Hiking in the Carmel

Hiking in the Carmel (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Hiking in the Carmel
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Nahal Me’arot, which is spread over 600 hectares on the western slopes of the Carmel, is one of the most fascinating geological and anthropological spots in the region. Not many people know this, but it is an official UNESCO heritage site, and is an important place to visit to learn about the region’s ancient and modern cultures.
The river has become a favorite among hikers who love going into the caves there, which clearly were used for habitation in ancient times. From excavations carried out on site, archeologists have found remains that prove there was ancient human activity inside the caves 500,000 years ago.
Now that there are flowers blooming everywhere, this is the perfect time of year to travel to the Carmel region and hike along one of the circular trails.
The stream that flows through the nature reserve is full only after a heavy rain. The water seeps into the ground relatively quickly, and so there is not much water flowing these days.
There is a path called “The Ancient Human Trail,” from which you can climb stairs to reach the Taboun Cave. The cave is so called since it has an opening in the ceiling that would let out smoke. Excavations have been carried out in the cave since the late 1900s.
From there, the trail continues on to Camel Cave, which was given this name since it’s shaped like a camel’s hump. Archeologists have found artifacts that have led them to believe that ancient people built tools on site during the Mousterian period (a prehistoric culture that was important during the Paleolithic period).
There’s one more cave that you pass on this trail, and then after that you arrive back at the starting point.
When you enter the third cave, you’ll see you’re standing in a large hall that is filled with an audiovisual presentation that describes how Homo sapiens lived in ancient times. There is a (fake) skeleton placed outside the cave, which shows how people were buried during the Natufian period.
But you definitely don’t need to be an archeology or geology buff to enjoy the nature reserve. The ample rain we’ve had this winter has led to an explosion of flowers and green foliage.
Another popular attraction in the nature reserve which is fun for adults and children alike is the Bare-foot Path, where you can really connect with nature through the soles of your feet. The 24-meter-long path was created using 12 different natural materials, with each one offering visitors a different sensation that will help them connect with their natural surroundings.
Once you’ve completed the trail and seen all the caves, there are a couple more simple trails you can walk along. The first one, the Botanical Trail (with blue trail markers), involves more walking and less looking at archeological finds. This path winds alongside the river and then climbs up the hill, which is covered with dense vegetation. At the top of the hill, there is a wonderful view of the sea and the Carmel region.
From there, the path descends back toward the river.
If you are a curious person, you might prefer walking along the Geological Path, which reaches the edge of the northernmost ridge of the nature reserve. Here, too, hikers can enjoy a fantastic view.
Where to eat: After spending the day out in nature, you’re bound to have worked up a healthy appetite. Often there is a striking lack of restaurants near nature reserves, but in this case, Nahal Me’arot is located very close to the artists’ village of Ein Hod, which offers a number of decent culinary options.
One is Dona Rosa, which is located in central Ein Hod in a stone Arab-style building that was built 15 years ago by Dory and Ori, the grandchildren of Don Marcus and Dona Rosa, to resemble their grandmother’s kitchen back in Argentina, with two large rooms inside, a bar, as well as a nice balcony where guests can enjoy their meals alfresco.
The restaurant is an extremely popular meat restaurant that also offers a number of vegetarian dishes.
Dona Rosa offers set weekday menus at NIS 110 per person, or the grill menu at NIS 150 per person.
Details: (04) 954-3777.
Location: Carmel region
Length: up to half day
Type: light hiking
Trail begins at Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve parking area
Directions: Entrance to the nature reserve is off Road 4, about 8 km. north of Fureidis intersection.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.