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|Trail Map||Hike it with Google Earth||Terrain View|
|Distance: 4.3km||Time: 3 hours||Difficulty: Moderate - Strenuous|
|Ascent: 208m||Trailhead and Markers Gallery|
Which part of Israel is the best for year-round hiking? That’s a good question! There’s the Golan in the North, gorgeous all year with refreshing waterfalls for summer hikes. In the Jerusalem Mountain, there’s a network of forested trails that are nice to hike at any time of year.
But in my opinion, the absolute best part of Israel for all-season hiking is the Carmel Mountains. These rolling mountains stay green and glorious all year long. And their proximity to the sea means that the weather is usually pretty temperate.
That said, there are some trails in the Carmel that are best when hiked at a specific time of year. And Nahal Sfunim is one of them. Yes, this trail does lead through typical Carmel Mountain scenery: shaded riverbeds under twisty canopies of trees and vines.
But there are two things that make the trail at Nahal Sfunim well suited to cool days in spring and fall. The first is that there’s a giant bat cave at Nahal Sfunim. This incredible cavern is not to be missed: it’s full of flying, squeaking creatures who live there year round. Since bats hibernate in the wintertime, the cave is only open from April through October.
The second factor in choosing the perfect time to visit Nahal Sfunim is that part of the hike is above the riverbed on a mountain, out in the sun. The views are spectacular. But they are easier to enjoy on cooler days in spring and fall rather than in the heat of the summer.
We hiked Nahal Sfunim last week on a beautiful spring morning. The trail was awesome – short but challenging, fun and beautiful. We loved climbing under the jungle-like canopy of trees in the riverbed and exploring a dark bat cave. And the views out to the Mediterranean Sea were breathtaking.
Here’s how we hiked this 4K trail through Nahal Sfunim in the Haifa Area:
Off the Beaten Track
Nahal Sfunim isn’t exactly a well-known trail. But it’s no secret hike either. So, we were surprised to reach the trailhead and find enough space to park just one or two cars. To make matters more confusing, there was no sign to indicate the start of the trail.
After a bit of online research, we found out that on crowded days, hikers just overflow the lot and park up and down the highway. IWe were in the right place after all. We strapped on our packs and set off on the red trail into the wild pathways of Nahal Sfunim.
It was a beautiful spring morning. Birds chirped, bees buzzed, and the scent of flowers filled the air. This trail was definitely wilder than some others – overgrowth and tall reeds brushed at our sides as we walked along the path. After a few minutes of walking we reached the official entrance to Nahal Sfunim. We followed the path into the riverbed.
Upon entry, we came face to face with some sort of tall machinery, old and rusty. We climbed in closer to inspect and discovered animals nearby.
There was a large family of rock badgers, darting in and out of the piles of stones. Up top at the entrance to an old quarry, we discovered a little herd of what seemed to be wild horses. After exploring the strange sights at the entry, we set off on the red path through the trees.
Take me Away
It didn’t take long for us to lose ourselves in the magic of Nahal Sfunim. Green grew absolutely everywhere: overhead and underfoot, in the form of vines, flowering plants, twisty trees, and brightly colored moss. It felt like we were in the middle of a deserted jungle. The noise of birdsong filled our ears as we made our way up and over stones and tree roots, brushing past branches as we walked.
Word on the street is that this trail is slippery when wet. But that day, we enjoyed the ascent as we made our over smooth grey rocks and boulders, in the cool shade. This part of the trail was definitely my favorite. It was classic Carmel area scenery: full of life and blossoming with beauty in the springtime.
After ascending up most of the red trail, we reached an (unclear) breakaway trail that led to the main bat cave. We climbed through a small entryway until we reached a large and cavernous opening in the side of the mountain. From the outside, we could smell the scent of bats emanating from the cave. We were definitely in the right place.
We climbed in and saw little creatures flitting through the air. After taking a moment to strap on our headlamps, we proceeded into the thick blackness of the cave. The squawking and squeaking intensified. With our lamps, we directed light up to small pockets in the ceiling. Thousands of little gleaming eyes glowed back at us.
This was probably one of the largest bat families that I had ever encountered. After peeking around inside for as long as we could stand, we made our way back towards the opening of the cave and out into the sunlight.
Nof, Tzel, vePakal
From here, we began a much steeper ascent up the side of the mountain. This part of the trail was partially shaded and partially exposed. The climbing was challenging. But it didn’t take long before we had reached the top of the mountain and a perfect place to sit and relax under the wide canopy of a tree.
We had identified this spot on the map, where one helpful hiker had written that it was ta great place for coffee. It had shade, a sea view, and plenty of flat rocks for setting down a finjan.
The views out to the hills were beautiful. From our spot, we could see out to the dark green valley, filled with lush growth. Mountains towered around, with just enough space in between for us to see out to the crisp blue of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
As we sat there sipping our iced coffee, we noticed vultures swooping through the sky, their shadows following them on the mountains just below. It was, indeed, a perfect place to stop for coffee.
The Rest of the Story
After that, the hike was all downhill – literally. We had finished with the uphill climbing for the day and were able to enjoy a long walk across the top of the mountain past rocks and wildflowers, then down the side past jagged cliffs. This part of the trail was easy and pleasant. It was hot in the sun, but there were spots of shade along the way to help keep us cool.
An hour or so later, we walked back through a tall field of flowers and returned to the entrance to Nahal Sfunim. Then, we followed the long wild path back to our car.
Our day’s hike through Nahal Sfunim had been a wonderful adventure. Green scenery, cool caves, and gorgeous views came together on this quiet trail in the Carmel Mountains.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail through Nahal Sfunim:
- This trail is best on cool days in spring and fall. It's beautiful in the wintertime, but the cave is closed from November-March. It is not ideal for the summer because more than half of the trail is exposed to the sun. If you hike it in the summertime, make sure to go in early morning or late afternoon.
- This trail would be great for kids. There is a lot of uphill at the beginning, so make sure to take lots of breaks.
- Suitable for dogs.
- This trail gets very slippery after the rain. Wait a few days after heavy rains to hike this trail.
- The second half of the trail is exposed to the sun. Bring a hat, sun protection, and plenty of water to hike this trail.
- Wear good hiking shoes with a solid grip to hike here.
- To follow the trail use the trail marker gallery and the trail map in the table at the top. Or use the Google Earth file to follow your location along the path we took.
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 this trail? Let’s hear about it in the comments!