An outing at Nahal Og

One of the most distinctive trails in Israel is Nahal Og, also known as Wadi Mukelik, which was named for the Og flower that flourishes in the dry waterbed.

May 23, 2019 08:21
An outing at Nahal Og

Nahal Og. (photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)

With temperatures ratcheting up, it’s hard to remember all those cold rainy days we experienced this past winter when flash floods prevented us from hiking in Israel’s many beautiful canyons in the northern Dead Sea area. Lots of Israeli families love spending the day hiking in these unique canyons, which are so close to home, but feel like they’re separated by light years from our day-to-day lives. 

One of the most distinctive trails in Israel is Nahal Og, also known as Wadi Mukelik, which was named for the Og flower that flourishes in the dry waterbed. The Nahal Og trail snakes through the canyon, through water holes, and involves climbing on ladders and of course gorgeous desert views of the Dead Sea. Just as we must check weather reports carefully in the winter so as not to get stuck in the canyon in the case of a flash flood, we must be just as careful during the summer months to avoid overexposure to the sun. The best way to hike in Nahal Og, therefore, is to head out extremely early in the morning. 
Nahal Og offers, among other things, a circular trail that starts on the eastern slope of Mount Scopus, and lies between two other dry riverbeds: Kadmon and Wadi Kelt. This is a great hike to do with families, especially since you need only one car. It does involve climbing up or down ladders and holding onto pegs, but it’s not very difficult at all and is a very popular trail among families. It’s not a super short hike, though, so you should expect to be pretty tired at the end of the day if you haven’t gone hiking lately. At any rate, Nahal Og is a favorite among kids. 
The hike commences in the large parking area next to Kibbutz Almog, which is easily accessible by car and also on public transportation. As soon as you step out of your car, you’re enveloped by an intense feeling of quiet and calm. While you walk through the narrow passageways of canyon that were formed by running water, you can imagine yourself being the water flowing through the canyon. 
Nahal Og (Credit: HADAR YAHAV)

TO HIKE the circular trail, follow the red trail markers, which you’ll find alongside the large garbage can in the parking area. At this point, you’ll need to decide which direction to take: Climbing up or down. If avoiding any steep ascents is important to you – and you don’t mind climbing down ladders – then you can start the hike by climbing down toward the stream. Alternatively, if you’re up for a small challenge, then I recommend doing the hike the other direction, which is a much more enjoyable way to hike, especially with small kids. Climbing up the ladders, in my opinion, is also much more fun. 
So, follow the red trail markers, which will slowly lead you down toward the riverbed. This descent is a bit steep, so you’ll want to make sure your kids don’t reach the bottom before you’ve barely begun. When you reach the bottom, turn right and follow the green trail markers.
Once you reach the relatively flat riverbed area, take a few minutes to look around and appreciate the natural landscape. You will surely feel small compared with the expansive and majestic canyon surrounding you. The canyon you will walk through is 1.5 kilometers long. Another reason to spend a few minutes at this juncture is to enjoy the relatively open space here. As you walk along the path, the space between the sides of the canyon will become much narrower until eventually the sides almost close in on each other. At the end of this beautiful, winding ravine you will finally reach the first ladder of the trail. But before you reach the ladder, about 10 to 15 minutes after you begin walking alongside the canyon, you’ll come upon a water hole. It’s not large, but when it’s full of water, it offers an incredibly refreshing break during your hike. If you’re short on time, though, you can just continue on toward the first ladder. 

Nahal Og (Credit: HADAR YAHAV)

This ladder, which descends about 10 meters, will take you down alongside the waterfall, which is full of gushing water after a rain. It is also the most popular spot in the entire hike, and oftentimes the climb up the ladder gets extremely bottlenecked. Only when you reach this point in the hike do you realize that there are loads of other people walking along Nahal Og at the same time as you. The best way to avoid the traffic jam is to start out really early in the morning. This way, the chance of getting stuck behind a child who has just now discovered that he is afraid of heights is much lower. 
But if you do happen to reach the ladder and come upon a mass of other hikers waiting their turn, be patient. Enjoy the natural surroundings. The next few ladders will be much quicker and involve fewer delays. After you pass the second ladder/waterfall, you might want to rest in the shade a bit and enjoy the quiet surroundings and gorgeous view. The third ladder is the shortest and therefore quickest to climb, and when you reach the top, you’ll be welcomed by an incredible open landscape, which is a nice treat after walking through the narrow canyon. 
At this point, continue walking along the trail until you reach a fork in the road. Follow the black trail markers, which will take you up a path at the end of which you will enjoy a wonderful view of the region. After you’ve finished appreciating the view, look for the blue trail markers, which will take you to the right and lead you back to the parking area. 

Type: The hike is appropriate for the whole family and involves climbing up or down ladders. 
Level: Medium to difficult.
Directions: Drive along Highway 1 toward the Dead Sea. Before you reach the entrance to Kibbutz Almog, turn right into the parking area. 

Translated by Hannah Hochner. 

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