Switzerland Forest Single-Track Cycle Trail

Difficulty: Medium | Length: 14 kilometers | Area: Northern Lower Galilee| Riding direction: counterclockwise| Total ascent: 250 meters | Recommended Season: Summer
Photograph: Ilan Schaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photograph: Ilan Schaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
This is a fantastic bike trail with views of the open landscape above the Kinneret.
Switzerland Forest does more than live up to its name as it hosts a marvelous green mountainside single-track overlooking the blue waters of the Kinneret below and providing the rider with a wonderful combination of adrenalin, healthy exercise and panoramic views.
To the Poriya departure point:
On Route no. 7677 that descends from Upper Poriya (Poriya Illit) to the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), about a kilometer up the road from the turnoff to Poriya Guesthouse, turn right (northwards) on to the path marked as part of the Israel National Trail and continue for around 100 meters until you reach a small parking lot. If you are arriving from the direction of Upper Poriya you will have no left turn on to the marked trail, and so you will have to continue downhill to the turnoff towards the Guesthouse, where you can turn round.

To the Sapir departure point:
Follow Route no. 77 in the direction of Tiberias, then turn right towards Upper Tiberias (Tverya Illit) on to Sapir Avenue (Sderot Sapir). Continue straight on, then follow the road as it turns sharply to the right. At the bend, we turn off to the left into a large parking lot. 

The Route
This circular route winds its way around the steep slopes of the western bank of the Kinneret between Poriya and Upper Tiberias. This is a ride through seventh heaven, with the lake waters far below us, the Golan Heights to the east and, on a clear day, the peak of Mount Hermon visible in the distance. The single-track makes its way northwards on the lower side of the scenic route before returning southwards at a higher elevation.

As the greater part of the route lies through open country, in summer it is best ridden very early in the morning. For most of the way the landscape is spread out beneath our wheels. The second part of the route, however, leads us through Switzerland Forest itself, and includes an impressive section amidst huge basalt rocks.

Early in the morning we may have the good fortune to surprise a few gazelles, while in winter we can enjoy a profusion of varied wildflowers.

The route flows along very smoothly, and from a technical point of view it is suitable not only for beginners but also for experienced riders, who will have no trouble finding humps that will launch them weightlessly into midair. However, as the trail has a good number of uphill stretches (a total ascent of some 250 meters) it is suitable only for cyclists in reasonably good physical condition.

The Switzerland Forest Single-Track has two departure points: Poriya and Sapir. As far as a nicely flowing ride is concerned it is better to leave from Poriya, as this allows us to start out downhill and finish off with another intoxicating downhill stretch. Parking at Poriya, however, is limited. At the Sapir departure point we have access to a much larger parking lot and the advantages of all the services of nearby Tiberias, but the route begins and ends with uphill stretches – with, of course, a long, long descent in the middle.

Alternatively, we can park near Poriya Guest house and ride northwards uphill along the scenic route for a short distance until we meet up with the single-track.

If you are looking for a longer route, the area offers endless possibilities. From the Poriya departure point we can continue southwards with the Kinneret Scenic Trail, which overlooks the lake as it leads us through Ein Poriya, Kinneret village (moshava) and the Yardenit site (where we can swim if the weather is warm) before following the black trail markings uphill to Alumot Junction and returning to Upper Poriya to complete the circle.

From the Sapir departure point we can also continue northwards with the Kinneret Scenic Trail towards Mount Arbel for a glorious and challenging ride.

Note: The single-track must be ridden in the direction indicated, i.e., anticlockwise.

Technical details
Length: 14 kilometers
Cumulative ascent: 250 meters
Level of difficulty: medium.

The entire route was created using a Minibagger operated by the skilled professional hands of Ahmad Shehada.

The single-track is marked with a black image of a bicyle against a yellow tear-drop-shaped background. The point of the drop indicates the direction of travel.

Route Description
From the Poriya departure point we set out northwards along the Israel Trail before turning right onto the single-track after 100 meters. The striking landscape hits us like a blow in the face, and the adrenalin starts to flow as the route swoops downhill in a succession of wide curves and the Kinneret unfolds before our wondering eyes.

The single-track makes its way north along the flank of the hill, descending at first, then ascending with the open countryside all around us and a wonderful view awaiting us around every corner. The trail climbs slightly, parallel to the scenic road, then turns to the other side for a very gentle uphill stretch followed by a terrific downhill run though delightful woodland.

A short ride along a double-track brings us flowing quickly back to the single-track with a panoramic view before us once more until the bend, around 5.8 kilometers from our starting point, at which we begin to feel that we have only to extend a hand in order to touch Tiberias spread out below us. To the left of the trail, a number of boulders have been aligned to form a seat where we can rest and have a cup of coffee while drinking the scene deep into our souls.

To the right, we can easily identify Mount Berenice, with the ruins at its summit, and the remains of ancient Tiberias.

If you’ve been wondering why we’ve had things so good so far, you can stop, because now it’s payback time, with sweat as the currency. After all, we’ve come here to work a little, too, haven’t we?

Now the single-track starts to climb gently before becoming a double-track and meeting up with the scenic road. We cross the scenic road on to another section of road, which is rather steep. We leave it cautiously to turn left and continue along a pleasant single-track that ascends gently until we meet the paved path of the Israel Trail and the Kinneret View Trail. Along the way we turn right about 100 meters before the Upper Tiberias departure point, to which those who started out from there can now return. If you started off from the Poriya departure point you should turn left to continue along the single-track.

From the Sapir Departure Point we cycle southwards along the Israel Trail for about 200 meters before turning right on to the single track and joining the route at this point.

The trail continues to climb slightly though an attractive woodland, descends a little, then climbs once more along a different route that takes us through a field of impressive basalt rocks interspersed with dense clumps of flowers. A few more pedal spins and we are right at the top, all ready for a wonderful 3-kilometer downhill stretch with stunning views of the Kinneret and the Golan Heights. All we need to do is decide whether or not to release the brakes completely and give our full attention to the thin brown line beneath our front wheel, or brake every now and again to allow ourselves to look up and exclaim, “This is amazing!”

Eventually we spill out on to the double-track of the Israel Trail and follow it southwards. If you started out in Tiberias you should turn left towards the single-track and follow the description above; if you departed from Poriya you should follow the trail all the way to your vehicle.

Our Thanks To
The single-track was born out of an initiative by a group of cyclists from Tiberias led by Tomer Hali, Almog Monstrasky, and Shmulik Ahitov, who also took part in its construction and preparation. KKL-JNF forester Uzi Eliahu, Gil Atzmon and Sheli Ben-Yishai were in charge of the project on the ground, assisted by Israel’s ministry of tourism.  

Further General Information
Although the steep slopes in and around the Switzerland Forest offer dramatic scenery, they can also cause very serious problems. In 1934, heavy rain fell in the area after a prolonged dry spell. The rainwater seeped through the upper layer of soft earth and began to flow along the rock shelf below, causing a massive mudslide that buried part of Tiberias, claiming the lives of twenty-five people.

To prevent such things from happening in the future, KKL-JNF worked to anchor the soil locally, both by planting trees and by installing complex drainage systems that carry away the surface runoff water even during heavy rain. If we keep our eyes open and look out for it, we can see evidence of this activity all along our route.

Of course, if you add the Herzl and Anava single tracks to your route you will increase the distance significantly. For lovers of the genre.