Hurvat Zak: A Storybook Setting

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Distance: 5.6kmTime: 2-3 hoursDifficulty: Easy- Moderate
Ascent: 94mTrailhead and Markers Gallery

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This past week, the kids had a day off of school.  We haven’t taken them hiking for quite some time, so we eagerly seized the opportunity to plan a family friendly hiking trip.

I consulted our to do list of hikes and found a place called Hurvat Zak in Southern Israel, just an hour drive from home.  Consulting the map, we put together a five kilometer out and back trail which would allow us to encounter the winter beauty of the area (flowers!) and visit the Hurva, a beautiful series of crumbling walls and archways on top of a hill.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
Perfect season for this trail.

I was happy with our choice for that day, mostly because I knew that it would be pretty quiet out there at Hurvat Zak, despite the holiday.  Not only was it quiet, but we had the entire trail to ourselves.  And it was absolutely gorgeous.

My boys had a wonderful time on the trail on that cloudy and beautiful morning.  Here’s how we hiked a five kilometer trail at Hurvat Zak:

A Wide and Beautiful Trail

We pulled to the side of the road and got out of the car.  It was a glorious day – cool and partly cloudy.  A green expanse spread out all around us. Grain fields and wildflowers covered the low hills as far as the eye could see.

We began to follow the black trail up a wide path.  There were no major ascents or descents.  It couldn’t have been more perfect for kids.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
Happy boys.

As we walked, we stopped every so often to take in the fields of wildflowers.  First, we spotted abundant anemone blossoms, traveling up and down the hill.  Then, we stopped in a field of orange calendula, interspersed with white flowers.  As we kneeled down to get close to the flowers we noticed the beginnings of grain forming on the green stalks that surrounded us in every direction. 

It was the perfect time of year to hike this trail.

Where Are We?

I could imagine that in a few month’s time, this area would be covered in golden grass and tawny sand.  Hurvat Zak, while not actually in the desert, is on the low plains of the Shfela, just past the Judean Mountains. 

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
Shfela Adom.

Although most people drive further south to experience fields of red anemone flowers (especially during the yearly festival of Darom Adom), there’s really no need.  The fields of anemones in this part of the country are just as spectacular, if not more so, in late February and early March.  And the slightly hilly terrain made the colorful layers of green and red more pronounced.

Towards the Hurva

After a couple of kilometers of walking, we saw what looked like a castle on a hill – this was Hurvat Zak.  We continued along the trail to loop upwards towards the many structures that made up the area of the ruins.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom

First, we passed a huge well, along with a memorial.  This well was not ancient, but it was old – and still filled with water.  We proceeded to climb the hill towards the first crumbling structure of Hurvat Zak.

It was hard not to stop at each and every little structure.  Each time we stepped inside, we saw crazy views of the puffy cloud filled sky and our green surroundings, framed by little picturesque archways and crumbling windows.  These features are what makes Hurvat Zak so photo-worthy.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom

Slowly, we made our way up the hill towards the main area, our eyes peeled for the perfect picnic spot.

How About Anywhere?

A great breakfast spot was not hard to find.  All we had to do was choose between tall grass with beautiful views or short grass with beautiful views.  And flowers.

We chose the tall grass, and plopped ourselves down, ready to enjoy some relaxing time taking in the spectacular scenery just past the picturesque structures.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
Choosing the perfect picnic spot.

While we sat there, we reviewed the history of the area.  Archeologists who excavated Hurvat Zak found evidence of life (burial caves) from as far back as the Early Bronze Age (4000-2000 BCE). Most of the discoveries at the site were from the ninth to sixth century BCE, when people built small homes with shared courtyards.  Many underground caves were connected to the homes.

During Bar Kochba times, the site was used as an escape area for Jewish Rebels.  So, of course, there are lots of cool underground tunnels underneath the pretty structures at Hurvat Zak.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
Heading underground.

Hurvat Zak is one of those places with a lot of layers of history.  Two Byzantine era churches were discovered at the site, and the town continued to be inhabited as recently as the early 19th century, when more modern structures were built on the ruins of ancient ones.

My kids weren’t too interested in this history lesson.  But they were quite interested in flying my husband’s drone over the hills and valleys around Hurvat Zak.

Time to Explore

After breakfast, we set about exploring the ancient ruins.  We climbed in and out of little buildings, through underground caves, and climbed the many half destroyed doorways.  This place was so beautiful.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
Did someone plan this?!

At some point, a huge flock of sheep came along to munch on the plentiful grasses growing around the ruins.  The flock surrounding a crumbling castle looked like a picture out of a storybook.  The sights of modern day Israel can be an incredible juxtaposition of past and present.

All in a Day’s Fun

Eventually, we finished up our explorations and headed back down the hill. For the hike back to the car, we decided to take a slightly different (unmarked) path through the grain fields.  We marveled at the butterflies, the birds, and the generally beautiful scenery that accompanied us on our walk back to the car.  Our kids barely even had time to complain that they were tired of walking.

This hike at Hurvat Zak is a wonderful choice for the late winter months, when the plains are transformed into a place of true beauty.  On this easy, family friendly trail, nature and history seamlessly blend together.

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
In a sea of green.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike this trail at Hurvat Zak:

  • This is an out and back or circular trail.
  • Great for kids!
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • The best time to hike this trail is during the winter and spring.
  • Wear good walking shoes, sun protection, and bring all the water you need to hike this trail.
  • Free entry. No facilities nearby.
  • To follow this trail - follow the black trail markers from where you parked. Use the trailmarker gallery or Google Earth file to find the turnoff up to the Hurva (it is on an unmarked dirt path). Return the way you came, or use the Google Earth file to follow an unmarked path through the fields 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 at Hurvat Zak? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom
From above.
Hurvat Zak hike Israel Shfela Darom Adom

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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