Israel National Trail
This article is an itinerary.
The Israel National Trail (INT) crosses historic places, archeological sites and unique landscapes while it zigzags its way from the northern border with Lebanon to the Red Sea through the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Negev (the Israeli desert.)
Consisting of 1000 kilometers of marked trail, the trail is a diverse path ranging from rivers in the north to the dryness and emptiness of the Negev in the south, to modern and busy Tel Aviv, to the ancient and holy city of Jerusalem.
Swimming in the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River and visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation will take you to the places where Christianity was born. Walking in the land where the Bible stories unfold and seeing the evidence and the archeological sites of many familiar tales from childhood make the trail a holy and spiritual experience for every human being. Crossing many villages and towns, the INT is full of choices and possibilities.
One can sleep near civilization or be one with the wilderness. One can choose to carry five days of food or re-supply almost everyday. It is up to each individual to decide what kind of INT experience is right for him/her.
The INT gives one the chance to experience superb desert scenery in a relatively accessible way. When hiking the INT, one is never more than a one day's hike from a road or two days to a reliable water source. Magnificent desert colors, animals and flowers are some of the many wonderful highlights.
In Israel, the majority of people speak English as a second language and are more than willing to help. One will not recognize this picturesque Israel from the pictures seen on television news, which typically only depict the conflict which occurs in small sections of a largely conflict-free land. One who visits will have a better understanding of the place that is constantly in world headlines.
When is the best time to hike the trail?
There are two good seasons: October to November & February to mid-May.
During February to mid-May, the landscape is green and the flowers are blooming, more water is available in the creeks, and the rivers up north are much more impressive.
Winter is also a good time to hike the INT.
In both seasons you can expect rain in the northern part of the trail. A tent or tarp and rain gear would be good to have in winter.
What are the sources of water in the desert?
There are numerous places that extra water supplies would be useful to have "stashed" ahead of time on the trail. South of Arad (Wadi Hemar, Meizad Tamar), bottom of small crater, the large crater (north & south), Ein Akev or Wadi Hava, Wadi Geled, before Barak Canyon, wadi Zihor, Shehoret Canyon and Ein Netafim.
Is it dangerous to hike the trail?
The trail is only close to disputed territories in one place - near Lahav. Lahav area is very safe to hike and it has been like that for decades. Carrying a weapon is completely unnecessary.
There has never been a reported incident of anyone, foreign or national, experiencing conflict on the trail. Contrarily, many hikers have reported that they have been welcomed both by Arab and Jewish communities through which the trail passes.
What kind of maps and books are there?
Recently an excellent GUIDE in ENGLISH was published. The guide contains all the topographical maps (1:50,000) of the trail in English' hike description, and a lot of useful information about the trail. The cost of the guide + maps is very reasonable.
There is also one book in Hebrew, produced by the Hebrew company "Mapah" (מפה). A general consensus among INT hikers is that it is a mediocre and insufficient resource. It is written for families and day-hikers and is not updated (at least not currently).
There are large topographical maps of Israel as well. They are all in Hebrew and buying all the maps might be expensive.
The maps have water sources marked but they're not reliable. (To see a list of water sources go to the end of this page.) There are no recommendations on places to stay or good campsite markers on the map.
Are there trail markers?
The trail is marked all the way in orange, blue and white. The "up" color points the direction. White up it's north, Orange up south. It's difficult to get lost.
Are there ample places to re-supply?
The trail passes near towns and places where one can buy food and resupply more often than you need. One wouldn’t need to carry more than five day's worth of food. Every village, town and kibbutz usually has a grocery store. As may be expected, the bigger the community, the bigger and better-supplied the stores will be.
How much water should one carry?
Until one gets to Arad traveling southward (assuming no abnormally hot conditions), five liters per person per day should be enough for drinking and cooking. More would be necessary for ¨bottled showers¨ or dish-washing. There is no place along this northern part that one would need to carry more than one day's water supply.
From Arad to Eilat six to seven liters per day are needed. One would have a day and a half or two days from the water sources. On hot days (30c +) more water is needed. (See the water-drop question.)
Where should one start?/Which direction should one go?
The most common way is North to South and doing it this way has certain benefits:
a. The northern part is easier and gives your body a better chance to get in shape, acclimatize and adjust to the trail life. The amount of water you need to carry is smaller and again it gives your body time to get stronger.
b. During the Spring (March, April) one will hike in a green landscape for the first half if not more. If hiked in the opposite direction, one could easily reach the north after mid-April, missing most of the flowers.
c. The finish line of Eilat is generally more rewarding than the region of Dan in the north. Eilat is a resort town filled with luxury hotels, which will likely be more relaxing and rewarding than Kibbutz Dan's, especially when contrasted to the desert that one is exiting.
d. There are many more villages and kibbutzes on the northern part with more resupply possibilities. For most of the hikers it's the first long trail they have experienced and many mistakes are made with water, food and gear. These mistakes are much easier to ¨fix¨ on the northern part of the trail. By the time one gets to the desert, important lessons on water and food quantities and gear should have been learned.
e. Expect however more rainy days in the north during March-April and consequently more delays.
South to North:
a. If one is hiking in the spring it makes more sense to hike the desert section before it gets too hot. Hiking in May in the desert is associated with more very hot days when one must stop the day's hike at about 10AM and continue hiking in the afternoon, when temperatures drop.
b. There is a higher likelihood of experiencing desert floods after a heavy rain, which are beautiful. However, such rains and floods can also be dangerous. Floods are not very frequent in the desert section of INT.
Where can I get more information?
There are currently few English resources on the Trail:
- The INT committee: phone number 972-3-6388719, 972-3-6388720.
- Maps - The entire set consists of 14 maps, costing US$20 per map. The maps are very good and are highly recommended and can be a sufficient guide-resource alone. Tourist discounts may be offered by the INT committee. The maps are in Hebrew. Each map weighs about 150 grams (~5 ounces).
How long is the trail and how much time does one need to hike it?
The trail is about 1000 km (650 miles) long. For the average hiker, it should take from 40 to 60 days.
This page was last edited at 01:36, on 31 January 2009 by Wikitravel user Yankale. Based on work by Hotels Combined, Todd VerBeek, Ravikiran Rao, Tom Holland, Evan Prodromou and maoz, Wikitravel user(s) Morph and Staieram and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.