Mount Hermon to Odem Forest

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Distance: 18kmTime: 6-8 hoursDifficulty: Strenuous
Ascent: 330mEndpoint Parking in OdemEndpoint Parking in Odem

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This was the year we were going to hike Shvil HaGolan.

We had been waiting for a quite a while to tackle this 5-7 day trail through the Golan Heights. The trail was said to be beautiful in the springtime, when colorful wildflowers and green grass covered the hilly terrain.

But as March and then April of 2021 rolled around, we realized that we weren’t going to be able to escape for a week until early May.  And word on the street was that May was a bit too late to catch Shvil HaGolan in all its glory.

So instead, we settled for a 4 day hiking vacation in the North, including a hike on the Hermon and the first piece of the Golan Trail.  We were actually really excited about this new plan.  The Hermon hike had also been on our hit list for years.

On Day 2 of our trip, we got up early(ish) to take a taxi to Mount Hermon.  Our plan was to ride the cable cars up to the top, then begin our long journey from the northernmost trailhead in Israel.  From there, we would follow the Habushit Trail to the beginning of the Golan Trail, then trek the first 15 kilometers to Odem Forest.  It was going to be great.

Mount Hermon hike
Stunning scenery on Mount Hermon in late spring.

And it was.  Mount Hermon was like nothing I had ever seen before.  And the views along Shvil Habushit were simply spectacular.  But the rest of the long trail?  It was much different than we had expected!

Here’s what we discovered on this one-way trail down Mount Hermon and along Shvil HaGolan to Odem Forest:

Early Morning Cable Cars

We made plans to reach Hermon Mountain at 8:00 AM.  Of course, we would have liked to have begun earlier so we could catch the mountain aglow in early morning sunshine.  But the cable cars only opened at 8:00 AM. 

So, there we were at 8, ready and waiting with packed bags and lots of energy.  But things run at their own pace on Mount Hermon. 

Mount Hermon hike
To the ski lift.

We waited at the entrance to the cable cars for almost 45 minutes while the crew performed their morning safety checks.  And then finally, when I had just about lost my ability to be patient, they ushered us onto the ski lift, and we rode to the top.

Wind!

We climbed out onto beautiful Mount Hermon into a large gust of wind.  As we made our way towards the trailhead, I had to hold onto tightly to my hat.  Soon, we found the green trail, and began to climb down the mountain and away from the strongest gusts of wind.

Right away, I was impressed with the interesting vegetation that covered the top of the mountain.  In Israel, you tend to see the same flowers and plants all over the place.  But not on Mount Hermon.  Along the trail, brightly colored flowers and unusual plants made it feel like we were hiking in a faraway land.

Mount Hermon hike
Glorious on Mount Hermon.

Lest we spend all of our time on Mount Hermon escaping from the wind, we set off in search of a little bit of shelter to drink our morning coffee.  We found a cluster of trees right to the side of the trail, a perfect spot to stop and take in the views.  As we sat there, ladybugs and butterflies flitted from one leaf to the next.  It felt like we were in a dream world.

Mount Habushit

After coffee, we packed up and continued along the green trail, which brought us from Mount Hermon to Mount Habushit.  It was a beautiful morning.  The rock trail descended at steep angles, past hills of green grass and flowers.

Mount Hermon hike
Happy trails at Har Habushit.

This was my favorite part of that day’s hike.  We were finally out of the wind, and free to enjoy the Alpine-like scenery all around us.  After a steep descent, we reached the bottom of Mount Habushit and the beginning of Shvil HaGolan.

Beginnings

Once we were on the Golan Trail, things flattened out.  We followed a reddish dirt road between clusters of fragrant yellow wildflowers.  Cows passed us on the trail.  There were lots of cows.

We walked at a fast pace, all the while knowing that we had 18 kilometers to get through that day.  The green, blue, and white trail markers guided us through unfamiliar terrain.

Mount Hermon hike
Just roamin’ around.

At one point, we reached a large herd of cattle in a field, gathering beneath oak trees and munching on the grass between purple spiky flowers.  Hidden behind one cow was an important trail marker, indicating that we were supposed to break left and climb up a small hill to continue on the trail. 

We made our way through the herd and found ourselves in a perfectly beautiful spot.

It’s all About the View

From this cluster of flat rocks and trees, we could see out to the rolling mountains all around.  In the distance, fog gathered around Nimrod’s Fortress, which protruded into the sky atop a small mountain.

We knew that the next part of the trail would bring us through Madjal Shams, a Druze town.  So, we decided that this would be a good spot to stop and enjoy the countryside before making our way into civilization.

Mount Hermon hike
All the beauty of the Golan in one little spot.

We sat on some rocks and pulled out a late breakfast of sourdough bread and pink lady apples.  The morning breeze felt cool on our skin.  It was beautiful out there.

In retrospect, stopping in that spot was a great move.   I had no idea that this would be our last chance to really enjoy any wilderness on the Golan Trail.

Interesting…Different!

After breakfast, we followed the road downhill, until reaching Madjal Shams.  Now, we were on an asphalt road that wound through the outskirts of a town, past brightly painted houses and barking dogs.

We followed the road down, down, and down some more.  A little stray puppy joined us and began to follow along at our feet.  As we walked by some local residents, they smiled and nodded, obviously used to seeing through hikers pass by their doorsteps.

Mount Hermon hike
City life.

After walking for a while, we entered the heart of the town.  Madjal Shams seemed to be a thriving and successful city: the streets were lined with restaurants, pubs, and hotels.  I’m more of a nature gal than a city lover, but it was interesting and different to walk through a Druze town in Israel, and I was completely absorbed in my surroundings.

And Now, the Hard Part

As we left Madjal Shams, we entered Druze farmland.  From there, Shvil HaGolan continued on an asphalt road past orchards of cherries, grape vines, apples, plums, and all sorts of other fruits.

At first, this was fun and exciting.  But as we continued to traverse the farmland, kilometer after kilometer, we began to realize that the scenery just wasn’t going to change.

Mount Hermon hike
Vineyards and cherry trees.

So, we picked up the pace.  We walked at top speed, barely stopping to take pictures (there wasn’t much to take pictures of).  After many, many kilometers of flat roads on the outskirts of orchards, we reached the last point of interest on that day’s journey: Breichat Ram (Ram Lake).

So Much Potential

We had been really looking forward to getting a close-up look at Breichat Ram.  But as we neared the lake, we saw that the trail wasn’t going to get anywhere close to it.  Not only that, but the entire surrounding area was full of construction and shanty houses.

Mount Hermon hike
A glimpse of Breichat Ram.

Still, the lake looked really pretty in the distance.  We made our way into one open cherry orchard to try to take pictures of this unique body of water in Northern Israel. (Some geologists believe this lake was formed inside a crater of an extinct volcano – that’s cool!)

Finishing Up the Day’s Journey

After snapping a few pictures, we continued on our way, through more farmland until we reached the outskirts of Odem Forest. 

Odem Forest was pretty.  At last, we were finally in a spot of natural beauty, surrounded by shade trees.  But not for long.  After only a few minutes of walking in Odem, we had reached the end of our journey.  Our car was waiting for us at a parking lot in the forest.

Our journey that day had taken us through all sorts of terrain: some of it spectacular and some of it…well…just okay.  But we had enjoyed the variety, the length of the trail, and the breathtaking scenery near Mount Hermon.

This long and interesting trail through the Golan from Mount Hermon to Odem Forest had been an unexpected sort of adventure.

Mount Hermon hike
All in a day’s adventure.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail from Mount Hermon to Odem Forest:

  • This hike is ideally suited to the spring season.
  • This is a one way trail. We parked at the end of the trail and took a cab to the beginning, at Mount Hermon. Here's the number of the taxi driver we used for a ride to the trailhead: Amir-0508215666
  • This is a shetach aish (army zone). In order to hike this trail, you need in call 3 days in advance for approval!!! Call these numbers to coordinate: 04-6966207, 04-6966336, 04-6966203
  • If I were to do this again, I would park near the beginning of Shvil HaGolan (see trail map), and follow the green trail up Mount Habushit and to the top of Mount Hermon. Then, I would take the cable cars down (call in advance to check about getting tickets), and then walk down the road from Mount Hermon back to my car. That would be an 8 kilometer loop (approximately).
  • Wear good hiking shoes, a hat, and sun protection. Bring plenty of water. You can refill in Madjal Shams if need be.
  • Use the Google Earth file, trail marker gallery, and trail map to find your way on this trail.
  • The Golan Trail is easy to follow - just look for green and blue trail markers which are located at regular intervals. Make sure to keep your eyes open for these trail trail markers to make sure you stay on track.
  • To follow the trail: Take the cable cars to the top of Mount Hermon. Then locate the green trail and follow it down the Hermon and Mount Habushit. When you reach the Golan Trail (green and blue markers) follow that (keeping a close eye out for trail markers) until you reach Point B in Odem Forest.

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 Mount Hermon or Shvil HaGolan? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Hiking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each hiker’s responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.

2 thoughts on “Mount Hermon to Odem Forest

  1. This hike sounds amazing! Unfortunately it’s too long for our plans, is there any short roundtrip hike at the top of the cable cars that you could recommend? Like around 1/2 hour.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi,
      There’s no short hike, but if you have two cars you can park one car at the top near the cable cars and one car at the lower parking lot. After taking the cable cars to the top, you can follow the green trail down to the lower parking lot. This would be about a 3 kilometer downhill hike.

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