Nahal Tekoa – Valley of Monks and Kings

Get there with Google MapsGet there with WazeGet there with Moovit
Trail MapHike it with Google EarthTrailhead and Markers Gallery
Distance: 4.3kmTime: 2-3 hoursDifficulty: Moderate - Strenuous
Ascent: 336mEnd of Trail Parking (B)End of Trail Parking (B)

Click here to go straight to the hikers’ notes.

Click here to see the video!

Every time I head back to Nahal Tekoa, I feel lucky that this beautiful natural wonder exists only 20 minutes from my home.

At Nahal Tekoa, a riverbed snakes through a deep valley between mountains.  Caves and remnants of dwellings can be found peppering the cliffsides, remnants of a rich history. In the middle of the Nahal, there’s Haritoun, the largest Karstic cave with the longest tunnel network in all of Israel.

Nahal Tekoa features a spring, fun climbing, olive groves and more.  But the spectacular views are what get me every time.  At Nahal Tekoa, it feels more like you’re in some highly rated canyon in an American National Park than near a small hilltop community in Judea and Samaria.

This past Friday, we went back to Nahal Tekoa once again, for a relaxing Friday hike close to home.  Rather than dip in and out of the trail, as we have done with our kids in the past, we decided to walk the full length of the valley next to the community of Tekoa. 

Nahal Tekoa hike
Into the sunshine.

We began in magical Tekoa Forest, then continued into the sweeping majesty of the canyon.  The trail ended inside Tekoa, in a picturesque landscape that reminded me of a scene out of Biblical times. 

We had an amazing day.  Here’s how we hiked through Nahal Tekoa, a spectacular canyon close to home:

Into the Woods

We began right off the main road, at a small parking spot near picnic benches and a wooded area.  The red trail was easy to spot, and we headed along the path into a pretty woodland.

Woods like these aren’t unusual in Gush Etzion.  But there are not a lot of forests near Tekoa.  This one welcomed us in, with tall pine trees and ample shade.  We followed the narrow pathway through a thick carpet of pine needles.

Nahal Tekoa hike
Forest magic.

Unfortunately, there was evidence of a recent fire in the forest.  It was a shame, but the blackened trees certainly didn’t make the area any less beautiful.  Rather, the wooded trail felt like a little storybook path, especially in the early morning light.

Just Around the River Bend

After a little while, the forest came to an end.  We rounded a bend and found ourselves facing the jaw-dropping views of Nahal Tekoa.  Up ahead, we watched our border collie run off over the hills into the rising sun.  On the other side, we looked back to see Herodion, King Herod’s Second Temple Palace, perched over the valley.

Nahal Tekoa hike
View to Herodion.

The whole scene was dramatic, and almost surreal.  As we walked along the path above a steep drop, flocks of birds flew in the sky, swooping up and down and catching the wind.  We watched as a larger bird glided in.  Some of them were crossing over the valley to the other side, where small caves peeked out of the cliff.

We watched as a family of rock badgers scurried out of the way.  There were plenty of places for them to hide in this rock filled valley.

Nahal Tekoa hike
Remnants of the past.

After walking for a while, we reached the remnants of the old monastery.  The entire area of Nahal Tekoa was very obviously rich with history.  Aside from the dramatic beauty, all of the crumbling walls and precariously perched stone remnants made us think about what this valley was like throughout history.

Why Nahal Tekoa?

It’s not hard to guess what made Nahal Tekoa such an attractive destination throughout the ages.  The valley is between Jerusalem and Hebron, slightly to the East.  This area has always been an important, well settled part of Judea.  It’s no surprise that Nahal Tekoa was chosen by monks and religious figures seeking out a quieter life away from the main urban areas.

In the wall of the cliff, prehistoric caves had been turned from simple dwellings into monk’s homes.  The Haritoun monastery was located here.  Haritoun, a 3rd century Christian holy man, chose Nahal Tekoa for silence and solitude.  Students flocked to the area to be near him.  So eventually, he moved into a cave on a cliff in Nahal Tekoa, known as the Hanging Cave of Haritoun.

Nahal Tekoa hike
Dwelling caves on the trail.

Of course, the town of Tekoa itself also boasts a rich history.  The city is mentioned several times throughout the Bible.  And King Herod built his palace just above the valley, on the path to Jerusalem.  The famous flat-topped mountain of Herodion was visible in the distance along our path.

But…Adventure!

After all of this contemplation, we continued along our path, through the sweeping valley towards Haritoun Cave.  On that day in early November, the landscape was yellowing and golden, but still completely incredible.  In the winter and spring, the same spot is green and flower filled. 

Soon, we reached the famous cave.  We’ve gone in and explored its depths many times before.  This time around, we skipped the cave and went to sit down next to the nearby spring.

Nahal Tekoa hike
Relaxing by a spring.

Out came our coffee and muffins.  We sat next to a perfect spot in the shade of the cliff by the drip dropping of fresh water.  A fig tree grew out of the wall of rock.  And as we ate breakfast, we got to stop and enjoy the incredible view that is Nahal Tekoa.  Birds swooped about in clusters, catching the wind in the valley.  It was beautiful.

The Drama Continues

After our break, we continued along the path.  To our right, we passed massive caves, clearly once used as dwelling places.  After continuing through Nahal Tekoa for a little while longer, the trail took us up and out of the valley.

This part was a little bit tricky.  We had to climb over large rocks along the (well-marked) black trail, ascending towards the end point.  While the rest of the walk had been relatively easy, this section was a bit of a challenge.

Nahal Tekoa hike
Tricky climbing.

But soon, we found ourselves at the last part of the trail.  We walked along a dirt path, through an olive grove, the leaves of the trees glistening in the gentle morning light.  Black olives hung down off of the trees.  It felt like Biblical scenery.

Before we knew it we were at the end of the trail, at a small picnic area on the outskirts of Tekoa.

Nahal Tekoa never disappoints.  That day, just like on every trip to Nahal Tekoa, we had experienced a dramatic canyon with a rich history and impressive natural beauty.  This is one trail that’s always a success.

Nahal Tekoa hike
Biblical.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail through Nahal Tekoa:

  • This is a one -way trail.
  • This trail is well suited to fall, winter, and spring. It can be quite hot in this area on hot summer days. After the winter rains, the whole area turns lush and green.
  • This trail is in Judea and Samaria. Make sure you feel comfortable with your level of personal safety before heading out on this trail.
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • Suitable for families with kids.
  • Wear good walking shoes and a hat to hike this trail.
  • To hike this trail one way, park one car at the beginning and one at the end of the trail. It is a six minute drive between the two parking spots. (We actually just hiked it there and back. You could do that too.)
  • The trail is quite simple to follow. Begin on the red trail from the parking lot. Follow the red trail to the blue trail. From the blue trail, get on to the black trail. The black trail will take you past Haritoun Cave ( a white, clear, white marked trail). You can stop in to check it out (worthwhile!!!). Then, continue on the black to the end of the trail, keeping a close eye out for trail markers the whole way through.
  • Use the trail marker gallery and trail map in the table at the top of this page to find your way on the trail.
  • Bring a flashlight if you would like to explore the cave.

Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!

Read more about Haritoun Cave here.

Trail map from Amud Anan.

Questions? Have you hiked this trail at Nahal Tekoa? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Soaking up history.

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 “Nahal Tekoa – Valley of Monks and Kings

    1. It could take much less if you are a fast walker. More like 3-4 🙂
      The only other option I can think of is to call a cab for transport back to the trailhead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.