Circling Mount Meron
Most of the time when Israelis go out for a nature hike, they prefer walking on circular paths since this way they end up back at their car instead of having to come with a second car to leave at the end of the trail, or try to find a ride with a fellow hiker back to their car at the end. There aren’t many naturally circular trails in Israel, or at least ones that don’t have you mostly retrace your steps. If you, too, find this phenomenon frustrating, you’ll be really glad to hear that the trail that leads from Nahal Moran to Nahal Neria in the Mount Meron Nature Reserve is a 100% naturally circular trail that will take you past gorgeous groves and enchanting landscapes.
The starting point is near the Mount Meron Field School, and just before you reach the entrance gate, you’ll see green trail markers. After you’ve taken a few steps, you’ll notice that the path descends into a dense forest that is full of many surprises – especially in the winter when it’s filled with lots of wild mushrooms and colorful flowers. It’s understandable that many hikers compare this magical forest to woods they’ve encountered in Europe, as well as those we all remember from fairy tales when we were children. Because the forest provides natural shade, this trail is comfortable to traverse even on relatively hot days, and so you should bring the appropriate outerwear if you’re planning to be hiking there on a cold winter day.
After walking for about one kilometer in the quiet and peaceful forest, you’ll reach Neria Spring, which is situated in the wall of a cliff. The water that gently bubbles out of the spring is channeled into a shallow pool nearby. The spring water comes from Nahal Moran and not from Nahal Neria, as many people mistakenly believe. Hikers will see two springs as they walk along this path. The first one is right on the path and is the larger of the two. The second spring is off to the side and is a little more difficult to locate.
Despite the fact that the amount of water that flows from these springs is relatively insignificant, the area surrounding the pool and springs is always packed with people picnicking or taking a coffee break. Children love to dip their feet and splash around in the shallow pool.
Once you’ve rested and are ready to return to the trail, you’ll be happy to know that the path will take you all the way into the riverbed. Because to walk this trail you must actually tread inside the riverbed, which remains dry most of the year except after a rain, you should check what the recent weather has been before heading out. When the riverbed is dry, the hike is very easy and straightforward. When the stones are wet, however (mostly just in the winter), they can be very slippery, which makes walking along this trail a bit trickier.
You’ll notice that the path down towards the riverbed twists and turns through the brush. The only way to reach the destination – Nahal Neria – is to actually walk inside the riverbed. It’s not a hard walk down, but you should definitely slow down your pace and take the time to look around at the gorgeous and natural surroundings. After it rains, lots of flowers and plants bloom here, and you might get lucky and catch an animal peeking its head out from behind a rock.
When you’ve completed the shady descent down towards the riverbed, while enjoying the interesting surroundings, you’ll see that the riverbed is wide and open to the sky. At this point, you will begin following the red trail markers.
Close by, you’ll soon come upon a road, which is a pretty unique sight in the middle of a nature reserve – and rightly so. The road, which connects the villages of Hurfeish and Beit Jann, was built illegally and not surprisingly it is referred to as the Road of Contention. It was built by local residents to shorten the travel time between the two villages, and many hikers who do not wish to walk the entire length of the trail to Nahal Neria also take advantage of this road.
I recommend, however, that you walk the entire trail and not take the shortcut since it is such a beautiful and unique hike. So, continue along the path, which will now have you walk in the Nahal Moran riverbed. You’ll notice that Nahal Moran is not as straight as Nahal Neria, and climbs at a small little slope (but not so extreme that it will affect your pace). Here, you will once again come upon a splendid view of the surrounding forest and the blossoming hills. There aren’t many planned rest areas along the path here, so you can just pick a spot to stop along the way. It’s quite a long trail, so I recommend stopping every once in a while to take in the scenery and actively enjoy the fresh air.
The last section of the hike is the climb back up to the parking area where you left your car. The ascent is short but steep, so be ready to give a strong last push with your remaining energy. When you reach the top, you’ll see the road that will lead you to the main street. Walk along the street for 500 meters until you reach the parking area.
Length: Seven kilometers (4-5 hours)
Directions: Drive along Road 89 and follow signs for Mount Meron. Park your car in the parking area next to the field school.