Britannia Park’s Single Track Kingdom

Difficulty: Medium | Area: Central Israel, Judean foothills| Riding direction: counterclockwiseTotal ascent: 500 meters | Features: Flowers, landscape, views, circular trail


Photograph: Ilan Schaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photograph: Ilan Schaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

As we ride along the enjoyably flowing single tracks of Britannia Park we can feast our eyes upon the magnificent landscapes of the Judean Foothills and the Coastal Plain, view impressive antiquities, cisterns and caves and, above all, enjoy cycling along a narrow strip of track surrounded by endless varied vegetation.
From the Lower Masua Recreation Area starting point (for riding along the Masua Single Track): From Route no. 38, about 500 meters south of the Srigim / Givat Yeshayahu Junction, turn westwards into Britannia Park. After about 600 meters you will come to a junction with a road that ascends to the right.
Park here.

The Agur starting point (for riding along the Einav and HaEla single tracks): From Route no. 38, turn northwestwards at the Srigim / Givat Yeshayahu Junction on to Route no. 353. After about 3.5 kilometers, just before the entrance to Moshav Agur, turn right into the Eretz Kedem Events Garden parking lot.
The Route
Situated amid undulating countryside in the heart of the Judean Foothills, Britannia Park offers rich and varied indigenous Mediterranean woodland, planted copses and ancient orchards. The trees, bushes and flowers conceal a vast wealth of archeological remains from different periods including dwellings, caves, wells and agricultural artifacts.

The park’s hilly terrain offers a magnificent panoramic view of the landscape on all sides: the Coastal Plain and the Judean Foothills in one direction and the mountains of Judea and Hebron in the other.

The single track cycling trails constructed in the park by KKL-JNF allow bike riders to enjoy all of this, carrying them into the most remote corners of the Britannia Park while providing a flowing yet challenging ride that ensures the greatest heights of enjoyment.
Britannia Park contains three single tracks:
The Einav Single Track: This circular 10-kilometer trail, which includes 80 meters of cumulative elevation gain, winds its way around the low hills of the northwestern section of the park. Its easy flow suits cyclists of all kinds, from beginners who will enjoy the peaceful ride to advanced cyclists who will discover that this trail urges them along while casting small technical obstacles in their way to provide adrenalin surges and opportunities for air time.

The Masua Single Track: This circular route - 12.5 kilometers in length with 250 meters of cumulative elevation gain - leads cyclists through the rolling hills from Mitzpeh Masua in the southern section of the park, offering a riotous rollercoaster ride through the woodland, enjoyable experiences in the half-open ground below the hills and a wonderfully scenic uphill climb.

HaEla Single Track: This route is 14.1 kilometers long with 140 meters of cumulative elevation gain, or a 200-meter uphill climb if ridden in the opposite direction. This single track is not circular: it links Britannia Park’s Einav Single Track to the Haruvit Forest Single Track by carving its way through the shaggy undergrowth that clothes the hills between the two. Although this is “just” a connecting track, it should not be treated lightly. Riding it in just one direction can constitute a complete outing, and it requires significant effort.

The trails are marked in the usual manner, with a streak of the appropriate color between two white stripes. Please note that the Massua Single Track is composed of sections marked with different colors.

Before you leave
Please note that some of the routes have sections that require cyclists to ride over rocks. In winter and in the early hours of the morning before the dew has evaporated, these rocks can be very slippery and special caution should be exercised. .

Route Description
The Massua Single Track: From the signpost at the starting point we begin with a brief uphill stretch along the road before turning left on to a single track marked in red. After crossing a broad trail, our route changes color and now has blue trail markings, which we will follow for the next few kilometers. This single track thrusts us into the center of the action very early on in the ride, with three kilometers of thrilling downhill switchbacks through a charming patch of forest.

Eventually we emerge into open ground on the low western foothills and continue on our way with great enjoyment: first we go uphill, then down, doing our best all the while to snatch sideways glances at the natural beauty that surrounds and envelops us.

6.4 kilometers from the start of the single track we encounter a trail marked in red. At this point, if we so desire, we can link up with the Einav Single Track (see below for how to do this).

We turn right here, following the red markings that will accompany us from now on, and now it’s payback time for all those fun downhill stretches at the beginning of our route. We follow the single track and continue to enjoy everything it has to offer, but this time we are laboring uphill. Here and there we can see cave mouths close to the trail, and it’s always interesting to stop, peep inside and see what the interior reveals.

When we encounter a calcareous sandstone trail marked in green, we turn right, then, after another 100 meters, left to continue along the red-marked single track that leads along a stretch with a magnificent view towards the Coastal Plain. On a fine day we can see the sea, too. After climbing a bit more we arrive at a KKL-JNF recreation area equipped with picnic tables, and here we can enjoy the view once again as we pause to allow our pulse rate and breathing to return to normal.

In the far left-hand corner of the recreation area (relative to the direction from which we’ve just arrived) we find the continuation of the single track, which now plunges downhill to meet up with a blue-marked trail where we turn right. After another 400 meters we turn right again to continue along the red-marked single track. Further on we come to a road where we turn left and make our way back to our starting point to complete the excursion.

The Einav Single Track: This route consists of an access stretch marked in black, followed by a circular single track marked in green, after which we return to our vehicle via the original access route.

We depart from the far left-hand side of the parking lot (when looking towards the Events Garden) and follow the black trail markings as they lead us up towards the water tower and then down into the valley, where our route meets up with a trail marked in green. Following these green markings, we turn right and begin a gentle climb up a double track. We follow this trail for 700 meters before turning left on to the single track for more fun and games (take care not to miss the turnoff!). Our track hugs the side of the hill with little change in altitude, but retains our interest with some gentle banks and rocky steps that spice things up a bit here and there.

After 4.7 kilometers on the single track, at a sharp bend at its northernmost point, if we look to the right we can see a cistern covered with a sheet of metal. This is a large bell cistern, and it contains a columbarium that can be accessed by an improvised entrance at the side.

Another 900 meters bring us to the meeting point with a black-marked single track beneath a handsome carob tree. This is the start of HaEla Single Track, which is described below.

We continue enjoyably to follow the green markings along the Einav Single Track, casting glances all the while at the fields of Moshav Agur. After a brief descent on the single track and another stretch of double track, the single track appears to turn right. Here we need to pay attention and take care to go through the little gate in the fence, not around it. The next time we come to a double track, we know that our spin along the route has come to an end. We turn right and follow the black trail markings back to the parking lot and the end of our ride.

HaEla Single Track
Our route, which is indicated throughout with black trail markings, begins beneath the handsome carob tree mentioned in the description of the Einav Single Track. This tree signals the start of a wonderful winding descent into the valley of the Nahal Ela stream. Our route merges with a double track that crosses the valley, meets up with the road on the other side and turns again into a single track on the left.

Now it’s time for us to embark upon the rugged part of the route, which leads us away from residential areas and carries us mainly though the low natural undergrowth characteristic of the region, where only the odd stray cow intrudes occasionally upon our sense of solitude. With a bit of luck we may also see some of the wildlife that calls this area home. The single track continues on over the hills, revealing every so often magnificent views of the Ela Valley (Emeq HaEla).

Some 3.3 kilometers after we cross the road, on the top of the hill, we can discern the remains of buildings and fences concealed in the undergrowth. This is Khirbet Shaha (“the Shaha Ruins”). At the southeastern extremity of the ruins, the mouth of a small burial cave can be seen.

Another 5.8 kilometers will bring us to the junction with a broad blue-marked trail, which reverts to a single track 100 meters further on and leads us pleasantly through the shade of a forest for 3.2 kilometers until we meet up with the Haruvit Single Track and our route ends.

How do we incorporate HaEla Single Track into our excursion? There are several possibilities.

The basic circular option:
At the point where the single track meets up with the blue-marked trail we turn left on to this trail, then left again on to a poorly surfaced road in the Ela Valley, which will lead us quickly back to the spot where we encountered this road earlier, after we crossed the Ela Valley. From here we turn right and follow the black markings back to the Einav Single Track, then continue to the end.

The basic non-circular option
When we come to the Haruvit Single Track we follow it until its end (this is a difficult trail suitable only for experienced cyclists). Alternatively we can climb up along the broad woodland paths until we reach the entrance to the forest, and hop over from there.

The difficult circular option
When we meet up with the Haruvit Single Track we turn back the way we have come and ride the entire single track in the opposite direction: it’s surprising how very different the experience is when you reverse the direction of travel. It is almost like riding a new route.

The very difficult circular option
When we meet up with the Haruvit Single Track we ride an entire circuit of it, then go back and ride the entire length of HaEla Single Track in the opposite direction. This option is suitable only for very experienced cyclists indeed.

Incorporating the Masua and Einav Single Tracks
These two single tracks can easily be combined to create a route that is 24 kilometers in length. If we start out on the Masua Single Track, where the blue-marked route meets the red route, and turn left on to the red route, we soon arrive at the bend in the road opposite the entrance to Moshav Agur. There we turn right, then left to the Eretz Kedem parking lot and ride the whole of the Einav Single Track before returning to the red-marked single track and following it on to the Massua track.

If we start out on the Einav Single Track, when we finish it we wave goodbye to the cars and continue along the road towards the entrance to Moshav Agur. At the sharp bend we turn left on to the red-marked single track that soon becomes part of the Masua Single Track. We continue until we arrive close to the Lower Masua Recreation Area and parking lot, but continue along the single track as described until it meets up with the red-marked trail, where we turn left and cycle back to our vehicles.
Our Thanks To
The Britannia Park single tracks were built by dedicated KKL-JNF staff from the coastal region, together with volunteers.
The Einav and Masua single tracks were planned and created by Yoav Bahat.
HaEla Single Track was planned and created by Yiftah Sahar. 
Text and photography: Ilan Shaham.
Posted on September 20th, 2015