Carmel Adventure: Nahal Bustan to Ein Hod

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Distance: 10.5kmTime: 5-6 hoursDifficulty: Strenuous
Ascent: 415mEnd Point for One Way TrailEnd Point for One Way Trail

I love the Carmel.  Not because of its jaw dropping beauty – there are more awe-inspiring spots in Israel.  And not because of its rich history.

I love the Carmel because of its consistency.  No matter what time of year we hike in the Carmel Mountains, it is pleasant and beautiful.  There are always neat things to discover along every trail.  The sea views are always there, along with the green valleys.  It’s the place to go when you want a guaranteed good hike.

In the past week, summer seemed to be clinging on for dear life.  No matter how much we forged ahead into the month of October, the weather remained hot and sticky.  We were eagerly awaiting cool-weather hikes, but we had to find something hot-weather friendly instead.

Susannah Schild
Carmel beauty.

And we found – it in the Carmel, of course!  At Nahal Bustan, we took a long trek through the breezy beauty of the Carmel Mountains.  Even though it was a hot day, we walked under the cool cover of shade.  And when we were out in the sun, we enjoyed the sea breeze in our faces.

Along the trail, we got to see the gnarly beauty of a stream bed, olive orchards, and stunning views.  This trail also got bonus points for the cute artists’ village it led us through at the end and the famous cave we got to explore.

It was an amazing adventure.  Here’s what we saw on our hike through Nahal Bustan to Ein Hod and Etzba Cave:

A Shady Stream Bed

We parked our car at Oren Campground, a large, organized camping spot with bathrooms and plenty of space.  After a few minutes of searching for the correct trail, we found it at the end of the parking lot.  The blue trail took us sharply down and into the shady stream bed of Nahal Bustan.

It was classic beautiful.  Bunches of yellow flowers bloomed right at the entrance.  Large stones lay in piles under a canopy of twisty trees: oak, katlav, and carob.  As we slowly ascended, we relished the beauty of a stream bed.  Under the cover of greenery, we hopped from one stone to the next, passing twisty roots running through the rocks on the sides of the valley.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Through a shady stream bed.

We passed all sorts of interesting rock formations along the way.  In some places, reddish stones formed steps and flat surfaces.  In others, we got to climb up between grey boulders covered with yellowing moss.

We hiked like this for almost two hours, allowing ourselves to fall into pace with Nahal Bustan and its shady, rocky interior.

Let’s Find that Coffee Spot

After a couple of hours of challenging hiking, we were ready for a break.  We passed by several flat and shady spots within the riverbed.  They looked nice, but since we were on the ascent, we decided to wait until we reached a place with a great view.

Up we traveled, slowly emerging from the depths of the riverbed.  And then our resting place appeared out of nowhere.  Nestled into the side of the mountain was a flat and shady spot under the trees, looking out onto a view of the green mountains.  This was what we had been waiting for.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
The spot.

We got comfortable on some tree roots and pulled out our breakfast, eager for a refresh after all of that exertion.  And then we sat there, enjoying the views, the silence, and our coffee for much, much longer than we intended to.

Onward to Ein Hod

After we packed up, we continued to ascend just a little bit further until we reached the red trail.  From here, we would be traveling down through a different valley.

At first, we proceeded under cover of trees.  But soon, the path opened up.  Instead of walking in the deepest part of the valley, we walked just above it.  On one side, we were shaded by the side of the mountain.  But the other side was open to beautiful views out to the valley, a cute little town, and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Sea views and homes on a hill.

After a couple of hours of walking inside a shady valley, we were happy for the change in pace.  Soon, we reached an area of thick clusters of sage and shrubbery.  The path was just wide enough for one person to walk through. 

Next, we walked right next to the town.  We marveled at the sprawling homes built into the side of the mountain.  Despite the fact that we were walking right next to civilization, it felt more like the houses had been built in the middle of the countryside.  There was a beautiful forest, sea views, and not much action from the nearby residences.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Pretty perfect.

As we passed by the houses, we reached a large olive orchard.  It seemed like kind of a perfect place to live.

The End and Also the Beginning

Finally, we arrived at a little outdoor gathering place in nature.  There was a Friday morning party going on there.  This marked the end of our journey along the red trail.  From here, we would be following the Israel Trail for a few kilometers back to the trailhead.

We expected this part of the trail to be less than spectacular.  But boy, were we wrong.

The Israel Trail brought us right through the olive orchard and into Ein Hod, a super cute artist’s town.  We passed by unusual sculptures, pretty mosaics, a music box museum, and more.  Usually, walking through a town isn’t what you want to do on a hike.  But Ein Hod was most definitely the exception to this rule.

Fun place to be.

On that Friday morning, the quiet town was full of life.  A few couples strolled through the streets, enjoying the artwork and the beautiful gardens.  Others were gathered at outdoor cafes.  It was a fun place to walk through.

After a short while, the Israel Trail deposited us on the other side of Ein Hod.  We crossed the street and continued to follow the path up into the mountains.

Always Better by the Sea

Again, this part of the trail could have been boring.  We had already been hiking for hours – what new and exciting scenery could we possibly encounter?

But we were surprised, yet again.  Along that part of the trail, we got to experience gorgeous views out to the coast.  In the distance, we noticed a towering ancient fortress.  And the sea breeze kept us cool, even in the late morning sun.  It was glorious.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Along the coast.

After walking along this trail for a while, we broke to the left and climbed down the side of the mountain towards the trailhead.  But first, we reached one last surprise.

Etzba Cave

We laughed at ourselves for missing it on the map.  This trail, along the Etzba Ridge, brought us to the famous Etzba Cave.  As we approached the cave, we met several small groups who had just climbed up to it from the campground where our car was parked.  We had taken quite a circuitous route, but here we were, at the coolest cave in the Carmel Mountains.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
A famous cave.

Even though it was getting late (and we had forgotten our headlamps at home), we still had to stop for a moment to explore.  We climbed inside the incredible cave and followed our phone flashlights to the end.

To the Finish Line

From the cave, it was a relatively short walk back down the hill to the trailhead.  At the campground, there were campers setting up for a weekend of fun. 

But we were saying goodbye to that perfect spot in the Carmel Mountains.  It had been an unexpectedly amazing day.  Between the sea views, the surprise features, and the beauty of Nahal Bustan, our journey that day had been an incredible adventure.

Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Early morning in a Carmel Forest.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail from Nahal Bustan to Ein Hod:

  • This is an all season trail. That said, there are unshaded parts which would not be particularly pleasant on a hot day in the summertime. In the wintertime, use caution after rainstorms. The rocks can be quite slippery.
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • This trail is circular. You can also make it a point to point trail if you'd like a shorter hike, skipping the walk along the Israel Trail through Ein Hod and past Etzba Cave. Use Parking Point B in the table up top to find the end point. This shaves 3.5 kilometers off of the total distance.
  • Wear a hat and sun protection. Wear good hiking shoes and bring plenty of water.
  • Headlamps are useful for Etzba Cave.
  • The trailhead is also a camping spot with bathrooms. This would be a great place to camp out in the Carmel. There are a few different hikes which begin here.
  • To find your way on the trail, use the trail marker gallery and the trailmap in the table at the top of the page. You can also use the Google Earth file to help you follow your location along the correct trail.
  • Follow trail colors as follows: Start on blue. After walking through the riverbed and the forest for many kilometers, stay straight onto the red trail. Follow the red trail until you reach the Israel Trail. This is a convenient ending point for one way hikers who want to shorten the trail (follow the second parking link in the table at the top.). To continue, make a right onto the Israel Trail and follow it through Ein Hod. Follow the Israel Trail and red trail until you reach the black trail. Then, follow the Israel Trail /black trail to the left past Etzba Cave and back to your car.

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 in Nahal Bustan? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Susannah Schild
Dark and twisty.
Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Creepy cave.
Nahal Bustan Ein Hod hike Carmel
Rockin’ it.

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.

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