Just a couple of days before I crossed the southern border after a couple of weeks backpacking in Jordan, googling around I came across the Israel National Trail and instantly decided to give it a try!
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This trail crosses the country from north to south and expands for over 1000 Km, so it’s not really the sort of stuff that should be improvised but that was not going to stop me 🙂
As I’m travelling with a lot more weight than the ideal for a multi-day hike I didn’t consider a thru-hike but I wanted to try at least a few days, so after checking on the different sections of the trail I decided to hike 4 days from the town of Ahuzam to Jerusalem.
I read that the most spectacular sections of the Israel National Trail are in the north and the south of the country.
I had to settle for the middle section as the north was experiencing some floods (I was hiking in early February) and the south part of the trail which goes through the dessert requires some planning as there’s no water available in the area so you need to either pay someone to deliver water or get in contact with the Trail Angels.
I discarded the Trail Angels option as all the comments and indications on the Trail App were in Hebrew so I couldn’t be bothered. Remember I only “planned” this hike on a matter of a couple of days…
So, this was an improvised-but-planned hike as I had to study a bit the trail to see what was doable considering all my circumstances.
Long story short: it was pretty awesome!
What do you need to hike the Israel National Trail
As with any multi-day hike, camping gear, cooking equipment and proper hiking clothes and footwear are pretty much a must. Also the essentials: head torch, flipflops, toilet paper, earplugs (needed for when camping close to highways)
Downloading the INT App is also really helpful as it indicates the non-signalled camping spots and water sources. The important features of the app work offline which is great.
You could in certain sections skip the camping and stay with Trail Angels, but as I said above, for me that was not an option.
MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS
A good Camelback and reusable water bottles are also mandatory, you should aim to carry at least 3 or 4 litres every day (which you can refill along the way)
There are at times no places to buy food. I normally don’t cook lunch when on multi-day hikes but instead snack a few times.
These were my “ingredients” for this multi day hike in Israel:
For breakfast: 1x apple, and 1x sachet of coffee mixed with 1x sachet of cereal drink per day.
For lunch: no lunch but snacking, normally snickers, cereal bars, dried fruits and nuts. I eat some of this every couple of hours when I stop to rest.
For dinner: this changes depending on which country I’m visiting. I always look for food that is easy to cook, nutritious and that will not go off without refrigeration. In Israel I had a box of couscous, cans of tuna, peanuts and a pot of Arab spices. I also bought a pack of chocolate Halwa for dessert which is a sweet made of Tahini and I love it!
My 4-day Israel National Trail Route
Briefly, my INT adventure started taking an early bus from Eilat to Be’er Sheva, then another bus to Ahuzam, once there my hike was as follow:
Day 1: Ahuzam to Beit Guvrin. On the app this is the section between Tel Keshet and Beit Guvrin, from Ahuzam is an extra 2 km or so.
Day 2: Beit Guvrim to Mitzpe Masua.
Day 3: Mitzpe Masua to Ein Mata. But I diverted just before the end to the Horvat Hanut
Day 4: Ein Mata to Ora. On the app, Ora is located at the 20km mark of the stage ending at Kibbutz Tzova.
My day by day Israel National Trail adventure:
DAY 1: Eilat – Ahuzam – Beit Guvrin.
Taking the bus at 6:30am from Eilat after spending the night at Corinne Hostel, I arrived 3 hours later to Be’er Sheva and waited 30 minutes for another bus to Ahuzam (bus 367). The buses cost 51.5 ILS and 13 ILS respectively.
At 11:15 am I was off the bus and ready to tackle the 23 Km of my first day hiking the Israel National Trail!
Just off the bus I had to walk next to the highway for just over 1 Km to actually reach the trail, once I found a muddy underpass I was ready to follow the three coloured painted flag that will mark my route for the following days.
The first 10 Km were nothing special, it was all on a wide dirt path and not too far from highways, not ideal, but this was just the beginning.
This section was mostly flat with just a few ups and downs but nothing steep at all. This helped to cover the distance on a quick pace as I started pretty late in the day. In case you start even later than I did, there’s a campsite by the town of Lachish.
5 hours after I started hiking I arrived to the abandoned villa which is marked as a campsite on the app, this is not an official spot so there’s no faucet.
This is actually an OK place to pitch the tent. I was really lucky to find there a couple of Palestinians that were having a BBQ and as soon as they saw me they invited me to join them, what a feast! they didn’t let me stand up until I finished eating everything! that’s what every hungry hiker wants at the end of a day! XD some delicious tea was also offered to me. Wonderful people indeed!
When pitching your tent, make sure to do this at a fair distance from the abandoned building as at night a large group of young people went there for some drinking and partying, luckily I was a bit away and they didn’t notice me. Not that something is going to happen to you, but is better not to be bothered sometimes…
DAY 2: Beit Guvrim – Mitzpe Masua.
The second day of my little Israel National Trail adventure was a short one in distance as it was only 11.3 Km long. This was kind of lucky as when I woke up it was raining a lot!
Knowing that I didn’t have a long hike ahead I spent the morning reading waiting for the storm to pass, which seemed that it was never going to happen…
After getting wet a couple of times when I thought the rain was gone, only to return a minute after I started packing my tent, I was finally back on the trail at 12:30am.
If you’re luckier than I was, near the campsite there are some archeological ruins and an Unesco World Heritage Site marked on the app. So you could explore them a bit to fill up your day on an otherwise very short distance hike.
Just 5 minutes after the start of the hike there’s a petrol station where you can fill up your bottles (the tap water in the toilets is safe to drink). I also had a coffee there and a not-so-tasty pastry so don’t count on this place to fill up your belly.
Initially the hike seems to also be a bit boring scenic-wise but about 20 minutes after leaving the petrol station and crossing a paved road there’s a short climb, which is not steep although the profile on the app looks scary, and will bring the very first stunning views since the start of the hike on the previous day.
You will pass through some natural reserves with narrow paths and no sign of people whatsoever (at least if you hike in winter time)
Once you reach the top of the climb at the 6 Km mark, the terrain will slowly take you on a slight downhill until you reach a little mound with a pine forest where the campsite of the second day is located.
This hike took me 3 hours in total.
The campsite is actually just a sort of rest area with a great viewpoint, there are tables, toilets and faucets.
The terrain is mostly uneven gravel, but I managed to find a relatively grassy spot a bit away from the picnic area. This was also good as similar to the previous night, another group of youngsters came for some drinking at sunset time.
DAY 3: Mitzpe Masua – Ein Mata.
Waking up on day 3 came after a pretty much sleepless night as the hyenas in the area kept me awake for much of it. Those were some creepy sounds they make…
Not the best start as this was going to be my longest day on my little Israel National Trail adventure.
Day 3 was almost 25 Km and took me 7 hours in total.
After a good breakfast and enjoying sunrise I was hiking at 7:50am with my water stock all full from the faucet next to the toilets.
The start is all downhill and a bit slippery with the morning dew. Reaching a paved road there’s another faucet and the start of the first climb of the day which takes to a natural area which I think it’s actually nicer for camping, so you could use this area to extend a little the previous day and make this one a little bit shorter.
As you can see on the profile of the stage it’s all ups and downs, but only a couple of the climbs are tough. The last climb looks scary but it’s just steady.
All day long there are trails mixed with dirt roads, passing through beautiful landscapes where some recreational areas are located, as I was hiking on Saturday there were quite a few visitors in certain areas.
I saw in different areas quite a few Palestine mountain gazelles and even one mongoose. The gazelles were quick indeed to be captured in photos!
Some 4 hours after the start of the hike there’s an “official” faucet to refill your water bottles!
You go many times next to highways and even cross them through narrow and low tunnels. Even so, the number of beautiful spots made this day my favourite!
Almost before the end of the stage (as per the app) I diverted and climbed a small mountain to the Horvat Hanut campsite. This is a picnic area with a faucet, oddly enough I didn’t see any toilets here even that is quite “developed” for weekenders.
This camping/picnic area is next to a highway so don’t forget to bring some earplugs!
DAY 4: Ein Mata to Ora – then bus to Jerusalem.
On the app, Ora is located at the 20km mark of the stage ending at Kibbutz Tzova, Ora is located at the very top of the highest climb you can see on the profile below.
This was the toughest day, possibly because all the unnecessary weight that I was carrying started to take a toll on me.
In total I hiked 20 Km in 5 hours 45 minutes which was my slowest pace of the 4 days.
I had a rainy night and wet morning so I started hiking at 10:30 am after I managed to sun-dry my tent.
There were some steep ups and downs but also many steady areas.
At about half way of the stage, there’s a camping area which is a good spot to stop for lunch, and soon after leaving it behind there’s a really cool 1 Km long downhill section through overgrown vegetation on a narrow and slippery (because of the rain) trail, this was one of my favourite sections on my 4 day Israel National Trail experience.
After finishing this “wild” section it was time to start climbing again.
The final climb to Ora is long and, although I didn’t need them I didn’t see any faucets. There’s one marked on the app which is off trail though.
Once in Ora I took a bus to the centre of Jerusalem where I stayed one night at the Cinema Hostel and then a few nights couchsurfing in this exciting city.
Looking to do a 4-day Hike in Israel?
As you can see, it’s easy! I didn’t have to plan much, it’s a very doable hike to be improvised and although it was at many times not the most scenic hiking adventure I’ve had, it was certainly a cool improvised adventure in Israel!
If you hike at other times of the year (I hiked in early Feb) I’d suggest to try to do a short section in the north of the country which I heard is really beautiful. As mentioned in the beginning of the post, the south is also incredibly beautiful as you hike in the dessert but it will require careful planning for water cache or communicating in advance with Trail Angels.
Feel free to drop a comment or questions if you’re looking to do a short section of the Israel National Trail!
Check out the rest of my hiking adventures around the world for more ideas on your next trip!
Happy adventures! 🙂