the hike?
The Golan Trail is ideal in springtime (February-May) when everything is green and blossoming. If you want to enjoy the water springs along the way, springtime is the best time to go. But the trail has a charm all year long. In the fall (October-November), the Golan becomes yellowish and looks like an African savanna. It’s also possible to hike in winter (December-January), but some parts of the trail may be flooded because of rainfall. Also, the route might be too muddy.
In summer (June-September), it’s less recommended to hike because many parts of the trail are exposed to the sun, and it could get VERY hot.
How to reach the beginning of the trail?
It’s a bit complicated reaching the start of the trail, no matter if you choose to start in the north or in the south, especially if you’re using public transportation.
Starting the trail from the north: In the north, the Golan Trail starts at the slopes of Mount Hermon, near the Hermon Site Lower Parking. There’s no bus that goes up there, so if you want to start from there, you’ll need to take a taxi or drive there. Many people stay at Majdal Shams and take a taxi from there. We didn’t want to use taxis, so we decided to start the trail a bit more to the south from Birkat Ram. Of course, it’s also possible to start from Majdal Shams. It’s possible to get to those places by bus.
Here’s the start point location on Google Maps:
Starting the trail from the south: In the south, the Golan Trail starts from the Mevo Hama Forest or, more specifically, from Ein Taufiq. Also here, there’s no bus stop near the start point. So, you will need to take a taxi or use your own car to get there. You can also start your hike a bit more to the north, from Mevo Hama, where there is a bus station. There’s also an option of starting from the community settlement of HaOn on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s much more accessible than places in the Golan. From there, you can hike on a green-marked trail up to the Golan Trail.
Here’s the start point location on Google Maps:
In any case, if you’re using public transportation, use the Moovit app or Google Maps for directions based on your departure point. If you’re coming from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, get ready for a very long ride that will require some bus changing on the way.
Accommodation on the Golan Trail
We mainly camped outdoors when we hiked the Golan Trail in October 2022. There were only two nights when we stayed in an indoor place. Here are some of the main accommodation options on the Golan Trail:
Camping: The Golan Trail is very organized and neat. It also has nice campsites. They have picnic tables, designated areas for camping, and sometimes even chemical restrooms. The only problem is that almost all of them don’t have drinking water, so you have to fill water before arriving at the campsite or the following day when you stumble upon a drinking faucet. Some campsites are close to settlements, like the Palsar 7 Campground and the Givat Yoav Campground, so you can get water from those settlements. The only campsite with a drinking fountain was the Ein Zivan Campground, which was also close to a supermarket.
Other than the water problem, the campgrounds were excellent and felt safe. We didn’t have any incidents. The ones in the northern part of the Golan were quite busy.
Remember that you are allowed to camp only in designated camping sites. Here is the list of designated FREE camping sites along the Golan Trail, from north to south:
- Palsar 7 Campground.
- Ein Zivan Campground.
- Ra’am Campground Alonei HaBashan.
- Daliot Campsite.
- Givat Yoav Forest Campsite.
- Amphi Golan Campsite.
There are also several paid camping sites inside some of the settlements along the way.
Trail Angels: It’s less developed than the Israel National Trail, but the Golan Trail also has a few Trail Angels who open their homes to hikers. You can check this list of Trail Angels to see if there is anyone who can host you. The list includes a mix of Trail Angels and low-budget accommodation options.
Indoor places: The trail passes by many settlements on the way, so you can find zimmers, hostels, or hotels to stay at.
What about food?
It’s essential to eat throughout every day of hiking. Since the trail passes near settlements along the way, getting supplies is usually easy. Just remember that some of the grocery shops might be closed on Shabbat. So, if you plan to hike on Friday and Saturday, I recommend packing enough food for those two days, so you won’t have to depend on any grocery store.
Which food should you carry with you? Bread usually lasts 2 to 3 days, and you can buy some nice spread to put on top of it, like peanut butter or tahini. Nuts and dried fruit are also great things to bring along. And of course, you will need rice, ptitim, bulgur, or red lentils for the evening. Remember to bring some field cooking equipment, including a gas canister, field stove, and portable cooking pot. The most important thing is to be creative.
Water on the Golan Trail
You will need at least 3 liters of water per day and more on hot days. You should also consider the water you’ll need for cooking at the end of the day and the water you’ll need for brushing your teeth.
As mentioned in the accommodation section, most campsites don’t have drinking water. So, you have to be calculated. You can stop to fill water at any settlement along the way, but many settlements aren’t directly on the trail and require a slight detour.
Here are some of the main points where you can fill water on the trail, from north to south:
- Majdal Shams (about 6 km from the start of the trail) – The trail passes through the village, so you can fill water there.
- Ein Zivan Campground (about 44 km from the start of the trail).
- Jeremy’s Rujum (about 73 km from the start of the trail).
- Near Daliot Campsite (about 82 km from the start of the trail).
- Near the henhouses of Givat Yoav (about 107 km from the start of the trail).
There are more places to fill water, but they are off the trail and will require a detour.
Packing for the Golan Trail
Packing for the hike is one of the most important things to do. Every extra kilogram can change your experience. Here’s a list of the items I think are most essential for hiking the Golan Trail:
- Backpack: You’ll need a backpack to store all your equipment. Most people choose a backpack of 60-80 liters, but you can also get along with 45 liters if you don’t plan to carry too much. I took Osprey’s Aura AG 65 (for women), which was very lightweight and comfortable. But the best thing about it was that it was easy to organize everything! It has excellent storage places. Still, I recommend going to a shop to feel how the backpack feels on your back.
- Hiking shoes: It’s essential to choose shoes that are comfortable and good for various terrains. Make sure to walk with them a bit before the hike to make them flexible. I’ve hiked the Golan Trail with the Scarpa ZG Lite GTX and really loved them, but it depends on your foot. What I liked about the Scarpa shoes was that they were water resistant, so I could walk through water with them. If you want, you can also bring sandals or flip-flops for walking in the water or for the evenings. It’s also essential to get good socks, reducing the chance of blisters.
- Sleeping bag: When planning the hike, check the average temperature for the season and choose your sleeping bag accordingly. It’s not fun sleeping when you’re cold. Find good sleeping bags on Amazon.
- Foldable foam mat: You can take any mattress, but I really recommend the foldable egg mattress made of foam. It folds like an accordion, weighs almost nothing, and is super comfortable. On the Golan Trail, the campsites have areas covered in concrete that are intended for sleeping, so you won’t be close to the ground. Make sure the mattress is thick enough, so you won’t feel you’re sleeping on concrete. Find foldable foam mats on Amazon.
- First aid kit: Very important for minor injuries! You might also want to pack an ointment for joint pain.
- Hygiene products: Pack whatever you think you can’t go without. You can pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush, and alcogel. We didn’t pack shampoo or soap because we didn’t plan to shower. You can bring wipes instead.
- Garbage bags: It’s important to clean after yourselves, and you can also use the garbage bags to store dirty clothes or other equipment.
What to wear?
I recommend minimizing the number of clothes you bring with you. You can definitely get along with two sets of outfits – one on you and one in the bag in case you get really dirty. Bring breathable long-sleeved shirts and long, breathable pants to protect your skin from the sun. It’s also good to bring a wide-brim hat and sunglasses. It would be best to pack microfleece clothes and a warm hat for the night, as it can get freezing. If you want to get into water sources, you can also bring a swimsuit, but you can also enter in your regular clothes.
Try to take the minimum amount of equipment you need for cooking outdoors. If you want to heat warm food at the end of the day, the most important thing is to have a small backpacking stove. We took Kovea’s spider stove, but if you’re traveling in a small group, you might prefer more lightweight options. The next thing you will need is a gas canister. It’s best to buy some before starting the trip. On the trail itself, it will be harder to find. We used about two gas canisters throughout the Golan Trail. We used it both for dinner in the evening and coffee in the morning.
For cooking, you will need a lightweight cooking pot. We took a collapsible cooking pot which was great because it didn’t take up a lot of space. It cooked everything perfectly. Just try not to burn the bottom too much! And make sure to choose the capacity you need in terms of liters. We took 2.8 liters and were ok, but if you’re a small or very big group, maybe you’ll need something else.
Of course, don’t forget to bring some reusable eating utensils. I took a spork which I still use at home. And as a plate, I took a collapsible silicone camping dish. I wanted a dish that wasn’t completely flat, so I could put anything in it without being afraid it would spill out.
More things to bring
- Phone with an internet connection: You don’t have to use it, but we used it to review the upcoming segment each evening. It’s also good to have one in case of emergencies. The emergency number is 100. Read about sim cards and phones in Israel here.
- Power bank: There aren’t many places where you can recharge your phone, so it’s best to have a good portable power bank. Try keeping your phone closed when you don’t need it to save the battery. Find power banks on Amazon.
- Flashlight: Instead of wasting your phone battery, bring a flashlight. It’s best to get the forehead flashlight. This way, you can cook in the dark without having to hold the flashlight for light. Find flashlights on Amazon.
- Walking poles: Not everybody uses them, but I think they are very useful when hiking. It really helps you with the weight. I recommend picking the ones with the cork heads because it’s less sweaty. Find hiking poles on Amazon.
- Tent: You don’t have to bring a tent, but if you like your privacy and feel safer with it, you can bring one. Just try finding a lightweight tent, preferably with protection from rain.
The Golan Trail segments
Here are the trail segments as I did them in October 2022. Of course, you can divide the trail differently and do it according to your pace:
#1 – From Birkat Ram to Palsar 7 Memorial (the trail starts a bit to the north, at the slopes of Mount Hermon, but we skipped a bit)
The Golan Trail is a fantastic, well-maintained trail that crosses the Golan Heights from the north to the south. It passes by beautiful landscapes, ancient sites, modern villages, and famous battlefields. And near the end, you get some excellent views of the Sea of Galilee. If you love hiking, this is definitely a trail you should try while in Israel! It’s not too long – only about 7 days – and is very rewarding.
If you need any advice or help in planning, you’re welcome to contact me via my Facebook page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me for tours on segments of the trail.
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