Ayun Stream Nature Reserve offers an excellent nature hike during which you will visit four waterfalls (Iyon, Mill, Eshed, and Tanur). Let’s begin!
Note: Nahal Ayun, Ayun River, and Iyon Stream all refer to Ayun Stream.
Ayun Stream Nature Reserve is located near Israeli’s Northernmost Town, Metula.
Map of the area:
If you are reaching by car, then enter “Ayun Stream Nature Reserve” into Waze or Google Maps, and it will take you to the main entrance – the lower parking. But keep in mind there are two entrances to this nature reserve. And if you want to take the long hike, then enter “Weiss Grove” into Waze (or just the following coordinates: (33.282099,35.582603)). See the Trails section below for additional information.
Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.
Adults 28 NIS, children 14 NIS, and Students 24 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you are going to visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in December 2019. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
As you can see from the following trail map there are two options to explore Ayun Stream Nature Reserve:
- You can start at the top (where I wrote “Weiss Grove” with a blue pen) and go along the stream to the lower parking. As this trail goes downhill, there are many steps (from 500 meters to 350 meters above sea level). At a moderate pace with some stops, it took us two hours to complete this trail.
Also, since it is not a circular trail, we left the car at the “Weiss Grove,” and when reached the lower parking, I (the driver) took the shuttle back to “Weiss Grove.” The price was 10 NIS per person, and you can purchase tickets at the shop.
- Another option is to park at the lower parking and explore only this section. You can get to Tanur waterfall, and there are waddling pools and picnic tables in this area. Another benefit of this area is the accessible route.
The trail for disabled persons and children’s strollers – the last part of the walking route in the nature reserve, from the Tanur Waterfall down to the southern camping site has been made accessible for people who have difficulty walking.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
Day Camping And Parking Areas
As I mentioned in the “Trails” section there are two entrances. And near each one there is a day camping/parking area for picnics.
Day camping/parking area for picnics in the northern area of the stream – the camping area is located at the edge of the Moshava Metula and is the northern entry gate into the nature reserve. There is a well-established eucalyptus grove here, suitable for picnics and barbeques. There are toilets in the camping area for the use of visitors, and it is permitted to light fires in the area.
Day camping/parking site for picnics with three paddling pools – the southern camping site is the main camping/parking area in the nature reserve, serving both hikers on the long route and those visiting the Tanur Waterfall only. There is a stand of trees at the campsite with picnic tables, and it is permitted to light fires there. There are also toilets, a kiosk selling snacks and three new paddling pools, enabling visitors to enjoy the abundance of water in the stream.
Nahal Iyyon is a perennial stream in the Galilee Panhandle, Israel. The stream originates from the springs in the Marjayoun valley in southern Lebanon, and runs southward for seven kilometers in various irrigation ditches, until flowing into Israel near Metulla, as a tributary of the Jordan River in the Hula Valley.
Differences in elevation form waterfalls in the streams course. During the rainy winter months, the water-flow is strongest. During the summer months, water is diverted, closer to the stream’s sources, for crop irrigation. These falls were declared a nature reserve, and include:
- Iyyon waterfall, 9.2 m
- Tahana (“flour mill”) waterfall, 21 m
- Eshed (“lion”) waterfall, with two steps, 5 m and 9 m
- Tannur (“oven”) waterfall, 30 m
Ayun Stream is one of the four sources of the Jordan River. And here is additional info from the official site:
A unique man-made situation was maintained for many years in Nahal Ayun – perennial springs with a stream that runs dry in summer.
The stream’s principal springs rise in Lebanon (En el’Kutsir and En Dardara), and every summer, the whole quantity of their water is exploited by the Lebanese farmers. That led to a situation where the stream flowing through Israel ran dry in summer. All that changed in 2009, when Israel began artificially channeling water from the Dan springs into the reserve.
Nahal Ayun is one of the four sources of the Jordan River. The stream was originally a perennial stream whose flow increases strongly in the winter months. Its average capacity is 1.5 cu.m. per second, and when flooding occurs, it even attains 25 cu.m. per second. Due to the exploitation of the water in Lebanon, the flow in the stream dries up in summer, except for a few small springs (En Sukhra, the Cascades spring, and the Tanur spring). And the deep pools at the foot of the waterfalls which serve as havens for fish and some unique vertebrates.
Since 2009 water has been channeled from the Nahal Dan to Nahal Ayun in the summer months to recreate the natural appearance of the perennial stream. The scope of the flow is 80 cu.m. per hour, and it is done with the help of the “Yuval Water” Society. The choice of the waters of Nahal Dan was made after examining the quality of the water in a few places.
Examination showed that the water in the Dan stream is of the best possible quality. To avoid accidental damage to the quality of the Nahal Ayun water and the natural variety of species living there, this action was accompanied by lengthy deliberations by Nature and Parks Authority.
The Long Hiking Trail
As I mentioned above, we parked at “Weiss Grove”, and entered the nature reserve. From that point, you take the blue trail (the only trail) and start the descent.
The Nahal Ayun gorge and its waterfalls – a walking route for hiking buffs. It is recommended to walk down the stream, from the northern camping area close to Metula, down to the southern camping area. The route is not circular, and you will need to leave a car at the termination point in the southern camping area. The major attraction in the gorge is the waterfalls – the Ayun waterfall, the Mill waterfall, the Cascades, and the Tanur waterfall. These waterfalls flow all year round, and along the channel, there is an abundance of water vegetation.
Two of the waterfalls are considered especially beautiful and impressive: The Mill Waterfall – relatively broad, 21 meters high, alongside which are the remains of a flour mill that, in the past, was the only flour mill in the country under Jewish ownership; and the Tanur Waterfall, 30 m. high, one of the highest perennial streams in Israel.
Within less than 10 minutes we reached the first waterfall.
Iyon Waterfall is 9.2 meters high and the entrance to the water is forbidden.
And from the Iyon Waterfall, we continued along the trail.
As you hike along the trail, you will see a fence (behind the tree line in the following photo) to your left. The hill above it is Lebanon.
As we hiked, we saw many Eucalyptus trees.
Eucalyptus is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs, or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Along with other genera in the tribe Eucalypteae, they are commonly known as eucalypts. Plants in the genus Eucalyptus have bark that is either smooth, fibrous, hard or stringy, leaves with oil glands, and sepals and petals that are fused to form a “cap” or operculum over the stamens. The fruit is a woody capsule commonly referred to as a “gumnut.”
Most species of Eucalyptus are native to Australia, and every state and territory has representative species. About three-quarters of Australian forests are eucalypt forests. Wildfire is a feature of the Australian landscape, and many eucalypt species are adapted to fire, and resprout after a fire or have seeds that survive a fire.
Eucalyptus trees were brought to Israel from Australia. Eucalyptus trees were selected since they grow fast and drink a lot of water. Big water consumption is usually considered a minus, but in the middle of the previous century, there were a lot of swamps in Israel. Mosquitos live in swamps, and they also infect people and animals with Malaria. And since Malaria was a big issue, Eucalyptus trees were planted to dry up swamps. In other cases, like Agamon Hula, swamp drainage was performed.
But since Malaria is not an issue anymore, Israel Nature and Parks Authority work on decreasing the number of Eucalyptus trees. As I mentioned above, since Eucalyptus trees grow fast, they prevent other species from developing. Thus if you limit their number, it will allow other local species to develop.
I know it is hard to see, but on top of the opposite mountain, there is a herd of sheep (these are not rocks). And there are shepherds with them. They are across the border in Lebanon.
Mill Waterfall – Tahana Waterfall
And now we are starting our descent towards the Mill waterfall.
The Mill waterfall is quite impressive. It is relatively broad and 21 meters high. And it is named after a flour mill that, in the past, was the only flour mill in the country under Jewish ownership.
The residents of Metula exploited the waters of the stream and the surrounding springs for drinking, irrigating their fields, as well as for milling flour in the flour mill at the Mill Falls, which was purchased by Baron Rothschild. This flour mill boasts the highest chimney in Israel (15 meters). The mill was abandoned when the residents of Metula fled in 1920, after the fall of Tel-Hay, and its operation was never resumed even after they returned.
The next waterfall that we reached was Eshed waterfall. But there was no clear view, and it was mostly blocked by greenery.
Tanur Lookout Point (Gafni)
Our next POI was Tanur Lookout Point.
The Tanur Lookout Point (Gafni) – an impressive observation point, from which the Tanur Falls can be seen, with a view of the Hills of Naftali and the Hula Valley. The lookout point is reached by a steep path with many stairs.
After we completed the descent from Tanur lookout point (shown in the photo above), we headed to the Tanur Waterfall. Which is the highest waterfall at Ayun Stream Nature Reserve – 30 meters.
Tanur means oven in Hebrew. And one of the explanations for the name is the similarity in the appearance of the upper part of the waterfall to a traditional Arab-style oven. But the name might also come from the Arabic word tanura, the traditional skirt worn by Arab women.
After completing the tail, I purchased a ticket for the shuttle and returned to pick up the car.
When I returned to the lower parking, I found my wife and daughter at the wading pool. It is the only place in Ayun Stream Nature Reserve where you can enter into the water.
And then we headed to the picnic tables for lunch.
After lunch, we headed to another POI. But I will tell you about it in a future post. Meanwhile, if you love water and nature, I will suggest checking out the nearby Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Banias Nature Reserve (Hermon Stream), and Amud Stream Nature Reserve.
Ayun Stream Nature Reserve offers an excellent trail with plenty of water and nature. And since you will be going downhill, you do not have to be super fit (be careful if you have knee problems). At the time of the hike, my daughter was seven years old, and she completed the trail without a problem.
The bottom line, if you love nature, then add Ayun Stream Nature Reserve to your to-do list.
Have you ever been to Ayun Stream Nature Reserve? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Sea Of Galilee.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.