What are the best water hikes in Israel?

Below, you will find a few suggestions for the best water hikes all over the country - something perfect for a hot summer day.

 YEHUDIYA Nature Reserve. (photo credit: Sarit Palachi/SPNI)
YEHUDIYA Nature Reserve.
(photo credit: Sarit Palachi/SPNI)

Who doesn’t love taking a cool dip on a hot summer day? Kids, as well as kids at heart, love frolicking in natural pools after hiking along nature trails, especially when August brought with it such intense humidity. Temperatures will remain high in September, making this a great time to venture out on hikes that are combined with time in natural pools. Below, you will find a few suggestions for the best water hikes all over the country. 

1. Hatzbani River (aka Nahal Snir)

The North is known for its numerous streams, natural springs and even a few waterfalls, as well as fun hiking trails and beautiful views along the way. So, if you’re looking for a great water hike that’s appropriate for the young’uns, as well as the not so young, the Hatzbani River, which is also called Nahal Snir, is one of my favorites. Located in the Galilee, just north of Kibbutz Hagoshrim, the Hatzbani is the major tributary of the Jordan River, and the Snir Stream Nature Reserve is one of the most magnificent areas in the country. 

When you reach the parking area, follow the red trail markers that lead to the wading pool, which is just a short walk away. This is a great place to hang out if you’re not really interested in hiking, and so you’ll almost always find lots of families with little kids there. If you like walking through the water, you can follow the trail, which takes about 30 minutes to complete. Just follow the signs for Nahal Snir, which will take you down the stairs toward the stream. The trail is partly in the water and partly on the stream bank, so wear shoes that are good for walking in water. 

This trail does not have much shade cover, so I strongly recommend wearing a hat. 

Location: Snir Stream Nature Reserve (Hatzbani).

2. Park Hama’ayanot

Located at the foot of Mount Gilboa, Park Hama’ayanot is home to many cool springs that remain the same temperature all year round and are surrounded by gorgeous greenery and contain a variety of habitats. One of the most highly visited nature sites in Israel, it is a terrific place to visit no matter what the season. Nahal Hakibbutzim runs through the nature park, and there are also three natural springs: Ein Moda, Ein Shokek and Ein Migdal. In addition to the trails that lead to the springs, where there are pools full of cool, refreshing water, there is also a trail that leads between the springs where, for part of the way, you need to walk in the water. This is one of the most fun areas to hike in the Beit She’an Valley in the summertime. 

The trail from Ein Shokek to the Mill Pool is 300 meters. This part of the trail was restored in memory of Capt. Tzvika Kaplan, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge. The Mill Pool area has lots of shaded areas, and there are a few picnic tables, too. In short, this is a fantastic place to relax and spend time with friends and family. 

The water trail is appropriate for all ages, but be sure to keep an eye on the little ones, since the flow of the water in the river picks up speed in a few locations, and the rocks are quite slippery. 

Location: Park Hama’ayanot.

3. Yehudiya and Zavitan rivers

The Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful areas in northern Israel. There are two main hiking trails that pass through the area: One leads to Nahal Yehudiya and the other to Nahal Zavitan. Yehudiya is one of the most famous and most beautiful rivers in the Golan Heights. Moreover, it has large pools that are perfect to cool off in. 

There are a number of ways you can walk along this trail. If you like walking in water, I recommend choosing the longest trail, which follows a circular path that takes about three hours to complete. On this hike, you pass along a cliff and then descend toward the river. You continue walking in the water for a few minutes, pass a few tiny pools and then finally reach the Yehudiya waterfall. 

The path begins at the nature reserve information station, where hikers can ask questions about trail lengths and any safety concerns. Note that this is a challenging hike, which includes sections where you need to walk inside the riverbed. 

Location: Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve parking area.

4. Tel Dan Nature Reserve

The Dan River is one of the largest tributaries that feeds into the Jordan River. It is also considered one of the most consistently full rivers in the region. Its temperature remains cool throughout the year, as the source is the snow melting from Mount Hermon. The water seeps into the ground and then comes out from the springs at the foot of the mountain. 

Location: Tel Dan Nature Reserve.

5. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Although a large number of Israel’s best water hikes are located in the North, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is an incredibly unique oasis in the Dead Sea area. The water from this spring flows into the sea. The spring is  mentioned in the “Song of Songs”: “A cluster of henna-flowers is my beloved to me, in the vineyards of Ein-Gedi” (1:14). 

There are two perennial streams that flow through the nature reserve: Nahal David and Nahal Arugot, as well as four springs: Ein David, Ein Arugot, Ma’ayan Shulamit and Ma’ayan Ein Gedi. 

One of the hiking trails that leads to Nahal Arugot has a section that includes walking in the water. This six-kilometer linear trail is a relatively easy trail that begins at the Nahal Arugot parking area. The best part of this hike is the hidden waterfall that you come upon all of a sudden; it’s a great place to stop and enjoy splashing around in the water. It really feels like an oasis in the middle of the desert. 

Location: Ein Gedi Nature Reserve – Nahal Arugot.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.