A hiker’s guide to the El Al River

A path in the southern Golan Heights provides a leisurely weekend walk

Hikers at El Al RIver 521 (photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Hikers at El Al RIver 521
(photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Since half the country was sitting in traffic trying to reach the snow on Mount Hermon, we decided to enjoy the sunny Shabbat at the El-Al River in the southern Golan. The view of the waterfalls’ foamy stream churning over the basalt rocks was fantastic.
And the drive there (coming from the South) was just as spectacular: Road 98 curves around and climbs along the line of the Syrian border, providing a magnificent panoramic view.
One can begin the El Al River hike from two points – either at the waterfall parking area next to Eliezer or at the one in Moshav Avnei Eitan. We chose to begin at Avnei Eitan, mostly because the path from there to the Black Waterfall is shorter and easier. For hikers who go there with two cars, I recommend leaving one car at Eliezer and the other at Avnei Eitan.
If you choose to hike the El Al River on Shabbat, it is important to know that Avnei Eitan is a religious moshav, so you can’t park your car in the parking area. We left our car outside the front gate of the moshav, and then followed on foot the arrows pointing to the path.
After walking about 15 minutes, we reached the first waterfall, which is called the Black Waterfall, so named because the water cascades over black rocks. We went down the narrow path until we reached the small pool surrounded by plane trees. You can bathe in the water even at this time of year or just stop there to rest.
The path continues alongside the river in the direction of the White Waterfall, which includes a descent where you hold onto pegs in the side of the mountain, as well as various observation points of the natural pools. The White Waterfall is spectacular. The water falls a distance of 14 meters into a huge pool. It is called the White Waterfall because of the powerful flow of water that has penetrated the basalt and exposed the white lime layer underneath.
You can stop and rest at the top of the waterfall and enjoy the rapids and warm rays of sun before heading down toward the pool.
The White Waterfall is the last stop on the hike. From there, you can follow the red path in either direction to your car.
If you plan to stay overnight, there is a nice campsite for groups and families. It offers nature lovers a designated place to sleep and is equipped with everything hikers could want: showers, areas for campfires, barbecue pits, refrigerators, etc. If you prefer a little more pampering, there are also heated cabins and prepared dinners and picnics.
Directions: Drive north and pass through the Kursi Intersection, and then turn left at the Pik Intersection. Drive on Road 98, and then turn left into Moshav Avnei Eitan.
Level of difficulty: Medium to difficult. If you are bringing children with you, make sure to take into consideration that there are ascents and descents that require holding onto pegs in the side of the mountain.
Seasons to visit: It is not recommended to hike on this path during or just after rainy days. Bathing in the pools is possible throughout the year.
Duration of hike: Three to five hours.
Historic Perspective
While you are in the southern Golan, it is worthwhile to stop at the Givat Orcha (Tel Juchader) Hill just south of Mount Peres. The 640- meter high hill is part of the Israeli Kav Talim, a non-volcanic mountain range that stretches the entire length of the Golan from north to south.
There is a red-and-white military observation tower on the slope of the mountain, which can be reached by two paths.
One is a footpath that snakes around the mountain, and the other is a paved road. If you choose to go by car, there is a parking area at the foot of the tower. The view of the surrounding area from this point is nice, but if you climb the ladder to the top of the tower, the view is even more panoramic. It includes the border fence, abandoned Syrian bunkers, military posts and extensive green pastures.
You can also spend a few minutes looking for remains from the 14thcentury Crusader fortress that stood on this spot or look out over Khan Juchader. Along the road, you will also see memorials for the Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in the Yom Kippur War.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.