Israel has two main seasons: hiking season and stay-at-home season. The hiking season, which runs from May through September, is very hot and dry. but there is a way to survive the summer and still venture outside. Despite years of drought, there’s no shortage of great water hikes in Israel. Here are 10 favorites:
Also known as “Nahal Dragot” in Hebrew, The Darga is located in the northern part of the Dead Sea. This tiyul (hike) is for experienced trekkers only, requiring rope in several locations to descend sheer cliffs sometimes 50 meters in height. The payoff is the many pools into which you either slide or jump.
Wadi Kelt is one of the most popular hiking spots in Israel, drawing some 60,000 visitors a year. In this hike you can find a series of large pools clumped together. Some of the pools are deep enough for swimming.
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve boasts two waterfalls. easy access to the better known of the two is via Nahal David. The terrain is trickier but the waterfall is just as nice, and you can go in. for both routes, you can also hike above the waterfalls and look down for spectacular views.
This water hike outside of beit She’an, at the northern tip of the Jordan Valley, is perfect for families – the water doesn’t get higher than an adult’s chest. Plus you’ll be in the water the entire time. Kids love the water pipes that serve as slides. At the end of the hike is a large concrete-walled swimming pool that was built for officers during the british Mandate.
Intrepid Israelis seeking a challenge often embark on a three-day “Sea to Sea” hike from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. but if you have only a few hours, head to what’s probably the prettiest section of the trip, Nahal Amud, which is located a few minutes from the Kabbalistic City of Safed (Tzfat). The trail runs along the Amud Stream where you can take a dip at various spots.
In what’s known as “upper” Nahal Yehudia, there are two cliffs to climb down using rungs and ladders drilled into the side of the rock. There are several large pools, but the highlight of the trek is the 29-foot high Yehudia falls.
The Zaki (“clear water” in Arabic) involves hiking in water together with swimming in some very deep lagoons (some as deep as 82 feet, others wading level). The Zaki is one of five streams in the beit Tzaida Valley, just north of the Sea of Galilee. The trail ends in a nature reserve that serves as spawning areas.
This water hike starts just outside the town of Katzrin. The first pools are about a mile in; after another mile, you’ll come to some deeper pools surrounded by perfectly formed six-sided and five-sided basalt columns. This hike ends at the 92-foot-high Zavitan Waterfall.
Slightly further north of Katzrin is the Jilabun Stream, which is marked by some impressive vertical rock walls, pools and waterfalls. The way into the canyon passes through Kfar Devora (where a Talmudic-era lintel was found). Hike through the streambed for about a mile until you reach the 134-foot Jilabun Waterfall. At the end of the hike is an “officer’s pool” (a concrete swimming pool like the one at Nahal HaKibbutzim) that was used by the Syrians until 1967.
Nahal Snir is unique for two reasons: part of the trail is wheelchair accessible, and it runs right through Dag al HaDan, a kosher fish restaurant with tables outside under the trees, set between the rivulets of the stream. There are multiple options for hiking the Snir.
Natalie Nahome is the Israeli Shlicha (emissary) to the Jewish Community of Portland.