Fall is the time for a visit to the Carmel Mountains, when the early rains stimulate new growth to parched flora and fauna desperate for a bit of moisture. It’s a chance to see the forests’ response to the devastating fires of Chanukah 2010, when close to 12,000 acres of forestland were caught in a raging fire, taking the lives of 42 people caught in the out-of-control firestorm. While the regrowth is a long-term process, it is encouraging to see hints of green as well as the return of wildlife to the region.
You can take advantage of the Israel Parks Department, which will be leading special tours at the Carmel Wildlife Park to show local restoration efforts and areas where wildlife has returned in the mountains. Or, you can explore the region the DIY way.
Walk in the footsteps of Fred Flintstone
Did you know that excavations in Israel’s Carmel region have led scientists to believe that early man arrived in the area somewhere around 500,000 years ago? And you thought the Old City was old. The four caves of Nahal Me’arot, or the ‘Cave Creek,’ located near the western edge of Mount Carmel, were first excavated in the 1930s and show evidence of population from lower and middle Paleolithic periods, starting from 250,000 years ago. Take a walk through the caves which include a well-laid out tour of the different prehistoric periods when the caves were occupied, complete with Neolithic mannequins, examples of tools and materials from the period and, everyone’s favorite, a sound-and-light show. It’s a “place right out of history.”
Getting there: Take Route 4 heading towards Haifa, continuing eight kilometers north of Furedis Junction.
For those looking for a more challenging hike, try nearby Nahal Kelach, or Nahal Galim, the ‘Wave Creek,’ in an area known as Little Switzerland, for its European-forested feeling that includes tree-lined slopes, flowering plants in season and prehistoric caves. This six-hour jaunt (you can do a shorter version, check the trail maps) necessitates a flashlight and bathing suit for a quick dip in the Kedem Spring, depending on the time of year. It is challenging but manageable with good walking shoes and a camera to catch the stupendous views. Stop in at the Oranit Caves, a cave complex formed out of Karst rock that has also been host to finds from prehistoric times, albeit of a later period than the Nahal Me’arot group.
Getting there: The longest part of the hike starts near the Dimon Junction on Route 721, not far from Kibbutz Beit Oren, which is off Route 4.