Geography of the Jerusalem area
Jerusalem is an amazing city for any visitor. It has something for everyone: History, Archaeology, Arts, architecture, Night life, shopping and much more. However, the fact that Jerusalem is also a great Hiking Hub comes as a big surprise to most people. While hiking is by no means the reason for visiting this great city, for a nature lover, to mix a day of hiking in between the city many attractions can be a great way to Spice-Up his visit.
Jerusalem is situated in a unique geographical location. It is situated on the central main ridge of the Judean mountains. The highest elevation within the city is 857 meters at the Gilo neighborhood. If you stand at high point in Jerusalem an look West, the scenery is of the Judean mountains western slopes, which are green and fresh. If you turn 180 ° an look eastת the the scenery changes radically to the Yellow/Brown slopes of the Judean Desert.
The reason for this sudden change that occurs over a very short distance is called the “Rain Shadow effect“. The the high ridge blocks the the way for the rain-producing weather systems and casts a “shadow” of dryness behind them.
Western Slopes of the Judean Mountains
The western slopes of the Judea mountains gets about 400-600 mm of annual rainfall. Not a big amountת but enough to support an evergreen mixed forest with a big variety of trees such as: Oak, Pine, Arbutus and Pistacia. It is also one of the richest areas in Israel with Wild-flowers.
The best month to hike west of Jerusalem:
November – April provide the best conditions, But it is enjoyable also during the summer if you make a very early start to avoid the heat.
The main attraction for hikers west of Jerusalem:
- Dozens of small springs. (Like in the Springs Trail But also many more)
- Mediterranean forest
- Small Archaeological sites that blend into the nature. (Seadim Ruins,Beit Itab Ruins)
Eastern Slopes of the Judean Mountains
The eastern slopes gets only 50-400 mm of annual rainfall. As we go further east and south from Jerusalem, the amount of precipitation drops dramatically. On the Northwestern section (Near Jerusalem) you can find during the winter some fresh vegetation and wildflowers, but as we go further east and south towards Sodom and the Dead Sea we get deeper into the Judea Desert and the scenery turns very quickly dry and barren. This is dramatic desert terrain with deep narrow canyons and big views on the Dead Sea. From most cities in the world you will have to drive for days or take a flight to reach such scenery. In Jerusalem you have it in less than a 30 minutes drive!
The best month to hike East of Jerusalem:
The best month to hike the area are December – March. November & April are possible on days when the temperatures don’t get too high. During the summer avoid it. Danger of dehydration and Heatstroke is life threatening!!
The main attraction for hikers East of Jerusalem:
- Deep Narrow Canyons (Wadi Qelt, Wadi Og)
- Desert Oasis (Wadi Qelt, Ein Gedi)
- Views on the Dead Sea.
- Secluded trails and Desert tranquility.
Picnic Spots and short easy Hikes around Jerusalem, With Free Maps and GPS files Download
The Sataf is KKL-JNF manged site that showcasing ancient agricultural techniques (Mainly ancient agricultural terraces), centered around 2 attractive springs. Ein Sataf and Ein Bikura. The area was inhabited since 6000 years ago and the first agricultural terraces were built 4500 years ago.
Today it is one of the most popular areas for short easy Jerusalem hiking options.
- Distance from Jerusalem: 14 Kilometers.
- Access by Bus: Take Bus #183 from Jerusalem, get off at the Sataf Junction and walk 800 meters to the entrance.
- Parking : GPS Sataf Parking
- Walking distance: 1-5 Km
- recommended period: All Year
- Price: Free of Charge.
- Opening Hours: All day (Daylight Hours)
- Facilities: Cafe/restaurants, Toilets, Picnic tables, Marked nature trails.
- Download the Sataf official Map
Main Sataf hike Trails:
- Blue Trail: 1.5 kilometers circular trail passing though reconstructed agriculture fields and orchards.
Download GPS File
- Green Trail: 2 Km trail that goes down from the upper entrance of the park all the way to the lower entrance , passing through the 2 springs, EIn Sataf and Ein Bikura. If you don’t have a second car waiting for you at the lower entrance it is recommended to walk until the springs and up on the Red marked trail back to the start
Download GPS File
Tel Azekah – A Biblical Short Walk
A great short hike not far from Jerusalem! Climb to Tel Azekah, above the Elah valley which is identified as the location of the famous battle between David and Goliath!
- Distance from Jerusalem: 40 Kilometers.
- Access by Bus: Go to Beit Shemesh and take from there Bus #383 to Azekah Junction.
- Parking – Parking area at the end of a dirt road – (GPS: 31.702275, 34.942761)
- Picnic Spot: Top of Tel Azekah
- Walking distance: 1 Km
- recommended period: All Year
After ½ Km of a steep climb you are at the top of Tel Azekah. From the top you have outstanding views on the surrounding Judean plains and mountains. Picnic under one of the almond trees, open the bible on Samuel 1, 17 , read the chapter and imagine how the events took place in the valley below you 3000 years ago.
Barbahar – Combine a short Hike with a nice meal or drink while enjoying great views of the Judean Mountains.
- Distance from Jerusalem: 30 Kilometers.
- Access by Bus: Bus #192 or #194 to Nes Harim.
- Parking – Barbahar Restaurant. (GPS: 31.734391, 35.072135)
- Walking distance: 1.5 Km
- Recommended period: All year.
There are several options to choose from:
- The spot is very popular on weekends, especially with good weather.
- Enjoy a drink or a meal on the restaurant’s outdoor balcony.
- Walk the stroller friendly scenic paved path. The path starts from the parking area and goes west for about 700 m, parallel to the main road and offers good views on the Judean mountains. You can follow it as long as you feel like and go back the same way.
- If you are a bit more energetic you can walk the 1.5 Km circular forest path around the hill northeast to the parking. It’s a pleasant short hike with great views opening up from time to time between the trees. The walk starts on the black marked trail to the right of the restaurant. (Very simple to follow on the hiking map).
- If you have the time and energy you can also take the 7.5 Km Ktalav Hike. One of the most popular hiking trails in the area.
A short hike to visit 2 lovely springs typical to the Judean Mountains just 11 Kilometers from Jerusalem.
- Distance from Jerusalem: 11 Kilometers.
- Access by Bus: None.
- Parking – Seadim Ruins – (GPS: 31.750628, 35.130235)
- Walking distance: 3.5 km
- Picnic: Near the pool of Tamar Spring.
- Recommended period: All Year.
This is one of the most popular hikes near Jerusalem. The combinations of attractive springs and the very short distance from the city makes this a “Winner”!
The western slopes of the Judean mountains are “dotted” with dozens of small springs. the classic “Spring Trail” which is highlighted here offers a very easy walk to visit 2 of them.
Start by taking a short tour at the Byzantine ruins of Seadim.
It is a remains of a Byzantine farm, olive press and an ancient mosque that was built later on-top of the ruins of the Byzantine buildings. some of the trees around are very old and reach huge proportions. This is due to the belief that trees near a mosque should not to be cut down due to the sanctity of the place.
To get to Tamar Spring follow the Green marked trail for 1.7 Km. (En route you will also visit Sarig Spring)
A short easy walk to an interesting “Tunnel Spring” near Jerusalem
- Distance from Jerusalem: 9 Kilometers.
- Access by Bus: Any Bus that goes to Hadasa Hospital (Ein Karem).
- Parking – A minor road opposite to Hadasa Hospital – (GPS: 31.763653, 35.144941)
- Walking distance: 2 km
- Picnic: Around Handak Spring.
- Recommended period: Winter and Spring. (The water level is very low in the summer)
- Flashlight required to walk inside the tunnel!!
Another typical spring to the area.
This is a “Tunnel” spring. The ancient tunnel is carved into the rock to reach the source of the water. The tunnel is almost 50 m long and the water depth reaches 1.5 m. It’s a unique experience to walk inside the tunnel!! all the way to its end. (You must use a flashlight, preferably head mounted).
The walk to the spring is an easy 1 km each way on a minor road and then a dirt road.
Very easy to follow on the map.
Bonus: You can add a visit to the nearby interesting monastery of “Saint John in the Wilderness”. The monastery is named after John the Baptist, who was born in the near by Ein Karem, and began his retreat here. It is located in a beautiful setting on the edge of the slope and surrounded by a beautiful garden.