Everything in Israel is accessible via public transportation, I told people who looked at me with eyes wide open when I told them I have yet to prioritize spending thousands of shekels on a driver’s license.
That was true – in central Israel. Getting from home to work to campus to work to home was especially accessible, with buses and service cabs so frequent that one wonders what happened when 15 minutes go by without the possibility to get on public transportation.
It’s also true in other areas of the country. With more and more companies developing bus, train and service cab lines, it’s easy to get around Israel.
Unless you want to take a nature trip and don’t have a car.
My friends and I decided we wanted a trip, and we didn’t have a car in toe.
And it’s not as if we couldn’t find any possibilities, yet they were either too complicated, too expensive for an overnight stay or not as realistic as initially seen.
Until my friend found this short hike near Oren River.
Oren River and the Finger Cave
Called in Arabic Phalach Valley, Oren River is located in the Carmel mountain range, close to the city of Haifa. It is the largest western drainage basin of the Carmel range, and it’s connected to the Mediterranean Sea.
The river only flows when rain has dropped, and since we traveled there shortly after the first few rain shows of fall, we saw not even one drop of water, yet the scenery was nonetheless worth the trip. The Mediterranean can be seen throughout parts of the hike when you reach the viewing points.
The Finger Cave, a 3-room structure that was created when rocks melted, is a literally hidden part of the route (it was behind our backs and we nearly missed it). It was once inhibited by pre-historic people.
The Carmel National Park, where this hike is located, was burned down pretty heavily two years ago, yet the hike is filled with flourishing trees, even shortly after summer.
Reaching Oren River and the Finger Cave by Public Transportation
Because of its proximity to a central highway (Highway 4), Oren River’s surroundings make for an excellent day trip from various Israeli cities.
Buses stop at Intersection Oren, from which you walk a few minutes until reaching the parking lot. By the parking lot, you can find a vast area filled with picnic tables – as well as the beginning of the route.
From Jerusalem – Take bus #947 of Egged bus company to Haifa’s Carmel Beach central bus station. The ride will take you approximately 2.5 hours.
From Haifa – Take Egged bus #921 (that’s headed to Tel-Aviv) from Haifa’s central bus station Carmel Beach (in Hebrew: Hof HaCarmel). Haifa has two central stations (the other one is called “The Bay”, or “HaMifratz” in Hebrew), so make sure you’re at the right one. One you board the bus, ask the driver to let you know at Oren Intersection (in Hebrew: Tzomet Oren). The ride will take you approximately 10 minutes.
From Tel-Aviv – Take Egged bus #921 (that’s headed to Haifa). The ride will take you approximately an hour and a half. This bus goes through cities such as Ra’anna and Kfar-Saba (at the Ra’anana-Kfar-Saba Intersection) as well as Hadera, so it’s pretty accessible from many central Israel locations.
Once you get off the bus, it’s time to start walking.
If you come from Tel-Aviv’s direction, go right (in the direction the bus came from) and turn left on the first turn. You’ll be walking on the sideline of a road where cars drive by, so be careful. You’ll pass by the entrance gate to Zvi Sitrin Village (the sign you’ll see will use the Hebrew word for village – kefar). Keep walking.
Within a few minutes, you’ll see a rather small sign to your right with big Hebrew and small English letters, announcing this is Carmel National Park.
Keep walking and you’ll notice a sign starring solely Hebrew letters – and a phone number. This sign lets you know that the gate closes at 17:00. For further info, the sign welcomes you to call 04-8228983.
Walk just a bit more and you’ll find the parking lot, the picnic tables and the beginning of the route. When we were there, we saw balloons and as we hiked up the mountain, we heard drums. It was a 9th grade class party time.
If you come from Haifa’s direction, note that you will need to cross the two-lane road, meaning cars are coming from both directions – and there is no place indicating they need to stop for people to cross by foot. So be patient and careful, and walk to your left once you make it to the other side of the road.
Here, turn at the first turn as well – and keep walking as explained above.
The Hike from Oren River Up the Mountain, to the Finger Cave and Back Down
This hike is part of the Israel Trail, a nature walk throughout the country.
Due to some health challenges, we picked the black route – a short walk up the mountain and back down. It is approximately 2 kilometers (a little over one mile) long. The trip ends at its starting point, so there’s no need to worry about locating an extra route of public transportation.
I had never climbed a mountain before and I am working out a health challenge, so I was worried even this short route might be too much.
It ended up being way easier than I expected, yet the beginning included climbing plenty of stairs. Later in the route you’re supposed to constantly walk down big stones. Take this under consideration if you’re completely out of shape or have a health challenge. This road is anything but accessible to wheel chairs. If you’re in great shape, this will be a very easy hike to tackle.
The beginning of the hike takes place in a beautiful forest, with viewing areas to see the mountains across the road.
As you go up, you will reach an expansive lookout of the area, where colors mix and cars look tiny. At the far end, you will see the Mediterranean Sea.
Hiking down, pay attention, the view remains your backdrop for a while. Stay alert – as explained before, the cave was behind us after we had given up hope to find it. We headed left after a food break, where the route seemed to lead us, yet it was actually to our right. Though it sounds like a no big deal to find it, we weren’t the only ones who walked in the wrong direction.
It’s very dark inside the cave, so bring a good flashlight. The ground inside is very slippery. It constitutes of three rooms, yet with our poor flashlights, we couldn’t see much. Only after I turned on the flash in my camera and took photos, could I see how the cave looks like – on my camera’s screen. Make sure you stop for a moment on the way out of the cave – the few seen from its finger-like entrance is beautiful.
Hiking down, you will once again relish in nature. You will find an old British structure (the UK once reigned in Israel), perhaps an old guarding station. Exit this small structure from the other way and you’ll find stairs that will lead you back to the parking lot, where you first started.
As you walk back to the parking lot, look back at the green-colored mountain and notice the tiny-looking prehistoric cave, the small-looking British structure. If you’re anywhere as affected as I was, you’ll want to be back.
A big thanks to my friend Maytal for finding this hike, and and to my friend Dafna, who found the public transportation that leads to it!
What great nature hikes do you know that are accessible by public transportation?