Ein Rafah Bike Trail Hike

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Trail MapHike it with Google EarthTerrain View
Distance: 9.5kmTime: 2-3 hoursDifficulty: Strenuous
Ascent: 368mTrailhead and Markers Gallery

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The Jerusalem hills are full of surprises.

One would imagine that we, with our very lengthy and intense hiking career, would have exhausted all of the best trails around Jerusalem. This should be especially true considering the fact that our home is 15 minutes from Jerusalem.  These mountains are our stomping grounds.

But hidden trails seem to appear out of nowhere just when we really need them.

This past Friday, we finally had the time and ability to complete a nice, long hike.  Now that I’m (completely) back on my feet following an annoying injury, I couldn’t wait to hit the trails.  But much to my dismay, the forecast for the day was intense heat. I couldn’t imagine where we would hike in this oppressive (and potentially dangerous) weather.

Luckily, my husband saved the day, by discovering a pretty, new, forested walk about 30 minutes from our home in the Jerusalem hills.  The 11+ kilometer trail was called the Ein Rafah Bicycle Trail.  Of course, it was built for cyclists, but that doesn’t mean that hikers can’t enjoy it too!

In the shade of the forest.

The major benefit of this hike, aside from the fact that it was forested, was that there was a freshwater spring mid-way through the trail. The idea was, that if we got too hot, we could always just stop and take a dip in the spring.  Another benefit to this trail was that it was easy to cut it short at many points along the way, by taking unmarked cross-through trails.  So, if we had enough or if the heat got too intense, we could easily shorten our morning adventure.

We set out early in the day to beat the heat and got to the trailhead when the rising sun was still low in the sky.

Here’s how we hiked the beautiful Ein Rafah Bicycle trail:

It’s a Great Day for a Hike

Well, maybe it wasn’t such a great day for a hike.  We got out of the car and felt a blast of heat, which is unusual in this area so early in the day.  But we were committed to hiking that morning.  We had ample cold water and sun protection, and we hoped that fairly soon, we would be hiking through thick shade.

Weed whacking.

We followed the signs for the Ein Rafah bike trail through overgrown weeds and debris.  After a few false starts, we were able to locate the continuation of the trail (the beginning had been partially demolished) and crossed over a rocky path into tall grasses.

This part of the trail certainly wasn’t shady.  We pushed aside tall, dried flowers, spiky purple bushes, and golden barley as we made our way to the main part of the trail.

The Open Road

A short while later, we had emerged from the overgrowth and were walking along a pretty trail, through a mixture of sun and shade.  The view from the path was actually quite lovely – the rolling hills of Jerusalem spread out into the distance.  We walked along, watching butterflies flit between the faded flowers and enjoying putting one foot in front of the next.

Pretty views.

After a while, we reached a split in the trail.  If we wanted to follow the bike trail, we would have to go uphill, walking back and forth in a roundabout way.  Alternatively, we could take the breakaway trail and head right to the spring.

We decided to follow the bike trail and go the long way, and I’m so happy we did!

Through the Forest

This was probably the loveliest part of the hike.  We walked through a thick forest, feeling practically cool in the ample shade provided by the trees.  It was quiet and peaceful there.  I found it hard to believe that beyond the forest, the city of Jerusalem was heating up with the heat wave and the hustle and bustle of the weekend.  Out here on the trail, it felt completely peaceful.

Quiet and lovely.

At one point, a man passed on a bicycle with his two teenage sons just behind.

We followed the trail as it wound this way and that through the trees.  And eventually, we emerged from the forest and set out to find Ein Limor, the freshwater spring

Limor Spring

At Ein Limor, we found that cycling father with his two sons cooling down in the spring.  He struck up a conversation with us as we took in the sights from the spring.  Although the pool was murky, and filled with buzzing bees on that Friday morning, he and his sons seemed undaunted.  They were enjoying the refreshing cool water at Ein Limor.

At Limor Spring.

The man told us that in the wintertime, the spring is full and clear.  The bees only come out at summer.  So late winter and early spring would be a much better time to stop at the spring.

I would imagine that this entire trail must be absolutely beautiful at that time of year, replete with colorful wildflowers and thick green grasses.


We said goodbye to the biking group and left the spring, back on the path in search of a perfect breakfast spot.  This part of the trail was slightly less shady than the forested part.  We passed by nice looking carob trees, lone pines, and finally settled on a flat path just below the main pathway, in the shade of two tall pine trees.

After a delicious breakfast of iced coffee and banana walnut muffins, we laid on our picnic blanket and contemplated our surroundings.  The breeze blew through the pine needles.  Cicadas played their music in the background.  Occasionally, a bird flapped its wings in the tree.  It was sublimely beautiful, and I felt myself surrendering completely to the moment.


Who needs jaw-dropping scenery or thundering waterfalls? God’s creation is simply spectacular as it is, pine needles, cones, and all.

On the Way Home

After we packed up our picnic blanket, we still had about half of the day’s hike left to complete.  As we hiked along, we contemplated shortening the adventure due to the heat, but we were enjoying ourselves so much that we decided to hike most of the loop, only shortening it slightly.

Back through the forest.

The last part of the trail took us up a steep, unshaded hill.  It was hot.  Really hot.  That was when I began to regret our decision to hike such a distance.  To make our lives more pleasant, we made sure to stop in the shade along the way, and refresh ourselves with the cold water we still had left in our backpack.

Eventually, we found ourselves back where we started, bushwhacking our way through tall, dry grasses as we made our way back towards the trailhead.

The Ein Rafah bike trail was a beautiful place to hike.  I can’t wait to come back to this trail next winter or spring, at prime hiking season!

The hot part.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know to hike the Ein Rafah Bike Trail:

  • This is an all season trail. That said, it is probably most beautiful in late winter and early spring.
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • Bring your bicycle (if you're skilled) and bike it instead!
  • Wear proper footwear and adequate sun protection and bring plenty of water to hike this trail.
  • Much of this trail is very easy to follow as regular bike path signs mark the trail. To get onto the trail at the beginning, you will have to follow the Google Earth file, trail map, and trail marker gallery. Also, we shortened the path by breaking through onto the red and then green trail in the middle. Then, we took an unmarked path to rejoin the bike trail to the end. Use the tools in the table at the top of the page to help you find your way.

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 hike this trail at Ein Rafah? Let’s hear about it in the comments!±

It hurts, but I like it.

Hiking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each hiker’s responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.

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