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|Distance: Each way: 1km||Time: 2.5 hours||Difficulty: Easy|
|Ascent: 100m||Ein Hania Parking||Ein Hania Parking|
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If you live in Jerusalem, you’ve probably heard of Ein Lavan. This freshwater spring is located on the outskirts of the city, right near the zoo. Two large pools surrounded by fig and pomegranate trees make this spring a favorite summer spot for locals. On hot days in the summertime, you better get there early or get ready for the crowds.
My family tends to be kind of crowd averse. For us, Ein Lavan is a great place to start the day. We like to get there early, before it fills up with picnickers and swimmers. So, for quite some time, we’ve been trying to find a way to turn Ein Lavan into the starting point for a longer hike.
Just a short distance away from Ein Lavan, there’s another gorgeous spring: Ein Hania. For as long as I can remember, Ein Hania was not really a place you would necessarily want to visit. Although close in distance to Ein Lavan, it was located outside of the city of Jerusalem, and it was sort of run down.
Just a few short months ago, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority turned Ein Hania into an INPA site. Now, this beautiful freshwater spring is home to organized parking, facilities, and stroller friendly pathways. Two large pools make Ein Hania a great place for a refreshing dip on a hot day. And there’s even a water cave there!
So, this past Friday, we went on a short hike from Ein Lavan to Ein Hania and back. My family really enjoyed this micro adventure, even in the heat of the summer.
Here’s how we hiked it:
We drove through the zoo parking lot, past the aquarium, and parked our car at Ein Lavan (thus named because it sits in an area called the White Valley).
Ein Lavan is now part of the Nahal Refaim National Park, run by the Parks Authority. As we ascended the stone steps, we noticed that the place had changed quite a bit over the years. The area around the two springs (one for swimming and one for wading) was clean and well maintained. There were plentiful fig trees, pomegranate trees, and small olive trees lining the pathways.
As far as my kids were concerned, the most interesting thing at Ein Lavan was the big pool. They jumped into the water right away, catching their breath as they adjusted to the cold temperatures of the spring.
For a Friday morning in the summertime, Ein Lavan wasn’t really crowded at all. At 9:00 AM, we had plenty of space to sit alongside the pool in the shade to watch the boys swim.
As we sat there, the scent of sweet figs filled the air. I searched the trees for ripe fruit while the kids splashed in the water.
On to the Journey
After 20 minutes of swimming and splashing, we decided that it was time to move on to the walking part of our day. The sun was shining brightly, temperatures were rising, and soon, it would be unpleasantly hot. We called the boys out of the water and followed the steps back down to the continuation of the path.
On that hot summer day at the end of August, the plants and groundcover weren’t much to look at – it was mostly dry and golden reedy grass. But I could imagine that this entire area must be absolutely beautiful in the winter and spring, when green growth and wildflowers take over the place.
For our purposes, dry and golden was just fine. We followed the well-marked trail past more fig trees, down several sets of stone steps until we reached the railroad bridge. The tunnel underneath provided a few seconds of cool shade.
Then, we continued down the path towards Ein Hania, spotting small olive trees and clusters of wild sunflowers as we continued along the path.
Less than twenty minutes later, we had reached the parking lot at Ein Hania. The Parks worker there directed us up the road towards the main entrance to the spring. Because Ein Hania was recently revamped by the Parks Authority, there is now an organized entrance just 200 meters up the road.
Ein Hania is a place of great historical interest and importance. There are several ancient buildings at the site, some still yet to be opened to the public. The area around Ein Hania was first settled during the time of the First Temple and was perhaps a useful stopping point for Jews traveling to the holy city during the holidays. The spring was also used during Roman times and the Byzantine era. It is even mentioned in the New Testament as a spring visited by Phillipus.
Aside from being run by the Parks Authority, Ein Hania is also part of Park Yerushalayim (a joint effort of the city of Jerusalem and KKL).
After using our Matmon (Parks Card) to enter, we followed the trail up towards the main area of the springs. My kids headed straight for the large pool. They jumped in and began their water play, while I made myself comfortable in the shade with my feet in the water, enjoying the view of the pool and the Judean mountains in the distance.
We could have stayed in that spot for hours. But it was getting late, and we still had a lot to explore. I wanted to check out the water tunnel and the second pool just up the steps. We spent twenty more minutes swimming in the first pool and then took a break to have brunch under a nearby fig tree away from the crowds.
Water Tunnels and Archways
After our picnic, we headed up the steps to finish exploring Ein Hania.
The whole area was made up of a system of stone water channels, one leading into to the next. One ancient stone archway (called the Nymphion), channeled water down into a small pool below via a picturesque waterfall.
We passed the stone archway and encountered another deep pool, full of cool water for swimming. Before heading back in, we decided to climb down a ladder into a 9 meter tunnel, part of the water distribution structure. We emerged into the light right near the pool.
After one last dip, it was time to head back along the path towards Ein Lavan. We left the park and walked down the sunny trails, now refreshingly cool from our many dips in the spring. After a short walk back down the path, past golden reeds and sunflowers, we were back at our car.
Our little journey that day had been a major success. It’s not easy to find a refreshing water hike for the summertime right near Jeruselem. This walk between two fabulous springs was a great way to see the natural beauty of the Judean Hills on a hot summer day.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail from Ein Lavan to Ein Hania:
- This hike is well suited to all seasons. In the wintertime, the pools won't be particularly appealing, but the surrounding area will be quite beautiful. In the summertime, make sure to start early or go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
- Great for kids.
- Not suitable for dogs (dogs are not allowed into Ein Hania - we had to leave ours in the shade with some water outside the park).
- Much of Ein Hania is stroller friendly.
- Ein Hania is a paid entry National Park. There is a very small fee to enter - 14 NIS for adult and 7 for kids. Children under 5 are free. Or use your Matmon card. Advanced registration is required (although we arrived without it!). Register here.
- Come equipped with a hat, water, sunscreen, and water shoes to hike this trail. Water shoes are especially helpful in the cave.
- To follow the trail, use the trail marker gallery in the table at the top of the page. The trail is pretty easy to follow. Aside from the regular trail markers, the trail is also part of Park Yerushalayim and comes equipped with special yellow trail markers which show the way.
- You can also drive to Ein Hania by car (without following a trail). Follow the second set of GPS coordinates to the Ein Hania parking.
- Although it is only a short walk between the two springs (fifteen minutes or so), Ein Hania is actually located in Judea and Samaria, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Ein Lavan is in Jerusalem proper.
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 from Ein Lavan to Ein Hanya? Let’s hear about it in the comments!