As Israel gears up to welcome 176 cyclists for the 2018 Giro d’Italia Big Start next week, we asked experts to recommend the top trails in the country.
This wasn’t a simple assignment, considering that Israel boasts hundreds of cycling routes – including nearly 60 single and double tracks covering 1,300 kilometers (108 miles) built by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) over the past 15 years.
KKL-JNF’s Tamar Lavon says the tracks were built in response to demand as cycling in Israel gained popularity. More are planned as part of a recently unveiled master plan.
“We do it as a public service because we’re responsible for Israel’s forests and the open areas near the forests,” says Lavon. “We want to give the public the opportunity to walk as well as bike in the forests.”
For a complete English list of cycling trails in Israel with detailed explanations and directions, click here. In the near future, this site will incorporate the maps and smartphone app currently found only on the Hebrew site.
If you’re seeking the best touring/road-biking routes, biking tour guide Uri Tishler of Trail Head Tours recommends the beach promenade stretching between Herzliya and Bat Yam through Tel Aviv-Jaffa; the scenic ride from Arad downhill to Masada; and hilly climbs up and down Mount Hermon, Mount Gilboa or the Judean Hills to the Elah Valley.
“Visitors find Israel to be a wonderful destination for world-level, all-seasons biking, both on- and off-road,” says Tishler, who’s been cycling across Israel for 35 years.
With the help of Lavon and Tishler, we pinpointed four outstanding trails in each of Israel’s three regions: north, center and south.
Enjoy 29 challenging kilometers of green hills dotted with wild flowers and ancient caves,with spectacular views of the Jezreel Valley, Mount Gilboa and Mount Tabor.
The one-directional Givat HaMoreh trail rolls through woodlands, soft soil and rocky terrain. Half ascends and half descends, but if a 600-meter vertical climb is not for you, start halfway down at Kibbutz Merhavia near Afula.
This easy 8.5km track deep inside Lavi Forest includes some of the best landscapes in the Lower Galilee, including eucalyptus, oak and olive trees.
The trail begins with a gentle scenic ascent, continuing downhill to the edge of Givat Avni and back to the starting point via the northern slopes of Lavi Forest. From this trail you can meet up with the Gospel Trail, a hiking and cycling route that departs from Nazareth and makes its way across Israel via Christian holy sites.
Located between the Upper and Lower Galilee around the summit of a high hill, this 12km scenic circular trail offers inspiring views, wildflowers and picnic sites.
An easy 6km circular route, HaSolelim takes you around the Alonim Forest accessible from the Alon HaGalil All-Terrain Center. It’s enjoyable even in summer thanks to the shade afforded by its many oak trees.
HaSolelim is part of the larger Alon HaGalil-Shimsheet-Resh Lakish cycling-trail network. Bikers wanting to explore further can turn onto one of the other trails at a variety of junctions. Tishler highly recommends the 25.3km Resh Lakish Single-Track Trail.
This network of branching paths in the coastal plain combines challenging climbs and downhill runs with lookout points, archaeological sites, wildlife (you may see gazelles, wild boar, foxes, jackals and raptors) and lots of greenery along the 20km route.
“Ayalon-Canada Park is one of Israel’s most popular cycling venues because of its central location, its beautiful surroundings, the magnificent views from its hilltops and the high quality of its rigorous single tracks,” according to KKL-JNF.
Ride 37km through the Judean foothills on this cluster of three single tracks, stopping along the way to admire the ancient orchards, archeological antiquities, cisterns and caves – as well as the views of the coastal plain in one direction and the mountains of Judea and Hebron in the other.
Located in Adullam-France Park in the Judean Hills just south of Highway 38 and Route 375, the 22km Adullam single track and its sister Kanim Trail provide a picturesque cycling venue with physical and technical challenges, scenic observation points and archaeological and heritage sites along the way.
This is the newest of three single tracks in and aroundthe Ben Shemen Forest near Modi’in, a 45km network that’s tops in popularity among Israeli cyclists.
The circular Hadid trail reaches the forest’s most remarkable hidden corners, with challenging ascents and swift descents amid 11km of beautiful landscapes, historic and archeological sites.
Sde Boker Halukim is a scenic 25.9km loop trail near Midreshet Ben-Gurion in the Negev Highlands. The single-tracktrail, rated as moderate, is part of the partially completed Israel National Biking Trail.
This circular route through the Be’eri hills of the northwest Negev is 8km long and suitable for beginners. Best in winter, the Green Route affords scenic lookouts, picnic facilities, wildflowers, history and art along the way. This is one of three recently upgraded family bicycle paths in the Be’eri Forest.
To make a day of it, visit the nearby Nahabir Recreation Area at Old Be’eri; the Re‘im Recreation Area further south, close to the Water Installations Trail; and the Khirbat Mador Recreation Area not far from Re‘im.
This easy 13.2km woodland track beside the Lachish River near Kiryat Gat “combines history with a superbly flowing ride to create an enjoyable cycling experience for all seasons,” according to KKL-JNF.
As you roll along you’ll pass historic sites and a wide range of trees and plants including eucalyptus, agave, tamarisk, anemones and prickly pear (sabra). There’s an Ottoman-era bridge, an old kiln and waterworks, and other artifacts to explore.
If you have an appreciation for magnificent rock formations and the multi-colored desert landscape, you’ll love this 14km route in the Arava and Eilat highlands of the southern Negev. Although most of the route consists of single tracks, there are stretches of double track and a short section of road riding.
While you’re there, explore Timna National Park and its ruins of ancient copper mines said to have been developed by King Solomon.