Herzl Single Track Bike Trail (the blue one) in Ben Shemen Forest

Difficulty: basic | Length: 10.5 kilometers | Area: Center Judean Foothills| Riding direction: counterclockwiseTotal ascent: 250 meters | Recommended season: summer


Single-tracks in Ben Shemen. Photograph: Yoav Lavi, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Single-tracks in Ben Shemen. Photograph: Yoav Lavi, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The Herzl single-track is a 10.5 km long cycling trail, taking you on a highly enjoyable circuit through the heart of Ben Shemen Forest.
The track is not physically or technically demanding. It is also suitable for beginner-level riders.
Ben Shemen Forest is one of Israel's most popular cycling hubs. It is buzzing with cyclists every day of the week. KKL-JNF decided to invest in the construction of a high-quality, well-organized set of paths specifically in the forest, and to build three cycling tracks with a total length of 65 km. One of these three tracks is the Herzl single-track, which is popularly referred to as the "blue" track.
The entrance to the forest is at the beginning of Road 443 East. From Highway 1 (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv): Exit eastward at Ben Shemen Interchange toward Modi'in. About two km after the interchange is a right turn to the entrance to the Forest and to Mitspe Modi'in (Modi'in Lookout Post). This is where we park, from here we will depart.
The Route
The importance of the Ben Shemen Forest and the new single-tracks KKL-JNF has built in it is due to the forest's function as a "recreational retreat" for all of the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area and the other cities in the center of the country.
This is a huge forest: over 3,000 hectares, combined with the neighboring Modi'in Forest. It serves a population of about two million people. Ben Shemen Forest is also relatively easy in terms of its mild gradients: There are virtually no lengthy uphill climbs of the kind you will encounter in the nearby Judean Hills. The proximity and the accommodating terrain have made this a bustling cycling hub, busy every day of the week, particularly on the weekends.
Following lengthy planning, the decision was reached to build three tracks in Ben Shemen Forest with a total length of approximately 65 km: short, medium and long. Once the planning was completed, the construction began under the supervision of certified track builders - Doron Amitz and Architect Otto Friedman. The first part (Herzl Track, or as it is commonly called, "the Blue") was built by KKL-JNF employees and various groups of volunteers. Since then KKL-JNF shifted into high gear and completed the Anaba Track (or as it is commonly called, "the Red") . The result: a single long single-track, 32 km in length, which also has an exit point after eight km. Recently KKL-JNF completed construction of the short track in the Tel Hadid area, 11 km in length.
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.
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
Herzl single-track, which is signposted with blue signs, is also known as the Brutia track - named after the variety of conifer KKL-JNF planted all over the country. The track passes by the first 11 specimens of this tree - the oldest of their kind in Israel (planted in 1929). This is an 8-km loop, all relatively close to the lookout tower. It is relatively easy in technical terms and is suitable for most cyclists.
You start at the lookout tower and head west through eucalyptus and pine groves, near the veteran Brutia patch, until you reach Mexico Recreation Area. Turn right onto the exit road from the forest and, immediately adjoining the intersection, re-enter the single-track heading south along the fence. The single-track turns east and then does some nice switchbacks inside the forest until it crosses a main route along a stream and a big intersection. Cross the stream over a small ancient weir (crescent) and then you have two options: 1. Return to the lookout tower via the blue track, which turns left and north, or cycle on the asphalt road to Mitzpe Modi'in. If you're here for the long ride, you can turn right after the weir to the long single-track (Anaba), which is signposted in red. 
Our Thanks To
To draw up the master plan for bicycle rides in Ben Shemen Forest, the services of the following individuals were used: Architect Otto Friedman and veteran track builder Doron Amitz, who in a joint planning effort with KKL-JNF surveyed all of the existing single-tracks in the Forest. These were divided into groups of "positives" - which could be adopted and kept, and "negatives" - which are harmful to the Forest. The Forest was divided into terrain units. Some were designated as areas in which KKL-JNF welcomes cyclists and other areas in which KKL-JNF prefers that cyclists not enter. Other aspects which were taken into consideration in the planning include maintaining elevation, points of interest and lookouts, bypassing protected areas, serving both beginner cyclists and advanced cyclists, and integration with the broader system of Forest paths, roads Forest areas. To facilitate various cycling distances for beginners and advanced cyclists, the track is built in such a way that it can be entered and exited along the main forest routes. Hagay Yavlovich, a Ben Shemen Forester, tells it: "During the planning, we devoted considerable thought to building a suitable, convenient track, which will dovetail nicely with the Forest interface and provide the cyclists with a solution. KKL-JNF invests heavily in planning and building cycling tracks for the benefit of the cyclists".

Architect Otto Friedman says: "Following the about-face in KKL-JNF, which turned into an organization endorsing the bicycle riders, the planning of the network of Ben Shemen Forest cycling tracks began. One of the goals, when building a track, is to provide an enjoyable place to ride in. The shorter segment (Herzl single-track) is also easier for beginners, however, the bulk of the track (Anaba) is a bit more challenging".
Text and photographs: Guy Halamish Map: Hagay Yavlovich and Mira Zar, KKL-JNF Thanks to all who worked on preparing this post: Hagay Yavlovich - KKL-JNF Ben Shemen Forester, Mira Zar - People and Forest Coordinator, Shefelah and Coastal Region-KKL-JNF