We’re excited to visit the Yarkon National Park as part of our National Park Challenge. Our goal is to visit every national park in Israel. We will be documenting all of our adventures via blog posts and on our Instagram account – Hochdorf family adventures. Join us as we discover Israel’s beauty, starting with Yarokon National Park, aka Tel Afek.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority was put in place to protect Israel’s natural, historical and heritage treasures throughout the land. Spread across the country, there are currently 81 national parks and reserves to be explored.
The Yarkon National Park is divided into two parts: the Yarkon Springs and Tel Afek that contains the fortress and streams. The entire park extends over 3,250 acres.
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The Yarkon National Park is located in the Sharon area, Rosh Haayin, on the Hod HaSharon/Petah Tikva road, between the Yarkon and Segula Intersections. The main entrance to the Afek park is off the 483.
Waze Location: Yarkon National Park
The park is open every day with two different schedules, winter and summer.
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:00 – 17:00; Friday: 08:00 – 16:00
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 08:00 – 16:00; Friday: 08:00 – 15:00
Park Tip: During the summer, temps can soar in Israel, so be prepared to arrive early to avoid the hot mid-day sun.
The price of an adult to enter is ₪28.00 (shekels), and children ages 5-17 is ₪14.00. Children under the age of 5 are free. You can also buy a yearly National Park Pass, which gives you free access to all national parks for a year.
Due to COVID-19, spaces in national parks are limited and must be reserved in advance. To make a reservation, click here and scroll down until you see the calendar. Choose the date you want to visit and start the reservation process.
Price Tip: I highly suggest purchasing the yearly pass (matmon), especially for a family visiting multiple parks a year. Our pass paid for itself after just 3 parks.
Because of Israel’s warm weather, the Tel Afek is open year-round. There are, however, times when the park is more suitable for visits. The summer heat can be brutal, so I highly recommend visiting in the early morning hours until the heat subsides. Winter temperatures can be pleasant for hiking and bike trails, but be aware of the rainy season from January – March.
Tel Afek is extremely kid-friendly, with many activities tailored for children. The fortress has many lookout areas created specifically for younger kids, accompanied by safety rails and learning stations. And the lake has a variety of fish water species that kids love to spy, and the stream that runs through the site is the highlight for all children. There’s also a playground and a picnic area for family fun.
The Tel Afek side of the Yarkon National Park has a few areas of interest, including the fortress, the lake, the picnic and play area, and the hiking trails.
The Fortress (Antipatris Fort) is the main event at Tel Afek. We loved walking around the fortress and exploring all the ruins that still exist.
Historically, Antipatris was once one of the most important cities in Israel. From the early Bronze Age (3,000BC) to the Ottoman Empire (1299), it was settled for around 5,000 years. During that time, the area was known as the Afek Passage (Afek meaning springs) – the route that passed between the mountain and the Yarkon River. The word ‘tel’ means hill or mount, explaining that the settlement was built on the Afek passage’s hill. Here you’ll find the Antipatris Fortress.
The ruins of Antipatris are still visible, and even parts of the ancient Canaanite city have been excavated and can be seen inside. You can climb up to the top section of the fort to view the surrounding areas, walk along the old walls, and explore an ancient Roman theater’s remains.
Fortress Tip: There’s not a whole lot of shade inside the fortress area, so come in the early hours and wear plenty of sunscreen.
Afek was mentioned in the Bible a couple of times. First, in Joshua 12:18, as a list of conquered Canaanite cities, the Israelites smote and again as a Philistine city in 1 Samuel 4:1. Remains were actually recovered on the tel proving a Philistine city in existence there.
There are some fantastic places for “Instagrammable photos” throughout the fortress. If you want to catch the entire fortress in one picture, make sure to bring your wide lens. There are a few exit areas throughout the fort, and if you venture out, you can get great pics from the outside looking in.
The lake makes for a gorgeous setting with various fish and bird species habiting it. The lake is actually artificial and a reconstruction of the wetlands that were once there. Blooming water lilies can be found throughout the Spring season along with egrets, herons and kingfishers. We saw tons of fish in the lake, especially in the shallow areas – waiting for bread crumbs, I’m sure.
There are picnic tables scattered around the lake and a trail to walk around it – great for a leisurely stroll.
Without a doubt, the highlight of our day at Tel Afek for our daughter was playing in the stream that runs through the picnic area. The stream is only about ankle deep with tiny pools and waterfalls throughout.
There are lots of trees near the stream, perfect for a family picnic. The picnic area is near the parking lot, so you can first tour the fortress and come back and set up near the stream. We brought a picnic lunch and spread out our floor “carpet” underneath a large tree for some wonderful shade.
And there’s also a small playground to entertain kids who aren’t too keen on playing in the water.
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Stream Tip: Definitely bring a swimming suit and water shoes for your kids. The stream is muddy, and the rocks are extremely slippery, so water shoes are a must – especially for younger kids. And don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito spray, too. Those pesky insects love hanging out near the water.
There are basically three trails inside the Tel Afek area: the short, medium and long trail. On this trip, we chose the short trail. It was super hot and our 3-year old was keen on playing in the water.
The short trail covers the rain pools, the water system, the fortress, the lake and back to the parking lot. It’s about a 30-minute hike.
The medium trail covers the rain pool, water system, fortress, the lake, rain pool, water-lily ponds, back to the lake and then to the parking lot. It’s about an hour and a half hike.
The long trail covers the entire Tel Afek area all the way to the Yarkon sources and back. You’ll cover all the items in the short and medium trail, plus the railroad bridge, dam, flour mill, farmhouse concrete house and farm. In total, it’s around a 4-hour hike. If you have a vehicle to pick you up in the Yarkon area, it’s a 2-hour hike.
Hiking Tips: Bring LOTS of water, good hiking shoes, sunglasses, hat or anything else that can protect you from the harsh sun.
Because of the summer heat and hiking with our young daughter, we mostly stayed in the Afek area of the park and didn’t hike over to the Yarkon section. But there are still lots of interesting things to see in the Yarkon area, and we’ll just have to return again and focus on the Yarkon side.
There is a walking path with piers along the river to take in all the beautiful views. From the river, you can see the farm, the old flour mill and the pumps.
The Al-Mir flour mill was one of the largest mills operating in the country during the time of the Ottoman Empire. It is named after the Arab village, Mir, which existed there in the 19th century. An ancient dam collected water from the river and diverted it to the mill.
The Concrete house was the very first structure in Israel made of reinforced concrete – hence its name. It was built by the Palestine Company in 1912 and was used as a pumping station that delivered water to the orange groves and orchards in Petah Tikva.
If you’re interested in camping in the Yarkon National Park, there is a night-camping area. It includes toilets, showers, drinking water and cooking areas.
Tip: If you have a yearly pass, you can get a discount on the camping prices as well. Another great reason to buy an annual pass!
All in all, we had a nice experience at the Yarkon National Park. We stayed for a few hours, long enough to take in all the sights on the park’s Afek side. Because we came in the heat of the summer, it definitely influenced our stay. I think we would return in cooler weather to hike to the Yarkon side and see the sights there, but it was just too much for one day with crazy temps.
Overall, we give this national park 4 out of 5 ibexes. (The Ibex is the symbol for the Israel National Parks.)