Night hiking in Israel when the moon is full has many advantages and romantic qualities, the most basic of which is the convenient combination of cooler nighttime temperatures and maximum visibility. Israel is blessed with many majestic backdrops — the bright white limestone of the Judean Desert or the shimmering waters of the Sea of Galilee — that find their shine quite literally in full moonlight.
Setting out after dark coaxes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to hone our instincts. Nothing connects you to the wonders of the universe quite like that howling wolf or that ancient landscape under the vast night sky. It is a kind of nature therapy.
Here are ISRAEL21c’s top 10 places to hike when the moon is full. Before attempting any hikes in Israel, especially at night, it is advised to study the trail map to learn the specific details of what to expect along the way. And be sure to check out Wild Trails’ five essential tips for enjoyable and safe nighttime hiking.
Located just south of breathtaking Midreshet Ben-Gurion in the Sde Boker area is one of three official Israeli nature reserves open to visitors for night hiking. The Havarim Stream hike combines the Judean Desert rolling hills and valleys with an air of mystery that plays off the unique ecosystem of plants and animals. The hike starts off at the remains of an ancient Nabatean well. This relatively short hike of 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) will really give you a sense of what this spectacular area has to offer.
Additional information: Park at the Ben-Gurion Field School at the sign that reads “Nahal Havarim.” Start the hike at the blue trail marker.
This hike takes you from the northern Carmel Mountain Druze village of Daliat el-Carmel down the mountain, along an ancient route, through villages and even banana fields until you reach the Habonim Beach nature reserve. Habonim is considered one of Israel’s most beautiful Mediterranean beaches, known for its seashells and abundant wildlife. It is recommended to start the 16km journey after a leisurely evening meal of Druze fare, hike into the early morning hours, and then rest on the beach until the sun comes up.
Additional information: Start the hike by picking up the red trail (a dirt Jeep path) in the southwest corner of Daliat el-Carmel next to the town’s trash disposal area, and then follow it down the mountain toward the sea.
For an easier Carmel-area beach hike option: Start at Haifa’s Student Beach, and walk south along this hidden shoreline until you reach the “Shayetet 13” Israel Navy Seal base in the town of Atlit. The sandy hike is a 10km (6.2-mile) waterfront path, from which you can admire the waves and the abundant moonlight reflecting off the Mediterranean waters. At the finish you will catch a view of the famous 13th century Crusader fortress inside the base at the edge of the coastal peninsula.
Walk along this extraordinarily powdery marlstone rock 8km (5-mile) route at the base of Mount Sodom above the Dead Sea, where the biblical story of Sodom and Gemorrah is said to have taken place. Hike along the river bed in the canyon that weaves between the towering plateaus above, and eventually arrive to what is affectionately known as the “Flour Cave.”
Two things are certain: 1) Expect a butt-full of white chalky powder, and 2) this is a hike that is strictly forbidden on rainy days, but utterly fantastic for a full-moon nighttime activity.
Additional Information: Start the linear hike at the Neot Pools in the Nahal Zohar Valley next to Highway 90. The hike finishes at the night parking lot at the exit of the Pratsim Stream.
This 7km (4.3-mile) circular route allows you along the Saharonim Creek bed and up one of the Ramon crater’s rock plateaus (depending on the path you choose). This awe-inspiring Negev Desert crater is the largest of its kind in the world, stretching 40km long and 500 meters deep. Hiking just a small portion at night showcases the wonder of the starry night sky in this remote area. Fossilized seashells can be found in the creek-bed floor, reminding you that once upon a time this was the bottom of a vast ocean.
Additional information: This hike takes two to four hours, and picks up the Israel National Trail (Shvil Yisrael) as it enters the Saharonim Creek bed. To start the trail, veer off Route 40 between kilometer 86 and 87, and drive towards the Be’erot parking lot on a dirt path with red markers. Continue driving for an additional 4km (2.5 miles) until you reach the Ein Saharonim parking lot (also called Matzad Mechila).
Starting just north of Nahariya, this easy 6km (3.7-mile) night hike follows the rocky beach all the way from the ancient settlement of Achziv, north to the sea caves of Rosh Hanikra, along the beach promenade and paths. Throughout the trail you will discover coves, lagoons and tidal pools as well as distant islands to admire.
This is a breeding ground for sea turtles during the spring and summer months, so stay on the promenade during those seasons. Otherwise let the moon be your spotlight as you travel along this path to the spectacular endpoint along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
A jumping-off point into the wilderness of the Judean Desert, this short night hike starts in the Rotem neighborhood of Arad and descends downward to the Kidod River bed. Along the way you will pass boulders, an ancient cistern, waterfalls and caves before ascending the Moav lookout for a view of the cascading light over the hills below and the lowest point on earth — the Dead Sea. The 7km (4.3-mile) hike takes two to four hours, and will have you falling in love with the hilly desert terrain.
Additional Information: For this hike, follow the green trail. Find the detailed map here.
Section 8 on the Israel National Trail, which is identifiable by its orange, white and blue-striped markers, this hike starts with a view of the moon shining over the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) and ends with a brisk swim in the Jordan River. A cleansing experience that will give you an intimate sense of the North, it is a lovely 12km (7.4-mile) hike over main roads, which makes it pleasant for a bright night.
Additional Information: This hike starts on Route 77 at the entrance to Tiberias Illit, and ends next to Kibbutz Kinneret at the Yardenit baptismal site.
At the base of Masada, where King Herod built his desert fortress into the mountainside, lies the natural wonder of Havarei Masada. This Judean Desert trail is made up of limestone rocks, as denoted in the name, and contains twists, turns, crevices and natural structures for one to scale and explore in the shining moonlight.
Like an obstacle course, made from the lake waters that used to flood the area thousands of years ago, it is a veritable playground for kids and adults of all ages, made even more accessible by the ease and straightforward nature of the hike.
Additional information: This hike starts outside Masada National Park in the parking area off Highway 90. Walk the black trail to the end and back for a circular hike of 4km (2.5 miles).
This monthly communal night walk/run in the Northern Jezreel Valley, when the full moon hangs big in the night sky, starts at the junction of the Zarzir Bedouin village. It is a laidback yet upbeat experience with choices of 15km, 10km or 6km tracks, put on by the local running store Run-Way, owned by running enthusiast Doron Shalmon.
To join in the supportive community of runners, visit the store’s Facebook page and RSVP to the month’s scheduled event.
To learn more about twice-weekly free night hikes and the other hiking and adventure touring options around the country and abroad: [email protected] or +972-(0)58-496-0748.
Click here for an in-depth map of Israeli hikes with trail colors and topography (in Hebrew).