WATERFALL (Credit: HADAR YAHAV).
(photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Every weekend it’s the same thing. We need to decide if we’re going to spend the day lounging on the couch watching Netflix or if we’re going to pick ourselves up and go outside for a nature walk. Of course, the correct mode of action should be to gather the kids, hastily put together a picnic and go for a hike. Usually when we conjure images of northern Israel, we think of hiking under the hot sun. But in the winter, especially in years like this one in which there has been lots of rain, the streams of the Galilee and Golan Heights are overflowing with water and the waterfalls are gushing with greater force than ever.
So if your idea of getting out into nature does not include waiting for hours in a crowded line to enjoy a few minutes of playing in the snow at the Hermon site, then I have a few ideas of great ways to spend your weekend in the southern Golan Heights. One of the most popular hiking areas among Israelis is Nahal El Al, where you’ll come across the Black Waterfall and the White Waterfall, which make deafening noise as they crash down out of the basalt stone.
Nahal El Al is a perennial stream located within the Nahal El Al Nature Reserve, which spreads out over 500 acres adjacent to Moshav Eliad and Moshav Avnei Eitan. The stream essentially serves as a natural border between the chalky stone and black basalt rock areas. Because of the two different colored rocky areas, the two waterfalls have completely different colors. In addition, you’ll be happy to know that swimming is permissible in the pools that have formed below the waterfalls.
Before I begin describing the waterfalls or the trails leading to them, I’d like to first focus on the gorgeous surroundings you’ll pass through on your drive up to the Golan Heights. Once you reach the southern tip of the Kinneret and turn onto the winding Road 98, you’ll probably want to stop at a lookout spot along the way, so you can have time to really enjoy the views of the Golan Heights.
Once you’ve arrived at the starting point of the trail, you’ll need to decide which waterfall you want to hike to first, or if you want to walk to just one of them. If you’ve come with two cars, you can leave one in the Eliad parking area and the second one in Moshav Avnei Eitan. If you’ve come with just one car, you can park at Avnei Eitan and walk along the circular trail that passes by both waterfalls.
My preference is to begin the hike at Moshav Avnei Eitan since it’s close to the Black Waterfall and that way you don’t need to walk very long before getting to enjoy one of the waterfalls. But be aware that Avnei Eitan is a religious moshav, so the entrance gate is locked on Shabbat. In this case, you’ll need to park outside the moshav and walk in by foot to reach the beginning of the trail (it’s not far and this way you have the opportunity to take a look around the quiet moshav as you pass through).
Another way to reach the waterfall is by driving along a dirt road that bypasses Moshav Avnei Eitan. To get there, turn left about 100 meters before the entrance to the moshav. You will see a sign for the trail. When you reach the head of the trail, follow the red trail markers all the way down to the riverbed. Take extra caution during your descent if it has rained recently, since the trail can be slippery at times.
When you reach the river, cross over to the other side. If you’re wearing water shoes, you can walk right inside the shallow water. If you prefer not to get your shoes wet, there are stepping stones you can jump on to cross while trying not to get too wet. When you reach the other side, turn left and continue along the trail. From here on, the path is relatively flat and covered with lots of trees and shrubs. As you walk along, you might come upon cows grazing in nearby pastures and butterflies flitting around the trees. In general, this is a great time to enjoy the quiet as you walk along the beautiful countryside. After about 15 minutes, you’ll reach the Black Waterfall, which towers at eight meters high.
To reach the waterfall, follow the steep path down to the small pool of water, where you’ll find people swimming pretty much all year long regardless of the temperature outside. This is also a fantastic place to stop for a picnic, especially in the shade of the plane trees surrounding the pool. If your plan was to visit only the Black Waterfall, when you’ve finished relaxing here, you can retrace your footsteps back at the parking area.
If you’d like to continue on the trail to see the White Waterfall, continue walking along the north (right) side of the stream. While you’re walking along this two-kilometer scenic trail, you can stop for a rest or picnic at any of the little natural pools that have formed next to the river, but keep in mind that the longer it takes you to complete this section, the less time you’ll have to spend when you reach your final destination: the impressive White Waterfall, which towers at 14 meters high and crashes down noisily onto the pool.
When you’ve finished enjoying the view from up above, climb down to the pool below, which is very simple to reach: when you reach the fork in the road, take the path that descends downwards. After you’ve spent some time gazing up at the waterfall from down below, (and taking a dip in the cold water if you’re audacious enough), it’s time to start the moderate ascent back up along the trail with the red trail markers, which will take you back to your car. If you came with two cars and left one of them in Eliad, then this is the end of your hike. If you left your car in Avnei Eitan, then continue in a southerly direction towards the main road. After 200 meters, you’ll see a dirt path that will lead you back to the parking area. Level of difficulty:
Medium-hard. Best not to hike on this trail right after a rain.
From Kursi Intersection, drive up towards the Golan Heights and turn left at Afik Intersection onto Road 98. Make another left at the entrance to Moshav Avnei Eitan. Translated by Hannah Hochner.
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