Adventures at Iyon

Nahal Iyon (photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Nahal Iyon
(photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Getting outside into nature on cold but sunny winter days is one of the best ways to spend weekends in January. One of my favorite places to visit this time of year is Nahal Iyon, which is flowing strongly after the ample winter rains we have had this year. In addition, anyone who makes the hike to Nahal Iyon in the next few weeks will be treated to a number of incredible waterfalls that are also bursting with water.
Nayal Iyon begins in Marjayoun, in southern Lebanon, and later joins Nahal Snir. Two springs feed into Nahal Iyon: Ein al-Kutzeir and Nava al-Dardara. For years, water from the springs was pumped out for agricultural use, and so Nahal Iyon was not a very vivacious stream. As a result, a certain amount of water was diverted from Nahal Dan to Nahal Iyon. Hopefully, with the bounteous rain we’ve had this winter, the stream will flow nicely without needing outside help.
At any rate, I highly recommend touring this area in the coming weeks, before water levels recede, and enjoying its four waterfalls and the pools that have formed below them. The first one – Iyon waterfall – has a large pool below it, although swimming there is forbidden all year long. This is one of the nicest spots along the trail, so I recommend hanging out there for a while and enjoying the natural surroundings.
But don’t get too comfortable, because there are three more waterfalls along the stream. The second one you’ll reach is the Mill waterfall, which is actually made up of a few narrow waterfalls that all fall into the same pool. There are a number of flat rocks surrounding the waterfalls where hikers like to stretch out and enjoy the winter sun.
There are a few different trail options, making the nature reserve accessible for a wide variety of visitors. There’s an option to take a short hike, which will offer you a quick glimpse of Hatanur waterfall, and other trails that cover the entire area. The extremely popular shorter linear trail begins in the parking area in the southern section of the reserve.
If you’re up for a longer hike, I recommend taking the trail that begins in the northern parking area and ends at the southern parking area. Although this hike requires leaving a second car at the end of the hike, it’s totally worth it since it’s a gorgeous trail and you get to pass by a bunch of beautiful waterfalls. If you’ll be coming with one car, just watch your timing, since you’ll have to retrace your steps back to the beginning of the trail.
The northern parking area, where the longer trail commences, is located next to the Safari Disaster Memorial, which commemorates the IDF soldiers who died in the suicide bombing attack in 1985. After spending a few minutes reading about the individuals who paid with their lives serving our country, you can set out on the trail along the stream.
One of the first points of interest along the way is the remains of the bridge over Nahal Iyon that was built by the British and blown up twice by the Jews. The first time took place on June 17, 1946, known as the Night of the Bridges, when elite Hagana units captured and destroyed 11 border bridges in Mandatory Palestine. The British repaired the bridge, which was blown up again a couple years later by the Palmah during the War of Independence. It was repaired in the 1980s, but after the terrorist attack, no efforts have been made to rebuild the bridge.
After you’ve finished ruminating on these important moments in modern Israeli history, it’s time to continue toward the waterfalls. The Iyon waterfall is nine meters high and is a great place to take selfies with the gushing water in the background. When you’re ready to move on, continue along the path until you reach the Mill waterfall, which towers at a mammoth 20 meters high. A flour mill was in operation at this location (hence the waterfall’s name) until 1920. In addition, you can see at the foot of the waterfall the remains of a pumping station, which until the end of the 1950s supplied water for residents of Metulla.
The next stop on the trail is Ha’eshed waterfall, which includes an upper nine-meter waterfall and a lower five-meter waterfall. This is also a great place to stop for a drink and a snack before continuing on to Metulla’s first cemetery and then the fourth waterfall: Hatanur. To reach this last point of interest, you’ll need to climb down a twisty path that begins near the cemetery. The best view of the 30-meter Hatanur waterfall is from the beginning of the descent, so make sure you’re paying attention to this grand sight. The path that leads down to the pool below the waterfall seems like it’s going the wrong way, but don’t worry – it’ll twist back around and get there in the end.
From the pool of the waterfall, you can either continue on to the southern parking area, if you left a second car there. If not, you can retrace your steps to the beginning of the trail.
Type of hike: Easy walking.
Length: 3 km.
Directions: Drive on Road 90 toward Metulla. Pass the sign that directs you toward Hatanur waterfall and continue to Metulla and the Nahal Iyon parking area.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.