The Golan Heights region is unlike any other part of Israel. Having already been considered a prime location for agricultural work thanks to its fertile soil, the Golan Heights have also developed into a terrific spot for hiking and touring. The mountainous region offers hikers plenty of options for short, medium, and long day hikes and long, overnight trek, as well.
A hike that you can’t miss out on is at Nahal El Al. The two prime attractions along the trail are the black and white waterfalls (named for the rock colors that they each respectively emerge from), but there’s so much more to see along the seven-kilometer red trail. In its entirety, the hike should take you at least four hours. Give yourself time to stop and enjoy the sights, though, as this isn’t the type of trail to walk through without stopping in order to enjoy the springs, waterfalls, and views. This trail is fun year-round! During the summer, it’s a terrific place to escape the heat at. In the winter months, however, be wary of slippery hiking conditions and colder water temperatures.
We recommend that you start at the side of the trail that’s closer to the black waterfall if you’re interested in hiking the full trail. If this is your intention, drive to Avnei Eitan, a religious community right next to the trail. On Saturdays and religious holidays, you’ll need to park your car outside of the parking lot and walk in so as to not disturb the Shabbat. The trail starts directly behind HaMapalim Campsite/חניון המפלים (Waterfall Parking Lot).
If you intend on starting first thing in the morning, plan on getting to the site early on in the morning (7:00 or 8:00 am) so that you reach the white waterfall when the temperature heats up around noon. You have the option to stay at Kfar HaIndiani the night before if you live far away. The Kfar is right next to the parking lot that you’ll start at and costs money.
To start the hike, follow the red trail signs, which will direct you throughout the course of your hike. Don’t forget to fill your water bottles and use the bathrooms at the parking lot before heading out! Pretty soon after leaving Avnei Eitan, you’ll pass a little spring that’s tucked away under the shade of giant trees. Feel free to take a dip here, though the opportunities to swim will present themselves again over the course of your hike.
You’ll reach the black waterfall a bit after leaving the first spring. This is a great place to eat lunch as you sit and relax. Afterwards, hop in the water for another swim before heading out and continuing on the trail.
Keep your eye out for the many kinds of trees you’ll see on the hike. Olive and eucalyptus trees, two staples of the region, pepper both the trail and the mountains that surround it. In addition, you’ll pass pomegranate, almond, lemon, domim (a miniature cross between apples and pears), and date trees while also seeing a great deal of grapevines. Lastly, cactus plants are everywhere on this trail. Their fruits, like all the other listed fruits will be ripe and fresh depending on the season. However, be careful while picking the sabres (cactus fruits). While the fruits are tasty and unique in taste and texture, their thorns are tough to get rid of unless you really know what you’re doing.
Something to keep in mind as you hike along Nahal El Al is the area’s historical significance. First and foremost, it’s been reported that ancient Jewish civilizations dating as far back as the Second Temple period (from 538 BCE to 70 CE) settled here and became very prosperous on account of their olive oil businesses. In addition, the Golan Heights (and the El Al area, in particular) were where Israeli spy, Eli Cohen, did much of his work transmitting important Syrian military information to Israel in the 1960’s.
Signs will designate the white waterfall, but you’ll know it the moment you see it. A cliff overlooking the spring and valley down below is a popular photo-op spot. Climb up the mountain a bit before making the descent down to the spring. This is by far the biggest spring you’ll come across during the hike, and there’s no question that it’s worth jumping in it for a swim.
When you’re all wrapped up at the spring under the white waterfall, the hike up to the end of the trail should take approximately 45 minutes. The incline is pretty steep in the beginning, but levels off after a few minutes. There aren’t as many stopping points on the way up, but the valleys and mountains that you’ll see are breathtaking, nonetheless. Keep your eye out for a quick and distant view of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which can really only be seen on a very clear day on your right past several of the mountains.
The hike ends at a road up above the canyon. Make sure to make arrangements for transportation before you start your hike, as this end point is not all that close to the point at which you started. Coordinating how you’ll get from the end of the trail back to your car and/or starting point is important if you intend on making it home at the end of the day. Parking one car at the end of the trail while keeping the second one at the start is an easy solution to this problem. Otherwise, make sure to work out some sort of ride-sharing system with other people in your group so that you can make it back to your car and get home.
Children generally do well with this hike, so families should most definitely try to make it out here. However, close supervision would be a good idea around the many elevated cliffs and natural springs that the trail passes by.
If you’re interested in an abbreviated hike that would still take you to the white waterfall, start by Eliad (near where the trail described up above ends) and follow the trail down the canyon until you reach the white waterfall. When you’re all wrapped up, head back up the way you came. This hike will probably take you around an hour and a half, depending on how long you spend down by the waterfall and spring.
Here’s a map of the start and end points, as well as the locations of the white and black waterfalls:
If you’d like to plan your route on one of Israel’s national trail maps, looks for map #1 with the Golan trail marker on it at any hiking/travel store.
We joined a hiking group called Amitim Latiulim (עמיתים לטיולים) for this hike and learned a ton! To get in touch with them about their future trips, call 03-6818776.
- Lots of water
- Hiking shoes
- A warm layer
- Bathing suit/clothes to swim in/get wet
For more Nahal El Al pictures, check out our Facebook Page!
Adam Schrag 2015