Nahal Og drains the hills to the east of Jerusalem. From the point where it rises, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus, until it spills into the Dead Sea near Kalia, this stream covers a distance of some thirty kilometers, with a cumulative descent of 1,200 meters. This steep gradient helps to explain the deep gorges the water has created.
One of the most canyonesque sections of the stream, which doesn’t happen to form part of our route, is Wadi Muklak, which contains the remains of the lavra (a semi-eremitic monastic settlement) founded in the early fifth century BCE by Saint Theoctistus. A monastery was later built at the site.
The ancient Sugar Road that made its way from Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim area via Nebi Musa down to the Dead Sea ran along the northern bank of Nahal Og. Sugar cane was grown in the Jericho Valley during the Crusader period, and this route was used to transport it up to Jerusalem.
We recommend walking our route in a clockwise direction: from the parking lot we follow the dirt track that descends northwards and takes us directly down to the broad bed of Nahal Og. The route is indicated by red trail markings. At this point the riverbed is wide and very large – evidence of the powerful floods that sometimes sweep down it – and the streambed is full of desert plants. Most prominent among them are the tamarisks, which crop up in every desert area in Israel that can boast the merest drop of water. The taily weed (Ochradenus baccatus), a bush up to a meter in height that displays yellow flowers throughout most of the year, is also common here. Caper bushes of the Capparis sinaica variety, easily recognizable by their bluish leaves, hang from the cliff walls at the sides.
Down in the riverbed we turn west (to the right) and head for the entrance to the gorge, following the green trail markings. From this point on our route will lead us up dry rocky waterfalls. This section of the river, which is about 1.5 kilometers long, was referred to by local people in the past as Wadi al-Asla. As we progress, the ravine grows steadily narrower, until it is no more than two meters in width in some places. The walls soar dozens of meters above us on either side. For the most part walking is easy, but we still have three waterfalls to cope with: the first is eight meters in height, the others slightly lower. But even after we successfully negotiate the waterfalls, we cannot rest on our laurels yet. Further along, our way is barred by a waterfall 1.5 meters in height. Most hikers will manage to make their way over it with the help of a step on the left, but the less tenacious may perhaps require a little assistance.