Ramat Menashe Park - Israel's first Biosphere

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Forests, streams and open spaces in the biosphere: Ramat Menashe combines planted forests with natural gall oak forests, open spaces, fields, villages, orchards, springs and flowing streams. Listed by UNESCO as a biosphere, Ramat Menashe is a model of sustainable coexistence between man and nature in Israel.

  • How to get there

    The park has several entrances:

    •  Ha-zorea Forests, the Yokneam–Megiddo Highway (Route 66, near kilometer marker 28).
    • The Cyclamen Forest recreation area near Kibbutz Galed (Even Yitzhak).
    • The Dalia–Galed highway (Route 672), approximately 1.5 kilometers south of Kibbutz Dalia. Turn left before the entrance gate to Kibbutz Ramot Menashe. From Moshav Amikam, along Nahal Taninim.
    • The Bat Shlomo filling station (Route 70, near kilometer marker 21). This road is passable only to 4X4 vehicles.
  • Geographic location-

  • Area-

  • Special Sites in the Area-

    HaShofet River, Juara, the ruins of Beit Rosh and the Kibbutzim Forest, Ein Kfar, the Cyclamen Forest, Taninim River, Kibbutz Ramot Menashe.
  • Facilities-

    Picinic area, Archeological or Historic site, Lookout, Marked path, Museum, Accessible trail.
  • Other sites in the area-

    Kibbutz Galed, Taninim River Nature Reserve.
  • Access-

    Special (adapted for the disabled)

Projects and Partners Worldwide

The entire grounds of Ramat Menashe Park, including its handicapped-accessible trails and recreation areas, were developed and are cared for thanks to the assistance of friends of KKL-JNF from Switzerland, the US and Israel.

Accessible sites

Accessible sites in the park

  • Parking lot
  • Picnic tables
  • Trails
  • Signs
Accessible sites

Ramat Menashe Biosphere Reserve

Ramat Menashe, located south of the Carmel between Yokneam and Kibbutz Galed, is one of the most beautiful areas in Israel. The area's main characteristic is its combination of planted forests with natural gall oak forests, open spaces, fields, orchards, springs and flowing streams.

Ramat Menashe Park was recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in June 2011. The Ramat Menashe district, which covers 84,000 dunams – approximately the size of Gush Dan – includes grazing areas, farms, planted forests and natural oak forests, and abundant vegetation, including rare plants. Some call the region “The Tuscany of the Middle East". The region also contains many historical sites, including Tel Megiddo.

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The gentle slopes and rural character of the communities impart a feeling of tranquility. The residents appreciate the ancient sites that were discovered here, ranging from prehistoric to Ottoman times. Archaeological findings that were uncovered here, which are kept in collections in the kibbutzim, join the heritage sites and the sites devoted to the beginning of human settlement such as Juara and the Palmah Cave.

The fact that UNESCO declared the park and its district a biosphere means that it must be given special treatment in planning, construction and development. The purpose is to preserve the region’s rural character and develop its real estate, tourist attractions and heritage sites according to the ecological principles inherent in that declaration.

Biosphere parks require knowledge and understanding of economic and ecological systems and the integration between them. It is often necessary to mediate between various parties with vested interests in order to find a balance between the preservation of natural resources in the area and its economic development. The biosphere reserve functions as a pilot site for sustainable development practices which could be adopted by other dryland biosphere reserves. Several sustainable development practices in this rural area are in place such as drip irrigation with mostly recycled treated wastewater collected from the biosphere reserve's rural settlements, and maintenance of the integrity of local ecosystems while generating sustainable income derived from a pastoral livelihood.

Most of the land in Ramat Menashe is covered with soft rock. This rock is comprised of soft chalklike rock, which rain erodes relatively quickly. Because of this, the hills in Ramot Menashe have a softer appearance, with gentle slopes and no cliffs. In the area of the park, fairly close to Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, are basalt hills. Two of them can be seen clearly from the area: Ashmar Hill, which is also called “The Volcano,” and Porcupine Hill.

It seems that in the past, Ramat Menashe was covered entirely with gall oak forests. Most of the forests were destroyed over the years, and remnants of them can be seen on the hills close to Kibbutz Galed. KKL-JNF has been working recently to restore and enlarge the forests by planting gall oak acorns. The Zorea Forest covers approximately 30,000 dunams of the area.

Ramat Menashe. Photo: Yoav Devir.

KKL-JNF began planting during the 1920s together with the first inhabitants of Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek. The developed forest, in which conifers and broadleaf trees were planted, is one of the oldest planted forests in Israel.

Willows and blackberry bushes grow beside the flowing streams. Groves of a rare tree, the hoary elm, flourish at HaShofet River and Gahar River. Grassy vegetation dominates the grazing areas. High, yellow branches of dill – the simple herb used, together with salt, in pickling – are prominent here.

In winter and spring, Ramat Menashe is transformed into Israel’s flowering meadow. Waves of blossoms, a phenomenon of nature, ascend from tiny streams that flow in all directions. The Cyclamen Forest near Kibbutz Galed has broken all records for the abundance of its cyclamen blossoms, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

For example, in Emek HaShalom, which is located in the center of the park, colorful carpets of anemones, poppies and asphodeline cover the ground. The irises that peek out everywhere are joined by orchids and an abundance of other blossoms.

Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.

Ramat Menashe Scenic Road

KKL-JNF created a scenic road, approximately 27 kilometers long, in the park. The trail is marked with directional arrows on wooden posts. This road traverses every type of landscape in Ramat Menashe Park: forests and streams, open spaces alongside cultivated fields. Some sections of the road were not paved or covered so as not to damage the landscape. Therefore, certain sections of the trail are stony and become slightly muddy after rainfall. Although the road is suitable for cars, it includes slightly faulty sections on which slow speeds are recommended.

The entrance - The road begins at the entrance to the Zorea Forest (Route 66, near the 28 kilometer marker). A large sign on the road reading “Ramat Menashe Park” welcomes visitors. The paved road branches out from the road leading to the KKL-JNF information booth, a wooden structure near Gahar River. Near the old booth is a charming corner where visitors can relax and sit on benches in the shade of a mulberry tree – a lovely place to watch the stream that flows during the winter.

This is where visitors can pick up information sheets about the park. On holidays, KKL-JNF guides provide information to the public. Near the information booth, a bicycle path winds among the branches of the stream that ascend south of Gahar River.

Photo: Yoav Devir.

Juara Junction

Approximately three kilometers from the information booth, turn left (southward) to Juara. Before that, we recommend visiting HaShofet River and returning here only afterward. To that end, we will continue on the paved road.

HaShofet River

HaShofet River. Photos: Yoav Devir.    HaShofet River. Photos: Yoav Devir.

HaShofet River. Photos: Yoav Devir.

The road, which is well marked with signs, ascends to Mount Gahar and descends to HaShofet River. We cross the stream on the “Irish Bridge” which is suitable for all vehicles and proceed a short way to the Carob recreation area, where we recommend parking your car. Water flows in the streambed all year round. KKL-JNF has made the path wheelchair-accessible. Some sections of this wonderful path are paved with asphalt, while wooden boards provide the surface of others.

The trail is shaded by the trees usually found along riverbanks, such as the willow. A small waterfall and pool, which can be seen from a terrace lookout, are farther along the way. Several hoary elm trees grow here. The trail ends at Ein Hashrat (Ein Ami), a lovely spring that flows from a tunnel into a square pool hewn from white stone. From here, visitors may return to the Carob recreation area on a convenient dirt path.

Walking time is approximately a half hour for those who walk quickly and up to an hour and a half for those who wish to linger. A detailed KKL-JNF information sheet is available for hikers in HaShofet River.

Returning to Juara Junction

After the hike to HaShofet River, we return to Juara Junction and turn southward. The park road now passes between a planted forest on the left and a cultivated field on the right. As we ascend the hill, we see the views of HaShofet River and the Carmel. Afterward, in the open area, the route takes advantage of the old “soling” road. This road, which was paved with stones during the British Mandate period and connects Yokneam with Juara, is suitable for all types of vehicles. Just drive slowly and enjoy the view.

The Mishmar HaEmek Road

Photo: Eyal Bartuv.This soling road ends at the road that descends to Mishmar HaEmek (Route 6953). Stop and check the traffic carefully. When the coast is clear, drive onto the highway and go a little to the left. After several meters, the park road branches off to the right, but before continuing there, we suggest driving approximately another hundred meters along the slope of the road and going up the hill to the right. This is Juara.

Juara (The Haganah Museum)

The museum is open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Sunday through Thursday, and on Fridays until 2:00 PM. It is closed on Saturday. Tours are given by a local guide. Groups are requested to call in advance. Tel.: 04-959-7402.

Although Juara now serves as a base for the Gadna youth battalions, it is best remembered for the army company commanders’ course that took place here. Juara produced commanders of the Haganah and the fledgling IDF. This is the place where Moshe Bar-Tikvah (Mundak Pasternak) produced the symbol of the sword with the olive branch that became the company commander’s pin, and to this day, it is awarded to those who complete the IDF officers’ course.

Proceed to the gate of the camp, park the car in the parking lot in front of the gate and tell the guard that you would like to visit the museum. Directly in front of you is the large stone building that KKL-JNF purchased in 1936. The first inhabitants of Ein HaShofet, who established a tower-and-stockade-style settlement, lived in this building for approximately a year.

This small, charming museum preserves Juara’s original character and tells its story. At the entrance, visitors stand in the military formation demanded of the course participants. A stand-in for the course commander presents the program using modern technology. The presentation on the top floor depicts daily life in Juara and the phases of the training program.

At the end of the visit to Juara, we will return to the scenic road and continue south.

On the Way to Kibbutzim Junction

The park trail continues southward from the Mishmar HaEmek highway. The trail passes through a small boulevard of cypress trees. Keep an eye out for the remnants of an olive press on the left side of the road. These remnants serve as a memorial to Shlomo Kortz and his grandson, members of Ein HaShofet, who perished during an archeological excavation of an ancient burial cave nearby.

Park Ramat Menashe. Photo: Eyal Bartuv.The road descends straight into the Mishmar HaEmek Forest. Before reaching the forest, notice the “French Bridge,” which rises above the small channel on the way to the forest. “French Bridge” is a nickname for the passage built underground. It is made of two rows of large boulders with smaller stones between them (called “baklash” in the local jargon). A cover is placed tightly over it, which allows water to trickle under the “bridge” and keeps the road from being washed out by rain.

Once the road meets the Mishmar HaEmek Forest, it turns southward (to the right) and passes fairly close to Ein Shulamit, a spring whose waters flowed at one time into a concrete pool. Today, the water is pumped to Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek. After approximately four kilometers, we reach Kibbutzim Junction, which is marked by several cypresses that grow inside a “plaza.” The park road continues right inside, but we will turn left here in order to visit the ruins of Beit Rosh and the Kibbutzim Forest.

The Ruins of Beit Rosh and the Kibbutzim Forest

After approximately 200 meters, the road goes up to the ruins of Beit Rosh. Park on the roadside and climb to the top of the hill on one of the paths that lead from the road to the summit. The lookout point is marvelous. All you need to do is walk along the path that circles the summit.

The path, which is 360 meters long, provides a 360-degree view. From here we can see the Jezreel Valley, Mount Tabor, the mountains of Nazareth and Givat HaMorah – and, on a clear winter day, snow on Mount Hermon. On the other side, we can see the Carmel, Haifa Bay, the smokestacks of the power plant in Hadera and several communities in the Sharon region. Simply spectacular. The archaeological ruins here indicate settlement from the Roman period.

Return by car and continue on the road that circles the hill. Afterwards, descend to the road and continue northward through the lovely vistas of the Kibbutzim Forest until you see wooden structures that belong to the Scouts movement. This is a shomriya – a place where summer camps of the Hashomer Hatza’ir youth movement were once held. Near here, in the carob tree orchard recreation area there is a lovely view facing northward.

Return to Kibbutzim Junction and continue southward along the scenic road towards Taninim River. It is passable by any vehicle except during the rainy season, when it is passable only in a 4X4.

Ein Kfar

The road descends to the upper tributaries of Taninim River and climbs to the summit of the hill, which looks out over a small valley that contains two springs and the ruins of a village. Among the ruins are hedges of sabra cactus and orchard trees. These are the ruins of Ein Kufrin. In order to preserve the tranquility of the place, go down on foot. The large spring serves the cattle of Kibbutz Ein HaShofet.

The Cyclamen Forest

Photo: Eyal Bartuv.Return to the car and continue on the scenic road. The road passes the area that separates between Taninim River and Saflul River and leads to the Kibbutz Galed highway (Route 672) near the Cyclamen Forest. In winter, between December and March, the forested hill is covered with thousands of cyclamen blossoms. During this season, we recommend parking the car in the large parking area, crossing the road on foot and hiking up the hill.

Taninim River

After crossing the Kibbutz Galed highway, the scenic road continues westward, parallel to the southern bank of Taninim River, which is very shallow here. Approximately 500 meters away from the road, the trail turns sharply southward. During rainy winters, it is a good idea to stop here for a moment and look northward toward the “waterfall” that flows into Taninim River. This water comes from Raz River, which flows into Taninim River.

The park road continues westward. Gall oak trees grow along the sides of the trail, and as time passes they are slowly attaining impressive dimensions. Approximately five kilometers away from the Kibbutz Galed highway, the park road reaches the “National Water Carrier Road,” so called because it runs alongside the National Water Carrier, which is buried underground at the side of the trail. On this road we will turn right (northward) and cross the “Irish Bridge” over Taninim River, which continues westward from here and whose waters penetrate the dunes of Pardes Hanna-Caesarea thanks to Mekorot’s Menashe River plant.

From here we can return to the Dalia–Galed highway (Route 672) in the following two ways (note that both roads become muddy after rainfall).

Concluding the Trip near Kibbutz Dalia - Approximately one kilometer north of Taninim River, the park trail splits into two branches. The branch on the right passes through cultivated fields and then reaches the highway.

Concluding the Trip near Kibbutz Ramat Menashe - Continue from the fork in the road for approximately one kilometer and then turn right at Maale Shalaf River. Water flows here all year round, as demonstrated by the presence of large willow trees on its banks. Before the ascent to the gate of Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, a spring known as Ein Mehollelim flows in the shade of high eucalyptus trees. The spring is named for the dancers who, in past years, hold an annual folk-dance festival at Kibbutz Dalia.

Senin River Bicycle Trail

The Senin River Bicycle Trail is a 15 kilometer route connecting the town of Upper Yokne'am to the Ramat Menashe Biosphere Park along the route of Senin River, which begins in Yokne'am near Rabin Road. The trail crosses a variety of landscapes, flower concentrations, heritage, archaeological and recreation sites. It begins at a parking area in Upper Yokne'am, near which is a planted grove, where a paved entrance will be developed. At the point where the trail crosses the streambed a seating corner is planned. From there the route continues along the southern bank of the streambed to two watchtowers, a remnant of early settlements in the area. Near the first tower will be a seating corner, bicycle parking and a sign telling the story of the watchtowers. From there the trail continues until it meets a road dating back to the British Mandate which leads to Peace Valley, Jo'ara and the Carob Recreation Area, from where it returns to Yokne'am via Tel Kira, through a beautiful mixed forest.

Photo: Eyal Bartuv, KKL-JNF

The goal of the trail is to connect the town of Upper Yokne'am with the Ramat Menashe Biosphere Park, and to develop recreational options for its inhabitants, thereby reinforcing their ties with the natural areas around the town. Upper Yokne'am has a population of 18,000 and is developing rapidly. The town was founded in the 1950s and was originally a transit camp for new immigrants. In the 1990s the town entered a phase of intense development as many young families moved in, and is now one of the main high-tech centers in Israel. The Senin River Bicycle Trail is the first of a series of trails that will be developed to connect the town to the open spaces around it.