The Israel National Trail is a hiking path that crosses the entire country.
It has been listed in National Geographic’s 20 most “epic trails” and is said that it “delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli.”
The trail’s northern most end begins in Kibbutz Dan, near the Israel-Lebanon border, and stretches down to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea.
It’s approximately 1100 km (683 miles) long and takes about 6 to 8 weeks to hike.
Hikers also have the option to extended the trail with detours onto the Jerusalem Trail and the Golan Trail.
These detours allow you to explore these areas in depth rather than bypassing them.
The trail is marked along the way with orange, blue, and white stripes side by side.
This marker is very symbolic as the orange depicts the color of the desert, white the snowy Hermon Mountai, and blue the sea on Eliat’s cost.
Since many Israelis hike in their free time, the planners divided the trail into smaller sections, so that they can be hiked separately and completed in day trips or over the weekend.
One of its purposes of the trail is to give Israelis a way to experience the entire breadth of the land firsthand.
What National Geographic Said
National Geographic featured an article on The Worlds Best Hikes: Epic Trail and this is what they said about the Israel National Trail:
Passing through vast empty desert and winding into kibbutzim, the Israel National Trail (INT) delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of modern Israelis (with opportunities to stop in the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem).
But beyond the immense sense of history and breaking news, the trail powerfully connects to something that often gets lost in all the headlines—the sublime beauty of the wilderness of the Middle East.
The southern end of the trail crosses the harsh and lovely Negev, still populated by wandering Bedouins and long-horned Nubian ibex and filled with wildflowers in spring.
There’s not much water to drink along the way, though the trail crosses plenty of wet spots. It dips into the 600-foot-below-sea-level waves of the Sea of Galilee, flanks the baptismal River Jordan, and runs along Mediterranean beaches north of Tel Aviv. The southern terminus ends in the resort town of Eilat on the Red Sea.
Of course, the INT does take hikers to spots that have immense significance in the Judeo-Christian world and beyond. Among these is the sheer climb up the 1,929-foot peak of Mount Tabor, where Barak and 10,000 Israelites defeated Sisear and the Canaanites as recorded in the Bible’s Book of Judges.
The heights of Mount Carmel are sacred to Jews and Christians as well as to Ahmadiyya Muslims and followers of the Bahá’í faith. More modern sites, such as the Metzudat Koach memorial, commemorating 28 soldiers who died taking a fort in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, speak to the still ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
But life on the trail is safe and far from current hostilities. In fact, the joy of the trail is meeting the Israelis hiking it and spending some time in small kibbutzim where the local people will take hikers into their homes. On the trail, there is peace and friendship.
Is it safe to travel in Israel?
Yes. Israel, despite the news reports, is over all a very safe and welcoming country.
The Israel National Trail does not pass close to controversy areas and is safe to hike all the time.
Can women hike alone?
Yes. Israel is very safe for women to travel whether you’re in a city, a settlement, or a hiking trail.
Still, it is always best to follow safe practices you would hold to anywhere else.
The exception to this is hitchhiking which is commonly done in areas where buses are infrequent.
While it is generally perfectly safe (I was doing it as a child when I missed the school bus), you should avoid hitchhiking alone in a car with a man just to be extra cautious.
Also, there are usually specific areas Israeli usually stand to catch a ride. Don’t just stand anywhere and catch a ride with anyone.
And always follow your gut. If you don’t feel safe, don’t risk it.
Do I Need to Speak Hebrew?
No. English is one of Israel’s three official languages.
You’ll find street signs in it and Israelis study it in school from third grade and up.
However, do not expect all Israeli’s to be fluent since English is not everyone’s strong suit.
Is the Israel National Trail well marked?
Yes. The trail is well marked throughout all it’s path.
The mark consists of white, blue & orange stripes side by side.
The white signifies Mt. Hermon in the north, blue the coastline, and orange the desert in the south.
All the marks signify the direction as wel.
If you are hiking from south to north, the white stripe will be a bit above the others, the same for the orange stripe while hiking towards the south.
When to Go
February to May and September through December has the best temperature’s and avoids the heat of summer.
However, the fall rainy season begins around December which is something to take into account.
During the fall, it’s best to begin in the north to avoid the wet season in the mountains.
In the spring, however, it’s better to walk from south to north to avoid the extreme heat of the desert as the days get longer.
Keep in mind, this is about a two-month hike.
While it is possible to walk some parts of the trail during the winter, the mountain regions of Israel (Up North) get cold and even snowy.
At the same time, the Negev deserts (Down Southern) has floods caused by winter rains which are unpredictable and dangerous.
Where to sleep
There are several options of where to sleep while hiking the Israel National Trail.
You can sleep in camp sites located along the way.
Since the weather is usually pleasant in Israel you can sleep under the stars.
You can even get away with not using a tent and just using a sleeping bag.
Another option are “trail angels” that you can find in most parts of the trail.
These are people who offer a helping hand and a free places to sleep along the way.
Examples of this are that in one kibbutz a soldier leaves the key to her room for hikers who need a place to sleep while in Hadera forest there is a farmer who offers sleeping quarters in exchange for a day’s work.
Lastly, you can use hostels that are located close to the trail’s path. However, you won’t always be able to find a hostel in a walking distance.