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|Time: 1 hour
When we first moved to Israel, fifteen years ago (could it be??), we had two small children and lived in the Bet Shemesh area. Hiking back in those days meant something short and easy – a hike that would take normal adults half an hour took us two hours with our babies in tow.
Once, on an inside tip from a neighbor we went searching for something called the Schuster Trail (now simply called the Shvil Nofi Nahal Katlav), part of the American Independence Park in the Nes Harim area.
After our first trek along this path, we were hooked for life. With lots of shade, beautiful greenery in every season, and stunning views this walk was an instant favorite.
These days, whenever we want to go on an easy family hike, we pack a bag and head to the Schuster trail. It’s only fifteen minutes from Gush Etzion (and about the same from Bet Shemesh).
We start at the trail head at Bar BaHar – a popular café in the forest. As we follow the path to the trails on the right hand side of the shop, we soon reach the red and white trail marker which indicates the start of the small loop through the forested mountains where we’ll spend the next hour.
Up, up, we go, over the rocks and through the trees. Our little guys run ahead to find the red and white signs which show us we are on the right path. This hike is great for kids who want to feel like they are really exploring – there are little ascents and descents the whole way through, but nothing so challenging that a three-year old can’t make it over.
For the rest of us, the views are spectacular, especially in the early morning or late afternoon sun. And depending on the season, there are different kinds of wildflowers along the way.
Another fun feature for our kids is that there are many inviting stopping points throughout the trail. There are tree log benches hidden under canopies of oak trees. And a semicircle of stone seats perfect for a picnic. We stop every once in a while for a rest, a drink of water, or some tree climbing.
Depending on how active we’re feeling that day, this hike can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. Once we’ve reached the trail’s end, we head up the dirt road for three minutes until we’re back at Bar BaHar.
So even if we’re short on time, we can still go exploring on this little loop trail nearby. Seeing nature up close and feeling the peace of the countryside – it’s a perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.
This hike is great for little kids – but it’s not stroller friendly or handicapped accessible. You need to be able to climb some steps to make it through.
Stay tuned for maps which will bring you straight through this hike. In the meantime, use the Waze link to get you to the parking lot. Once you’re out of the car follow the path on the right hand side until you see the red trail. This trail takes you all the way until the steps near the end. Here you’ll turn right to follow the black trail (Nahal Katlav) back up to the road.
For a slightly longer hike, follow the path on the left hand side of Bar Bahar. Here, the red trail officially begins. You’ll spend a few minutes on this part of the trail before joining up with path described above.
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