Cool off in Nahal Kanaf

This Golan stream is fed by a number of springs, including Ein Kanaf, where there are magnificent stone arches, plenty of trees and spaces for a picnic.

Ein Kanaf (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Ein Kanaf
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Trails on the Golan Heights are a great place to hike, even on a broiling summer day. The hills might be a bit less green in the height of summer, but the streams, pools and springs are still full of water, which makes them the perfect location for a summer outing. The only time you can really appreciate Israel’s refreshing water spots is after a hot, sweaty hike.
This week, I’d like to take you to one of the less well-known (and therefore less crowded) trails on the Golan Heights: Nahal Kanaf, a stream that empties into Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) near Ramot. The 17-km.-long stream is fed by a number of springs, including Ein Kanaf, which I will describe in more detail below. Its name, Kanaf, derives from its proximity to Khirbet Kanaf and Moshav Kanaf.
Although Nahal Kanaf is less well known than some of its fellow streams on the Golan Heights, it is a wonderful place to spend the day wading in its cool, refreshing water and relaxing in nearby shade. I was first introduced to this stream when I participated in a jeep ride there years ago, and I’ve gone back there many times.
If you’re looking for a little more of an adventure, you can hike on the easy 10-km. path. Along the way there are a number of shallow pools in which to cool off, as well as breathtaking lookouts with views of the Golan. It’s best to begin this trail early in the morning so that you’re not walking in the heat of the day. If you don’t have an extra car to leave at the end of the trail, you should arrange to get a ride back to the beginning.
The trail that goes from Nahal Kanaf toward Nahal Samach begins near the entrance to Moshav Kanaf and can be recognized by the black trail markers. Begin walking and then, after 500 meters, follow the trail as it curves left. Then, after about 15 minutes of easy walking, you’ll reach the Ein Kanaf parking area.
You might be tempted to stop your hike here and spend the rest of your time hanging out in the spring, but I promise you that if you can just hang in there a few more minutes, you will not regret the extra effort. Either stay just a few minutes, or promise your friends that you’ll stop here for dessert on your way back.
So get back on the trail, turn right, and continue walking alongside the stream for about 30 minutes. You’ll cross over the stream at one point and walk up a slight incline to get to the other bank.
You need to be careful, however, that you remain on the correct trail (with the black trail markers). You’ll turn right and then left, which will bring you to Nahal Samach. The trail there is still easy and enjoyable. You’ll reach the descent toward the stream.
Don’t be tempted to stop for a water break – you’ll be there soon and it will all have been worth the effort. You’ll reach a bridge built from basalt stones, and you’ll see a path that leads under the bridge. This is a great place to stop and relax.
When you’ve cooled off, climb back up and cross over the bridge. Then turn left and walk alongside the stream. This section of the walk is a bit boring, and after 30 minutes you will reach an intersection of paths. Turn left there (still following black trail markers) and climb up to Umm el-Kanatir (Rehavam’s Arches), where you’ll find an ancient synagogue which has been restored. There, you’ll see three incredible arches. From there, go back to the parking area, which is the end of the trail.
Getting back to Ein Kanaf
I recommend going back to Ein Kanaf, which we already passed on the way, and is located close to where we parked the car. If you don’t have time, I definitely think it’s worth coming back here another day. The pool was closed for quite some time for massive reconstruction, and is now once again open to visitors and can be quite crowded on weekends. There are three connected pools, and nearby you’ll also find Khirbat Deir Aziz, an archeological site where remains of an ancient synagogue were found. The stone pool fills from water that originates from Ein Kanaf.
Playing in the water is lots of fun, but you’ll be interested to know that there is also important historical significance to these water sources.
When you reach Khirbat Deir Aziz, follow the dirt path and reach the entrance to the synagogue.
The floor of the impressive Byzantine-era synagogue is made of basalt stone, and there are also remains of what were once eight pillars and three benches. A line of Greek writing has been revealed on the bima, containing the name “Judah” and the number “295.”
When you’ve finished visiting the synagogue, you can return to the cool water of Ein Kanaf. The pools are not very deep, and so this a great place to hang out with little kids. There are plenty of trees, spaces for a picnic, and it’s just a very beautiful area.
Directions to Nahal Kanaf: Leave your first car in the parking area of Rehavam’s Arches, which you can reach from the Daliyot intersection.
Turn right at the intersection, and then right again at Natur. After driving for a few minutes, you’ll see a turnoff to your left to Rehavam’s Arches that will take you to the parking area. This is the end of the trail. Park your second car at the start of the trail, near the cowshed in Moshav Kanaf. To get there, drive back to Daliyot intersection and turn left onto Route 869 toward Moshav Kanaf. Turn left toward the moshav, and then, 200 meters before the entrance to the moshav, you’ll see a left turn onto a path with black trail markers. Drive along this path and park near the cowshed.
Directions to Ein Kanaf: If you’d like to drive straight to Ein Kanaf, drive along Route 92 and then, at Ma’aleh Gamla, turn east onto Route 869. This road will take you all the way to Moshav Kanaf. Enter the moshav and continue along a winding road. Then follow the black trail markers and park in the parking area. There are steps leading down to the pool.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.