The Jesus Trail is a 65 kilometer direct connection to the life of Christ. It is a pilgrimage that has the faithful re-trace the steps of Jesus’ ministry. To travel where he traveled, how he traveled – by foot.
It is an incredible experience. Visit Zippori where Jesus learned Joseph’s trade as a carpenter. Make your way through the Old City, bustling with life and activity now just as it was in Jesus’ day. Finally, make your way to the Mount of Olives where Jesus wept and contemplated things beyond our limited human scope. It is a powerful way to bring the Word to life and really ground His ministry to the here and now.
While it is a powerful experience, it is also an arduous one. If you are thinking of making the hike (or any of Israel’s other amazing hiking experiences) you need to be prepared.
Make sure you’re healthy enough for the hike
By sport hiking standards, the Jesus Trail is not exceptionally difficult. There are plenty of stops along the way including cheap cafes and bed and breakfasts where one can take a break, get something to eat and drink, and rest for the remaining journey. The 65km distance usually takes 3-4 days to cover. But while a hiking enthusiast might think 65kms with plenty of stops sounds relaxed, it’s a very different experience for those of us with health conditions, infirmities, or who just don’t normally encounter that level of exertion!
Before you take on this hike, make sure to get plenty of practice. You don’t want to come all the way to the trail, walk for one day, and discover you’ve blown out your quads and can’t even move when you wake up! You’ll also want to be smart about any health concerns you might have. Walking 3 or 4 days in the Israeli sun is no small undertaking and it should be done with caution.
Bring the right gear, but pack smart
If you’re going to walk 65km, please do it in good quality socks and hiking boots! This is one of those areas where it definitely pays to invest in yourself. Nothing will ruin your trip faster than aching, blistering feet that have been sliding around in loose, scratchy socks and poorly fitted shoes. Make sure you bring the right footgear (moisture wicking socks, comfy and well-fitted boots) before trying to tackle this challenge!
You’ll want to consider the rest of your gear as well. A wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, changes of clothes, and of course water. Even with plentiful stops along the way, you don’t want to get caught out on a trail in the hot sun with no way to replenish yourself. You don’t want to weigh yourself down with too big of a pack, but you should always make room for water.
Depending on the season, you may want to pack a rain poncho or tarp. Hiking poles can also be helpful. You might also consider emergency gear such as a help whistle and flashlight just in case something goes wrong, and you get off course or get stuck out after dark. And of course, I recommend bringing a camera and notebook to document your journey!
Plan your trip
The two hiking seasons in Israel are fall and spring. Nobody wants to go hiking in the summer sun, it’s way too hot. Fall and Spring both bring their own advantages. The fall is drier, but the scenery isn’t quite as nice while the Spring brings showers, but also lush blooming flora.
Scout the trail and make note of the various stops, motels, and bed and breakfasts along the way. Make reservations, bring the appropriate amount of money for the trip, and know your options if you come to a location that is closed, full, or just not usable for some reason. Thankfully, on the Jesus Trail, you’re never too far from civilization, so in a worse case scenario you can always call a cab and get a ride.
Get the most out of your hike by preparing yourself spiritually. There are so many key locations you’ll visit while retracing Jesus’ steps - places like the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Cana where Jesus famously turned water into wine, and the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus held the Sermon on the Mount. Reread the gospels of the Apostles before you visit, look into the history of these locations, study up so you can fully appreciate what they mean when you stand before them.
As Christians, traveling to Israel always involves a lot of spiritual reflection, but it is something else entirely to actually travel as Jesus traveled and retrace his ministry. Be prepared to contemplate on what you see and feel and listen for God’s voice as you absorb the experience.