One of my favorite areas in the country is the Golan Heights. I’d like to describe to you three beautiful trails in Tel Dan that will lead you past graceful streams and gorgeous scenery. Not everyone is a morning person, so if waking up at the crack of dawn is not your favorite way to start the day, all three of these options can be great for you, even if you only reach them in the afternoon. If you’re already traveling far from home, this is a great opportunity to stay overnight at a cozy bed and breakfast instead of driving all the way home late at night.
The trails at Tel Dan will lead you to streams with lots of cold flowing water, lookout spots, flour mills, historical sites and delightful wading pools – in short, a little piece of paradise. At Tel Dan, there seems to be water flowing everywhere you look. The tall trees (which keep you cool in the hot summer months) tower over Nahal Dan, which is the largest source of the Jordan River and joins the Hermon and Snir Rivers farther south. Taking a walk alongside Nahal Dan makes you want to fill your lungs with the clean, crisp air and clear your mind of all your day-to-day worries.
Nahal Dan is a snow-fed river filled by melted water coming down from Mount Hermon. The water seeps down into the ground and then erupts in hundreds of springs at the foot of the mountain, forming one of the most copious karst springs in the entire Middle East (about 240 cubic meters of water per year). It’s a delightful sight by all accounts.
Although the Tel Dan Nature Reserve is geographically small, it contains a large number of hiking trails, streams and unique trees, flowers and plants – some of which reach 20 meters high. A number of trails in the nature reserve have been made accessible for disabled individuals, as well.
In just one afternoon, you can manage to visit the ancient flour mill, the massive four-horned altar built by King Jeroboam and a clay-brick arched gate dating back to the 18th century BCE. If you have time, you can continue on to the remains of the ancient Canaanite city of Laish, which was conquered by the Tribe of Dan. While you walk along the path, keep your eyes peeled for the spotted salamanders, which are an endangered species and are active mostly near water sources when it’s not too hot outside.
The three different hiking trails are of different lengths and all have clear trail markers. You should wear water shoes on all three, and bathing suits and towels are also recommended. I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of spots along all three trails to stop for romantic picnics.
The first trail, which is the shortest, takes about an hour to complete. It passes over the stream, continues by lots of lovely trees and finally ends at the springs. It’s an easy, relaxing hike that is perfect for people who want to take a quick outing into nature.
The second trail, which takes about 90 minutes, reaches all the way to the Ha’ela Outlook. It passes by the Pooh Bear Tree, a large hollow tree that is especially popular among children and adults alike, and if you haven’t already guessed, is also a popular spot for family portraits. The trail continues through the Springs of Paradise, called such since it is full of stunning streams, springs and dense foliage.
Continue along the trail until you reach a fork in the road. One direction leads to one of the flour mills located inside the nature reserve and an aqueduct. The other option is to continue on to a shallow wading pool that is a favorite among children, even when it’s pretty cool outside. Actually, it’s the only place where bathing is permitted within the Nahal Dan Nature Reserve and there are lots of benches around where you can relax or enjoy a picnic.
The third trail, which takes about 2.5 hours to complete, will take you past all of the points of interest located in the nature reserve. You’ll see remains from excavations that were carried out at Tel Dan, as well as objects that were left behind by soldiers who fought at the site in Israel’s War of Independence.
One of the highlights of the third and longest trail is the clay-brick arched gate dating back to the 18th century BCE, which is attributed to the Canaanites and attests to the fact that a thriving city functioned on that spot. Apparently, the structure was used as a place of worship, as well as for trials and meetings.
When you’re done hiking around the nature reserve, I recommend spending some time at SPNI’s Beit Ussishkin Nature Museum located in Kibbutz Dan. The museum, which is housed inside an impressive stone building that was constructed in the 1950s, displays interesting plant and animal specimens from the Hula Valley and surrounding area that disappeared as a result of the draining of the swamps.
In addition, there’s an exhibition in the museum that displays how people lived in the region during biblical times and is based on artifacts uncovered in excavations carried out in Tel Dan. The museum also offers activities for kids and has a short film visitors can watch.
Details: Visits to the museum should be coordinated in advance at (04) 694-1704.
Directions: Drive north on Route 90, turn right at Hametsudot Junction onto Route 99 and continue 11 kilometers until you reach Kibbutz Dan.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.