If you're ever near Haifa and you're itching for a nice hike, here's a good 6 hour hike that promises shade, challenge, gorgeous views, and in the winter, spring, or autumn...water!
I've taken the liberty of doing a quick translation of detailed information about the hike from www.tiuli.com, a great website for hikers with information about various hikes and trails all over the country.
The trail sits right in the heart of the Carmel, and the Kelach (כלח) and Galim(גלים) springs in "Little Switzerland"(שווצריה הקטנה) are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the area. The region is green year round with fantastic views of the Mediterranean, limestone caves, and a peaceful serenity in the air.
It's important to remember to bring a flashlight and a bathing suit for bathing in the cool tunneled waters of Kedem Spring (עין קדם).
The hike that Yotam and I chose to do takes about 6 hours (if you decide to take a dip) and isn't circular. It's recommended you have someone drop you off at the beginning and pick you up at the end- although you're almost sure to find someone willing to give you a ride to the center of town, and its only a 5 minute walk from the end of the trail to the nearest service taxi route. The entire hike is down-hill, but be aware that some down-hill sections are quite challenging and isn't generally recommended for families.
The trail begins just before Haifa University near Dimon Intersection off of Rte 721. Just before you reach Dimon Intersection you'll notice a number of gravel lots off to the side of the road where you can pull off to park. Look for a blue trail marking to begin your decent down Kelach stream (the stream is dry). We had difficulty finding the blue markings and had to ask other hikers we ran into to point us in the right direction. But eventually we found it.
After you find the trail, you'll make a quick decent into a deep forresty area filled with gnarly oak trees (אלון), the red eastern strawberry trees (קטלב), and Judas trees, also known as Red bud trees or love trees (כליל אלון) which are folled with beautiful pink flowers in the springtime.
About 1.5 kilometers into the hike, the blue trail intersects with a red trail that also arrives at the caves, but we remained on the blue trail and continued down hill for about another kilometer till we reached an intersection with a green trail. This green trail is the beginning of Nachal Galim. We noted the green, marking the beginning of Nachal Galim and remained on the blue trail, continuing another 2.5 kilometers through the foliage and over the dried river stones.
Our next stopping point was Nahal Nadar (נחל נדר) with a black trail marking. We turned right following Nahal Nadar which introduced us to a bit of sun and a bit of upward climbing till we reached Ein Kedem. Sadly we hiked the trail at the very end of the summer (Oct 1st) and the water outside of the cave was already dried up. Typically the waters are cool and clean, streaming from narrow tunnels that you can walk through if you have a flashlight. When we arrived, there was still a bit of water deeper inside the cave, but we hadn't brought a flashlight, so we decided to continue onwards.
We followed the blue trail a few more meters till we saw the mountain with the limestone caves to our left call the Oranit Caves. At this point one can either continue on the blue trail below and follow Nahal Galim all the way down, or one can turn left and climb up the mountain into the caves. It's a steep climb, but its doo-able for anyone - and I highly recommend it. The caves are unbelievable and offer by far the best views on the hike.When you get up there, take your time wandering around, and don't miss the blatant photo=op. With the green mountains and the sea in the background, no one can look that bad.
(Note: According to tiyuli.com, the Oranit Caves site is an important winter home to a large number of bats and entrance into the cave is technically forbidden between the months of May and October when they hibernate. However, we saw no signs and no rangers, and until I read this post thoroughly, I had no idea. )
When you're ready, continue through the narrow passages of the caves along the red trail. Climb down from the caves, and follow the red markings. Make sure you descend in the direction of the sea (veer "right" down the mountain and then straight toward the Pais Center which is easily visible). We had a bit of difficulty following the red marks immediately after we climbed down from the caves, but we wandered along in the right direction and ran into it quickly.
This last leg of the trail is very easy and very short.
Here's a snapshot of some of the highlights of the hike. I hope you enjoy!