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 to 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) the INT traverses the parched deserts of the southern Negev, 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 on other big-name trekking routes, the trail finds plenty of beautiful scenes, 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 it slightly easier to make sense of the flurry of foreign place-names, if you're not familiar with the geography.

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. I'm not getting paid for this; 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

Day 0: Before the Trail

Day 1: Red Sea to Har Shlomo

Day 2: Har Shlomo to Shkhoret Night Camp

Day 3: Shkhoret Night Camp to Nahal Rehem

Day 4: Nahal Rehem to Timna

Day 5: Timna to Rt. 90/Yotvata

Day 6: Shabbat at Yotvata

Day 7: Elifaz (?) to Be'er Milhan

Day 8: Be'er Milhan to Shaharut

Day 9: Shaharut to Tsihor Junction

Day 10: Tsihor Junction to the mouth of Nahal Barak

Day 11-13: Break at Zofar/Sapir

Day 14: Sapir to Gev Holit

Day 15: Gev Holit Night Camp to Gevanim Night Camp

Day 16: Gevanim to Mitzpe Ramon

Day 17: Mitzpe Ramon to Geve Hava Night Camp

Day 18: Geve Hava Night Camp to Hod Akev Night Camp

Day 19: Hod Akev to Midreshet Ben-Gurion

Day 20-21: Midreshet Ben-Gurion

Day 22: Side trip to Masada


Day 23: Arad to Amasa

Day 24: Amasa to Meitar

Day 25: Meitar to Sansana

Day 26: Sansana to ?? (Wadi with sheep)

Day 27: ?? to Philip Farm

Day 28: Philip Farm to Beit Guvrin

Day 29: Beit Guvrin to Tel Azeka

Day 30: Tel Azeka to Netiv ha Lamed-Heh

Day 31: Junction of Rt. 384 and Rt. 375 to Mata

Day 32: Mata to Tzuba

Day 33: Tzuba to Neve Shalom

The Coastal Plain

Day 34: Neve Shalom to Giv'at Ha-Shlosha

Day 35: Giv'at Ha-Shlosha to Ra'anana

Day 36-37: Ra'anana

Day 38: Herzliya to Netanya

Day 39: Netanya to Sdot Yam

Day 40: Sdot Yam to Zichron Ya'akov

The Lower Galilee

Day 41: Zichron Ya'akov to Ein Hod

Day 42: Ein Hod to Isfiya

Day 43: Isfiya to ha-Nezirim Mill

Day 44: ha-Nezirim Mill to Zippori Forest

Day 45: Zippori Forest to Gazit Junction

Day 46-52: Days off in Nazareth, Nablus and Jordan

Day 53: Kfar Kish to Deganiya Aleph

Day 54: Deganiya Aleph to Nahal Arbel

Day 55: Nahal Arbel to Safed

The Upper Galilee

Day 56: Safed to Har Bar-Yohai

Day 57: Har Bar-Yohai to Nahal Dishon

Day 58: Nahal Dishon to Ramot Naftali

Day 59: Ramot Naftali to Kfar Gil'adi

Day 60: Kfar Gil'adi to Dan

Table of Contents | © 2012 Julian Bender