Ein Hashofet-Hazorea Cycling Track

Difficulty: medium | Length: 30 kilometers | Area: North Ramat Menashe| Riding direction: clockwiseTotal ascent: 650 meters | Recommended season: Winter, Autumn


Single-tracks in Ben Shemen. Photograph: Yoav Lavi, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Ein Hashofet-Hazorea Cycling Track. Photograph: Ilan Shacham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive


A dreamlike ride in the enchanting Ramat Menashe Forest, ridable year-round
The Ein Hashofet-Hazorea cycling track provides 13 ro 30 km of riding through the Ramat Menashe Biosphere's magnificent landscape within the Megiddo Regional Council. The track includes approximately 30 km of single tracks, leading riders to charming corners hidden deep in the forest: observation points, tunnels through the forest canopy, old KKL-JNF stone tables, etc. The terrain, the topography and the route itself allow for year-round riding: the forest provides shade and cover during the summer and the trail surface enables riding even on rainy days. The route consists of two loops, which can be traveled separately or combined.
To the yellow loop - the main entrance is at the Haruvim Recreation Area parking lot near Hashofet Stream. The access road to Hashofet Stream is off the Yokneam-Megiddo Road (Road 66) between the 28th and 29th kilometer. Signs directing to "Ramat Menashe Park" and "HaShofet Stream" point you in the right direction. At the entrance, turn south along the paved road, then after passing the gateway to Hazorea Forests (one of the park's gateways), the road continues along Gahar Stream and diverges from it where the streambed turns southwards, forming a sharp bend. If we continue uphill along the road, it curves sharply to the right to a junction, where we turn left onto the road descending northwards to Hashofet Stream. The road descends, then climbs and descends once again to the Haruvim Recreation Area.

To enter the blue loop, the entrance is from a dirt road along Road 6953, 20-30 meters east of the entrance to Kibbutz Ein Hashofet. There is limited parking space there, so we recommend you park at the Megiddo Regional High School's parking lot, which is 200 meters up the road..
The Route
The Ramot Menashe region, which is home to these cycling tracks, is one of Israel's areas of outstanding natural beauty. The soft chalk rock creates undulating hills with streambeds cutting through them, some of which flow year round. Natural oak forests once blanketed these hills, however only a handful of these have remained. Plantation forests have been added, along with fields and orchards, forming a rich, diverse landscape tapestry.
Along the streambeds are canes, raspberry bushes and oleander. There are even willows and elm trees, which are a rarity in our region. The plantation forests consist of conifers, eucalyptus and poplars. The ivy, which hangs down from the trees, infuses the forests with an air of far-away places.

The Ramot Menashe region reaches the peak of its beauty in the winter and spring months when the meadows bursting into bloom with a dazzling plethora of wildflowers - anemones, buttercups, orchids, irises, asphodelines and countless other colorful flowers.

The track has been laid out in such a way as to provide all kinds of cyclists - beginners to advanced - a satisfying cycling experience, whether one prefers a leisurely ramble or an adrenaline rush. On the one hand there are no stretches requiring unusual technical skill, nor are there drops or steep inclines; on the other hand, the path has been built thoughtfully to enable the professional riders to ramp up their speed so as to reach a situation requiring a high level of control and full concentration all the way. A pleasurable ride is guaranteed.
To get an idea of the path, watch this clip from Ido Alon:


Before you leave
Ben Shemen Forest is ridable year-round, although at the height of summer it can get very hot there. In such a case, an early start is advisable. The single-tracks combine shaded areas and exposed areas, so it is better to keep the exposed areas for the cooler months and focus on the shaded areas when the heat is intense. The single-track is at its best after it has rained. The water compacts the trail, however it is worth waiting a couple of days after the rains to let the track dry and to avoid getting stuck in the mud, which is not fun and can be damaging for your bicycle. gggjhgjhgj
The intersections between the single-track and dirt tracks are marked by two large rocks. The idea is to foster a common language between the drivers and the cyclists, reminding them all to ride and drive carefully at these spots.
Route Description
The track consists of two loops:
Yellow loop (northern) - starting point: Haruvim Recreation Area at Hashofet Stream, Length: 13 km, total ascent: 300 meters.

Blue loop (southern) - starting point: Ein Hashofet. Length: 17 km, total ascent: 350 meters.

The loops have a short overlap, where you can switch from one loop to the other, thereby making yourself a 30-km-long ride. The path is clearly marked and signposted throughout; you can ride it with no additional navigation aids. The path is marked along the way on the rocks. The marking is shaped as a water drop, the pointed end showing the direction. The signs are color-coded (blue or yellow) with a figure of a bicycle rider in the middle.

Yellow loop:
Cross the road southward and you will immediately see the signposting toward the path guiding us into an enchanting single-track through the forest covering the Mish'ol Hills. The single-track flows onto a main track at the foot of the hill. It then enters another pleasant section in the forest and emerges to cross the Hashofet Stream. In winter this crossing will be enjoyably wet but if you prefer to stay dry you can bypass it from the side. The trail now turns onto a wide path climbing gradually along the north-western flank of Gahar Stream. As we ascend, the vista opens up toward Hashofet Stream, Emek HaShalom (Valley of Peace), Yokneam Illit, the Carmel Mountains and finally the Jezre'el Valley. Following that we'll once again dive down the single-track into the depths of the forest, crossing Mt. Gahar, during which we might hear children playing and get a whiff of the barbecues rising from the many recreation areas dotting the mountain.

Once we have carefully crossed a large road intersection, we'll find that the trail markings have changed into half-yellow, half-blue - this is where the two loops converge along a common route. Following another slight climb and one exciting descent, we will reach the point where the two trails diverge - right to continue with the yellow, left to take the blue trail.

We continue with the yellow marking which, before long, reaches yet another lovely section, descending through a meadow among the wildflowers while taking in the open landscape that ends with Hashofet Stream at the foot of the hill.
After a short circuit bringing us to the opposite bank of the stream, we will be near a broad, stony path. This is a "soling road" - a roadbuilding method used by the British in the 1930's and 1940's. This path leads us to Emek Hashalom. The farm on the left was,  until 1960, home to two Israelophile Germans who opened their home and hearts to all travelers that passed their way. The ownership has since changed hands, although the principle of hospitality has persisted. From there we continue on a northward ascent, cutting back to Giv'at Mish'ol, finishing off with an excellent descending single-track, which leads us back to Haruvim Recreation Area. Make sure you don't miss the left turn back toward the Recreation Area, otherwise you'll be doing another round on the yellow trail. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
The Blue Loop:
From the trailhead, close to Road 6953, we turn right onto an enjoyable single-track through the forest, crossing an open area and turning left and right to merge onto the single-track above Zahura Stream, ending with a wet crossing of Gahar Stream, if the season is right, near Ein Sachar.
The trail now follows the wide forestry roads, near the Gahar Stream Recreation Areas, and begins the ascent toward Kippod Hill.
In contrast with the rest of the chalk hills, Kippod Hill was formed by igneous rock.
The wide path turns into a single-track, the forest gives way to orchards and then again forest, eventually reaching one of the loop's best sections - an incredible descent with views of Jezre'el Valley and  beyond. This is where the adrenalin freaks will find plenty of opportunities to gain airtime and berm scraping.
The less adventurous among us will make their way carefully, pausing from time to take in the scenery.
At the bottom we'll enjoy a short roller-coaster ride to be followed by a healthy uphill ride toward Mount Gahar, most of which is along a wide path, followed by a single-track.
Carefully crossing the road intersection we'll discover that the single-track marking is now half-blue half-yellow - this is the stretch shared by the two single-tracks.
After a brief easy ascent and a great descent, we reach the point where the two paths diverge - left to follow the blue loop, right onto the yellow loop.
We shall turn left, descend slightly along the road and re-enter the single-track on our right. A short, exhausting ascent awaits, soon giving way to a magnificent section inside a field of wildflowers affording a sweeping view of Ramat Hashofet, Ramat Hashnayim and the expanses beyond.
This is, without a doubt, the right place to take out the picnic set with that checkered table cloth, that bottle of wine, that wedge of cheese.
Anyone that isn't carrying all this on their bicycle can make do with a coffee kit or at least a sandwich.
After a short stretch along a wide trail, the single-track loses itself once again in the forest, climbing up through scenery that obscures the pedaling pains, ending up once more on a wide trail bringing you back to the starting point.

Yellow + blue = fun just for you!

The two trail loops at Ein Hashofet-Hazorea combine seamlessly into one long trail. You can start at Haruvim Recreation Area with the yellow trail (see the description above). Once you've completed the combined section, turn left onto the blue trail to make a full loop ending at the combined section. At the end of that, turn right this time to complete the yellow loop. You can also start opposite Ein Hashofet with the blue trail (see the description above). Once you've completed the combined section, turn right onto the yellow trail to make a full loop ending at the combined section. At the end of that, turn left this time to complete the blue loop.
Our Thanks To
his article has been prepared with help from Pavela Bano, Regional Forest Ranger, Ohad Dagam, Regional Forest Ranger, and Re'a Talmi, Megiddo Development Economic Co. Ltd.
Further reading

The Ein Hashofet-Hazorea Bicycle Trail is located within the Ramat Menashe Biosphere. The guiding principle behind the biosphere is the principle of sustainability - humans living within an integrated sphere with nature, using the natural resources in such a way as to retain them for use by future generations. This does not mean a return to our cave-dwelling days. It means continued development while safeguarding the natural and heritage assets so as to enable our children and their children to also enjoy these assets. The biospheric space is not imposed on the population, rather it is a contract of sorts between all the inhabitants of the region and nature around them.
Custody of the space is not hierarchic. It is based on principles of engagement and conflict management, ensuring that decisions made are not only the right decisions, but also that they can be implemented by all the stakeholders.
Hiking trail at Hashofet Streamto the KKL-JNF hiking site
Text & photos: Ilan ShachamMap: Noga Mizrahi, Noga Graphic DesignVideo and editing Eli (Buja) ZoranLast update: 20.9.2015KKL-JNF rules for safe off-road riding.