Rainy weather brings new life to the Odem Forest

This forest area in the northern Golan Heights is a pleasant place to take a walk with the whole family.

Trees of the Odem Forest on the Golan Heights (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Trees of the Odem Forest on the Golan Heights
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
There are so many incredible surprises waiting for us out in nature after a good rain. There are mushrooms that sprout overnight, and foliage and flowers that only show themselves after a proper drenching. You’ll find some of them hiding behind a rock and others out in the open spaces. One of my favorite places to visit just after it rains is the Odem Forest in the Golan Heights.
This forest area in the northern Golan Heights is a pleasant place to take a walk with the whole family.
There are gorgeous oak trees and the path leads to a volcanic crater called the “Big Juba.” This path can be traversed pretty much all year round since the huge oak trees protect hikers from the harsh sun in the summer and from the cold wind on cooler days. Since the weather this time of year is unpredictable, it’s best to wear a few layers and bring waterproof shoes in case there are still puddles along the path. That way, if it gets hot, you can always just peel off a layer or two.
We’ll begin the hike through the Odem Forest from the makeshift parking lot on the side of the road. We’ll be following the black trail markers, which will slowly lead us into the heart of the vegetation and tall trees.
The path we’ll take is part of the Odem Forest Nature Reserve and goes through a remnant of the huge forest that covered the entire northern part of the Golan Heights before humans lived in the area and altered their surroundings.
There are over 20 huge craters in the area that were created decades ago as a result of pressure from volcanic gases. The largest, the Big Juba, is 60 m. deep and was formed by a volcanic eruption followed by a collapse of the basalt cover. We’ll reach the edge of the Big Juba after walking about 500 meters. You can look over the rim and peek at the gorgeous colors of the lush vegetation below. This is a great time to explore the incredible variety of plants and herbs that spring up this time of year.
When you’re ready to move on, we’ll retrace our steps along the black path to where we left our cars. We’ll go by car to another section of the forest. Look for the blue trail markers, which will lead us around the perimeter of the nature reserve. Drive back to the Odem Forest intersection and turn right. The road will veer left and we’ll continue along following the blue trail markers.
We’ll park our car and then continue on foot. The walk this time will take a bit longer – maybe an hour.
If you’ve packed a picnic, bring it with you now because there will be a number of pleasant places to stop and eat along the way. Even if you didn’t bring food, though, I recommend stopping and enjoying the fresh air along the way.
We’ll follow the blue path, which after a little while will turn to the right. This is an enjoyable, easy path that passes under lots of trees and then slowly rises up to Tel al-Katza. Tel al-Katza is located 1099 m. above sea level and you’ll have an amazing view of the entire area when standing at the top. We’ll continue along the blue trail until we see the apple orchard, which is in full bloom this time of year. Although the orchard is closed to visitors, from here we can see Mount Hermon, the nearby communities and all the verdant fields and forests surrounding us.
The most beautiful parts of Odem are still up ahead, so we’ll turn in a southerly direction and walk past the apple orchard on a dirt path (it’s not marked) until we reach an intersection that connects us with the red path. The next section is about 500 m. long and is a comfortable, easy path.
When we reach the next trail junction, we’ll turn right and walk until we reach yet another trail junction at which point we will join the blue trail once again. It’s very important to make the correct turns here, because if you don’t, you may find yourselves climbing up to the top of Mount Edom (which is a great hike, too, with a fantastic view from the top, but that’s not the path we want to take today). So, we want to turn right and follow the red trail markers, an easy path that will lead us back to the dirt path and finally the parking area where we left our cars. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Location: Golan Heights
Type of outing: Easy circular trail, appropriate for the whole family
Length: 2 kilometers
Season: All year
Directions: Drive along Road 99 and pass the village of Mas’ada. Then turn west onto Route 978 toward Odem. Drive until you see the black trail marker (3 km.). Park your car here and begin the hike by foot.