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|Distance: 3.5km||Time: 2 hours||Difficulty: Easy- Moderate|
|Ascent: 60m||Trailhead and Markers Gallery|
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Central Israel is the most populated part of the Holy Land. For this reason, I am always on the lookout for good hikes in the area. City folks need nature too, perhaps even more than us country bumpkins. So last week, when I noticed Shoham Forest on the map in Central Israel, I knew we had to drive on over and check it out.
Shoham Forest is not too far from the hustle and bustle of Modiin. It’s not a very large reserve, but according to the map, several trails weave through the park. There were antiquities, biking trails, and orchards. It looked like a wonderful way to escape in nature near the city.
Since it’s already late April, we knew that the optimal season for hiking in Central Israel was coming to an end. Come mid-spring, terrain that was once green and lush from the winter rains begins to turn brown and dry. And with temperatures on the rise, hiking in hotter parts of the country was becoming a less attractive option. This was our last opportunity of the year to explore places like Shoham Forest in Central Israel.
We planned a relatively short trail through the park (my 9 year old son was with us that morning). And we saw some really cool sights on our walk. We explored the remains of an old church, complete with mosaic floor. There were forested pathways and interesting landmarks of Biblical significance.
For the most part though, we all felt that a long walk through this forest park would be much more appealing during the winter months or on colder days. Much of the path we took was exposed to the sun.
But this nature reserve was not without its merits. Here’s how we took this short, 3.5 K walk through Shoham Forest in Central Israel:
Great Place for a Campout
We drove into Shoham Forest and parked our car. The first thing we noticed was a lovely, shady area where a cute family had pitched a tent. Their spot amongst the trees seemed kind of perfect. It was quiet there, and they had the area all to themselves.
While my husband and I got our backpacks, my son ran over to the other side of the parking lot towards the ruins of an old building. By the time we reached him, he had pressed a button near a sign and was listening to a complete explanation of the site in three different languages.
We were standing before the remains of a 5th century Byzantine Church. The intricate mosaic floors were still intact, along with cisterns, specially designed olive presses, and old gravesites. We climbed over walls and through the ruins, stopping along the way to read the signs explaining the discoveries at the site.
Ten minutes later, we were on our way, hoping for plentiful shade and beautiful scenery on our trail through Shoham Forest.
Sunny, but Cool
As we walked along the path, we took great interest in the beautiful forests to the side of the trail. We could see a bike path weaving through the trees and the occasional cyclist whizzing by. But we remained on a wide, flat path in the sun.
Our plan for that morning was to reach the Orchard Trail (Shvil HaBustanim), which we hoped would be shady and pretty. So, we passed by the forested area without stopping for breakfast, knowing that soon we would be relaxing in the shade on the Orchard Trail.
Before we reached the trail itself, we came across another interesting archeological site: Givat HaSaflulim. After following the Israel Trail to the top of the hill, we found a sign explaining the finds up top. According to the inscription, the strange rock formations at the top were ancient alters. These were the bamot mentioned many times in the books of the Prophets.
We looked around the hill, paused to take in the views, and then headed back down in pursuit of the Orchard Trail.
Just Embrace It
And the orchard trail? Well, it wasn’t particularly shady or pretty, at least on that April day. I couldn’t help but think about what it must look like in the rainy season. At that time of year green growth and wildflowers must turn a walk along this sunny trail into the perfect escape from the gloomy winter.
Still, we ploughed ahead, trying to embrace the unique beauty of crumbling cactus and golden hills. In the distance, we could see farmland and cities. The views along that part of the Orchard Trail were actually pretty cool.
My son was ready to stop for breakfast (and I was ready for some iced coffee). With a bit of scouting, we managed to find a spot in the semi-shade to enjoy a refreshing break from the heat.
Finally, a Forest?
After breakfast and a bit of tree climbing, we continued along the sunny path to complete a full loop on Shvil HaBustanim. Eventually, we returned to the forested area we had come from. This time around, we couldn’t resist heading onto the cycling path in the trees, where we would finally escape from sun and heat.
This trail was much better: it was shady and lovely. Every once in a while, we had to jump out of the way to avoid a cyclist or two, but it was a small price to pay. We were finally walking in an actual forest.
In this part of Shoham Forest Park, a rich pine scent filled the air. Picnic tables and benches sat under the trees. Birds chirped and gentle sunlight filtered through the trees. We stopped for a moment or two, just to enjoy the cooler scenery. Then, we continued on our way through the forest and back to the trailhead.
Final verdict: Shoham Forest would be a great place to take a long walk through nature during the winter months. In the springtime, it’s much better as a place to picnic or camp (or ride a bike!). Still, we had fun exploring the interesting sites at this quiet forest park in Central Israel.
Here’s what you need to know to hike in Shoham Forest:
- This trail is best suited to the cooler, wetter months (wintertime). During this season, blossoming flowers and shining sun can turn this into a lovely trail. In the warmer months (April- October), this place is best for a quick visit, camping, or a picnic in the forest.
- If you like cycling, try the full bicycle trail in Shoham Forest.
- Can be fun for kids.
- Suitable for dogs.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen and bring plenty of water to walk this trail. Any decent walking shoes are fine. The trail is not challenging at all.
- This trail is not exactly simple to follow, and in any case, it's not necessarily worthwhile to follow it the way we hiked it. If I were to do it again, I would probably try out the bike trail or just take a short walk around the smaller part of the Orchard Trail. If you'd like to follow the trail we took, use the Google Earth file. Or take a look at the trail marker gallery and trail map and see if it makes sense. It's not a very large park, so it's unlikely that you'll get very lost!
- Here's what we did: Israel Trail towards Shvil HaBustanim. Made a left to follow the brown trail to Saflulim Hill. From Saflulim Hill, returned to Shvil HaBustanim(red) and made a left to make a loop. Continued to follow Shvil HaBustanim in a long loop (some parts unmarked) until we returned to the Israel Trail. Followed the Israel Trail straight until we reached a right turn to the bike trail. Followed the bike trail through the forest, then made a right on the road which took us back to our car.
- Shoham Forest Map from KKL
Trail map from Amud Anan.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Questions? Have you hiked in Shoham Forest? Let’s hear about it in the comments.