The Zavitan Stream trail is a popular hiking trail inside the Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve, the largest nature reserve in the Golan Heights. The Yehudiya Forest reserve is located between the Sea of Galilee and Katzrin (Qatzrin), the “capital” of the Golan Heights. Following road 87 from Bethsaida junction (at the North-Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee) towards the Golan Heights and Katzrin, the Yehudiya Forest visitor center is on the left.
As of now, due to Corona restrictions, visitors to many nature reserves and parks operated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority must make reservations in advance. There is also a small entrance fee. For more information (in English) and reservations, see https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/yehudiya-forest-nature-reserve/.
Note: The park opens at 8 a.m. and the earlier you arrive, the better. Latest entry (as of now) is 2:15 hours before closing time (the information is on the English website, but in Hebrew). The opening hours are given on the website – notice the difference between summer and winter time, and Fridays and holiday eves.
Upper Zavitan Circular Hike
For clarification, I am describing the short circular Zavitan trail, as there are a number of possible trails. This circular trail is about 3 hours long and is considered medium difficult. Some colleagues and I went there last summer and spent around 5-6 hours as we relaxed at the pools and explored the waterfall. As always, I recommend hiking shoes. You must take enough drinking water, which is at least 3-4 liters.
Once we reached the Yehudiya Forest visitor center/camping ground and got our entrance tickets, we drove by car on the small asphalt road North-East to the parking lot at the beginning of the Zavitan trail. Following the blue markers, we soon reached a folk where we turned right and followed the trail with black markers heading North. The trail was easy, more or less level, until we reached the Zavitan stream.
Meshushei Zavitan Pools
There we turned left onto the trail with the red markers leading South-West along the Zavitan stream. After a short hike we reached one of the highlights – the Meshushei Zavitan Pools (meshushim means “hexagons” in English). The name derives from the basalt hexagons that were formed when the lava coagulated, creating columns with four, five or six sides. Note that there is also the “Meshushim Pool” further downstream.
The water in these pools is cold all year round, about 18C / 64F. As you can see in the photo above, they are very popular with young and old. We crossed the Zavitan once more and followed the red trail leading South-West to the waterfall lookout.
Zavitan Waterfall and Pools
Adventurous as we were, we hiked down to the pool underneath the Zavitan waterfall, following the blue markers. The relatively steep descend was well compensated by the sight of a gorgeous little paradise. We had to climb a little to reach the second pool and the waterfall. The two large pools, surrounded by steep cliffs and lots of greenery, provided a magnificent view.
We spent some time at the pond, relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Then we returned the same way as we came down.
Sheikh Hussein Ruins
The blue markers lead back to the parking lot where we started. On the way are the ruins of a Syrian village named Sheikh Hussein. Back in the 1960s, part of the Golan Heights had been a military zone. The Syrian army built hundreds of bunkers with heavy artillery targeting the kibbutzim and towns in Israel. The Syrian villages in this part of the Golan Heights were used for supplies. During the 1967 Six-Day War Israel captured the Golan Heights and the Syrian villagers fled, were evacuated or driven out. This contrasts the four Druze villages in the Northern Golan Heights where Syrian Druze are living now in what has become Israel. (In the 1981 “Golan Heights Law” Israel de-facto annexed the Golan Heights.)
The Yehudiya Forrest Nature Reserve has more hiking trails as well as some historic and archaeological sites. It is a popular destination for locals. Although close to the Christian and Jewish sites on the Sea of Galilee, tourists have not yet found their way to this jewel.
I’ll be happy to offer guiding and transportation to this and many other beautiful locations in Israel.
See you in Israel,