Nahal Kziv and the ruins of Montfort Castle
This popular and stunningly scenic circular hike visits the ruins of the Crusader fortress of Montfort and then continues along the flowing stream Nahal Kziv. It is mainly easy going but its end section involves easy climbing on a somewhat steep and long incline. This hike is probably suitable, therefore, only for families with somewhat older kids.
Time: About 4½ hours.
Distance: About 10¼ Km.
Type of hike: Circular.
Difficulty: This hike is slightly difficult. The return on the black-marked path is quite steep, rocky and long, although the rock climbing is not difficult. Walking sticks can be helpful for descending on the rocky paths and also for some stream crossings on rocks. Alternatively, decide in advance that your feet are going to get wet and bring appropriate footwear.
Directions: Enter “Mitzpe Hila” into Waze but continue past the entrance to Mitzpe Hila on route 8837. You will pass a parking area on the right with a Keren Kayemet LeYisrael sign. Continue past this sign and you will come to a fork with a blue-marked paved road on your left and a gravel red-marked road on your right. Drive down the red-marked road for a short distance and you will see a large grass parking area on your right. Alternatively use the Waze link https://waze.com/ul/hsvc5cz1ps and when you get to this intersection of the red and blue-marked roads drive a bit further along the red-marked road to the next parking lot.
Why was Montfort Castle built in such an out of the way place?
Montfort Castle was the principal castle of the Teutonic Knights, a monastic Catholic German military order. This fortress was built not so much for its military significance, but as the main administrative center for the order. This accounts for its rather isolated location on a spur of a hill on the south bank of Nahal Kziv.
The Teutonic Knights were not the first to build here. A French family, de Milly, originally established a farming estate here after it was captured from the Muslims in 1099 during the First Crusade. Saladin defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hittin in 1187 and this brought the Kingdom of Jerusalem to an end.
However, some of its territory was reconquered from the Muslims during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) under the leadership of King Richard I of England, often know as Richard the Lionheart. This territory was much smaller than the previous Kingdom of Jerusalem. Its capital was Acre and it encompassed only the Coastal Plain and the Galilee, and not Jerusalem.
The Teutonic Knights order was facing competition from the two other military monastic orders, the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar. The Teutonic Knights decided therefore to leave Acre and fortify this property which they had purchased from the de Milly family. It was eventually captured by the Mamelukes in 1271 after a previously unsuccessful siege 5 years earlier. The Mamelukes destroyed much of the castle.
Continue down the red-marked trail. This route narrows to a footpath which is rocky and minimally difficult.
Continue until you come to the fortress of Montfort. On the left are wooden steps up to the fortress. This part of the fortress is actually not that interesting other than for the view and can be easily given a miss. There are more fortress ruins and more views shortly to come as you continue down the red-marked trail.
A bit past the fortress, go under the gate and continue on the trail until you come to the stream. This will take you about 80 minutes from the start of the hike.
Cross the wooden bridge over the stream and continue on the green-marked trail in the direction of the signpost to “Tamir Spring and Abarim Fort.” There are several subsequent stream crossings. They can all be done without getting your feet wet by balancing on the rocks. Alternatively, walk through the water as it is quite shallow.
After crossing the stream for the fourth time you will come to shallow pool. There are often a lot of people resting here. Cross over the stream and turn to the right. You now have a choice. You can either take the green-marked trail along the stream bank. Less scenic but easier is the parallel path in the direction of the signpost “Tamir Spring and Abirim Fort. (It is not clear to me why this sign says Abirim Fort since this is in the opposite direction). Both choices lead to the same place. [This paragraph needs clarification and will be updated soon].
After some distance on the path, there are some garbage bins and close to this a stream crossing. Cross over the stream and continue on the trail to the right until you see on your left a black-marked trail going up the side of the wadi. As mentioned, this path is somewhat steep, quite long and involves some climbing, but is otherwise not difficult. It leads back to your car.
Trail to Montfort and Nahal Kziv. To follow your location on your smart phone, click on https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/wdS6aqYlx2. Click on the black box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. It is not necessary to download the free app unless you wish to.