Hiking in Israel: Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle

The tremendous amount of rain we had this winter has benefited everyone, and the many streams in northern Israel that are currently gushing with water are a big attraction for hikers.

Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Now that winter is officially behind us and Passover is quickly approaching, it’s important not to get bogged down with spring cleaning. Instead, lace up your hiking shoes and get out into nature to enjoy the colorful flowers and fresh air.
The tremendous amount of rain we had this winter has benefited everyone, and the many streams in northern Israel that are currently gushing with water are a big attraction for hikers, especially if you stayed away from certain areas last summer due to the leptospirosis scare.
One of my favorite streams is Nahal Kziv, which is the longest perennial stream in the Upper Galilee and a really fun place to go for a hike. The trail, which is enjoyable for the whole family, takes you right into the water, which flows gently. The forest around the stream is gorgeous, and there’s also a spring that adults and children can go inside of and explore. There’s also Montfort Castle, built by the Crusaders in the 13th century, which you can climb up in, which has a breathtaking view from the top.
Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle. ( Meital Sharabi)Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle. ( Meital Sharabi)
Nahal Kziv begins near Mount Meron and flows for 20 kilometers, before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea at Achziv Beach. Nahal Kziv is a popular hiking spot all year round, and it gets especially crowded on Passover and Rosh Hashanah, when free shuttles are available to bring hikers to the head of the trail. If you’d like to avoid the crowds on Passover, I suggest going there on Saturday, since the shuttles will not be in operation and therefore there’ll be fewer visitors.
THE TRAIL begins about a kilometer from Mitzpe Hila. It’s important to know, though, before you begin walking, that there’s more than one path you can walk along. The most popular one is a circular trail that begins and ends at the Mitzpe Hila parking area. This is the best place to start if you’re coming with just one car. There’s another path that begins west of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, and a third that begins in Goren Park, which requires the use of two cars. I’m going to describe the circular trail, which is a relatively difficult trail to hike along. So, if you’ll be hiking with children, you should take this into consideration. In addition, the last section of the trail involves climbing up a rather steep incline.
Look for the beginning of the trail, which is marked with red trail markers. Follow the path, which soon gets narrower and leads you down toward the riverbank. After walking about 1.5 kilometers, you’ll come upon the first point of interest: the magnificent Montfort Castle, aka Kala’at al-Karin. At first, the fortress functioned as a farming estate, which was invaded and completely destroyed by the Mamluks. What’s left now shows remnants of the structure used by the Crusaders: water cisterns, fortifications, flour mills and a tower. If you want, you can climb up to the top of the fortress, from which you’ll have an incredible view.
Next, continue to descend on the red trail toward the riverbank. Just before you reach the water, you’ll see the first of a number of flour mills, which were powered by the water flow in the river.
Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle. (Meital Sharabi)Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle. (Meital Sharabi)
When you reach the water, turn right and walk alongside the stream, following the green trail markers, which will lead you to Ein Tamir, one of the nicest spots along the trail. This stretch is relatively flat and pretty long. After about a kilometer, you can begin walking right inside the riverbed. If you’ve brought sandals or water shoes, this would be the time to put them on. Make sure to take notice of a number of pools on your right side as you walk along.
Many people hurry along the path in an effort to reach Ein Tamir as quickly as possible, but I recommend slowing down the pace and spending time in one of the pools you pass along the way, especially since Ein Tamir can get pretty congested with families and kids. One of the nicest pools is located close to the sign to Ein Tamir and the path with black trail markers. You should take note of this spot, even if you’re not stopping for a dip in the pool, since you will pass by here on your walk back to your car.
When you’ve finished enjoying the pool, it’s time to move on toward the final destination: Ein Tamir. Children absolutely adore going inside the tunnel, so you should make sure you bring flashlights with you. You walk along a narrow path inside the tunnel and then, at the end, turn around and come back out the same way. Since it’s an extremely popular activity, sometimes there’s a bit of a bottleneck to enter, so be patient and eventually it will be your turn. In addition to the tunnel, there are also lots of little niches kids can climb into that are lots of fun to play inside.
Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle. (Meital Sharabi)Nahal Kziv and Montfort Castle. (Meital Sharabi)
Ein Tamir is the last stop, so if you skipped the pools on your hike in, you can take a break in the cool water at one of them on your way back to the car. Just make sure you leave enough time to climb back up to the parking area when you’re done at the pools.
To make your way back to the parking area, walk back to the sign that is located 250 meters before you reach Ein Tamir and follow the black trail markers up the side of the mountain. The climb takes about 90 minutes and is quite steep at times, so make sure to leave ample time and be careful not to stray from the path.
Directions: Drive on Road 89 toward Mitzpe Hila. Don’t turn right at the entrance to the village. Instead, continue driving another 500 meters on the road, until you see a trail on the right side of the road with red trail markers, which will lead toward the parking area.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.