The longest marked trail in Israel is made up of 48 segments spanning over 1,000 km; You can hike the desert, trek the mountains, and challenge your feet with water-routes, but you definitely shouldn’t skip the experience of Israel National Trail
For a small country, Israel has a surprising number of walking trails stretching from north to south. You can hike the desert, trek the mountains, and challenge your feet with water-routes. And if you want to do it all and see the country from top to bottom, there’s only one way to do it right: The Israel National Trail.
The longest marked trail in Israel is made up of 48 (though some say 56) segments spanning over 1,000 km – which is quite impressive, considering that Israel is only about half of that from top to bottom. Pack up and start following those orange-blue-white markings.
A crash course in geography
Israel has been blessed with a variety of landscapes, each a unique ecosystem of plants, animals, geology and people. Generally speaking, the northern region is mountainous, lush-green area criss-crossed with streams (and one river); central Israel is mostly a plateau, with the coastline as its primary feature; and the south is a primal desert wonderland, culminating in Eilat to the shores of the Red Sea.
This rich tapestry means that trails come at varying degrees of difficulty that cater to everyone from complete beginners to veteran hikers. But even if you belong to the latter group, we recommend starting up north and making your way down south. The southern sections are much more difficult than their northern and central counterparts, and require more preparation.
Most people hike the trail in sections, in one to three day increments. Braver souls set out on a continuous adventure that can take up to three months, depending on your pace and stamina. Either way, you have to be fully prepared with the proper gear, food, water and most importantly – a map.
Your backpack is your greatest asset. It holds everything you’ll need on your trip, so pack smart. A 30-liter backpack is sufficient for a one or two day course, but if you’re going for a longer trip, you’ll need a pack that can hold at least 60-liters.
The right shoes will make all the difference between pain and pleasure. You’re going to be walking, a lot, in different terrains and varying weather conditions, so pick shoes that are both sturdy and comfortable. They need to have a good grip on your ankle, and as light as possible. Water resistant shoes are a huge plus. If you’re planning on walking through streams and other watery sections, consider taking a pair of hiking sandals with you.
Your clothes should be as lightweight as possible. Wicking fabrics are your best option – they dry quickly and help keep you cool. Although dorky, zip-off pants (combination pants/shorts) are a great space saver. And don’t forget your hat!
You’re also going to want to carry a sleeping bag and possibly a tent. Keep in mind that sleeping is only permitted in designated areas. Sleeping anywhere outside a designated camping area is illegal, not to mention dangerous.
And for the grand finale – water, and plenty of it. Camelbacks are a great way to easily carry large quantities of water on you, and are definitely more convenient than bottles. Various water filling stations are located throughout the trail. Use them! Once you get to the southern part of the trail, these become fewer and far between. You will need to plan ahead and prepare water caches – burying water at strategic points along your planned path, to be dug up upon arrival. It’s a tough job, but a necessary one. You can also use a paid water caching service, or rely on the help of Trail Angels: these men and women voluntarily bury water reserves, as well as offer accommodations and emergency assistance. The angels are listed here, and it’s best to know where to find them before you set out.
Hitting the trail
The trail is best traversed from north to south for two main reasons. The first, mentioned earlier, is building up stamina: you need to get used to all that walking, and the northern sections of the trail (from the Upper Galilee to the Carmel Mountains) are easier to manage than the desert terrain in the south, and water is more abundant there. The second reason is a matter of timing: this is, after all, Israel we are talking about. The last thing you want to do is hike in summer. Ideally, you would start up north, sometime in September, so you will reach the flood-prone desert before the rainy season.
Are you pumped and ready to go? The trail awaits