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|Trail Map||Hike it with Google Earth||Terrain View|
|Distance: 6-9km||Time: 2.5 hours||Difficulty: Moderate|
Some hikes are good for all seasons. And others are really perfect for one specific time of year.
Take Pura Nature Reserve, for example. This hike is in one of Israel’s National Parks. It’s on the National Parks website, and it’s only about an hour away – but we had never been there before. That’s probably because Pura looks very different in the wintertime than it does at any other time of year. And when were we ever looking for a hike in the wintertime??
Pura Nature Reserve is South of Jerusalem, not far from the Ruhama Badlands. And during winter blossoming season, there’s the most amazing display of colorful flowers spattered throughout green rolling hills.
But Pura isn’t just any flower filled hill hike. There’s also a riverbed which fills up during rainstorms. This flooding creates a channel of tree growth that lines the path through the park. Which means that the Pura Nature Reserve can be a beautiful walk even on a sunny day (as long as it’s not too hot out).
Here’s how we hiked this incredibly picturesque path in Southern Israel:
Through Fields of Flowers
The hike starts right off a main highway. As soon as we made the turnoff, we saw the National Park flags at the start of the trail. There were several families out enjoying the beautiful weather and the fields of purple and red flowers that lined the the path.
We followed the trail through the flower fields. The sky was a striking shade of blue, filled with bright puffy clouds.
After a little while the trail split in two – right for those who wanted to follow the longer trail and left to head back on the short trail to the main parking lot. Of course, we went the long way.
Here, the scenery became even more beautiful. Low rolling hills were covered in a gentle fuzz of yellow flowers. The occasional tree stood out against a beautiful sky in the distance.
Before long, we reached the crossroads to the blue trail. We made a right to follow blue. After a short walk on blue, we made a right back onto green, and then our surroundings began to change.
A River in the Desert
I wouldn’t exactly call the Pura Nature Reserve a desert, but I’m guessing that in the summertime it gets pretty close. So, I was a little surprised when we reached the next part of our journey, where chalky white river stones stuck out of the ground, next to a small forest of trees.
At some spots along this part of the trail, water had gathered from flash floods to form murky little pools in the stone. And right alongside the path, the trees cascaded down the hill creating a beautiful background to the multicolored flowers next to the trail.
We were really enjoying the hike at this point – there’s nothing like being out in beautiful scenery on a gorgeous winter day in Israel. We were happy to see that Pura was different than any other hike we had been on in the area.
I See the Riddle Gate
Our walk along the green trail continued, past the forest and towards a super cool crumbling structure. It was the remains of a bridge from the time of the Ottoman Empire. But I couldn’t help thinking of the Twin Sphinxes from The Neverending Story (a Sunday morning television classic) as I stared at the scene which lay before us.
For me, ruins are ruins. They don’t usually make my heart palpitate. But something about the way this incomplete bridge framed the rolling hills and surreal sky beyond made me feel like I was in a fantasy movie.
After taking a lot of pictures, we passed through the Riddle Gate and continued up a sand hill towards the next part of the trail.
We were back under the open sky now – no trees to give us shade. Luckily for us, the sky was filled with clouds and it was a cool day. So, we had nothing to do but appreciate the beauty of the wide open expanses around us.
Next stop – Tel Nagila. We climbed up the hill to reach the top of the Tel, which is said to consist of the remains of a large city dating back to 4000 years ago. Stories of the Tel in more recent history, however, were the most interesting of all.
The story goes that in the time of the Turks, there was a large shipment of gold meant to pay railway builders in the area. Unexpectedly, the Turks had to run from the British and leave the gold behind. The bearers of the fortune had no choice but to bury their treasure right there, and hope that they would be able to come back and retrieve it at a more fortuitous time. They chose the top of a tall hill, one lone tree marking the spot of the buried gold.
I’m not sure if they ever came back and retrieved it…and I don’t think anyone else is either. So since that time, people have been coming up to the top of the Tel to dig for the buried treasure. Rather than gold, most diggers have discovered antiquities and pottery shards from all of the ancient villages that lay within the mound.
Now, there’s a picnic table at the top of the Tel, and probably the most beautiful view in the whole area. Lots of people come to visit this spot. While we were there, a whole troop of horseback riders came up to join us.
Into the Sunlight
From this point, we had to decide whether to turn around and go back the way we came (yielding a 6 kilometer hike), or whether to follow the green to the blue trail out into the sun, creating a slightly longer hike. We chose to take the road less traveled (and more exposed).
This part of the hike was, indeed, beautiful. There were flowers everywhere. And it was a sunny day, but because of the cool weather and cloud cover, we didn’t get very hot. We passed through fields of wildflowers in every color and also a grove of trees which was clearly a favorite spot for bonfires and picnics.
After trekking along under the open sky for quite some time, we arrived back at the Nahal, where we chose a quiet spot under the trees to stop for a much-needed break.
As we sat there in the desert forest, the Sphinx gate visible in the distance, we felt very lucky that we had discovered this unknown treasure close to home. Perhaps Nahal Pura isn’t an all-season hike, but its unique beauty turned that cold winter day into a novel experience.
After our break, we headed back the way we came, pausing only to take pictures of butterflies flitting from flower to flower and caterpillars scurrying along the path.
At the Nahal Pura Nature Reserve, mid-winter is a happy time. From riverbeds to buried treasure, this National Park contains all kinds of surprises waiting to be stumbled upon.
This hike is really spectacularly beautiful on a pretty February day. Definitely worth a visit at this time of year!
You can walk up to Tel Nagila and then return the way you came – this will yield a 6 kilometer hike with a lot of shade along the way. Or, you can make the full circle to spend more time out in the sun. If you choose to go the short way, you aren’t missing much except a longer walk and some extra flowers.
Take an even shorter route with kids just to enjoy the flower fields at the beginning of the hike.
There are a few uphills along the way, including the Tel. But aside from that it is a pretty easy walk.
To hike the path, follow the directions in the gallery below, use the trail map, or follow on Google Earth. Just make sure to keep an eye out for trail markers the whole way through!
Note: For the first part of the hike, the trail is marked as both the Israel Trail and the green trail/blue trail until the Tel.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before hitting the trail.
Trail map from Amud Anan.
Questions? Have you hiked at this Nature Reserve? Give me a shout out below!