June 23rd 2015
Jerusalem is best known for its historical and holy sites, but don’t forget to relish the amazing hikes that traverse the area’s hills, valleys, meadows and woodlands. The views alone may make you stop in your tracks. Here are just a few of the most highly recommended half-day hikes that originate within a few minutes’ drive of Jerusalem’s city limits.
These hikes, presented here in alphabetical order, take three to four hours each, so you’ll be able to enjoy a substantial nature experience that won’t take up an entire day.
For approximately three weeks at the beginning of spring, a hill on Road 375 is blanketed by blooming purple lupines. Local families like to hike this hill in about ten minutes, but it’s worth the experience to keep going. You’ll find a hike that is extremely enjoyable even when the lupines are not in bloom. From the parking area, take the black trail up the steep hill. Follow it for some spectacular and unexpected views of Gush Dan. Loop back around from the black trail by splitting off when you find green markers, and then follow the green trail until you encounter the blue markers, which bring you back to the hillside where you started.
Hirbet Hanut to Ein Kobi
This hike originates at Hirbet Hanut, site of a sixth-century Byzantine church known for its ancient mosaics. From here, you can traverse the Israel National Trail to Ein Kobi, winding behind Moshav Matta and Moshav Bevo Beitar, two of the most picturesque Judean Hills communities. Along the way, you’ll pass both a pine forest and a palm grove.
Drive from Jerusalem towards Bar Giora, and find the Bar Behar restaurant and ice cream stand on the road to Nes Harim. Across the road is a loop hike that takes you to the ruin of Hirbet Itab, a fortress originally inhabited by twelfth century Crusaders. Follow red trail markers to a spring and the small pool that it (sometimes) feeds. Continue to the fortress, and enjoy the magnificent scenery along the way. Eat your lunch by the ruins, and climb the fort. When you’re ready, follow the red trail down into the valley, until you can turn left onto the green trail, which connects with the blue trail to bring you back to Bar Behar. Alternatively, stick to the red trail until you get to Moshav Zanoach for pickup there. Along the way, you can try entering the famous bat cave, unless it’s winter, when they hibernate.
Drive to the Bar Behar restaurant and ice cream stand on the road to Nes Harim. Find the beginning of the trail that winds down past a spring to the shady, cool wadi. Keep going, and eventually you’ll reach the abandoned Bar Giora train station. It’s a nice place to eat a picnic lunch. From the train station, the trail winds again, up past a deserted Arab village, and loops back to where you began. You may be pleased to finish next to an ice cream stand!
Sataf to Ein Kerem
The lion’s share of the trek from the Sataf Forest to the village of Ein Kerem on the outskirts of Jerusalem overlaps with the Israel National Trail. From Sataf, head down to Nahal Sorek, the wide former riverbed that winds its way up to Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. Enjoy the breathtaking views. Be careful, though, to stick with Nahal Sorek when it diverges from the Israel National Trail, in order to reach Road 395, which leads to Ein Kerem.