Ayalon-Canada Park Cycling Trails

Difficulty: High| Length: 19 kilometers | Area: Center Judean Plain| Riding direction: counterclockwise| Total ascent: 370 meters | Recommended Season: Summer
Photograph: Ilan Schaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photograph: Ilan Schaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The cycle trails created by KKL-JNF in Ayalon-Canada Park combine challenging climbs, enjoyable downhill runs, flowers and lots of greenery.
Ayalon Park, also known as Canada Park, is pure paradise for cyclists as it offers plenty of everything: magnificent views, breathtaking landscapes, attractive shady corners, archeological and heritage sites and unbelievable carpets of flowers (in springtime) – all accessible from an extensive network of branching paths.

The routes themselves are varied, and they are suitable for cyclists who have at least a moderate degree of skill; they are less appropriate for those with only basic experience, and unsuitable for complete beginners, as the ascents demand a good level of physical fitness and the routes themselves include technical challenges that only the experienced can deal with.

The nature of the terrain allows these trails to be ridden almost all year round, apart from stormy days of heavy rain. Those who do venture out in such weather need to exercise extra care when crossing rocky shelves, which can become very slippery when wet.

The forest changes throughout the different seasons of the year, welcoming visitors to a new backdrop every time. Riding through the forest park enables cyclists to invent their own routes, which may stretch from just a few kilometers with no significant altitude gain to heroic excursions of twenty kilometers or more up inclines that challenge the strongest and fittest. The reward, of course, is the joy of the correspondingly long downhill run.
Those approaching along Route no. 1 (from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) should get off the highway at the Latrun Interchange eastwards, drive past the Trappist monastery (which in itself is well worth a visit), then, after about 500 meters, turn right and continue on past the gate into the park. You can park your car near the park entrance or else turn immediately left on to the trail that winds its way downhill and continue driving until you come to Agam HaTmarim (“Date Lake,” a large pond) at the end of Emeq HaMaayanot (“Spring Valley”), where an extensive dirt-surfaced open area provides space for parking. 
The Route
Those approaching along Route no. 1 (from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) should get off the highway at the Latrun Interchange eastwards, drive past the Trappist monastery (which in itself is well worth a visit), then, after about 500 meters, turn right and continue on past the gate into the park. You can park your car near the park entrance or else turn immediately left on to the trail that winds its way downhill and continue driving until you come to Agam HaTmarim (“Date Lake,” a large pond) at the end of Emeq HaMaayanot (“Spring Valley”), where an extensive dirt-surfaced open area provides space for parking. 
Before you leave
As the slabs of rock in Ayalon-Canada Park are slippery and unforgiving, especially when wet with rain or dew, we recommended avoiding cycling here too soon after heavy rain. In any case, we encourage all cyclists to equip themselves with suitable protective gear and to exercise special care on their initial excursions at the site, until they become fully conversant with the mysteries of its routes.

In summer cyclists have to beware especially of loose terrain beneath their wheels as they descend, and we recommend avoiding cycling during the hottest hours of the day, as nearly all the paths are exposed to the sun.

The central valley of the park is home to the Springs Trail (Shvil HaMaayanot), which is designed for pedestrians only. It must not be used for cycling: riding on it endangers pedestrians and damages the infrastructure, and KKL-JNF strongly requests that cyclists do not attempt to ride along it
Route Description
The park’s single-track route is composed of two circular trails:

The Seventh Lot Single Track (HaGoral HaShvi'i) (marked in black)
Length: 9.5 kilometers.
Cumulative elevation gain: 200 meters.

The Ayalon Single Track (marked in red)
Length: 9.5 kilometers.
Cumulative elevation gain: 150 meters.

Both loops demand a high level of technical expertise and excellent control of one’s bike.

The loops, of course, are constructed in such a way as to merge briefly in order to enable cyclists to continue directly from one to the other. It’s important not to let the figures mislead you, as these trails are not easy at all: they include long sections that demand whole-body effort – short, sharp pushes over rocky passages, and ascents that set the pulse racing. While all these make for greater enjoyment, they will also ensure that you’ll be exhausted by the end of the ride.

The single tracks were built with the help of donations from friends of JNF Canada.

Those who wish to start the excursion with a visit to an interesting site before they embark upon the single tracks should ride for about 100 meters from the gate of the park before turning right (southwards) along the paved route, following the blue trail markings. About 100 meters further on, to our right, among the trees, is the fenced site known as Sheikh Ubeid, which is an authentic archeological wonder: a Roman bath house, a considerable part of whose walls and ceiling are still standing. This building may have survived because, in the Mamluk period (14th century), it was deemed to be the tomb of Sheikh Ubeid, an Arab military commander who died in 639 CE, the year in which the Arab army encamped in the area suffered great losses in an epidemic known as the Plague of Emmaus.

If you decide to visit the site, go back to the entrance to the park, and make your way from there.

The Seventh Lot Single (HaGoral HaShvi'i) Track (marked in red)
Why “the seventh lot?” Well, after the conquest of the Land of Israel, Joshua cast lots to divide the country between the twelve tribes. The tribe of Dan drew the seventh lot, which determined that the area that is now Ayalon Park would form part of its inheritance:

“And the seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. And the coast of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol and Ir-shemesh. And Shaalabbin and Ajalon and Jethlah...,” Joshua 19:40-42

Now we’ve settled that issue, we’re free to concentrate on our route. We return to the large intersection at the entrance to the park and turn uphill to the right along the continuation of the road that leads into the park. After a short distance we turn right, following a red-marked trail, and very soon we find ourselves amid relics of the park’s history: in the large open area on our right there is a deep well, and further along the trail we come to a Byzantine winepress on the left and burial caves from the Second Temple period.

We keep on following the red-marked trail and after a brief ascent, 1.3 kilometers from the start of our route, we come to an impressive sheikh’s tomb to our left. This square, domed structure is the last resting place of the Muslim military commander Ibn Jabal, who died in 639 CE in the epidemic that broke out in the Emmaus military camp. The present tomb was apparently built by Mankuwirs, the Mamluk governor of Jerusalem, in 1288.

Two hundred meters further down the trail, we can see on our left the start of the black-marked single track. Our warmup period is over: it’s time for action. We make our way on to the single track and cycle happily among the trees. Our route continues to climb for a good while before leading us out to an open area on the side of the hill, where we have a magnificent view of the park, the fertile valleys and the city of Modiin on the horizon.

The trail crosses the ridge southwards, makes its way round a spur with an adrenalin-inducing downhill swoop and reveals a view of the Jerusalem Hills to the south and east. Now our route leads us round to the south of the main ridge of the park along a challenging stretch of rocks that finally ends with a brief ascent and arrival at a broad trail.

We turn right and see before us a red-marked trail that climbs like a step outside the route of the broad trail, and leads to the Ayalon Single track. However, if we wish to continue along the Seventh Lot Single track, we should turn left here, following the black trail markings.

We keep to the right at the crossroads, turn left at the next junction and then turn right to follow the black markings once more, along a trail that quickly turns into a single track. In the past this section of the route was known as the Bathtub Single Track because of the hollows between the rocks that try to tempt one’s front wheel to drop in, sink to the depths and send the unfortunate cyclist flying over the handlebars.

This section ends close to the park’s lookout tower. This is the place to stop, take a breather and absorb the view of the Coastal Plain landscape spread out before us.

Now it’s time for a reward for all the hard work we’ve put in – and here it is, big time: two kilometers of memorable uninterrupted downhill cycling that will leave you still floating on an endorphin “high” as you cross the cattle grid at the end of the single track and trundle off towards the lake. Another brief stretch of riding along the road will bring you back to the single track’s starting point.
The Ayalon Single Track
If, from the parking lot, we observe the hill to the east of us, we shall see a large wooden sign announcing the start of the single track: that’s what we head for.

We start by following the red trail markings that indicate this section of the single track, which goes first uphill and then down from Rekhes HaTotahim (“Cannon Hill”). Along the way we can see a number of lined Jordanian military positions dug into the ground overlooking the valley below and the reservoir at its center.

Our trail continues eastwards. We are cycling mainly downhill at this point, and the landscapes of the Jerusalem Hills and Samaria are clearly visible to anyone who dares to take his /her eyes off the route. We speed along among the flowers, make our way round the ridge and find ourselves overlooking the Mevo Horon Valley and the beautiful reservoir at its depth. After crossing another trail we come to a giant carob tree that offers us an excellent opportunity to pause for a coffee break while we enjoy the view.

This is the point at which one of the wildest parts of the route begins: the single track plunges downhill and flows wonderfully from one berm to the next amidst ancient orchards, a variety of ornamental trees, fruit trees, springs, caves and other surprises – a marvelous experience for all the senses. If we stop for a moment and look around we can imagine the residents of this area as they were hundreds and thousands of years ago: emerging from the entrance to a nearby cave, walking among the trees and picking a small piece of fruit for breakfast, while a young woman approaches, carrying on her head a pitcher of water freshly drawn from the well.

After crossing through the tree (when you do it, you’ll understand) we recommend leaving the trail for a moment and crossing briefly to the other side of the nearby path to take a look at the House of Arches (Beit HaKshatot), an impressive structure constructed from hewn stones that served as a bath house and health spa of some kind during the Roman period. It is situated over a groundwater spring whose waters are collected in an arched pool. After significant rainfall, the entire structure fills up with water.

The single track continues to make its way along the northern slope of the park, crossing a number of different areas of terrain as it climbs slowly back up to the top of the ridge and comes to an end finally at the Mevo Horon Scenic Lookout, which is named after the community at the foot of the ridge. After enjoying the view once more, we can make our way back to our vehicle, which is parked nearby.
The Seventh Lot + the Ayalon: The full route
These two Ayalon-Canada Park trails are constructed in such a way as to coincide perfectly and create a single long route.

We begin the long route on the Seventh Lot Single Track (see description above). At the point where it meets up with the Ayalon Single Track, we continue straight on and follow the red trail markings on to the Ayalon route, instead of turning right to continue along the black-marked trail. After we complete our circuit of the Ayalon Single Track, we head southwards as we leave the Mevo Horon Scenic Lookout and turn right at the first opportunity, towards the observation tower, then turn right again on to the black-marked single track to join the continuation of the Seventh Lot route.

Our Thanks To
Yiftah Sahar was responsible for planning the Ayalon Single track.
Yoav Bahat was responsible for planning the Seventh Lot Single Track.
Both trails were constructed with the help of Friends of JNF Canada. 
Further general information
Adaptations for people with limited mobility
The park, and its large recreation areas in particular, contains a scattering of tables suitable for use by people with disabilities.

Recreation areas
The park offers lawns, exercise equipment, drinking fountains, toilets, children’s playground equipment and footpaths. The Date Spring (Ma‘yan HaTmarim) Recreation Area comprises lawns amidst oak and palm trees, picnic tables and faucets.

Written by: Ilan Shaham
Photography: Ilan Shaham, Eyal Inbar, Guy Assiag – KKL-JNF Photo Archive.
Posted: September 20th, 2015