Hike of the Month – Wadi Qelt

The best way to explore Wadi Qelt is by hiking in and above the deep canyon.

Wadi Qelt (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wadi Qelt
(photo credit: Courtesy)
About half an hour’s drive from the busy and noisy center of Jerusalem hides Wadi Qelt. There you’ll find serene desert silence, disturbed only by the sound of water rushing through a gorge.
Wadi Qelt is a stream that runs from the northwestern slopes of the Judaean Desert just outside Jerusalem and down to the city of Jericho. It’s one of the biggest and only sources of running water in the Judean Desert.
The area has a long human history.
Ruins of the ancient aqueducts from different periods in history can be spotted along the Wadi. The place has attracted monks since the early days of Christianity. The Monastery of Faran (also known as the Chariton Monastery), located along the upper section of the canyon, was the first Christian monastery to be built in the Judean Desert around 330 CE (Access is via Ein Prat Nature Reserve). The Monastery of St. George of Choziba, located within the lower section of the canyon, is a sixth-century impressive complex (Access is via a long narrow road that starts near the village Mizpe Yericho). Both monasteries are built hanging on the cliffs of the canyon, creating an amazing sight.
Several springs feed the stream all year round:
Ein Prat is the biggest spring of Wadi Qelt. The flow of the spring is constant, and the influence of the seasons is minimal. The daily flow rate is about 1,500 cubic meters per day on average.  (A unique quantity for this dry desert area!)
As of 1927, Ein Prat supplied drinking water to the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The use of spring water was halted after the connection of East Jerusalem to the water supply of West Jerusalem. The original “pump house”, is today the office building of the National Park Authority and is used as a tourist center.  The Spring can be accessed with a very short walk from the entrance to the Ein Prat Nature Reserve. (Entrance fees: Adult 29 NIS / Child 15 NIS). There are several small pools along the stream most of them still in their natural state. A beautiful picnic area.
Ein Maboa is a unique natural phenomenon. the spring's pool empties completely and refills again throughout the day. The cycle occurs every few hours or every few days depending on the water flow in the spring. Access is with a very short walk from the village Alon and Entrance is free. The spring water flow into a square stone pool and the surroundings are regulated with sitting areas, fences, etc… losing the feeling of a natural spot. It is a very popular picnic spot that sometimes can get very crowded.
Ein Qelt is the main spring at the lower section of the Wadi. The water flows down a nice waterfall into a beautiful natural pool. A fantastic spot. Access is via a dirt road that starts near the village Mizpe Yericho. From the end of the road it is a walk of about 20 minutes to the spring. (Free entrance)
However, the best way to explore Wadi Qelt is by hiking in and above the deep canyon. Getting away from the crowds and enjoying true desert atmosphere. Several hiking trails run though the gorge and around it providing many options ranging from five to twenty kilometers.
Our hike will take you through the upper section of the stream, inside the deep gorge along beautiful pools and waterfalls. The way back will be high on the ridge offering greats views down to the canyon.
Starting point: Ein Prat natural reserve (GPS 31.831391, 35.306765)
Admission: Adult 29 NIS / Child 15 NIS.
Distance: 9 Km. (Short version:  5 Km)
Climb: 200 m.
Difficulty: Medium.
Go to the "Israel By Foot" Website for a full and detailed description of the Wadi Qelt Hike.
Start by walking upstream along the Blue marked trail to visit Ein Prat and the Faran monastery. Return to the starting point and continue downstream along the Red markers until reaching a junction with a Blue marked trail. Continue along the stream on the Blue trail. This is the most exciting part of the route. The canyon becomes deeper with many small waterfalls and pools.
(For the short version walk as long as you feel like along the canyon and retrace your steps.)
From time to time you should notice ruins of ancient aqueducts that carried the water from Ein Prat to Jericho in ancient times. When the canyon opens up, you will reach a junction with a Red marked trail. Turn left, cross the stream and follow the Red markers climbing the north cliffs of the canyon. Follow it all the way back to the starting point with fantastic Birds-Eye views over the Canyon you just walked.
Hikes courtesy of Israel by Foot