Chasing waterfalls

Now that the rain has subsided, it’s time to get out of the house and investigate where all the water’s gone.

The 10-meter waterfall in Nahal Banyas (photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
The 10-meter waterfall in Nahal Banyas
(photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Nahal El Al
If you’re planning a trip up North, one of my favorite places to hike is the impressive Nahal El Al.
Situated on the southern Golan Heights, the hills around the El Al River offer visitors an absolutely breathtaking view of the valley and the white water flowing over the black basalt rocks. Even the ride up Road 98 to reach Nahal El Al is exciting, since you have a fantastic view from the car.
Begin the hike from either of two points: the parking area near Eliad, or the parking area inside Moshav Avnei Eitan (with a shorter walk to the Black Waterfall). If you’re short on time, visit just one of the waterfalls.
Either way, the hike along the river is of intermediate difficulty and involves holding on to pegs on the side of the mountain to climb up and down the path. If you’re planning to come on Saturday, park just outside Moshav Avnei Eitan’s main gate (it’s a religious moshav); don’t worry as it’s a quick process, just follow the red trail markers.
If you’re hiking Nahal El Al right after a rain, be sure to watch your step since it can be slippery. After walking for about 15 minutes, you’ll reach the Black Waterfall, so-called since the water crashes down on the black rocks. From here, you can continue towards the second, White one – which falls 14 meters into a huge pool.
Type of hike: Linear (retrace your steps to get back to your car).
Length: 3 to 5 hours.
Directions: Drive north on Route 90 towards the Golan Heights. When you reach Tzemah Junction, turn right onto Road 92, then turn left to stay on Road 92 toward Kursi Junction (you’ll see the Kinneret on your left). Take a right onto Road 789 and a left at Afik Junction onto Road 98. Continue on Road 98 until you reach Moshav Avnei Eitan, which will be on your left.
Nahal Banyas
The Nahal Hermon Nature Reserve is home to one of Israel’s most popular waterfalls. The turbulent water flowing in Nahal Banyas noisily cascades down the 10-meter waterfall after running through the canyons of the Golan Heights. You can barely hear yourself talk when you stand on the balcony overlooking the waterfall, enjoying the powerful cold spray.
There are a number of trails of varying difficulty that reach the waterfall, so there’s a way for everyone to enjoy the waterfalls. If you’re short on time, take the easy, circular path that leads to the spring.
Along the way, you’ll pass remains from the Roman and Crusader periods, walk under a Roman bridge and past a restored flour mill, and cross a hanging bridge to reach the waterfall.
If you don’t want to walk all the way to the waterfall, go back to your car and drive to the waterfall parking area; from there, you can walk down to the hanging bridge and the falls. This circular path also winds through the narrow basalt stone canyon and overlooks the tempestuous river.
Directions: Reach the waterfall parking areas from Kiryat Shmona on Route 99.
Nahal Sa’ar
Every winter, Nahal Sa’ar becomes one of the most popular hiking destinations in the far North of Israel. The Sa’ar River, which commences at the Sa’ar Spring, runs through the valley between Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights and pours into the Hermon River. The Sa’ar Waterfall is no less famous than the river, and some people choose to walk along the shortened route, which leads to an observation point from which you’ll have an incredible view of the waterfall.
If you have time, I recommend taking the longer path that follows the river, where you’ll see the black basalt stones contrasted on the white dolomite rock.
In addition to enjoying the natural surroundings and diverse flora, you will get to cross the Friendship Bridge damaged during the Six Day War. The path passes the Resisim Waterfall and ancient flour mills destroyed by flooding, finally reaching the Sa’ar Waterfall, which is actually a series of three separate waterfalls. The highest waterfall is 20 meters high and pours into a deep pool, which you can climb down to on a well-used path.
The trail is not difficult to traverse but it is long, so it is best to come in two cars and leave one at the end of the trail.
Type of hike: Suitable for the whole family.
Directions: Drive north on Route 99 until you reach Sa’ar Junction (where the trail ends). Continue in the direction of Ein Kenya and follow signs for the Friendship Bridge.
Nahal Snir
The Snir River (Hatzbani in Arabic) is the longest of the three tributaries that feed into the Jordan River. After a hot, dry summer, the nature reserve is now lusciously green and the Snir River is flowing heavily.
This is an amazing time of year to visit.
The Israeli section of Nahal Snir (part of the river flows on the Lebanese side of the border) is divided into two sections. The first and longer part is closed to hikers, but the second section is an official nature reserve and open to the public.
There are three trails you can take, the shortest 10 minutes and the longest two hours; all three involve walking inside water for a few minutes, so wear appropriate shoes/clothing. There are plenty of places to rest in the shade, under trees and among boulders. In my opinion, the nicest trail is the circular path that goes along the riverbed.
Length: Up to 2 hours.
Special instructions: Water shoes are a necessity.
Directions: Drive north on Road 90. Pass Kiryat Shmona and turn right onto Road 99 towards Kibbutz Hagoshrim. Follow signs for Nahal Snir.
Bitronot Be’eri Reserve
The Bitronot Be’eri Reserve is spread out over more than 486 hectares (1,200 acres) in the northwestern Negev. This beautiful piece of nature has also been called the Be’eri Crater due to its unique shape.
During the month of February, the area is expected to be absolutely covered with anemones due to the abundant winter rainfall; seeing so many flowers in one place is an incredible sight.
The trail with the blue trail markers descends along the network of channels of water that criss-crosses the land, making it a glorious place to walk on weekends – especially after there’s been heavy rainfall.
You can also leave the blue trail markers and take the black path instead, which leads to the old sulfur factory.
Directions: Drive south on Route 232. At Sa’ad Junction, turn left then immediately right to get back on Route 232. Look for signs to the Bitronot Be’eri Reserve.
Ein Gedi
The water that flows inside the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve originates in four springs: David, Shulamit, Arugot and Ein Gedi.
These springs fill up from rainfall, as the water seeps down into the ground throughout the Judean Hills. In winters with a lot of rainfall, like the one we’re having, the Ein Gedi Reserve is abundant with water – and everything is green and blooming. Although Ein Gedi is located in the middle of the desert, the area is rich in flora such as reeds, jujube trees and other plants that require sweet water.
The wonderful thing about Ein Gedi is that everyone can find something interesting there: Animal lovers can watch the ibexes and rock hyraxes; antiquities lovers will be happy to discover there are archeological excavations and remains in the reserve; and waterfall enthusiasts will enjoy the water flowing into the clear pools.
There are a number of options for hiking, too: some trails are longer and harder, but others and short and easy – in sum, plenty of options to satisfy everyone.
Directions: Drive south on Route 90. The entrance to Nahal David and Nahal Arugot is about 1 km. before Kibbutz Ein Gedi.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.