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|Time: 1-2 hours
Which water trail combines archeology, ancient history, and deep natural beauty? At Tel Dan Nature Reserve, you can hike along the Dan River and also explore a site with real biblical significance.
Yes, Tel Dan has waterfalls and a gushing stream, along with thick shade. There are colorful river rocks and miniature waterfalls. But, the city Dan was also famously mentioned in the Bible: when the tribes of Israel split into two kingdoms (Judah and Israel), Dan was turned into a holy city by Yerobam, King of Israel. He created his very own temple there where the Northern Kingdom gathered for holidays.
Besides its historical significance including archeological discoveries from the Canaanite and First Temple periods, Tel Dan Nature Reserve is also home to the Dan river. The Dan is the largest and most important of the three streams leading into the Jordan River. Almost all of its water comes from underground springs (filled by melting snow of the Hermon), making the stream cold to the touch even in the summertime.
We hiked through Tel Dan Nature Reserve with our family in the heat of August. It was pleasant and gorgeous. Our kids loved the thick shade and cool streams all over the place. And I loved the elements that gave the site character: like the textured gray stone of the old flour mill, left behind from the British Mandate period.
Tel Dan also has an accessible path, and a much longer trail that leads to Ancient Dan. We stuck to what they call the “Long Trail” – an hour and a three quarters of walking through cool, shady, riverside scenery.
Here’s how we hiked through Tel Dan Nature Reserve:
There’s something about the orderly entrance to many National Parks in Israel which always surprises me. At Tel Dan, we entered in through a large and professional store and were greeted by a pleasant Parks worker. She gave us maps in English and Hebrew, along with a Junior Ranger booklet and pin (purchased for 10 shekel).
It was early afternoon when we arrived, so first we sought out some picnic tables in the shade. Even though it was August (vacation time), there was plenty of room for everyone in the picnic area. We found a quiet spot to enjoy our lunch before beginning the hike.
After eating and filling up our water bottles, we were off, following the trail markers down a neat wooden pathway over the raging waters of the Dan River.
On To the Long Trail
Soon, we reached a crossroads. In one direction, we could follow the long trail, bringing us on a fuller exploration of the park (with an option to take an even longer trek out to Ancient Dan). In the other, the shorter, wheelchair accessible trail continued.
We followed the Long Trail and found ourselves on a boardwalk overlooking the Dan River. Next to us were little rock streams full of water.
According to the official rules, you’re not allowed to go into the stream anywhere but the Wading Pool towards the end. But with so much water right along the pathway, it was hard to convince my kids to stick to the boardwalk! They got their feet wet as they splashed through the tiny stream towards the thick shade up ahead.
Waterfalls, Tree Canopies, and More
We progressed along the path towards deep beauty. The shade was so thick at Tel Dan that it was hard to take pictures. Cool and refreshed from their jaunt into the water, my kids took their time to relax in the shade. It took us at least an hour to wander through this part of Tel Dan Nature Reserve.
We walked from one beautiful spot to another. On the trail, we passed Dan Spring, the “Garden of Eden”, and the Pooh Bear tree. We tried, but we couldn’t really figure out why this large Syrian Ash tree with a hollow in the middle bears the title of the Pooh Bear Tree (do you have any idea?!)
My boys tried to complete their Junior Ranger books as we walked, but the call of the river pulled them away from their checklists. We found ourselves with feet in the water again and again.
After following the maze through the trees for a while, we finally reached the old flour mill, a miniature waterfall crashing down on the side of it. Everyone took turns putting their heads in. Then we proceeded down a picturesque set of wide stone steps towards the continuation of the accessible trail and the wading pool up ahead.
The Well-Traveled Road
Back on the short trail, we began to see groups of people again. Old and young ambled along this cute little trail, all enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Dan River, easy access. Finally, we reached the Wading Pool (the parks official spot for water play). Children filled the area, all splashing in the designated water zone. But that didn’t stop my kids from jumping in.
We waded in for some water fun, then emerged back onto the boardwalk and into the sunshine, retracing our steps back towards the park’s entrance. Our time at Tel Dan was complete.
Next time we return to Tel Dan Nature Reserve, we have a plan to explore the ancient ruins on the extra-long trail that make this National Park historically significant. In the meantime, we were content to have discovered a place of rich natural beauty, at one of the most gorgeous streamside trails in Northern Israel.
Here’s what you need to know to hike at Tel Dan Nature Reserve:
- Great for all seasons. You can stay completely dry in the wintertime and benefit from the cool shade in the summertime.
- Great for kids.
- No dogs allowed.
- There are three trails at Tel Dan. The accessible trail is a shorter loop that takes about an hour. We took the long trail. The even longer trail goes out to Ancient Dan (2.5 hours).
- Wear water shoes and a hat in the summertime.
- Tel Dan is a National Park. There is a fee to enter (or use your parks card). Facilities on site. You will receive a map when you enter the park. Use that to plan your route.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Questions? Have you hiked at Tel Dan? Let’s hear about it in the comments below!