Mountain climbing in Israel is on the rise (pardon the pun), especially in the last few years. Even though Israel is a small country, it will stun you with its diverse landscape that will inspire you to go outside and hike. Indeed, Israel is a hiker’s paradise!
If you want to go higher in Israel – literally, that is – you will never be disappointed. Israel is home to several gorgeous mountains, most of which are accessible to the public, providing opportunities for outdoor fun and exploring nature.
We know that Israel is blessed with several mountains, but we could only mention a few here. So, check out the following mountains that you’re planning to hike soon:
1. Mount Hermon
Mount Hermon is a narrow ridge forming the Lebanese-Syrian border along the spine. The ridge measures 70 kilometers long, but only 10% of its southern slopes belong to Israel after the Golan Heights Law was ratified in 1981.
Within the Israeli territory, Mount Hermon’s highest peak is at 2,224 meters (7,296 feet), but it forms part of a military outpost and is closed to the public. Therefore, the highest point that hikers are allowed to reach is 2,020 meters (6,627 feet).
Due to its significant height, Mount Hermon attracts a great deal of precipitation compared to its surroundings. Mount Hermon is covered with snow from winter through spring (December through April), with the snowline starting around 1,500 to 1,700 meters in the mid-winter. Although Mount Hermon gets 1,500 millimeters of rainfall annually, no major rivers flow down from the mountain. Instead, most of the water seeps into the limestone rocks, feeding the springs that form at the foot of the mountain. These springs are the major source of the Jordan River.
Mount Hermon hosts the only ski resort in Israel, attracting many skiers and vacationers who want to see and experience the rare winter wonderland in the country.
To access Mount Hermon, drive to the upper parking lot and ride the chair lift to the top. During the winter season (especially on weekends), the area is usually crowded, so prepare for a long wait.
Mount Hermon provides a great hike offering breathtaking views of northern Israel and southern Lebanon. The trail is not on the ski resort area, but on the southern ridge, which offers tranquility of a real hike, away from the tourist hubbub.
Hiking on the trail must be approved by the regional brigade at least one day prior. Contact them at (972) 04-696-6207. It’s usually approved without problems.
2. Mount Bental
Mount Bental is a dormant volcano located in the north-eastern part of the Golan Heights, with an elevation of 1,171 meters (3,841 feet) above sea level. Once you make it to the summit, enjoy the 360-degree panoramic views of the Golan plains in both Israel and Syria and of Mount Hermon.
The famous coffee shop, cleverly named Coffee Anan, is located on top of the mountain. The café is named in honor of the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (who was once in charge of the UN troops on patrol down below the mountains) and also means “coffee in the clouds” in Hebrew.
A narrow road takes you to the summit; there’s no need to walk. But if you want to walk up, the Section #5 of the Golan Trail climbs up the mountain on one side and goes down on the other.
3. Mount Meron
Rising 1,208 meters (3,963 feet) above sea level, Mount Meron is the third highest point in Israel (after Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights) and the highest summit in the Galilee and in Israel western part of the Jordan River. There’s an air force base located on the summit itself.
Mount Meron has a marked hiking trail that forms a 360-degree circle spanning the peak, providing breathtaking vistas from all directions. The slopes are dense with forests with various Mediterranean-type trees and plants.
To access Mount Meron, a road leading to the army base reaches quite close to the summit and marks the start of the hiking trail. There are several picnic tables and pleasant sitting areas near the parking lot, but they offer no views. To enjoy the panoramic views, you will have to make a short, easy but scenic hike.
4. Mount Tabor
Mount Tabor is located in Lower Galilee (in the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley) and rises 575 meters (1,886 feet) above sea level. According to Christian tradition, Mount Tabor is the site of the transfiguration of Jesus (as told in the New Testament), which is why it holds a religious significance for both Christians and Jews.
To access Mount Tabor, there’s a narrow road that leads to the Church of the Transfiguration, which sits very close to the summit and marks the start of the hiking trail.
5. Mount Arbel
Mount Arbel is a mountain in the Lower Galilee near the city of Tiberias, with an altitude of 181 meters (594 feet) above the Sea of Galilee. The mountain is part of Arbel National Park, which includes the Mount Arbel summit view, the cave-fortress and the ruins of an ancient synagogue.
Mount Arbel is an impressive sight when you look it up from down below. But once you get to the summit, the panoramic views of the Sea of Galilee and Mount Hermon are even more spectacular. The terrain is almost flat so walking up to the summit is fairly easy. For a short hike, start at the parking lot of the national park. For a full-day hike, begin at the Sea of Galilee and visit the ancient synagogue and the cave-fortress along the way.
6. Mount Ardon
Let’s go down south of the country and experience a somewhat different hike – this time, in the desert. Mount Ardon is considered the “classic hike” in the Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon), an impressive geological feature in the Negev Desert. It offers one of the best and the most spectacular viewpoints of the Ramon Crater.
Mount Ardon is not technically a mountain but a prominent point on the walls surrounding the crater. The summit is similar to a mesa because of its flat-top elevation.
To reach Mount Ardon’s summit, there’s a 300-meter steep elevation rising from the foot of the mountain. The circular six-kilometer hike is short but arduous, making it highly recommended for experienced hikers.
7. Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel is a long and narrow coastal mountain ridge in northern Israel that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. One of the closest mountains in Israel to the sea, Mount Carmel is covered with dense forests of mostly evergreen trees, that’s why it also earns the moniker as the “Green Mountain.”
Mount Carmel’s northern slopes are occupied by the city of Haifa, while its central and higher areas lie a national park with several picnic areas and biking and hiking trails. Mount Carmel is often mentioned in the Bible, the most famous being the battle between Elijah and the prophets of a god named Baal. Thus, Mount Carmel is the site of the Cave of Elijah and the nearby Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery. The Shrine of the Bab and its stunning surrounding garden terraces are also located on the slopes.
Mount Carmel’s highest point is at 546 meters (1,791 feet) above the Mediterranean Sea and is close to the main road in the village of Usifya. You can access it with a few minutes’ walk from there. But because it is flat and densely forested, the area offers no views. To enjoy excellent views from Mount Carmel, visit the Muhraka Monastery, where you can stand at the balcony and savor some fantastic vistas of the plains of Esdraelon and southern Galilee.
8. Mount Gilboa
Mount Gilboa is an 18-kilometer mountain ridge overlooking the Jezreel Valley to the north. Road #667 crossing the ridge is scenic and offers excellent views of the Jezreel Valley.
Mount Gilboa is mentioned several times in the Bible, the most famous being the verse from 2 Samuel 1:21:
“Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil.”
The ridge’s highest peak rises 496 meters (1,627 feet) above sea level, but there are no marked trails that lead to the summit, nor it offers wide-ranging views. Try climbing to the Shaul summit, which rises 302 meters (990 feet) above sea level to enjoy great views of the Jezreel Valley. The Barkan summit, which rises 497 meters (1,630 feet) above sea level, also offers the same spectacular views of the valley.