Although a tiny country, Israel has geographic diversity to rival any nation many times its size. Due to these tiny borders, the Israel Trail (called “Shvil Israel” by locals) is the country’s only true long-distance route. It zigzags from the north to the south of the country, starting at Tel Dan near the Lebanese border, and ending at the Red Sea. The trail’s 960 kilometers pass through mountains and valleys, wadis and forests, craters and orchards, over some of the most beautiful landscapes and history-packed scenery the Middle East has to offer.
Plenty of Israelis hike the trail each year (especially between February and April, by far the best time to hike), but more and more foreigners are learning about it. Hiking parts of the trail is also popular with locals. The unofficial English-language site of the trail (www.israelnationaltrail.com) has a forum where you can look for trekking partners and ask questions. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, though you should always hike with a map.
The desert section of the trail (about 40% of its total distance, starting south of Arad) passes through far more isolated areas than the northern parts, and supplies can become an issue. Most hikers will find it makes sense to drop caches of water and food at certain points in the desert, since the trail will go for up to three days without encountering civilization.
- 960 km
- 6-9 weeks to through-hike, depending on your pace
- Mostly well-marked with white, blue and orange stripes. As with any trail, the markings are not perfect, so a map is still necessary. The trail is marked on all SPNI Hebrew-language Israeli hiking maps
- Supplies and accommodations are available daily in the northern section, though through-hiking is assumed to involve carrying your own gear and camping, and many accommodations may be quite expensive.
- The southern, desert section requires heavy-duty backpacking and camping, as well as stashing supplies before the hike.
- Terrain varies from very easy to very difficult, and only experienced backpackers should through-hike
SPNI maps covering the Israel National Trail
- Map 1: Mt. Hermon, the Golan and the Galilee Panhandle
- Map 2: The Upper Galilee
- Map 3: The Lower Galilee, The Valleys and Mt. Gilboa
- Map 4: The Carmel
- Map 7: The Sharon and Western Samaria
- Map 9: The Jerusalem Corridor, the Judean Mountains and the Northern Sphelah
- Map 11: The Southern Judean Desert and the Dead Sea
- Map 12: The Southern Sphelah and the Edge of the Hebron Hills
- Map 14: The Northern Arava and Western Negev
- Map 15: The Central Negev
- Map 17: The Central Arava and the Negev Highlands
- Map 18: The Western Negev Highlands
- Map 19: Paran Wilderness
- Map 20: The Eilat Mountains
Video showing part of the southern Israel National Trail in the Negev