For only two weeks a year the coral peony, one of the most impressive plants of our country, beautifies the paths of Hillel Mountain and illuminate it with its comely and pretty uniqueness. The whole area is then immersed with green, with its exuberant blossoming and calls us to visit. Don’t forget - to take a field plant guidebook with you.
You can reach the coral peony either via a 4 km circular tour [2.5 mile] (one vehicle will do) which is suitable for the whole family or via a tour for strong walkers only (warmly recommended) that continues to the Upper Kziv Stream. The length of this non-circular trail is 9 km [5.6 mile].
The coral peonies blossom only in mid-April, but the trail is recommended all year long. You can also call the Galil Elyon Education center 04-6923112 to inquire about the exact dates that the peonies will blossom - this usually reaches its peak around 15 April, give or take a week.
How to Get There
Starting point: Beit Jann – it is possible to get to Beit Jann via Route 85. At the Rame Junction turn north onto Route 864, pass the Rame Village and continue until you reach a right turn toward Beit Jann [1 – on the map]. For those of you who arrive by Route 89 turn south onto route 864 at the Hosen Junction, pass Peki’in and upon arriving at the junction toward Beit Jann, turn left .
Continue with the road that ascends to Beit Jann. At the first Y Junction  continue with the main road (left), pass the gas station and continue with a road which is marked with a black marking. At the end of the street after passing next to the Beit Jann Family Health Station (Kupat Holim), turn right . Continue straight to the roundabout and turn left there. Continue straight until reaching a T junction. Turn right toward a junction with a left turn. The power utility pole at this junction has a blue marking on it . Follow the trail marking on the paved road for about 3 km [1.8 mile] until you reach a road split . The car park will be on your right, and during the blossoming period it will be manned with inspectors from the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority. Park the car in this parking lot, and start the itinerary from here.
Ending point: for those of you who choose the circular trail that takes 2 hours – the ending and starting points are identical. For those who prefer the longer trail, for strong hikers, via the Kziv Stream, leave another vehicle at the village of Beit Jann. To do so, the drivers will return with the cars to the point where the last left-hand turn was taken . At this junction turn right and continue straight (not the same way as you may have arrived before) and continue straight until you come to a roundabout. A little before the roundabout take the right turn , continue another 200 m [650 feet] with the road and notice a turn to an access road for parking and there look out for a green footpath marking. This is the ending point (you may also ask the locals for the ascent to Ein Gorna or Ein Joron).
A Long or Short Trail
As I mentioned before, this itinerary can be completed in two different ways. The first is a circular 4-km trail that includes climbing to Hillel Mountain, going through the Peony Trail and returning to the car. The second includes a 9-km trail [5.6 mile] for strong hikers and after visiting the peonies it continues to the Kziv Stream and ends at the outskirts of Beit Jann. Both trails begin at the same point.
The Beginning of the Trail
From the parking lot , start walking eastward on a dirt road marked green in the footpath marking. During the hike the orchards and agricultural fields of Beit Jann emerge around you. The mountains of the Upper Galilee rise encompassing you with all their mightiness. After a walk of 1 km [0.620 mile] you’ll come to a black-marked trail which branches leftward toward the Hillel Mountain. Climb with this footpath and observe the surrounding vegetation: kermes oaks covered with vines of evergreen clematis and sweet virgin’s bowers, Italian honey suckles and rough bindweeds, and common madders. Look out for the rape of Cistus, a unique plant that usually grows in symbiosis with its host plant, the rock roses and feeds off them. The side of our path is dotted with the undergrowth of sage-leaved rock rose and Cretan rock rose that multifariously paint the path with their many colors.
After another 450 m [1470 feet] walk you’ll come to a dirt road that marks the end of the climb . For those of you who’d like to enjoy a breathtaking view (optional) there is a dirt road that climbs for 600 m [2000 feet] to the summit of Hillel Mountain. The Hillel Mountain rises to a height of 1071 meters and is named after Hillel the Elder who, according to tradition, is buried at the lower outskirt of the Meron Village, at the foot of the Meron Mountain. Sometimes on the coldest days of winter, the round-leaved cyclamen, one of the rarest species of Israel, can be traced blossoming as it peeps through a layer of snow. The round-leaved cyclamen, one of the rarest species of Israel, can be also traced here blossoming. Occasionally flowers of the iris hermona may be found here at the summit of the Meron Mountain. Following a struggle that was led by the Society for the Protection of Nature of Israel and other environmental bodies, a designated building of an army base on the top of the summit was relocated to a nearby site.
For those who choose to enjoy the view – return to the black path and rejoin the others. Continue with the trail with the black marking that passes through an iron gate to the Peony Trail.
The Peony Trail
The descent from the Hillel Mountain is 300 m long [1000 feet] and this is one of the rare places in Israel where you can find the coral peony blossoming. Typically it is a big cup-like open flower with a deep-red color and is almost 10 cm in diameter. At the center there is a yellowish protruding nub of stamens. Israel is the southern boundary of its coverage and the timing for its blossoming is invariably fixed for only two weeks around 15 of April. It is very impressive to see but picking is forbidden.
Many kinds of orchids grow in the company of peonies, such as orchid anatolica, long-leaf helleborine, and more.
Continue with the black-marked descending dirt road that will eventually come to another dirt road. For those who choose to take the shorter circular trail, turn left with the blue-marked trail and continue this easy 2-km walk [1.2 mil] (about 40 minutes) to the car park.
The Longer Trail
For those of you who’d like to enjoy the enchanting beauty of the Kziv Stream, turn right with the dirt road until after about 400 meters [0.25 mile] you reach a spring called Ein HaZaken  which is also named after Hillel the Elder and flows into a big hewn pit. The capacity of the spring is quite low, and thus the pit is not full of water. The area surrounding the spring is a splendid site for a lunch break; notice the presence of rare species like lathyrus nissolia, romulea columnae, and bellis perenis (type of a daisy).
After the visit to Ein HaZaken  leave the dirt road and join a path marked with the green footpath marking that descends toward the bed of the Kziv stream. The stream that winds for 20 kilometers originates at the western shoulders of the Meron Mountains while its outlet is north of Nahariya in the Mediterranean. During the winter the stream drains much rainfall and spring waters.
After another 300 meters [0.186 miles] you will come to the waterfall which should be cautiously crossed sideways and then continue along the trail. After an additional 200 m [0.124 mile] you’ll come to, at the middle of the trail, an Eriobolus trilobatus tree (member of the rowan family). The rowan that exclusively grows in the Meron Mountain area belongs to the Rosaceae family of which members (plum, almond, apple, and pear trees) are characteristic of the deciduous mountainous flora that covers the northern regions of our planet. This marvelous tree with its wide palm-like leafs, white blossoming and small yellowish apple-like fruits is enumerated in our country to a community of only 30 trees, located mainly in this area, a fact that entitles it to be one of the rarest plants of our country; however, the tree you’ll see in the Upper Kziv Stream is the most impressive of them. It blossoms during the first half of April and bears fruit in autumn.
Continue with this trail for about 3 km [1.9 mile]. Then to your right you’ll notice a meeting place with another stream that intersects the Kziv Stream to your left . Here the Shevil Stream emanates into a circular pool and an officinal styrax tree grows next to it, a perfect place to stop. Notice the transparent footpath marking (white - no color - white) that directs the hikers from the trail toward the spring.
Five-hundred meters [0.3 mile] after the spring  the trail turns left upward on the slope of the mountain (don’t miss the turning of the trail). The path climbs to the mountainrange of the Shephanim Mountain [the rabbit mountain] and descends at its other side. Enjoy the view of the agriculture fields of the people of Beit Jann.
The trail descends from the other side of the mountain range only to climb back toward Beit Jann.
Beit Jann is a Druze village in the Meron Mountains, a principal one in the country, and the biggest in this mountainous block. It is the highest settlement in Israel; its upper neighborhoods are at 1000 m above sea-level. The village was probably established during the 13th or 14th Century upon the ruins of an older settlement. Today the village has more than 10,000 residents that make their living from the Defense Forces, as external employees, or in agriculture. The announcement of the Meron Mountain as a nature reserve started a prolonged and continuous conflict between the village people and the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority due to the expansion of agricultural and building of homes of the village. The debate reached its heated peak in 1987 after an aggressive skirmish between the two sides which was finally resolved by the consent to build a sewage system for the village in the Sartava Valley. Until this day the conflict has not subsided and it is still simmering on issues like building rights and other conditions that the villagers demand.
The End of the Trail
At the end of the ascent to Beit Jann you’ll come to the Ein Gorna spring (Ein Joron) which used to be the main water source of the village and consequently its social hub and meeting place. Not long after the laying of a water pipe for the village, the spring fell from grace. It took more years of neglect and filth around the Ein Gorna area until the people of Beit Jann resolved to reinstate the spring to its former beauty and prime and made the emanation and its surroundings into an irrigated garden with orchards and water tunnels for the common good and also, as an excellent place to end our trail before continuing with the street to where the second car was left previously.
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