The Israel National Trail is one of the best ways to see and experience Israel if you love nature and love hiking. Inaugurated in 1996, the Israel National Trail traverses Israel from Kibbutz Dan in the north to the Eilat Field School in the south. It is 1,100 kilometers long and is divided into 45 sections. Hikers along the trail can either walk its entire length or choose sections in various parts of the country; those who decide to walk the whole length can do so in anywhere between 30 and 60 days. In addition to hiking along the trail, other options have developed since the trail was first inaugurated: There are now special sections for cyclists and for terrain vehicles.
Navigating along the trail is rather easy thanks to the simple signs that are employed. Three vertical stripes (white on the right, blue in the middle and orange on the left) indicate the direction of walking. If the white stripe is higher than the other two, that means you are walking from south to north (white symbolizing the snow in Israel’s northernmost mountains); if the orange stripe is higher than the other two, that means you are walking from north to south (orange symbolizing the sands of the desert).
Along the trail, which passes through “hills, forests, cities, villages, rural settlements, streams, springs, alongside roads and nature reserves, and adjacent to historical sites and unique natural phenomena,” as one can read in the website of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), which planned the trail, you can find a variety of options for spending the night. As one would expect when enjoying the wide outdoors, your first option for spending the night is to sleep under the canopy of stars outside in a sleeping bag or a tent. If you choose that option, you should make sure that you do so in one of the defined sleeping areas indicated on the trail map. If you become fed up with sleeping in a tent, there is a wide range of other options: families that will host you in their home, youth hostels, field schools and prestigious bed-and-breakfast resorts that will pamper you.
If you decide to hike along the trail, you should not pass up the opportunity of meeting with one of the “angels of the trail,” that is, residents who live along the trail and who help out, and are concerned for the welfare of, hikers. Often they will offer lodging for the night, help in rescue operations and provide coffee and meals at no cost – or at a very low cost. About 260 individuals, families and rural settlements along the trail are defined as “angels of the trail” and you can find their names and addresses in Hebrew in the next link. The file is divided into trail sections, which makes it easier to find these angels. In addition to the information provided in this link, you can often obtain relevant, up-to-date data from other hikers on the trail, such as those walking in the opposite direction or those walking alongside you. Israelis are very open and very hospitable, so do not be shy: You can ask the Israeli hikers questions and request their recommendations or assistance.
Israel is very proud of this trail and the SPNI estimates that hundreds of thousands of hikers have already walked along it – both Israelis and tourists from abroad. In addition to individuals and groups using the trail, often special marches are organized for different environmental or social causes – such as marches for increasing the awareness of the need to find a cure for ALS, marches in memory of fallen soldiers, or even bachelor parties in the form of a joint hike.
The Israel National Trail has earned international recognition. The National Geographic magazine has named it one of the 20 best hiking trails, giving it the rank of an epic trail. In explaining their choice, the judges at National Geographic stated that the trail blends national heritage and national culture with nature and history and contains many biblical landscapes as well as landscapes from the day-to-day lives of modern Israelis.