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We arrived at the Banias in the afternoon. It was a random Sunday in the middle of winter, but the parking lot was still full of sightseers – tourists and schoolgirls in this hot spot in the Golan.
We had called the National Parks Hotline in advance of our trip, and they told us that the longest hike in the Banias at this time of year (winter) was only an hour and a half. So even with our tendency towards rambling exploration, we figured we’d still have time to scope out the scene at the Banias before the park closed for the day.
But things never work out quite the way you expect them to. On our trip to the Banias, we explored one short breakaway trail. But the longer, off the beaten track path that we wanted to trek was not an option – it would take at least two hours to walk it (according to the Parks worker on site), and we had arrived too late in the day.
So we hiked the Banias trail the short way, taking it easy and giving us plenty of time to see all the beauty there was to see on this little path.
Here’s what we saw when we walked through Banias the easy way:
In Pursuit of Solitude
We started off down the blue trail (the only one that leaves from the main Banias parking lot). Here, the path was open and pretty, with flowers lining the sides and beautiful mountain views out to the distance.
There were people on the trail, but it wasn’t totally crowded (which is lucky, because if it was, I probably would have turned around and headed in the opposite direction). After a few minutes’ walk, we turned onto the red trail.
Since Banias tourists have the option of heading straight down the blue trail to see the waterfall, the red path is a better choice when you want to avoid the crowds. Here, we took a nice little walk through beautiful wild scenery, with the noise of the Banias falls booming from down below. Pretty winter wildflowers pokes through cracks in the rocks that day, with gold tinged shrubbery around.
After a short walk, we hit a little crossroads – black trail one way and red the other. We took the black trail – a dead end path for anyone whose goal is to see the main waterfall.
The black trail leads past a small picnic area up in the trees and above the flowing river down below. Almost no tourists venture onto this trail. There’s nothing to see. Except flowers, beautiful greenery, and glimpses of the wild river through a hillside of trees.
At the end of the black trail, there is a one-way turnstile gate. We thought about going through and taking a long walk towards Sha’ar Yashuv, but decided against it. Instead, we turned around and headed back towards the hanging bridge and the Banias Waterfall.
Onto the Hanging Bridge
Once we reached the hanging bridge, we were in Touristville. This path is a magnet for those who want to experience a natural wonder and can’t or don’t want to work too hard to get there. The hanging bridge may sound exciting, but it’s actually a sturdy and well-constructed wooden walkway along multiple waterfalls towards the main viewing platform.
Of course, there are traffic jams along this path – even on a random day in the middle of the winter. But since we didn’t mind waiting, we used the opportunity to stop and look down to the gushing water below – and take pictures.
After a few minutes we reached the turnoff to the blue trail. At this path, you can turn right for an hour’s walk to the Banias Springs (as long as there’s time to get to the end and back before the park closes) and left to see the waterfall itself. We said a temporary goodbye to our chance to see the road less traveled and turned left towards the main Banias waterfall.
A Great Force of Nature
The Banias waterfall was undeniably impressive. It always is. The falls pour down in a rage, into a long river of white water that doesn’t stop bubbling. A mist fills the air, creating muddy patches as the water oozes down through the trees above the wooden path. In the summertime, the wet fog is refreshing. In the winter, it’s clean and cold.
I don’t know what time we would have had to get there in order have the platform to ourselves – probably 8 AM when the park opens. But at 3:15 in the afternoon, the place was packed. People lined up one after another for pictures. The only thing to do was to wait for a space along the railing to clear (which didn’t take long).
Once I had my space on the railing, I leaned over to feel the mist on my face. Pictures were almost impossible – my camera was wet and fogged up from the water in the air. But the view was amazing. And the roar of the waterfall drowned out the voices all around.
After spending some time at the main attraction, we still had half an hour before closing time. So we made our way back in the other direction, away from the crowds and back onto the black path.
Unexpected Life Lessons
Here, we sat in complete solitude. Winter flowers bloomed all around in shades of purple and white and pink. And we found a quiet spot where we could look down at the river below from our shelter in the trees.
As the sun began to sink in the sky, we realized we’d better hustle back before the park closed. So we walked back on the red trail, past the falls, and turned left up the stairs on the blue path.
As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones left in the park. One elderly couple was climbing slowly up the stairs, walking up for ten seconds, then resting for twenty.
They looked exhausted, and we asked them if they needed help. “No, no. We just need to stop to breathe,” they replied, “Lo mevatrim al hateva!” We won’t give up on nature!
“Good for you!” we answered. And there it was. There are natural wonders out there which quite literally, take your breath away. But they are our lifeblood, a force of vitality which no one should give up on.
So that was our easy walk in the Banias – this most beautiful Golan waterfall is a natural wonder that anyone can enjoy.
The Banias is a great place to visit at any time of year. Whether you’re in great physical condition or just up for a short walk, this site is easily accessible. It’s great for kids. And you can take the black path too if you’re looking for a place to settle down away from the tourists.
Re: the crowds – from my experience, the earlier you get to these popular places, the better. If you show up at 8 AM, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a tour bus pulling up alongside you. That’s the time to go if you want a chance to have the place to yourself.
I really hope to get back up to the Banias soon to explore some of the longer trails in the area. I’ll post all the details here as soon as I have a chance to check them out. In the meantime, if you want to go explore the trails yourself, make sure to get to the site by noon. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to go all the way out and back on the trail to the Banias springs.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you go.
Marked up trail map courtesy of Amud Anan.
Questions? Tips for other hikers? Leave them in the comments section below!