Summiting Mount Meron

Stop and smell the flowers on this easy, pretty hike near several major tourist sites in Israel's north.

If you're visiting the Galilee and looking for a short easy hike, the Mount Meron summit loop is a great walk. It's a chance for busy tourists to literally stop and smell the flowers on a gradually upward-sloping trail that spans just over 1.5 kilometers.

You can conquer the trail before or after your visit to Safed, city of mystics. Or you can add it to your trip to the venerated tomb where people believe holds the author of the Zohar, or to Mount Meron National Park and its ancient synagogue.

Because Mount Meron is over 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level, it abounds with plants and animals that thrive in the mountain air. In fall, you’ll see the bright yellow sternbergia flowers hugging the ground, while in late winter and spring, the slopes are daubed with brilliant red anemones and delicate pink anemones seem to grow right out of the rock. Hardy old oak trees and the rare arbutus (eastern strawberry tree) with their unique russet-colored trunks line the trail and the slopes. You’ll also come across the treading floor and vat of a 1,500-year-old wine press. Each of the trail’s three lookouts reveals a different, magnificent view. One sweeps across Upper Galilee from Lake Kinneret to Mount Hermon, snowcapped in winter. Another looks over into southern Lebanon and at Jish, a village mainly of Maronite Christians. Its most famous son 2,000 years ago (when it was called Gush Halav) was one Yohanan, who fortified the town against the Romans. From the third lookout you’ll see the large Druze village of Beit Jann and, some 40 kilometers to the west, the Haifa Bay area.

To get to the Mount Meron loop trail: Turn south at kilometer 32 off Road 89 between Sasa and Hurfeish. For more information, call the Israel Nature and Parks Authority information line at *3636.

Yaron Kaminski