|Get there with Google Maps||Get there with Waze||Get there with Moovit|
|Trail Map||Hike it with Google Earth||Terrain View|
|Distance: 6km||Time: 2 - 3 hours||Difficulty: Moderate|
|Ascent: 194m||Trailhead and Markers Gallery|
We like to find new hikes in threes.
Almost every time we discover a new, beautiful hike, we see more new trails to explore nearby. And inevitably, we head back to the same spot again and again, just to scope out every possible type of hike we can take through the area.
A few weeks ago, we took a really long hike from Derech HaCaesar through Nahal Sansan. And as we were leaving, we noticed a shorter trail leaving from the same starting point. So, we resolved to get back to it another day.
Sure enough, one random morning during the following week, we returned to that trail. And what we discovered was a gorgeous, easy walk through nature with an awesome olive grove, a spring (Ein Mata), ancient ruins, and a weirdly cool palm tree forest.
There were also early winter flowers blooming. We knew we had to bring the kids there ASAP to show them what we discovered. A few short days later, we were back.
Here’s how we hiked this incredible hidden trail through Nahal Zanoah towards Ein Mata with our kids (and our nieces and nephews!):
Just a Quiet Little Stroll Through Nature
We set out on the blue trail on a cool and cloudy morning. Luckily for us, the weather was really perfect for hiking – no complaints about the sun or heat were expected.
As we followed the path downhill (bonus!), we noticed a lot of interesting things. There was late turning foliage. And lots of little cyclamen flowers bloomed along the sides of the path.
The kids ran up ahead, playing pine cone fetch with our border collie. A beautiful forest of tall pine trees towered over us on one side of the path.
This part of the walk wasn’t short, but it was really pleasant. The walking was easy, and all of the kids were engaged in games and conversation with their cousins.
Turning Towards the Riverbed
Soon, we approached a large quarry, barely visible in the distance. And we saw the turn off to the Israel trail, which would take us towards the riverbed down below.
This part of the walk was less forested. But there were other features to draw us in. Soon, we passed a large grove of olive trees which seemed like a great place for a picnic. The kids wanted to stop for lunch (don’t they always?), but we insisted that they push forward towards the surprises that awaited at the end of the trail.
We plied them with snacks as we made our way past giant cactus plants. Just a little bit further and we would reach a perfect stopping point.
Climbing Trees and Roasting Marshmallows
A few minutes later, we were there – at a place full of amazing surprises. A giant eucalyptus tree towered into the sky, its branches hanging down – perfect for climbing. A murky stream ran by at its roots.
Before anyone could think about exploring the rest of the area, lunchtime was absolutely essential. We broke out our sandwiches, then put together an impromptu bonfire for marshmallow roasting. Between the bonfire and the climbing tree, we had all we needed right in this spot.
But there was more to explore just across the stream. When everyone had finished eating, we cleaned up and dragged the kids away from the tree, across stepping stones, towards the other side of the water.
Home Sweet Home
There’s nothing like an old crumbling structure for exploring. Just ask our 14 children (combined).
This little structure had everything – little dark rooms filled with piles of refuse, windows to peek through, a great wall to climb. There was even lettering chiseled above the doorway – Home Sweet Home. Where did that come from?
Once again, after twenty minutes of playing, it proved almost impossible to pull our kids away and on to the next attraction. But eventually, we succeeded. We crossed under an incredible twisty tree, towards the weirdest palm tree forest we had ever encountered.
Palm trees stretched out in rows before us – a tropical jungle. The trees themselves were a strange find in this area of the country (the Jerusalem Mountains, near Nes Harim). But even weirder was that all of the trunks were charred and black, with bright green leaves shining in the sun, up above.
Every single tree had been carved into. People names were written in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. True love was engraved into these trees for all eternity.
The kids discovered that if they rubbed the trees, their hands would turn black – another amazing discovery. They climbed, dragged branches, made palm tree brooms, and explored until we told them it was time to go home.
Rock Climbing and Winter Flowers
Remember all that downhill at the beginning of the walk? Well now, we had to go back up. Luckily, the climb along the black trail was a sharper ascent up layers of rocks and trees – just the kind of climbing that kids prefer.
We made our way up with almost zero complaining. And right before we reached the top, we showed the kids a little sea of white flowers blooming under the trees, the first flowers of the season to blossom.
A few minutes later, we were back at the parking lot – much dirtier but totally exhilarated. It had been a perfect trail to travel with our children.
It’s surprising each time we find something new to explore only twenty minutes from home. I can’t wait to find more of these secret trails in our own backyard.
Here’s what you need to know before setting out on this hike:
- The trail can be muddy or wet after the winter rain. Wear appropriate footwear.
- Bring water and sun protection, especially in the summertime.
- Good trail for all seasons.
- Suitable for dogs.
- Trail colors: blue, Israel Trail, red (with a stop at Ein Mata), then black.
- Use the trail map or trail marker gallery in the table up top to find your way on the trail. Or use the Google Earth file to follow your location on the map.
- Feeling lazy? You can take your kids straight down the black trail to Ein Mata and back up again.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Trail map from Amud Anan.
Questions? Have you hiked to Ein Mata? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!