The Scenic Trail
Goren Park’s Scenic Trail, which is around eight kilometers in length, is surrounded by magnificent woodland and winds its way majestically among the cliffs of Nahal Kziv. The route begins at the entrance to the park, at kilometer no. 11 of the Northern Road (Route no. 899), between Kibbutz Eilon and Moshav Goren. There is an information booth here, which is open on holidays, and nearby we find a map of the park and explanatory signs. Among the trees is a recreation area equipped with tables and water and toilet facilities. Around 300 meters further on, on our right, we come to a parking lot and a sign that reads Shvil HaBolanim (“The Sinkhole Path”). Here we can park our car and embark upon a short circular path around 500 meters long that encompasses a fine array of sinkholes, i.e., natural drainage pits created by the action of rainwater that dissolves the chalk rock.
The Path across the Park
As its name tells us, this path crosses the park from one side to the other – in this case, from north to south – and it begins at the sign-posted parking lot some 500 meters south of the main entrance. It can be reached on foot from the Sinkhole Path. For those who like to be active, this is where you get out of your car and get your feet moving. A short walk of around 1.5 kilometers leads us to the southern section of the park and the cliffs of Nahal Kziv. The path is marked in red and turns first south then west, providing impressive views of the Nahal Kziv canyon and Montfort Castle as it does so, leading us finally to Henion HaMitzpor (“The Scenic Lookout Recreation Area”).
The early part of the trail is notable for its large piles of stones, which are the remains of ancient buildings that once stood here; in Biblical times, this was the site of an Israelite settlement. As we walk along we can observe the trees that compose this natural woodland – Israeli common oak, terebinth, spiny hawthorn, mock privet – and the bushes that grow among them: spiny broom, thorny burnet, Mediterranean buckthorn, Spanish broom, etc. To complete the circle and return to our vehicle we choose the Main Scenic Route and, making our way carefully against the direction of the traffic, continue for around another 1.4 kilometers.
The Scenic Lookout Recreation Area
This is the park’s main recreation area, and it is equipped with picnic tables, water and toilet facilities, a campsite and an open-air theater suitable for outdoor events in this ancient landscape. From the recreation area, a disabled-accessible path leads to the observation point overlooking Montfort Castle. The campsite lies to the north and east of the recreation area, and it is the only site in the park where overnight stays are permitted. To coordinate group accommodation at the site and receive authorization, please call KKL-JNF’s Western Galilee office at 04-9950118 / 102.
For those who haven’t got round to getting out of their car yet, we recommend a short circular section of the Path Across the Park that links the Carob Recreation Area to the observation platform – a brief and easy scenic route that takes about 25 minutes from start to finish. Here is the route:
From the Scenic Lookout Recreation Area parking lot we make our way cautiously eastwards along the asphalt road until we reach Henion HeHaruv (“the Carob Recreation Area”) some 700 meters further on. Here we turn southwards, following signs to the right, until we reach the Scenic Lookout Recreation Area.
The Montfort Scenic Lookout
This observation point is perched on the very edge of the cliff, providing a rare panoramic view of Montfort Castle, the precipitous gully and riverbank vegetation of Nahal Kziv and the dense Mediterranean woodland all around. Nahal Kziv is the longest Galilean river to the west of the national watershed: from the Ein HaZaken spring on Mount Meron, where it rises, to its mouth at Akhziv where it spills into the Mediterranean Sea, it measures 41 kilometers, and it is one of the last rivers in the country that continues to flow all year round. Prior to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the river was home to a large number of water-driven flourmills. Today Nahal Kziv and its precipitous environs are a nature reserve characterized by well-developed Mediterranean woodland and scrubland and a wealth of riverside vegetation.
On a spur of rock to the south of the Kziv River stands Montfort Castle, one of the most impressive Crusader fortresses remaining anywhere in the country. Construction at the site was begun in 1226 by the German Teutonic Knights, who appear to have built on top of fortified remains dating back to the Roman period. Originally the castle had both an inner and outer wall. Today the ruined walls and watchtowers of this Crusader fastness emerge from amidst the woodland, and its most prominent remaining features are the tower at the northwestern gate and the fortified keep to the east. Further east yet is a moat designed to protect the castle from attack from the rear of the spur.
The Mamluk Sultan Baybars laid siege to the castle in 1226, but his efforts to destroy it were in vain. Five years later, in 1231 he renewed his attempts, and this time made good his threats. Under the treaty of surrender they signed with him, the Crusaders were permitted to leave with their lives and their possessions intact; the fortress, however, was destroyed and never resettled.
The footpath to the Castle
To complete our own personal conquest of the castle we need to follow the red-marked footpath that leads from the scenic lookout. We descend briefly into Nahal Kziv and cross the river on to a steep dirt path that leads directly up to the fortress. The climb is taxing, but well worth the effort! We return by the same route. Down in the riverbed, we encounter the remains of a crumbling structure on the point of collapse, which we recommend observing from the outside only. These are the ruins of a 12th-century water-driven flourmill above which the Teutonic knights built a magnificent Gothic structure that would appear to have been used as an inn or hostel.
Opposite, on the northern bank, the remains of a wall are still to be seen. These are the last traces of a Crusader dam used to block the river’s flow and create a pool.