Mount Eitan: The Summit and the Watering Hole

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Distance: 6.5kmTime: 3 hoursDifficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
Ascent: 250mTrailhead and Markers Gallery

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Mount Eitan is one of my favorite places in Jerusalem.  This gorgeous mountain sits right in the middle of Sataf Forest – a beautiful landscape replete with pine woods, olive orchards, and groves of carob trees.

The 8 kilometer loop trail around Mount Eitan has always been one of my favorite hikes.  It was one of the first trails we discovered in the Jerusalem area.  And since the path is jogging stroller friendly, we were able to hike it frequently throughout our years of parenting toddlers and babies.  Mount Eitan is like an old friend.

That’s why I was so excited when I read about a little trail to something called “Bor Eitan”, a cool, clear pool of water right off of the mountain’s loop trail.  I was surprised that after many years of hiking on the trail, I had never come across it.  We decided to set out on a mission to discover this hidden pool.

Up for an adventure.

But first, we had to come up with a new trail to reach the pool.  Of course, we could have taken our usual 8 kilometer walk around the mountain and then taken a short detour to Bor Eitan. But there was another part of Mount Eitan which we had never been to: its summit.

The hike we mapped out traversed unmarked trails and dirt pathways – this wasn’t going to be an easy to follow or easy to report trail.  But hiking this way, we’d see a whole new side of Mount Eitan.

And it was well worth it.  The trail at the top of the mountain was, indeed, lovely.  It was also quiet – we didn’t see anyone else when we hiked it that Friday morning.  We enjoyed taking in the panoramic views of the Jerusalem Mountains from the top of Mount Eitan.  And our visit to the watering hole was definitely memorable.

Here’s how we hiked this off the beaten track trail to the summit of Mount Eitan and to Bor Eitan:

Wildlife Hiding in Plain Sight

We parked our car and set out on the trail, down a dusty dirt road towards a pine tree lined path.  So far, so good.  This trail looked as one would expect in early September: dry, and a little bit dusty.  Faded, late summer flowers bloomed on the sides of the path.  As we walked along, a perfectly camouflaged chameleon crossed our path.

Lightning fast!

He stopped for a minute, then took off at a run. We had recently encountered these little reptiles in the Carmel Forest, where they turned bright green to match the leaves of the trees where they hid.  This one, on the other hand, was speckled dark and light brown, to match the twigs and rocks at our feet.

We continued on the path, noticing a salamander gliding quickly out of our way.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some tall flowers in shades of brown.  Hiding inside was an insect whose back looked like a perfect replica of one of the flower petals. 

Blending in.

The Trail Splits

After a while, we reached a luscious fig tree, full of ripe purple fruit.  In early September, I can’t hold myself back from picking sweet figs as we hike.  We took a quick pit stop and searched for the juiciest ones.

Favorite trail snacks.

Then, we broke right to take a detour to the top of Mount Eitan.  We followed the dusty path past more fig trees, each one with their own special flavor of fruit (I know because I tried them all!)

Before we knew it, we were nearing the top of the mountain.  A few more steps and we were there.

On the way up.

It was a beautiful place to stop.  The summit of Mount Eitan had a vast feeling that one doesn’t usually get in the Jerusalem Mountains.  It felt like we were really high up, looking down the peaks and valleys of Jerusalem, along with several neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city.

This seemed like the perfect place to stop for iced coffee and blueberry muffins.

Time to Pause

It took a few minutes to find a good spot to sit.  One side of the mountain was, sadly, littered with garbage, left over from various bonfires and gatherings.  The other side was much better.  We found a flat, shaded rock to set up our thermos of iced coffee.

At the summit.

It’s been a long time since we’ve stopped like that – in complete silence in nature.  My gaze settled in on the rolling green mountains in the distance.  At our feet, dried yellow flowers grew out of the side of the rock.  A gentle breeze blew, even on that hot day.

This is what I hike for – these moments of silence and peace in nature.  I was happy that we had finally reached the top of my favorite Jerusalem-area mountain and found a perfect place to take it all in.

Down into the “Bor”

After breakfast, we retraced our steps, then followed the path downward from the fig tree.  We found ourselves on the Mount Eitan loop trail for a minute or two, then broke off the marked path into the forest just below.  I was half surprised when we found the watering hole, just where it was supposed to be.

A long rope dangled into the depths of the pit.  And just beyond, we could see clear water waiting. 

The view from inside.

Thankfully, we were really hot.  Otherwise, I’m not sure that I would have been adventurous enough to climb down a rope into a pit full of water in a forest. 

My first impression was that Bor Eitan was a wonderful find.  The water was cool and clear.  And the setting inside a cave was pretty magical too.  We took a lot of pictures and went into the deepest part of the water, which came up to my waist.

In the water at Bor Eitan.

Then, I noticed a tiny snake sitting on a rock in the corner of the cave.  I know it wasn’t poisonous, but that was when we decided to skedaddle.  We climbed back up the rope, into the sunshine up above.

All in a Day’s Discovery

After our refreshing and slightly scary dip in Bor Eitan, we retraced our steps through the forest.  We debated as to whether we should continue the hike on the red trail (the Mount Eitan Loop Trail).  But ultimately, we decided to head back the way we came.

A little while later, we were back at the car.  It had been a really great hike – full of quiet, fun, and new discoveries in a familiar place.

This off the beaten track hike to the summit of Mount Eitan and to Bor Eitan was a perfect Friday morning adventure.  It’s always surprising to see how much nature there is still left to discover so close to home.

Discoveries.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike this off the beaten track trail at Mount Eitan:

  • This is an all season trail. In the late summer, you will enjoy picking ripe figs and the coldness of the water. In the winter and spring, this trail is greener and full of wildflowers.
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • This trail does not follow marked paths. Download the Google Earth file to follow the trail the way we hiked, or use a paper map to familiarize yourself with the route before you go.
  • You can also get to Bor Eitan by hiking the regular red trail around Mount Eitan, then following the detour on the Google Earth file.
  • To hike this trail, equip yourself with plenty of water, a hat, and good hiking shoes.
  • To follow the trail: Use the trail map and the Google Earth file to help you find your way. This hike follows unmarked trails. An alternative route to get to Bor Eitan (not the summit), would be to hike the regular red marked circular route at Mount Eitan, then use the trail map to follow the breakaway path down to Bor Eitan. You can also use the Amud Anan app to help you locate the watering hole.

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 to the summit of Mount Eitan and to Bor Eitan? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Up close.

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 Eitan: The Summit and the Watering Hole

  1. Indeed, hikers have reported that they saw snakes in Israel, in and around water holes, pools, streams etc.
    Mostly during the summer.
    Some snakes can swim and dive underwater quite easily.
    Most are not poisonous.

    1. Yes, it’s not the first time :). There were more than usual this summer, I think.
      I am quite sure it was not dangerous, but still no fun to swim with a snake!
      Thanks so much for your comment.

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