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Backpacker Magazine – March 2012

The Jesus Trail: Hiking from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee

Every hike is a pilgrimage, but this new path from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee is holier than most. Literally following in His footsteps, the 40-mile route immerses hikers in biblical history.

by: Dennis Lewon; Photos by Jason Florio

The author climbing the Arbel Cliffs
The author climbing the Arbel Cliffs
Traverse of the Horns of Hittim
Traverse of the Horns of Hittim
Dintaman and Landis
Dintaman and Landis
Capernaum, Jesus's home during his ministry
Capernaum, Jesus's home during his ministry
The author walking off in the Sea of Galilee
The author walking off in the Sea of Galilee

Trip Planner

Itinerary Allow four days of hiking for the 40-mile route, and spend at least one full day in Nazareth before you start. Go in spring or fall.
Accommodations It’s possible to camp along the Jesus Trail, but you’ll get more out of the experience (and can carry a light pack) by staying in towns. Most guesthouses have bunkroom accommodations for as little as 100 NIS (about $25 in new Israeli shekels) per night.
Guidebook/map/info Obtain everything—including lodging reservations, shuttles for you and/or gear, GPS data, and more—at jesustrail.com. Order Landis and Dintaman’s guidebook, Hiking the Jesus Trail ($25), on the site, and get a 25-percent discount by using the code "Backpacker.”

"Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the Sea." - Matthew 4:13

It’s not one of the most powerful statements in the New Testament. No miracle required. No subversive questioning of spiritual authority. Just a man of about 30, a native of the Galilee region, leaving the small hilltown where he was raised and moving to the city—a bustling shoreline fishing village of about 1,500. But it turns out to be transformative. Jesus had been rejected by the citizens of Nazareth. It’s in Capernaum that his disciples gather, his followers grow, and his message spreads. It’s almost like his life really started with that 40-mile walk from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee.

The gospels are silent on when, precisely, he made the journey. But I like to think he did it in early March. That’s when I embark on the same route, and it’s an auspicious time to walk through the rolling Mediterranean landscape. The conditions couldn’t be better—crown anemones blazing red under olive trees, bright sunshine making everything look fresh and new, temps in the 70s. I’m hiking the Jesus Trail, a new 40-mile path that connects the most significant biblical and historical spots between Nazareth and Capernaum, and I find myself thinking about that short passage. Was it just another trek to him, one of the countless Jesus made while preaching town-to-town in Judea? Or did he pause on the ridge above Nazareth, and look down on the hills and valleys of his youth before striding east?

In the initial few miles, his route would have taken him past the village of Cana, believed to be the place where he performed his first miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding feast. As I approach Cana myself, I walk through a meadow on the outskirts of town. Sheep graze on the spring grass, and it’s easy to imagine Jesus walking through this same field as he left Nazareth behind.

Of course, I’m not the first to come to the Holy Land and wonder if I’m stepping where Jesus did. It comes with the territory, so to speak. I take a break to snap some photos, drink a little water, and duck behind a screen of bushes to go to the bathroom—a routine moment on any hike. But then I realize that nothing’s routine on this trail. Could I have just shared a pit stop with Jesus?

The thought surprises me, and no doubt it will offend some (sorry!). But what’s wrong with imagining Jesus sweating up the hills of the Galilee, getting blisters, stopping at a view? Could it actually give you new insights into his life and message? Whatever you believe about Jesus of Nazareth—man or Messiah—he’s arguably the most important figure in Western history, and literally walking in his footsteps is irresistible if, like me, you find something profound about every trek. I want to know what a hiker—regardless of faith—can learn from the journey. 



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Cheryel
Jul 07, 2014

Thank you for this fascinating article. I found it researching next Sunday's sermon. I like to make my congregation "see" the Bible.

Star Star Star Star Star
Steve
Jan 13, 2014

Been to parts of this as a Seminary student. But man, if I could have done this by hiking, WOW. I want to go back again. If you ever get the chance to do a hike like this, do it. Your faith will soar. There is no other place like it on earth.

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

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Chadrick
May 22, 2012

Awesome article... it's inspired me to write a tract about the gospel of Christ to share with others I meet along my hikes. Thanks again!

Anonymous
Apr 13, 2012

Nikki
Apr 09, 2012

We hiked parts of the Jesus Trail. Twice! We are a German family of 4 and having lived all over Asia, parts of the US, Italy and Germany, we did an enourmous amount of travel....enjoying famous places, sightseeing, but mainly trying to find unique and off-the-beaten-path moments. In Israel we only spent a short amount of time near the traditional sightseeing places (Jerusalem etc) but really slowed down to soak up the Galilee. Its lush green hills in March, the solitude of the trail, wildflowers cheerful in their colors, Capernaum with its message: "Jesus lived here", the lake where his friends made their living as fishermen, everything in this remarkable landscape spoke to our souls. We made this journey as a pilgrimage. Our daughters (9 and 12 years old) read our favorite bible passages out loud at the places where the stories took place. No Sunday school lesson, no classroom experience could rival this hike and what each of us is learning along the way. The Jesus Trail is no mainstream tourist destination, it is a very personal trail, offering its charms and multi-layered message to those willing to get off the bus and spend a week walking, or even just a day.

John
Apr 07, 2012

Thank you so much for having the courage to write about this holy trail. God Bless you...I am very excited about hopefully doing this trek someday!

CK
Apr 07, 2012

Excellent article covering so many important aspects of travel in this land (I'm in Israel)! I also work in the tourism industry and this is really one of the most well-rounded, interesting features I've read on Israel.

Doc Edgar
Apr 06, 2012

Fantastic news. The Jesus trail really excites me. The insights to this story is very stimulating makes a good read.

Linda
Apr 06, 2012

God blessed me beyond what I could ever hope for as I'm going to be taking this trek in May............... Praise God.......

Eric
Apr 06, 2012

Has anyone given any thought to the political implications of hiking through an occupied territory?

karla from colorado
Apr 06, 2012

Thanks for this information and for not being afraid of the "No religion allowed" naysayers!!!! I would love to be able to do this someday!! :)

Keri004
Apr 06, 2012

This has been added to my hiking bucket list. Thank you. For posting this story and the information about making the trip. No matter what your beliefs, it is sure to be a truely inspirational walk.

David
Apr 06, 2012

Thanks for sharing. I would never of imagined making this trek without reading about it. How refreshing.

Moe
Apr 06, 2012

Sounds like a wonderful hike... good for you for sharing.

Melinda
Apr 06, 2012

Thank you for sharing this insight. I never look at my husband's hiking magazine but the topic caught my attention. I like the nice history lesson as well as the attention to detail of how the local people are working together. I like the note on the landscape. Thank you.

Dan
Apr 05, 2012

Like the article - would love to add this to the top of the bucket list!

Jim
Apr 05, 2012

Great timing to re-run this article (tomorrow is Good Friday, 2012). Makes me really want to walk this trail. Thanks for the article.

Yankale
Feb 20, 2012

There are two guides about the Jesus Trail. The second one is by Jacob Saar: Jesus Trail and Jeruslem. One should look for bothj guides.

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