The two new segments of the Israel National Trail, between Tel Hai and Mount Hermon, officially opened on Sunday. This comes after the Society for the Protection of Nature teams completed the marking the trails last week. Combined, these new trails cover a distance of about 38 kilometers.
They feature unique panoramic views of the region and its surroundings, including the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights, and Mount Hermon.
"Since its inauguration in 1995, the Israel Trail has undergone many changes - adaptation to the evolving landscape, addressing safety issues that arose along its route, and additions of new areas, interesting sites, and vantage points," says Dan Alon, head of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
"This summer, the trail has undergone an important and refreshing change, 28 years after its inauguration – and we’re proud to announce that Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights are now included in the trail,” he added.
The Israel National Trail Committee began a process aimed at re-marking the northern part of the Israel Trail and determining its endpoint at Mount Hermon, after safety concerns in some areas which required them to be shut, and amid requests from many hikers urging the committee to provide trails that would bring them closer to Israel’s "northern edge" at the end of the path, while appreciating the unique beauty of the mount’s nature and landscapes.
"In recent years, meetings, discussions, and on-the-ground fact-finding tours were held in the area with relevant officials, and the challenge of identifying a safe and continuous trail in this complex terrain wasn’t simple," says Itzik Ben Dov, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s trail marking coordinator.
"Consideration had to be given to roadways, agricultural areas, nature reserves, minefields, military live fire training zones, and other constraints. I'm confident that hikers on the two new segments will enjoy breathtaking views and a variety of natural, historical, and heritage sites that characterize the area and tell its story," he said.
The new route starts at Mount Hermon and connects to the Golan Heights trail. Then it descends to the Hula Valley, bypasses the Banias Nature Reserve, and leads to the end of the first day at Kibbutz Kfar Szold, where the only overnight campsite is available. From there, the trail returns to a promenade along the Hermon Stream until the Yosef Bridge overlooking the Jordan River.
From there, it continues to Kiryat Shmona, passes through the city, and reconnects to the already existing trail. New and updated maps with the accurate route are already available at the Society for the Protection of Nature's website.
A 1,080 kilometers route – spanning 56 segments
The new segments were marked with the assistance of local northern municipalities along the path, KKL-JNF, Nature and Parks Authority, and the IDF.
"We thank our partners, whose efforts mean hikers on the new trail segments will enjoy the landscapes of the Hermon, Golan Heights, and the Upper Galilee," said Shavit Sa'ar Veksler, the manager of the Trail Marking Unit at the Society for the Protection of Nature.
"The Israel National Trail is constantly evolving and adapting to the Israeli reality, which is why the addition of the two northern segments was the most asked-for at this time."
Following the extension, the length of the Israel National Trail is approximately 1,080 kilometers. It’s divided into 56 segments that can be hiked as a long continuous trek or done individually. The trail continues through the Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee, the Carmel mountain range, along the coastline, passing through Tel Aviv, the outskirts of Jerusalem, the Judean Desert, Negev, and Arava, ending in Eilat. The trail is marked by white, blue, and orange markings.
"I see great significance in the first section of the Israel National Trail extending to the Golan Heights and applaud this move," Golan Regional Council head Haim Rokach said. "From now on, hikers will be able to see the Hermon and Golan’s beautiful and unique landscapes.”
Kiryat Shmona’s municipality also welcomed the trail’s extension: "Kiryat Shmona is proud and delighted to introduce the beautiful and important Israel National Trail – to its region. The Israel National Trail is expected to pass through important urban natural gems and present them to Israeli travelers."
The Upper Galilee also appreciated the move. "The Upper Galilee has always been a unique place in Israel – its greenery, abundant waters, rare beauty, and leisurely pace have made it a paradise for travelers and tourists," the Upper Galilee Regional Council said in a statement.
"Now, with the renewed northern segment of the Israel National Trail opening, we can experience this from a new perspective while walking through wild landscapes and cultivated fields, mountains and rivers. Israel’s beauty is found here."
"We congratulate the completion of the marking of two segments in the Israel National Trail including the Hermon and the Golan Heights," said Eti Koriat Aharon, the Nature and Parks Authority’s head of education in the northern districts. "The Israel National Trail is an important path for hikers who learn about conserving nature, landscape, and heritage by visiting nature reserves and national parks.”
“The Nature and Parks Authority wishes hikers a pleasant and safe journey on the trail and a rewarding and challenging path in a new and interesting landscape," she added.