Israel’s Lower Galilee is full of high-quality hiking trails and interesting historical sites that are suitable for a wide range of visitors. One of the more exciting intermediate hikes that we’d like to recommend is at Tel Yodfat and Mount Atzmon. This six-kilometer hike, which starts right near modern-day Yodfat, gives visitors a glimpse of ancient Galilean community lifestyle, as well as showing hikers what the area has to offer in the way of plants, trees, views, and more on a daily basis today. Give yourself anywhere between two and a half to five hours for this hike.
Getting to the starting point is fairly simple. The hike is circular, so dropping your car off at the parking lot near the starting point is a great option. Head towards Yodfat on Route 7955 before turning off the road in the direction of Yodfat. After about 100 meters, turn left towards Tel Yodfat. Follow the narrow way until you reach the parking lots. If you’re relying on public transportation to get there, take bus 265 from Haifa to the Yodfat Junction. From there, you’ll need to walk approximately thirty minutes until you reach the hike’s starting point, and you’ll be following the same directions that the cars drive in.
Once you leave the parking lot, turn left on the blue path and head on up to the Yodfat village ruins. Follow the blue trail as you weave your way through the site where the ancient village once stood and prospered. You’ll find that old Yodfat (Jotapata in Latin) is built on a mountain with deep and steep valleys on all sides. It’s hard to see from far away, as it’s surrounded by many other mountains. One can really only make it out from up close. The city was built this way in order to give itself the best form of defense against attack. The city was even encompassed by a wall at a certain point before the Great Revolt of 67 C.E to improve the defense system.
Several signs designate points of interest along the path in Hebrew and English. There’s a great deal of information to learn about the people who lived here, including the various ways in which they stored and used water, their main forms of defense against attack, and the war tactics that ultimately led to the town’s downfall to the Romans after lengthy and tough battles during the Great Revolt of 67 C.E.
An interesting historical anecdote to take note of on your visit is that the Jewish commander who led the Jews of Yodfat in battle against the Roman legions was named Joseph Ben Mattithyahu. After the war, when most of the town’s residents and soldiers were brutally murdered, Joseph Ben Mattithyahu’s life was spared and he was taken into captivity by the Romans. Eventually, he went on to become the prime historian of the First Jewish-Roman War, writing several books about Jewry and Roman history that have remained highly-regarded historical documents to this day. Today, he is more commonly known as Josephus Flavius, the name the Romans gave him.
Follow the blue trail along the ruins of the wall. You’ll be heading southwest on your descent from the mountain, and you’ll pass by all sorts of plants that are native to the southern Galilee region (keep your eyes out for oaks, carobs, olive trees, terebinths, cyclamens and more!).
The path will take you along a streambed and up a gradual climb on Mount Atzmon. You’ll climb for approximately .5 kilometer before turning right on an unpaved road marked with the blue trail. Walk about 250 meters before following the blue path left and continue on your climb to the mountain’s peak. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the trail markers, as some may be tough to see or find. If you happen to be hiking in the spring time after the first rains, you’ll be lucky enough to catch the orchids blooming!
Once you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding areas. If you look westward, you’ll see the Mediterranean Sea, Haifa, and the Carmel. If you look south, you’ll see the Galilean Mountains. On a clear day, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of the Kinneret to the east! The mountain peak is the perfect spot for a coffee or lunch break. If you find that you’ve made it up here in good timing, take your time on the top and enjoy the views and company. This is truly one of the most spectacular places to catch good views on a nice day!
You should be able to make it to the end of the hike in under two hours. You’ll walk down the mountain on the path marked with a blue trail marker. Turn left in order to head east and continue on the blue path. You’ll come across an intersection with the black trail, and make sure to stay on the blue. You’ll eventually curve westward (right), and you’ll descend down a moderate slope. The descent will require a bit of climbing down boulders and hopping into a dry steambed, but is easy for the most part. The trees, rocks, and wildflowers along the descent enhance the area’s beauty even more. Be careful not to slip on your way down!
At the foot of the mountain, you’ll come across the Ein el-Kaziza spring and the Ein el-Wasta spring. The waters in both of these springs are clean, despite their green color. Both springs remain filled throughout the course of the year, and are a nice place to dip your feet in on a hot day. Make sure to pick up trash if you happen to see any in the area, as it is unfortunately plagued by a great deal of littering.
Continue north on the trail for another kilometer. Turn right (eastward) on the blue trail at the intersection. Here, you can make a choice of how you’d like to get back home. Your first option is to turn left to stay with the blue trail instead of continuing on with red. This will take you through a farming village until you reach a main road and take a bus back to Haifa. This walk will take you no longer than twenty minutes, and all you’ll need to do at the road is find the bus stop. If you need to return to your car, though, take the red trail instead of turning left on the blue. After walking on the red for about 1.25 kilometers, the road will take you back to the forest where you parked near Yodfat.