Masada, Israel
Masada, IsraeliStock

From Tuesday, October 15, a new route for the Israel Trail in the Judean Desert, between Arad and Hamakhtesh Hakatan (“the small crater”), will open to the hiking public.

According to Itzik Ben Dov, the trail marking coordinator at the Society for the Protection of Nature, "The purpose of the change was to include the Judean Desert in the trail, its unique landscapes and sites, including Masada and the Dead Sea."

Before the change, the Israel Trail passed between Arad and Hamakhtesh Hakatan, two days of walking, through Be'er Afa and Metzad Tamar, about 40 km. According to the new route, the trail goes from Arad, through Bka’ot Kna’im, to Masada, the Dead Sea (Ein Bokek hotels), Metzad Zohar, Nahal Pratzim, Ma’ale Tzurim, Nahal Peres, and Nahal Tzafit, and from there to Hamakhtesh Hakatan - about 90 km. Changing the route adds another 2-3 days of walking to this section.

After connecting the new route to the Israel Trail, regular hiking access to the new route will begin. The Society for the Protection of Nature notes that markings for the Israel Trail on the old route will remain in place for about two years and those interested will also be able to travel on the old route. In order to make it easier for hikers of the Israel Trail, signs will be placed at the junctions between the routes - in Arad and Nahal Tzafit - directing travelers to the 2 options - the new and the old.

Ben Dov points out that the initiative, the planning and the marking of the route, were done in collaboration with the Nature and Parks Authority and that along the new route there are night camping spots, some free and some for fee: at Havat Hanokdim (fee, with a water point), Brehat Tzfira (free of charge), Masada (fee, with water point), at Ein Bokek hotels (free of charge), Nahal Lot, Mishor Amiaz, Nahal Tamar south of Route 25 and Sha’ar Hamakhtesh Hakatan (all free). Points for supplies or dining: Arad, Havat Hanokdim, Masada, Ein Bokek Hotels, Neve Zohar in the community and at the gas station.

The Israel Trail, inaugurated in 1995, is an initiative of the Society for the Protection of Nature, to create a hiking trail along the State of Israel. The trail, which is marked and maintained by the Israel Trails Commission of the Society for the Protection of Nature, begins at Beit Ussishkin of Kibbutz Dan in the North and ends at the Sde Eilat school in the South.

The Israel Trail passes through mountains, forests, towns, villages and communities, streams, springs, along roads and nature reserves, historic sites and unique natural phenomena, and today is approximately 1100 km in length. For the protection of nature. A team at the Society for the Protection of Nature is responsible for marking and maintaining the trails.