A glorious Golan water hike

The Zavitan River, with its plethora of pools and waterfalls, is one of the more interesting summer walks Israel has to offer.

Zavitan River 521 (photo credit: Meital Sharabi)
Zavitan River 521
(photo credit: Meital Sharabi)
Considering the size of our small country, Israel has a surprisingly large number of trails that include pools and waterfalls. The Zavitan River on the Golan Heights is one of the most beautiful.
Since the river is 19 kilometers long, it is referred to as the Upper Zavitan and the Lower Zavitan, along which there are a number of paths hikers can follow. The first path follows the Lower Zavitan; a second winds along the entire Upper Zavitan; a third, circular trail is in the Lower Zavitan; and a fourth, circular path is in the upper Zavitan.
We chose the last option, which is slightly easier to traverse and therefore more family-friendly – especially during the burning hot days of July and August. The river flows through a large canyon and there are numerous pools along the way that are shaded from the sun by trees, which brings temperatures down to sane levels and makes the walk that much more enjoyable.
The trail begins and ends at the Yehudiya parking area, which is the starting point for a number of trails on the Golan Heights. Before setting out, it is best to review the details of the trail with Israel Nature and Parks Authority representatives on-site, and to bring a map of the area and lots and lots of cold water.
The path begins at the blue trail marker, which points north. After walking 700 meters, turn west and pass through a gate until the path splits into two; continue along the black path. Right at the beginning, you will notice ruins from an abandoned village called Sheikh Hussein, and many animals wandering about, including cows and horses.
It will take about 90 minutes to reach the river from here, at which point you will cross over it (which is easy since the water flow is very weak here).
You will then turn left and follow the red path.
After walking another 300 meters, you will see the first pool and the impressive basalt columns, shrubbery and copious trees surrounding it. The water comes from the river and is therefore cold and refreshing. It is important to note that even though the water is deep, it is absolutely forbidden to jump in. I don’t recommend staying too long at this stop, since there are more pools along the path that are just as nice.
As you meander along the trail, you will see that it takes you along an aqueduct until the next pool, which is also an enjoyable place to stop for a dip in the water. Continue on, and you will come to another easy place to cross the river and follow the route of the aqueduct, which was built by Syrians who used to live in the area. Soon you will see two small pools, and an absolutely amazing view of the canyon and the gushing 27-meter Zavitan Waterfall.
After stopping to admire the breathtaking view, continue along the path until you reach a fork in the road where the red and blue paths meet.
Here you will need to climb down a ladder toward the waterfall, which takes about 15 minutes but is well worth the effort. The water in the pool below is cold and deep.
This is the last and most enjoyable stop. Most hikers hang out at the pool for a long time, and an inspector usually has to send off stragglers just before it closes for the day.
For your walk back up, follow the blue trail and climb back up to the parking area.
On sweltering summer days, this climb is not so easy, and it’s important to stop often for water breaks and rest.
Location: Golan Heights Type of outing: Family-friendly circular trails Level: Easy to moderate Length: 5 km (about 4 hours) Season: All year long, except rainy days
Directions: Road 87 either from Katzrin or the Yehudiya Intersection, with a turn into the Yehudiya parking area
Translated by Hannah Hochner