Introduction: A Trail Journal

Looking down at the Jordan Valley. Kibbutz Afikim is there somewhere. 

The Israel National Trail (שביל ישראל) winds through the length of the small country from the Red Sea, through the Negev Desert and the hills and plains of central and northern Israel, and ends at the foot of Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border. Inspired by the legendary Appalachian Trail, this route, although it runs a shorter distance than many long-distance trails, easily ranks among the world's great backpacking experiences. 

In 1000 km (600 miles) hikers travel from the parched deserts of the southern Negev to the fertile lands of the Rift Valley and the history-filled mountains of Jerusalem and the Galilee. While Israel has fewer truly awe-inspiring vistas than one might find in the western US or the Alps, the walking is almost all beautiful and takes hikers through one of the most famous but least understood parts of the world.

I hiked the trail in March-April of 2011, from south to north. Each day I wrote some brief notes in the margins of my tattered guidebook, to ensure I would remember as much as possible of my time on the trail. In the spring of 2012, after losing track of the notes and assuming they were gone forever, I rediscovered them. I decided to incorporate my photos from the trail into a trip report so that family and friends could see some of what I'd done, and as an inspiration and resource for future INT hikers. I've expanded on interesting things I mentioned in the log, and thrown in amusing stories and historical knowledge here and there.

As you read, I recommend having the map open so you can tab over to it and view the progress along the trail in visual format. This should make the flurry of foreign place-names slightly easier to make sense of.

Each day's original journal entry is at the top of its own page in larger text, while my (usually longer) commentary is below, along with pictures taken on that day.

I've occasionally included links to websites of things I like, such as cottage-industry hiking gear makers. All the things I'm linking to are quality products or services provided by small business owners and deserve a look if you're interested in the topic - I only give plugs to the deserving!

I hope you find this an interesting read, and that it may inspire others to hike this trail as well. There is a lot of good information to be found in my journal and commentary, and I have included a section for those thinking of a thru-hike. However, if you think you may want to set out on the trail yourself, your research should probably start at this site and this one.

The Negev


Judah


The Coastal Plain


The Lower Galilee


The Upper Galilee