Rockslides in Nahal Yehudiya’s famous canyon have put hikers at risk, but how can we give up on this fabulous stream, its pools and basalt pillars, and the plantlife and nature of the Yehudiya Reserve? The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has marked out a new and safe trail along the upper part of Nahal Yehudiya. Come and discover it by foot:
Main points of interest:
A fun water area
The basalt landscape of the Golan
Yehudiya Forest plantlife
A lookout over the views of the river from the top of the path which goes down to the upper waterfall
Israel Nature and Parks Authority activities to improve visitor services and preserve the site
The Authority has set up a visitor centre and campsite with toilets, gazebos, picnic tables, a kiosk and drinking water. The Authority has laid out a new and safe path along the Nahal.
How to get here:
Travel east towards Katzrin on Route 87 (Yehudiya - Khushniya) for 7 km to the Yehudiya junction.
The Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve is an open reserve which is large by Israeli standards. The Reserve spreads over 66 km2, on a sloped plain which descends from the central Golan to the slopes of the Kinneret. The area is transversed by deep, flowing streams and a forest of gall oak trees grows over the plain.
The Yehudiya Forest spreads over around 20 km2 of the Reserve and another 15 km2 on the slopes of the streams which cross the plain. The gall oak tends to grow with wide spaces between trees, and many weeds grow in these spaces.
There are many species of wild animals in the Reserve. The largest and most notable are the Israeli deer, wild boar, jackal, common fox, hyrax, vole, porcupine and spiny mouse. There are many birds of prey in the skies of the Reserve, such as the common kestrel, hawk eagle, Egyptian vulture and vulture, as well as plenty of songbirds and other birds. A particularly common insect here is the huge grasshopper, whose frightening appearance has earned it the nickname Saga (Agada).
The region is strewn with stones, and as such is not suitable for modern farming, but is very suited to grazing cattle. The cattle and flocks have taken the place of the woodland animals who in the past used eat the grasses that grew here and then died out, and today cattle herding fits well into the Nature Reserve: the cows eat the grass while it is green, and by doing so they reduce the amount of flammable material for the summer, and with it the chance of fires.
Six perennial streams flow through the Reserve: Nahal Meshushim, Nahal Katzrin, Nahal Zavitan, Nahal Batra, Nahal Yehudiya and Nahal Daliyot. Their waters flow to the Kinneret through the Beit Tsaida Valley, creating a unique landscape of lagoons. The streams gather their first waters from tiny springs, which flow in shallow channels. As they go on their way, the streams get deeper and create pools and waterfalls, and in the Beit Tsaida Valley they flow across a completely flat plain.
Nahal Yehudiya is one of the most famously beautiful streams in the Golan: There is flowing water all year round, wonderful pools for dipping in, and an impressive basalt canyon, beautifully adorned with green plantlife. It is no wonder that hikers come here in their droves, challenging themselves to climb up the stumps and rope ladders of the flowing waterfalls, and swimming across the deep pools.
Over the last two years there have been recurring rockslides on the upper Nahal Yehudiya trail, which put hikers at risk. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority was forced to close the path and hikers in this part of the stream had to make do with just a visit to the first waterfall. Staff from the Reserve have found appropriate alternatives for the trails which were closed, and today you can hike safely through the area and enjoy the wonders of the stream.
Go south from the Yehudiya car park on the path marked in red. The path runs between gall oak trees and buckthorns - the dominant plants in the Yehudiya Forest. Unlike its brother, the jujube, the buckthorn does not produce edible fruits. It is easy to identify from its bush-like shape and thorny leaves twisted into zigzags.
The path goes underground beneath the road leading from the Kinneret to Katzrin (Route 87), through an arched gate in a cattle fence, and reaches the ruins of the Yehudiya village. Turn left (north) following the red signs and walk between the remains of the buildings.
Yehudiya is a strange name for an Arab village. It seems that the Syrians agreed, and as such changed the name to Yaraviya - a pretty anti-Zionist rebuke. It is worth spending a few minutes in the village; a wander around will allow you to discover many stones from ancient buildings that are patched into the walls of the abandoned houses. Here and there you can still find the bases of columns and other architectural items, which were part of former public buildings.
At the time of the Mishnah and the Talmud there was a Jewish village here, and the remains of a large public building found here attest to that. An enthusiast once took a stone from here which had a menorah, a coalpan and a shofar engraved into it, but luckily it ended up in its rightful place in the Golan’s museum of antiquities in Katzrin.
As a result of the remnants of an ancient surrounding wall, some researchers have concluded that Yehudiya was Sogane, a Jewish settlement on the private estate of Agrippa II, the last Jewish king. We do know that when Joseph ben Mattityahu was preparing to revolt against the Romans, he fortified Sogane, Gamla and Salukiya, but even so, there is no conclusive proof that Yehudiya was Sogane.
After walking for around a kilometre along the banks of Nahal Yehudiya, you will reach a meeting point with the path marked in black. Up until here the walk was along the old and good path. You can continue to go down the red path to the upper waterfall and the beautiful pool, but do not continue onwards.
The new path continues north following the black signs, and after around a kilometre goes down to the stream. This is the wet part of the hike - a walk in the water for around half a kilometre and a dip in both of the shallow pools among the lush plantlife and the enchanting atmosphere inspired by Nahal Yehudiya. The black path climbs back up to the red path, and the red path will lead you back to the Yehudiya car park.