Nahal Kziv and the ruins of Montfort Castle
This 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, except for the last section which involves some climbing on a somewhat steep and long incline. This hike is therefore suitable only for families with somewhat older kids. It can be made much easier, however, as a same-way hike.
Time: About 4-4½ hours.
Distance: About 9 Km.
Type of hike: Circular.
Difficulty: This hike is somewhat difficult, in that a return section is quite steep, rocky and long, although the rock climbing is not particularly difficult. Walking sticks can be helpful for this, as well as maneuvering on the six stream crossings. Alternatively, accept that on at least one of the crossings your feet could get wet and bring appropriate footwear.
Directions, parking and starting point: Enter “Mitzpe Hila” into Waze, but do not enter this settlement but continue on route 8837 past its entrance. You will pass a parking area on your right with a Keren Kayemet LeYisrael sign. Alternatively use the Waze link https://waze.com/ul/hsvc5cz1ps. Continue past this sign 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. If it is closed, park on the side of this road.
Why was Montfort Castle built in such an out of the way place?
Montfort Castle was the principal castle of the Teutonic Knights, a Catholic, monastic, German military order. It was built not so much for its military significance, but as the main administrative center for the order. This accounts for its 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, established a farming estate here after this place was captured from the Muslims in 1099 during the First Crusade. However, Saladin defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 and this brought their Kingdom of Jerusalem to an end. Nevertheless, some of this territory was reconquered from the Muslims during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) under the leadership of King Richard I of England, usually know as Richard the Lionheart. It was much smaller than the previous Kingdom of Jerusalem and encompassed only the Coastal Plain and the Galilee, but not Jerusalem. Its capital was Acre.
The Teutonic Knights order were facing competition from the two other military monastic orders, the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar, and they decided, therefore, to leave Acre and fortify this property which they had purchased from the de Milly family. It was eventually captured by the Mamlukes in 1271 after a previously unsuccessful siege five years earlier, and they were the ones who destroyed much of the castle.
Walk down the red-marked trail in the opposite direction to which you came with your car. You will soon come to a fork in the road with a green Israel Nature and Park Authority sign. Turn right in the direction of the red arrow to Kziv Stream Montfort. (It is possible to take the path straight ahead, but this is a rocky path and slightly difficult, albeit it a bit quicker).
Continue on this initially easy, well-marked red trail. Take a short break for a stop at the observation area. After about an hour, you will arrive at the fortress of Montfort. There are two sets of wooden steps on your left, one after the other, to sections of the fortress. There is nothing much to see at the top of the first one and it can easily be given a miss. The next one, however, is worth ascending for the view over Nahal Kziv.
You will soon come to more fortress ruins. Go to the far end of the ruins to another observation area for more fantastic views. Take the nearby red-marked metal steps and this path will descend around the fortress.
A bit past the fortress, go under a gate and continue on this trail until you come to the stream.
Cross over the stream on the stones. [The crossing is a bit easier further along the stream, but there is a sign by the path that says do not enter]. Turn right on the other side of the stream onto a green-marked trail in the direction of the signpost to “Tamir Spring and Abarim Fort.”
There are five subsequent stream crossings. They can all be done without getting your feet wet by balancing on the rocks. However, it is usually quite shallow if you do need to walk through the water.
After crossing the stream for the fourth time continue on the green trail to Ein Tamir. [It is also possible to skip the spring and go directly onto the black-marked trail up the bank of the wadi]. There are often a lot of people by the crossing resting on the concrete bridge.
Turn back along the green-marked trail the way you came and eventually you will see a black-marked footpath with a sign to Mitzpe Hila going up the bank of wadi.
As mentioned, this path is somewhat steep, long, and involves some climbing, but is not excessively difficult. On two occasions you will meet a blue-marked trail on your right. Be sure to continue on the black-marked trail and not on these blue-marked trails. This will eventually lead you back to your car.
Trail to Montfort Castle 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.