|Get there with Google Maps||Get there with Waze||Get there with Moovit|
|Trail Map||Hike it with Google Earth||Terrain View|
|Distance: 11.2km||Time: 4.5 hours||Difficulty: Strenuous|
|Ascent: 382m||Trailhead and Markers Gallery|
This past week, I really needed a good escape into nature. As often happens in life, I was feeling dragged down by the daily routine, the noise of everyday life. I wanted to go somewhere deep into nature, somewhere that the only sights and sounds around would be plant and animal life.
The night before our hiking day, my husband and I perused the map together, searching for the perfect, untraveled trail. First, we browsed through the desert, always a great choice for solitude in Israel. But the weather for Friday was not supposed to be the best for a desert hike – it was going to be hot. And even if we got up before sunrise, we would still be on the trail in the heat.
So, our focus shifted to the area of the Jerusalem mountains. A trail there would be close enough to home that we could get there super early – maybe even before sunrise. It wasn’t going to be easy to find a new trail in this part of the country. But after a few minutes of searching, something caught my eye: Ilan Stream, a trail we had never hiked in the Neve Ilan Forest.
Together, we planned out a 11 kilometer hike, beginning at a beautiful lookout where we could take in the sunrise. We had our morning escape.
As it turned out, this long loop trail along Ilan Stream was an absolutely perfect choice for that Friday. It was quiet, shady, and far, far away from civilization. I’m so happy that we discovered this beautiful piece of nature, only 30 minutes away from home.
Here’s how we hiked this long loop trail along Ilan Stream:
Better at Sunrise
I’m a morning gal. So if I’m hitting the trail at sunrise, I’m a happy camper. We left our home in the darkness and headed towards the trail.
We drove through an open gate into a beautiful nature reserve, towards the trailhead. The sky was beginning to turn colors of pink and orange, lifting away the shadows of darkness.
As we pulled into the lot at the end, we were thrilled with our surroundings – they were beautiful and peaceful. We made our way down the path, to the lookout. There, a quiet forest, bathed in morning light, stood off to one side. On the other, pretty, wooden benches faced a spectacular view of the Jerusalem hills. The birds were chirping. White squill flowers (hatzavim) blossomed between the rocks. It was a perfect setting to watch the sunrise.
Not only that, but this lookout/ picnic area would be a nice place to come all on its own, without any hike at all. I could just imagine a sunset picnic right here with the kids.
We said our morning prayers right there on the lookout. And as we packed up to leave, we watched as a group of 5 paragliders soared overhead. This hike was off to a wonderful start.
Next, we proceeded along the trail. This part was exposed to the sun, which didn’t really matter since it was still very early in the morning. The terrain we traveled was quite typical of Jerusalem – a rocky, dusty pathway with slight ascents and descents next to wild forest. We lost ourselves in thought and conversation as we walked along the trail.
Soon, we reached a sculpture garden, where we paused to take a few pictures. Then, it was back on the trail for another few kilometers of hiking until we reached Horvat Metzad, an ancient town from the Hasmonean period. Excavations at the site included seven layers of settlement, the latest from the 7th century, or Persian period.
Back on the trail, we continued to take in the beautiful silence all around us. Every once in a while, a cyclist passed, huffing and puffing over the challenging terrain. But aside from that, we were exactly where we wanted to be, out in a secluded part of nature.
We passed by a gathering of ancient Roman milestones, one of which was inscribed with Latin wording. After taking in the sights, we continued along the quiet trail.
About halfway in, we reached a turning point. Here, the blue trail took us to the left and more downhill, as we proceeded towards Ilan Stream below. Then, we made another left to hike along Ilan Stream, back in the direction of the trailhead.
Pretty soon, we reached a water plant, noisy and out of place in the middle of nature. And just past the plant, there was a gorgeous little picnic spot, next to a shallow spring. We popped in under a canopy of oak trees, just to check out the spot and take a break from the sun. It was beautiful, but the nearby pumping station was too noisy to make this our breakfast spot.
We continued along the forested trail. Now, we were on a search – to find a shady and pretty spot to settle down for coffee and breakfast.
Although it was late summer, and completely dry, it was clear that this Ilan Stream flowed with water sometimes. And there was evidence of small springs. Fig trees and eucalyptus trees grew from random places. Thick greenery filled the stream bed. Evidence of animal life (like porcupine quills, tracks, and animal droppings) were visible.
Just across the little stream bed, a beautiful thick area caught our eye. Under a canopy of trees, big, grey rocks covered in lichen and moss made a perfect seating area. We crossed through the thick reeds and approached our breakfast spot.
It was absolutely magical there.
In the semi darkness, rays of sun filtered through the thick trees. The carpet of oak leaves beneath our feet was several inches deep and littered with acorns. Off the path, we were truly in our own little piece of paradise.
We sat there for a long, long while sipping coffee and eating blueberry muffins. And then we sat there even longer.
More to Explore
After finishing our breakfast, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from our picnic spot in the shadows and headed back on the trail. Luckily for us, Ilan Stream was truly beautiful, and we didn’t mind getting back to hiking.
Soon, we reached another turnoff to a set of ruins – Horvat Aleket. We climbed up a marked trail and through a grove of trees to explore the ruins.
The small buildings at the site were remains from the British Mandate period. Rooms with arched ceilings, narrow windows, and bright blue walls framed views out to the forested area down below.
We took a few pictures and then headed back down the way we came.
Taking it Home
After that, we picked up the pace as we made our way along the rest of the trail. Red berries, tall dry flowers, and crisp scented pine trees accompanied us for the rest of the journey.
Soon, we were climbing back up along the blue trail, past a small processing plant towards a community up above. A short walk along a well-tended, unmarked trail took us back to our car near the lookout.
Our hike that day was just what the doctor ordered. Beautiful scenery, peace, quiet – what more could you want out of a long Friday morning adventure in autumn?
Here’s what you need to know to hike this 11 kilometer loop trail at Ilan Stream:
- This is an all season trail. Best to avoid hiking in the heat of the day in the summertime.
- Good for dogs.
- The terrain is rocky and unsteady. Wear good hiking boots to hike this trail. If you like to use hiking sticks, this would be a good trail for them.
- There are no facilities. Bring a hat, water, and sun protection to hike this trail.
- Use the trail marker gallery, trail map, and Google Earth file in the table at the top of this page to find your way on the trail.
- Trail colors: Follow green to red, red to blue (the blue on the left hand side), blue to green, make a left on green, detour on green up to Hurvat Aleket and then return to crossroads, continue on blue, make a left on unmarked trail to return 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 Ilan Stream? Let’s hear about it in the comments!