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|Trail Map||Hike it with Google Earth||Terrain View|
|Distance: 2.5km||Time: 2 hours||Difficulty: Easy|
|Ascent: 106m||Trailhead and Markers Gallery|
Park Britannia – it’s one of our favorite places to hike close to home. This large KKL park near Beit Shemesh contains almost everything you could want in a natural area – cool caves, winding trails, history, and fields of flowers in springtime.
On the northeast side of the park, we recently discovered Tel Azeka, a hill that’s created from layers upon layers of ancient history. Azeka is mentioned several times in the Bible. David battled Goliath in the valley right below the hill.
But aside from that, Tel Azeka is simply one of the most beautiful hills I’ve seen in Israel. Its slopes are covered with thick woods and quaint footpaths. And underneath the trees, worlds of flowers blossom in the springtime.
On top of Tel Azeka, a perfect combination of nature and history lies waiting, with lookouts, grassy meadows, and informative exhibits.
Here’s the lowdown on this easygoing hike in the Jerusalem Lowlands:
Choose Your Own Adventure
We pulled into the Tel Azeka parking lot on a warm day in March with four kids in tow. From the lot, most of the Tel’s visitors walked straight up to the top of the hill.
But we had other plans for that morning: a short walk up a hill just wasn’t enough. We were hoping for a wandering adventure through trees and greenery, a place we could lose ourselves in.
So, instead of climbing straight to the top, we followed the green trail to the left, towards a more circuitous route around Tel Azeka.
At the lot, there had been a picnic area with several stone fire pits. Lots of people stood around, barbecuing and talking. But as soon as we got onto the green path, the scenery changed.
We entered a world of natural beauty. Teeny tiny wildflowers sprouted in the long grass on the sides of the path in shades of yellow and purple. Pine trees towered up ahead. And the silence of nature surrounded us.
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
We followed the path for a while, then couldn’t help but leave it. There were so many places to explore on the sides of the trail.
The kids bent close to the ground to examine flowers. They found little green bugs hiding in the petals and caterpillar nests underneath. Amongst the greenery sat a large stone that looked like an old abandoned olive press.
All of that investigating got them hungry. So pretty soon, in one patch of flowers, we decided that it was lunchtime.
Lots of large flat stones made perfect places to sit above an ocean of pink cyclamen. Each of us claimed our very own boulder, and we broke out the sandwiches.
Refueled and Ready to Go
After a happy half hour of lunch time, we were ready to walk again. We made our way back onto the path and continued to follow it around the hill. As we approached the top, the dark hideaways of flowers and ivy fell behind us. We emerged into the sunshine.
We followed the red flower lined paths up, up, up towards the main area of Tel Azeka.
Right before the top, we passed by giant underground caves with tiny openings. A long time ago, these caves were used as hiding spots for rebels during the Bar Kochva revolt.
Peering down, we could see pigeons flying through the vast caverns below.
A Mini Lesson in History
Once we reached the top of the hill, we found an entirely different type of hike. Gone were the forests and the silence. On top of Tel Azeka, grassy fields and flowers sprouted.
The large, flat expanse was bordered by 360 degree views out to the surrounding area. Exhibits were scattered around the hill, interspersed with archeological digs and explanatory signs.
We made our way from one exhibit to the next. Reading the signs, we gained a bit of perspective on our geographical location, and we were able to place Tel Azeka in the stories of the Jewish history. This hill and the one opposite (Tel Shocho) were famously mentioned as the battleground where King Saul fought off the Philistines.
In one exhibit, lines from the book of Samuel were written in bold print on large stones, referencing David and Goliath and other battles with the Philistines. My kids loved this part of Tel Azeka: they all knew these stories from school.
But, my seven year old was kind of disappointed that we didn’t find any old arrowheads.
Since the Tel protrudes high above the valley, the view out to the surrounding area is clear and vast.
Looking out, we identified cities and towns out to Ashdod and Ashkelon. In the other direction, Gush Etzion and Jerusalem were visible.
After losing ourselves in a history and geography lesson (and in lots of natural beauty), we went off to take a look at the various dig sites around Tel Azeka. They were well-labeled works in progress, each sign explaining the layers revealed and the various periods of history they uncovered.
We explored a few of these sites, then headed down the stairs, taking the short way this time. Soon, we were back at the parking lot.
There’s always something new to explore at Park Britannia. By getting off the beaten track at Tel Azeka, we’d found our own mini adventure combining nature and history.
From forested pathways, to views, to incredible archeology, this little hike around a hill has something for everyone.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this path:
- Since it’s short and easy, this hike is suitable for all seasons. But during summer and early fall, it won’t be quite so green and beautiful!
- Suitable for dogs.
- Great for kids!
- To shorten this adventure, you can walk straight up to Tel Azeka from the parking lot. There’s a ton to explore on the top of the hill.
- To hike the trail the way we did, make a left onto green from the parking lot. Then follow the trail (which is practically devoid of trail markers) around the hill, turning up when you see a path you want to follow. There’s pretty much no wrong way.
- You can use the trail map and the gallery of trail markers in the table up top to follow the trail exactly the way we did it.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Trail map from Amud Anan.
Questions? Have you hiked this trail? Let’s hear about your experience in the comments below!