The Yehudiya Water Hikes

March 19th 2013

Yehudiya Nature ReserveIf you’re looking for a somewhat challenging but highly rewarding trek during your trip to Israel, consider the Yehudiya water trails, located in the Nahal Yehudiya nature reserve in the Golan Heights, just south of Katzrin. Keep in mind that these hikes involve some deep water, so forget about staying dry. Climbing down waterfalls using handholds, swimming across natural pools and completing a steep uphill walk are essential components of the full hiking experience at Yehudiya. Not that full-on wilderness survival skills are necessary, but this is not a casual hike suitable for the inexperienced hiker.

There are two main hiking options in Yehudiya. The shorter one takes approximately four hours to complete. The path begins by walking through Yehudiya Village, a deserted Syrian settlement that was built on top of a 2,000-year-old Jewish town and later abandoned by the Syrians during the Six Day War in 1967. Continuing on, the next landmark is the 20-meter-high Yehudiya Falls. From these falls, one can enjoy spectacular views of the Yehudiya Canyon, which was formed by cutting through black basalt rock from volcanic eruptions. Pink oleanders (beautiful but poisonous), willows and fig trees dot the lush green area.

During the four-hour hike, the trail passes through waterfalls and two deep, natural pools of water. Ladders drilled into the sides of the mountain bring hikers down the cliffs and into the water, where the only way to get back to dry land is to swim the 25 meters across. Be sure to bring waterproof bags to wrap your food and gear or else everything you’re carrying will get wet. Some hikers float their gear across the deep water pools on inflatable boats.
The longer version of the hike takes about 6 ½ hours to complete and involves crossing three more pools. Remember to drink lots of water (3 liters per person are recommended), take time to float around in the natural deep water pools and take occasional breaks under shady trees.

In general, fall and spring, when the weather in Israel is milder and not rainy, are the best seasons for hiking in Israel. Serious walking shoes or sandals are a must. This is not a hike to do in flip-flops or Crocs. A nearby campground can be a good solution for staying in the area overnight.