January 1st 2015
1: You’ve been to Israel before and seen all the must-see destinations.
2: You’re traveling with pre-teens and young adults.
3: You’d really enjoy the freedom to wander around ancient ruins, not just see them from a distance.
About 22 miles north of Haifa and 10 miles south of the Lebanon border is Monfort National Park. Monfort is French for strong mountain and, indeed, the 13th century Crusader fortress in Monfort National Park is its major highlight. While it’s possible to glance at the fortress from the Goren Park outlook, the fortress itself can only be approached on foot. If you’re up to it, the 45-minute hike, while not appropriate for small children or adults with physical challenges, is well worth the effort.
There are actually two separate hikes. If you’re training for the Iron Man competition, choose the RED line from Goren Park. The route will take you down the hill and then up to the fortress. Along the way, the views of the Galilee and the picturesque mountain offer lots of gorgeous spots for photo ops. Otherwise, choose the trail that leaves from just south of the city of Ma’ilya off the Nahariya-Ma’alot road. This departure allows you to hike down toward the ruins and isn’t as steep. You’ll still see gorgeous views of the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
Once you get to the Monfort castle, you can walk among the stones to your heart’s content. There are no cordoned-off areas. If you bring a picnic, you can enjoy lunch inside the castle walls. Don’t miss the Crusader farm to the north end of the castle. Look for the intact gothic domes. Nearby are also remains of an ancient flour mill and a dam that stored water for farming. Be cautious near the cliff edges that surround the castle, though.
As with all hikes in Israel, a hat and sunscreen are important, as are comfortable shoes and at least two liters of water per hiker. A change of clothes and a flashlight to illuminate the tunnel are also recommended, since the Keziv Stream (Nahal Kziv) is well-known in Israel for having water all year round.