Although many people like to curl up with a warm blanket and a good book on cold winter days, this is actually a great time of the year to go hiking on an exciting nature trail. We’ve had a decent amount of rain this year, and the streams flowing through Israel’s nature reserves are gushing with water. One of the best winter hikes is Nahal Hashofet, which is located in the Ramot Menashe area. Some of the hikes near the stream are short – perfect for families looking to get out for a half-day walk. One of my favorites is the circular path that passes by open fields, running water and hidden caves. Nahal Hashofet is a perennial stream, but like many streams in Israel, it has suffered during years of drought. This year, thankfully, the stream is flowing vigorously, and thousands of colorful anemones and cyclamens are blooming in the surrounding countryside. Although you might think cool temperatures make bathing in the stream prohibitive, you still may find some youngsters splashing around in the cold water.Nahal Hashofet, which empties into the Kishon River, commences around Kibbutz Ein Hashofet and Ramat Hashofet, and also passes by Kibbutz Hazorea. This is a great area to enjoy the huge carpets of red blossoms that cover the fields surrounding the circular path. This 30-minute trail is an ideal place to hike with little kids or if you’re looking for a quick and easy getaway hike. If you’re not pressed for time, though, I recommend walking along the longer trail that takes about three hours, since there are lots of interesting sights to see along the way.
The trail starts at the KKL-JNF Charuvim parking area located in Ye’arot Menashe Park. The hike is pretty popular and can get a little crowded on weekends. From the parking area, follow the red trail markers on a path that is flat enough so you can walk there with baby strollers. Lots of families picnic in the parking area before setting off for a hike. But you can also bring your lunch with you and eat sitting alongside the river with the relaxing sounds of flowing water in the background. Don’t get too sidetracked, though, at the initial sighting of flowing water, because there are many nicer spots farther along the trail. So, after a short stop to enjoy the excitement of flowing water, continue along the trail. You’ll notice there are lots of tall eucalyptus trees that line the pathway, which are a huge benefit on this trail in both the winter and summer. In the former, they keep in the warmth and protect hikers from the cold winter wind, and in the latter, they protect us from the scorching sun and keep temperatures mild. Soon, you’ll reach a shallow pool into which water flows from a small, charming waterfall. This is a great spot where you can take your shoes and socks off and wade around in the water a little. When you’ve finished relaxing by the pool, the path continues in parallel alongside the stream until it reaches a water-pumping station. You’ll notice that the vegetation has become denser, and after you pass the pumping station, you’ll come upon a dark, low-ceilinged cave, which is home to a number of stalactites. The last stop on the trail is an ancient flour mill, which stands near a memorial sign commemorating Yehoshua Marks of Kibbutz Hazorea, who lost his life during the War of Independence. You’ll also see a small wooden bridge that crosses over Nahal Hashofet and leads to a large cave. There’s a large open area in front of the cave that is ideal for picnicking, or just relaxing for a few moments before continuing on with the hike. At this point, you can chose to either retrace your steps and return to the parking area, or you can continue on the trail towards Ein Ami, a charming spring that fills two pools that were hewn from stone, apparently during the second century CE. The first pool is quite shallow, and so not surprisingly, hikers prefer swimming (in the summertime) in the second pool, which is deeper. This spot is, without a doubt, the highlight of the hike, and should not be missed if you have the time. The surroundings are well maintained by Kibbutz Hazorea (in memory of Ami Brenner), and plant lovers will be happy to discover a large number of different aquatic plants near the water. When you’ve finished enjoying the pools, follow signs back toward the parking area where you left your car. Type: CircularLength: Up to half-dayDirections: Take Highway 6 north, continue onto Road 70 north toward Hatishbi Intersection. Turn south onto Road 66 and then turn right into Ye’arot Menashe Park. Follow signs to Nahal Hashofet and the Charuvim parking area. Translated by Hannah Hochner.