January 2nd 2015
A sprawling nature reserve running between the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee town of Kiryat Shmona, Tel Dan National Park is a both a biblical archaeological site and a wonderland for hikers of all abilities.
Tel Dan is comprised of three distinct hiking trails and one shorter trail that is totally wheelchair accessible. Canopies of greenery offer shade, and there are ancient mills and city gates along the paths to explore. Shallow wading pools offer hikers the chance to take a break and swim in refreshing, often cold, natural waters.
Tel Dan is named for the Biblical Tribe of Dan, one of the original Twelve Tribes of Israel. The site was originally the Biblical city of Laish, which served as the capital of the Northern Kingdom. The Dan River, flowing with waters melted from the snow of Mount Hermon, serves as one of the primary sources of the Jordan River. Visitors often comment that the air in the Tel Dan National Park feels notably clean and super-oxygenated, particularly near the springs.
The hikes here are enjoyable on their own, but if you’re able to make the trek, don’t miss the Canaanite Gate, constructed of mud bricks. According to Biblical tradition, judges sat in the gates of the city, and legal cases were presented in gates just like this one. Another attraction is the stone wall and gate that archaeologists believe was built by King Jeroboam after the split of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, as described in the Book of Samuel.
The most significant highlight is what might be the oldest archaeological site in all of Israel. A red sandstone gate and its surrounding ruins are believed to date back to the days of Abraham and Sarah. Nearby are some graduated stone seats that are perfect for relaxing or for listening to your tour guide explain the significance of this region during the time of King Solomon.
Although there is a wheelchair-accessible path in the nature reserve, please note that most of the park’s archeological sites are not wheelchair-accessible. Caution is urged even for average hikers, since stairs and hand rails are not generally available. Excavation work on the Tel Dan site continues, so new features may yet be added. Make sure to enjoy the scenic view on the drive out.