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|Trail Map||Hike it with Google Earth||Terrain View|
|Distance: 3.5km||Time: 3 hours||Difficulty: Easy|
|Ascent: 20m||Trailhead and Markers Gallery|
Central Israel is well known for its city life and beautiful beaches. But tucked away near Tel Aviv, there’s a different type of attraction: Mekorot Hayarkon, a small National Park rich with diverse natural beauty .
Mekorot HaYarkon (or Yarkon Sources) is home to Yarkon Stream. At this nature reserve, you can actually see one of the springs from which the Yarkon River flows. It bubbles down in a mini waterfall, over rocks in the middle of the park.
We’ve been wanting to get back to Mekorot HaYarkon for a while. Last time we hiked there, I identified a really great loop trail for kids. This trail leads past all of the best sights at the park: crumbling historical sights, a pretty walkway, a deck above a river full of catfish, lily pad ponds, and more.
At the center of the park, there are picnic tables and playgrounds. There’s also a well-tended campsite where you can pitch a tent for the night.
This past Friday we revisited Mekorot HaYarkon with our kids. The hike we took was quiet, relaxing, interesting, and beautiful: pretty much everything you could hope for in a short, 3.5K loop trail.
We all had an amazing time. Here’s how we hiked through Mekorot HaYarkon National Park:
Not Just for Lovebirds
We showed our parks card to the attendant and received our maps – one copy in English and one in Hebrew. After parking, we followed the path towards the “Romantic Trail.”
The aptly named trail was quiet and peaceful. Brightly colored bougainvilleas poured down from the sides of the pathway. Our kids walked along, admiring the beauty. This trail wasn’t just for lovebirds.
We walked under canopies of reeds which formed dark tunnels of shade. Everyone loved the subtropical beauty of the place – it’s not the kind of scenery that they’re used to seeing on hikes.
Between the light humidity in the air and the greenery, I felt like I was a little girl again, back in my hometown New Orleans. Knowing that there was a river full of catfish ahead made me feel even more at home.
Flour Mills and Future Plans
We crossed the bridge towards a crumbling 19th century flour mill. I always love seeing these structures near streams in Israel. It reminds me that even in Israel, there are rivers powerful enough to serve a useful purpose.
Past the flour mill, we reached a more civilized part of the park. There were bathrooms and a cute campsite. Wooden beams made perfect places to practice our balancing skills.
As we passed through the camp site, my daughter became convinced that we needed to plan a camping trip to this park ASAP. She loved the orderly beauty, the canopy of trees, and the little river running right nearby. I agreed that camping at Mekorot HaYarkon was definitely going down on our to-do list.
Old Fashioned Fun
From the campground, we moved closer to the river, onto a wooden deck with a railing and a bench. This seemed like just the spot for breakfast – for us and for the fish that filled the water.
Luckily, we had brought along a giant bag of stale bread for this purpose. While we sipped ice coffee, the kids took turns throwing crumbs into the water. They watched as the ugly, brown catfish opened their giant mouths to gulp down hunks of bread. Anywhere a piece of bread landed, the catfish congregated, their bodies rising above the water as they all competed for food.
Between the plentiful shade and built in entertainment, we could have easily spent hours in that spot. So, we stayed there for a while.
Eventually, when we ran out of crumbs and the kids finished their own pitas with za’atar, we continued along the river.
Historical Homes and Budding Blossoms
There were more fish, cool dragonflies, and birds aplenty along the way. We also saw houses on stilts on the other side of the stream.
Consulting the signs and the map, we saw that these homes were occupied by landowners, who used the water from the stream to irrigate their orchards. From these tall structures, they could watch over their fields.
Nearby, we looked out over a giant pond full of lily pads. This one was in full bloom. Bright yellow flowers popped up from the water. Dragonflies flitted from blossom to blossom.
Cheating Just a Little Bit
We followed the circular path towards the river. Our actual intention for this hike was to continue along the river, towards the gate which led to a much larger lily pad pond. Then, we would return to the trailhead by following the Israel Trail, making a 3.5K circle.
Since were hiking during pandemic times, the Parks Authority had closed the second entrance/exit to the park. In order to complete the circle, we had to return to the entrance and hike from there. My husband went to get the car to take us to the second half of the hike while we admired the fish a little bit longer.
Hike Part Two
Back out of the car, we followed the Israel Trail, to complete the tour of Mekorot HaYarkon. This part of the trail was sunny, but armed with sunglasses and hats, everyone was oblivious to any discomfort.
We walked along an old train track along the side of the park, underneath railroad bridges that were fun for the kids. Soon, we reached an awesome discovery: an old pillbox used to protect the railroad (which was built by Rothschild to transport citrus fruits to the port in the 19th century). From this little structure, the Jews made sure that no ambushes threatened the train.
My little boys loved exploring the pillbox. They climbed inside, jumped up onto the wooden bunks, and peeked out all of the windows. Then, we closed all of the metal shutters and imagined that we were army men on a mission.
Lily Pads and Simplicity
After the pillbox, we continued along the Israel Trail until we reached our final destination: The Lily Pad Pond. We were only on the very edge of the pond, but it was incredible to see the greenery filling every inch of water in front of us. A tall, peeling eucalyptus tree sat right in the center of the pond.
My kids made themselves comfortable on the bank, sitting in the shade and just relaxing. There wasn’t much to do or see, but the simplicity and quiet of the place made everyone want to stick around.
Finally, we got the kids back up again and retraced our steps along the Israel Trail.
It’s rare to go on an outdoor excursion with kids and not hear a word of complaint. The unique beauty and interesting history at Mekorot HaYarkon made this short hike a wonderful adventure for the whole family.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this 3.5K loop trail at Mekorot HaYarkon:
- Suitable for all seasons. Mekorot HaYarkon park itself is very well shaded. The Israel Trail section (<1K) is not shady.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses, and good walking shoes.
- Dogs are allowed in the park, but not at overnight camping.
- We hiked this trail during the pandemic, when the second entry/exit was closed. If you are hiking in 2020, make sure to reserve your spots online in advance. Also, you can either skip the second half of the trail, or return to the entrance to the park and then follow the Israel Trail to the Lily Pad pond and back (what we did). This makes the hike longer.
- The Google Earth file shows a 3.5K loop – use this version of the trail if the second entry/exit is open (which it normally is).
- No entry into the water.
- This is an awesome campsite with facilities! Reserve in advance online at the parks website.
- There is an admission fee to enter the park. OR use your parks card. You’ll get a map with entry and there are facilities on site. Use your paid entrance to Mekorot HaYarkon to enter Tel Afek, as well. (which is also part of the greater Yarkon National Park).
- To follow the trail, view the trail map in the table up top. Or, follow the path in the Google Earth file in the table.
- Even if you go without a plan, this park is wonderful to wander in! And it’s impossible to get lost if you stick to the main park.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Questions? Have you hiked this trail? Let’s hear about it in the comments!