Israel in the fall: Must-see autumn nature hikes

Below, you’ll find some great options for outings this fall, which are a wonderful way to explore our glorious country.

 EIN HEMED National Park. (photo credit: YANIV COHEN/NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY)
EIN HEMED National Park.
(photo credit: YANIV COHEN/NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY)

If you are hoping to get out into nature and enjoy the change of scenery as we move into autumn, the next week or two are definitely the time to do it. The leaves on deciduous trees are turning beautiful colors, temperatures have dropped considerably, and now that the rains have begun, Israel’s rivers and waterfalls are gushing. 

Autumn nature tours have been gaining popularity in recent years here, partly due to images people post on Instagram and other social networking apps. While some people have chosen to set off to New York or London for an exciting autumn escapade, the cool air blowing and beautiful flowers blossoming in Israel certainly make getting out into nature everywhere around the country a worthwhile adventure. 

Below, you’ll find some great options for outings this fall, which are a wonderful way to explore our glorious country.

1. Ein Hemed National Park

Hidden away on the side of the mountain along the road leading up to Jerusalem, you’ll find Ein Hemed National Park. The park is often filled with visitors who love coming to this charming bit of nature for a stroll with the kids or for a languorous and relaxing picnic. 

The water from the Hemed Spring has been used for centuries to irrigate local agricultural fields. The Kisalon River flows right through the upper half of the nature reserve all year, spilling into the many pools located inside the nature park. As a result, there are trees, shrubbery and other flora year-round at Ein Hemed. 

 THE KESHET pool at Ein Hanya. (credit: YANIV COHEN/NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY) THE KESHET pool at Ein Hanya. (credit: YANIV COHEN/NATURE AND PARKS AUTHORITY)

As you hike along the walking path, you’ll notice the remains of the ancient terrace farming and, later on, the remains of an impressive Crusader building that was constructed and used by the Knights Hospitallers and other pilgrims as they made their way to the holy city of Jerusalem. 

Every fall, Ein Hemed is carpeted with leaves that have turned color and fallen to the ground. If this is a scene that sounds attractive, then I recommended hurrying to Ein Hemed as soon as you can, since all the leaves from the massive plane trees in the lower half of the nature reserve will soon have fallen to the ground and then disappear as the winter rain and wind carries them downstream. Of course, visiting Ein Hemed in the wintertime, when the trees are bare of their foliage, is a lovely experience in its own right.

There are plenty of picnic tables at Ein Hemed, so families or couples out on a romantic outing are welcome to bring lunch or snacks. The park is wheelchair accessible, and there’s also an open space area with access to electricity and WIFI. In other words, Ein Hemed is a great place to go with your computer and get some work done while also enjoying nature. What could be a better way to get a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air and inspiration for the soul without falling behind on your work commitments?

Ein Hemed is an extremely popular nature park. On the weekends, it is sometimes inundated with visitors, so the park authorities require that visitors register ahead of time. If you have the option of visiting during the week, I highly recommend taking advantage of the relative calm. 

Directions: Drive east on Highway 1 from Tel Aviv in the direction of Jerusalem. Exit the highway at Hemed Intersection, and then turn south and follow signs for Ein Hemed National Park

2. Ein Hanya

Not far from Ein Hemed, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, you’ll find another gem of nature that is well worth visiting: Ein Hanya. There, you’ll find an ancient spring and a short tunnel through which the water flows before spilling into a pool. This spot is a favorite among kids and adults. since you can actually walk in the water inside the tunnel all the way through to the other end. 

Ein Hanya is also a holy site for Armenian and Ethiopian Christians. Archaeologists have found remains that show that this spring was used as far back as the Byzantine period to irrigate terraces that were built for agricultural purposes. If you take a look, you’ll see that a section of the terraces has been revamped to demonstrate how people living in the area in ancient times planted and harvested crops. 

In an effort to rehabilitate the site, Israel’s nature park authorities planted olive, almond and fig trees at Ein Hanya, all of which are indigenous to the area. 

Ein Hanya is the perfect place to go on a fall outing to see the foliage turning color. It may not be the largest nature reserve, but this compact park is perfect for families with young children who want to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings for an hour or so. 

Directions: From Malha Mall in Jerusalem, drive on the road leading up toward Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood and Gush Etzion. The parking area for Ein Hanya is located 2.5 km. from the entrance of Ein Yael.

3. Banias Spring

Almost everyone who lives in Israel has either been to or at least heard of the Banias Spring, pool and waterfall. But what not everyone knows is that this nature reserve, located in the North at the foot of Mount Hermon, is the perfect place to hike in autumn. I even know a few Israelis who hike down to the breathtaking waterfall every week, and it often appears on the itinerary of tourists from abroad. As you hike down the path, enjoy the unique flora of the nature park; you’ll almost feel transported to a different country or even an earlier time. 

Lots of people visit the Banias in the summer when it is hot, and work up a good sweat. By the time they make it to the bottom, they can jump into the waterfall’s cool, refreshing water. In the autumn, however, not only will you not be as sweaty, but you’ll also see the changing flora of the region and see and hear the amplified roar of the waterfall as it gushes with water from the winter rains that have already begun. 

If you’d like to add a historical angle to your hike while at the Banias, I recommend visiting the remains of an ancient temple of the god Pan, located next to the cave. This spot is where the water from the Banias Spring first emerged. In fact, the Banias Spring was named for the god Pan (Panias in Greek). 

Directions: From Kiryat Shmona, you can reach the Banias by driving east on Road 99. From Mas’ada, drive west on Road 99

4. Tel Dan Nature Reserve

The Upper Galilee is the best place to go for the ultimate autumn experience. Aside from the Banias, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve is one of the most remarkable sites to visit this time of year. 

Tel Dan is a natural paradise all year, but in the fall the picturesque scenery becomes absolutely majestic. The only downside of visiting Tel Dan this time of year is that it will be so hard to leave at the end of the day. The gushing water in the river, the birds chirping, and the lush green surroundings make this nature reserve unforgettable. There are a number of walking paths that wind their way through Tel Dan. 

One of them is wheelchair accessible, while others are suited for more adventurous hikers. If you keep your eyes open, you might catch a glimpse of a salamander as it flits around on the ground. And if you’re brave and don’t mind the cold temperature, take off your shoes and socks and frolic in the fresh water of one of the many pools there. 

Directions: Drive along Road 99. Tel Dan is located 11 km. east of Hamitzudot Intersection, next to Kibbutz Dan.

Translated by Hannah Hochner