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|Time: 3 hours
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It’s almost summertime.
In Israel, that means one thing for most seasoned hikers: hiking season is coming to an end. For many outdoorsmen, summer in Israel marks the end of cool hikes and lush beauty on the trails. For others, the flocks of tourists and oppressive heat of summer preclude the possibility of hiking.
But not for us.
As far as I’m concerned, every season in Israel has its own special beauty, which I just don’t want to miss. The change in season means that we must change our hiking plans, seeking out trails that are better suited to hot weather. Sometimes, this means hiking in the early morning or towards sunset. Other times, this means hiking in a shady riverbed or inside a cave.
Last Friday, it meant a trip to the beach. At the Gdor Nature Reserve, there are beautiful trails that lead through a coastal paradise, perfect for just about any season. On our visit, we hiked at the reserve in the early hours of the morning. Along the way, we made sure to dip in the water. And there was a lovely coastal breeze to keep us cool as we hiked.
But the Gdor Nature Reserve Trail is more than just an average beach hike. With its craggy rock formations in the sea, this reserve is stunningly beautiful. In between the outcrops, still, shallow water pools up. Animals of all sorts flock to the area, from sea turtles to egrets. It’s a wonderful place to walk along the coast.
There are many different ways to hike this coastal trail. Here’s how we hiked a 6 kilometer loop trail at the Gdor Nature Reserve in Central Israel:
Which Way First?
After pulling in to the parking lot near the beach, we had a decision to make. Should we hike up above the beach first, taking in the views of the sea from up top? Or should we head straight to the sea?
Like children, we chose the sea path first, eager to feel the water on our toes first thing in the morning. We walked towards the coastline, past the beach goers, and followed the walking trail along the sea.
This Beach was Made for Walkin’
Most beaches in Israel have crashing waves that roll straight into the sand. At Gdor, rocky outcrops in the sea form a coastal barrier, creating an ankle to knee deep, still pool of water by the sand.
In this part of the sea, little fish swim along in schools. The water is crystal clear. The sand feels like a soft pillow. We walked along through the water, enjoying this unusual costal phenomenon.
Nature on the Trail
As we hiked, we noticed all sorts of beautiful sights. Because of underwater rocks, the sea looked multicolored – in shades of purple and turquoise. Seashells lined the shore, forming a path in the sand. There were fishermen, paddleboarders, and sailboats gliding through the water in the distance.
As we walked past one rocky outcrop, a big white egret landed on the spot. It was a beautiful bird, with tall, stilt like legs and long white plumage blowing in the sea breeze.
A little while later, we passed a huge, dead sea turtle that had washed up onto the shore. Gdor is a famous nesting site for two different types of sea turtles (this is why the reserve is closed after dark).
We saw more fish, some in the water and some washed up on the shore, along with mosses and algae growing on rocks. All of the little bits and pieces of nature on this gorgeous trail were striking and unique.
Iced Coffee on the Beach
Another nice thing about Gdor was the abundance of perfect picnic spots. All along the path, there were large flat rocks perched in the middle of the sea. We chose one of these platforms and clambered up. The rocky cliffs behind us provided ample shade for our chosen picnic spot.
We took out iced coffee and banana muffins and set them up on the rock. Then, we enjoyed a meditative breakfast as we watched the waves crash into the rocks at our feet. Egrets flew in and out, stopping to search for fish from a nearby outcrop. The sea breeze blew in my face, and I could taste saltwater on my tongue. It was heavenly.
This was the kind of coffee spot that made you want to stay put. We could have sat there for hours, maybe taking a break to cool off in the water every so often.
But our plans that morning included completing a 6 kilometer trail. Reluctantly, we packed up our bags and continued on our way.
Up to the Cliffs
Next, we continued along the coast, up and down rock paths, past more shallow pools of water between rocks. Before we knew it, we reached a large lifeguarded area and the turnoff to the cliffs trail.
We climbed up above the sea, ready for a new perspective as we hiked back in the direction of the car.
From up above, the crazy rock formations in the colorful water were even more pronounced. Coastal flowers grew up on the cliffs, in shades of purple and white. Butterflies flew around in the sea breeze. It was lovely up there.
The only downside to hiking on the cliffs is that we were walking in the sun, and it was now almost midday. We decided that perhaps it would have been better to begin on the cliffs and finish up in the sea.
A Tel, of Course, and Back We Go
No good hike in Israel would be complete without some antiquities on the trail. About midway through our journey back, we reached Tel Gdor, the site of an important ancient city.
The site really hadn’t been excavated, so it was hard to make out much of anything. But just beyond the Tel, there were some more modern crumbling walls.
Mostly, we just took in the views from the cliffs – the neon sufboards in the sea, the birds and wildflowers. It was an easy walk in a beautiful place. Before we knew it, our journey was complete, and we were back at the trailhead.
This coastal hike at the Gdor Nature Reserve was a perfect way to spend a late spring morning. Life is always better at the beach.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail at the Gdor Nature Reserve:
- This trail can be suited for all seasons, depending on the time of day. In the summer, hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Good for kids.
- Suitable for dogs
- Wear sun protection and good walking shoes to hike this trail. Water hiking shoes are recommended.
- You can easily shorten this hike by cutting through at many points along the way.
- I recommend you hike the cliff path first and then finish with the beach path. If you are hiking at sunset, hike it the way we hiked it (beach path first).
- The trail is very easy to follow. Use the trail marker gallery, trail map, and Google Earth file in the table at the top of the page to find your way on the trail.
- The reserve closes at nightfall.
- Tel Gdor itself is closed to the public because of instability at the site. Additionally, make sure to stay away from cliff edges on other parts of the trail. On the coastal trail, do not sit directly under the cliffs.
- There are two lifeguarded beaches - one at the beginning and one at the end. Bathrooms may be available at these beaches.
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 at the Gdor Nature Reserve? Let’s hear about it in the comments!