Nahal Sefunim is a terrific location for families in search of a good hike at any point during the year. The hike, which is four kilometers long and can take anywhere between two and four hours, winds its way through the Carmel Mountains near Haifa using the red and blue trails.
The entire Carmel region is filled with beautiful, bountiful forests, a wide variety of animal species, and many prehistoric caves. You’ll see all three of these on your hike along Nahal Sefunim. Try to identify the many Palestinian oaks, terebinth trees, mastic trees, buckthorns, Aleppo pines, and various species of wild flowers that you’ll see on your hike!
In the winter time, the stream (nahal) drains water from the Carmel Ridge, an extension of the Samaria Mountains that stretches all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. In the summer time, however, the nahal dries up. Keep in mind that while this is not a very difficult hike, there’s lots of climbing involved. Therefore, it’s not ideal for small children and people who have difficulty walking or climbing. Don’t forget to bring three liters of water, good hiking boots, a flashlight, sunscreen, and food!
The trail starts next to Megadim, a moshav located approximately 12 kilometers south of Haifa. Public transportation makes getting to the starting point rather easy; if you’re coming from the Tel-Aviv area, take bus 921 towards Haifa and get off at Tzomet Megadim (צומת מגדים). Walk north along the highway for a few minutes until you see the red trail that intersects with the road (Route 4). If you’re coming from Haifa, take the 921 towards Tel-Aviv, and follow the same instructions. While convenient, riding the bus will also make the journey to the trail take much longer. Therefore, if you have the option to drive, do so. You can either park in the small parking lot by the starting point or across the street in the moshav. The route is circular so there’s no need to worry about ending up in a different place than where you started.
The beginning of the hike takes you past a big banana plantation that is owned and operated by local farmers. Follow the red trail straight ahead until you reach a number of abandoned quarries. Companies working within the color industry once used these quarries to mine raw materials for their products. However, the Nature and National Parks Authority intervened and effectively ended the operation in an effort to assist in the area’s natural restoration. Continue on past the quarries and start your climb along the stream bed.
Approximately one kilometer into your hike, you’ll walk by Sefunim Cave on your right. Despite being easy to miss, this is one of the hike’s main attractions. Look for a normal red trail marker with two white lines extending from its top. If you run into a blue trail marker, you’ve gone too far. Turn around and look for the cave marker. Once you find it, climb up the thin path to reach the cave’s entrance.
Sefunim Cave is worth checking out for a number of reasons. First off, its very structure is amazing to look at. The cave’s two chambers were hollowed out over an extended period of time as rainwater dissolved the limestone. The evidence for this phenomenon are the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites that can be found in the back chamber. In terms of historical relevance, archaeological excavations have revealed that the cave was in use over 60,000 years ago by prehistoric people. Based on their findings, archaeologists speculate that the cave has been a dwelling place, a hunting station, a workshop for processing flint and wood, and as a gunpowder preparation site over time. You can still find fossils of animals caught by prehistoric cave dwellers on a wall in the front of the cave. One of the most exciting details relating to the cave is the bat population that still calls it home to this day. You’ll hear them communicating and flying around in both chambers, and may even get a chance to see them. These bats play a significant role reducing the number of pests and insects that eat farmers’ crops in the entire Carmel region. Their hibernation period runs from late October through March, so make sure not to visit and disturb them during this time period! Use your flashlight/headlight when you enter the cave, as it gets pretty dark the further in you go.
When you exit the cave, continue on the red trail until you reach an intersection with the blue trail. Take the blue trail to your right and climb a short distance towards the stream’s southern bank. Once you reach the top, you’ll have a great view of the Mediterranean Sea past a few mountain slopes. As you keep walking, keep your eyes out for the Atlit castle down below you, a bit far out and to the south. This building was used as a camp for illegal immigrants to Palestine during the British Mandate. Moshav Megadim, near the point that you started at, is also visible from the trail.
Proceed another kilometer until you reach Megadim Cliff–one of the prime locations for viewing the Carmel. From here, the trail begins to descend back down to the trail’s end point. Look for the ancient wine and olive presses on your way down. The crushing stones and cisterns remain in the place that they were at when they were in use.
Continue on down on the blue trail until you reach an intersection with the red trail. You’ll be back near the banana plantations at this point. Follow the red trail back to your starting point.
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Adam Schrag 2015