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|Distance: 4.8km||Time: 2 hours||Difficulty: Easy|
It was a cold and foggy day in Gush Etzion. My three year old son was home for the day, and hiking seemed like a really remote possibility.
But my site was in need of a new post. So we decided to brave the bad weather and head out anyway.
I’m so glad we did!
Because once we descended out of the fog and headed off to Park Canada, near Modiin, the weather had cleared and temperatures soared into the sixties. It was a little wet on the ground, but geared up with boots we were happy to stomp in the puddles.
Our hike for the day? The Emek Hama’ayanot path in Park Canada (or Shvil Amat Hamayim). This five kilometer trail is really perfect for families with kids. There’s one part of the hike that climbs up a mountain for a beautiful view, but its totally optional. And if you skip that part, it’s significantly shorter.
Here’s the lowdown on this great hike near Modiin, Beit Shemesh, and only twenty minutes from Jerusalem.
It’s Spring Time
The hike starts at a manmade picnic area which surrounds a little pool of water. This water is channeled down from a spring up above (hence the name, Emek Hamaayanot, or Springs Valley.) I’m not sure if this pool is full in summertime too, or if anyone would go inside if it was (the water looked pretty murky). But in any event, it’s a nice little picnic area.
We hiked along the green marked trail, along narrow channels of water and through a valley of olive trees. There was a small stone bridge and a few sets of steps to climb up along the way. It was a beautiful day. We had fun squashing through the mud and jumping in puddles from the previous day’s rainstorm.
My eighteen year old daughter had joined us for the day. Before long, she found the perfect flat rock to lie down on. She has a knack for that.
We could see that today wasn’t the day for climbing mountains or an intense trek. So we decided that it was coffee time. We broke out our food and drink and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast outdoors.
After a long, long time, we were ready to move on. We weren’t sure how much further our three year old would feel like walking, but we had a few different choices of path depending on his mood. We continued along the green trail for a little while longer, passing by a few wells and fields of yellow wildflowers. Soon, we climbed the last set of steps and arrived at a crossroads.
Choose Your Own Adventure
On the left side, rosemary and lavender poured down from a rock bed. The green path continued up ahead in that direction. But we decided to turn right instead, onto the darker and twistier and unmarked path that would bring us up to the lookout at Tel Aked.
I make it sound very sinister, but really it was a simple five minute walk to the right from the fork in the path. (See the gallery below or follow the Google Earth map for where to turn right.) At the end of a little climb up a hill, there was a parking lot and the mountain path ahead.
At this point we deliberated. There was a sign that said the path up the mountain was closed (although it wasn’t), and it didn’t look very easy to climb up with a toddler in tow. But of course, we decided to go for it.
A ten minute climb up a steep (unmarked, but easy to follow) path brought us to the top of the hill, with a beautiful view down below. There were a few people up top – clearly this is a well-known lookout point in the area. The climb and the topography of the hill sort of reminded me of Givat Haturmosim near Beit Shemesh.
We walked along the top of the hill for a while, talking and taking in the fresh air and beautiful views down below.
Life Lessons for Happiness
My daughter is in the middle of her year of voluntary service at a natural healing center for cancer patients. So she sees everything through the lens of therapies and treatments that can help people feel better. “They should have nature therapy,” she commented at the top of the hill.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s hard to accurately convey the feeling that we got being outdoors in such a beautiful place after a long rainy week. But I knew exactly what she meant.
Towards the end of the mountain path, we took a clearly defined turnoff down to the left (not the steep one straight down the hill, the bigger and flatter one just past it). This path wound back and forth, meandering down the mountain through the green grasses growing all around. Before long we arrived back at the foot of the hill, on a blue marked trail heading back toward the green trail we had been on before.
We’re on the Road Again
Back on flat ground, we walked through pine tree forests and wildflowers. The path was along an asphalt road – we chose to actually walk on the road since it was a bit muddy in the forest. Only one car drove past the whole time we were there.
A few minutes later we hit the fork in the road and turned back onto the green trail to continue the Emek Hama’ayanot walk. We passed over rocks, through colorful leaves, and past budding cyclamen. The trail was relaxed and easy to follow. And beautiful. At this point, the weather wasn’t cold at all, and the sky was bright blue.
Soon we were walking back on the same trail we came in on. We saw the wells again and stopped to read the signs this time, to find out where all the water in this park was coming from.
As we neared the spring at the start of the trail, I got a text from a friend – Are you hiking today? It’s so nasty out!
I looked around at the olive trees and wildflowers, and I was really thankful that we ventured out that day. When the weather is bad at home, a short drive to another part of the country can be like a mini vacation from winter. Spring Valley lived up to its name.
One of the nice things about this hike is that there are a few different ways to do it. You can just walk out along the green walking path (Shvil Amat Hamayim) and back (for about a 2 kilometer walk). You can go up to Tel Aked the way we did it (turn right onto the unmarked path after a well, a sign, and some big boulders.) Or you can take the green walking path until the end, then walk along the blue path as far as you want. Maybe you’ll decide to walk up the hill a bit, as many people do, then turn around and come back the way you came. It’s really pretty noncommittal whichever way you decide.
For all of you non Google Earth users out there: I am working on a maps solution that will allow you to find your way easily without using that app. Stay tuned for updates!
In the meantime, here’s a link to a KKL map. We followed the green dotted line (on the left of the map), then crossed on the brown dotted line up to Tel Aked. Then we followed the brown line down the Tel and took the solid blue line back to the green dotted line. We then followed the green dotted line back to our car.
New! Read this guide to how to use the navigation in these posts.
Questions? Have you hiked this path? Leave a message in the comments below!