The 850km Israel Bike Trail runs from north to south from Mount Hermon to Almog Beach, Eilat. It is generally based on the Israel National Trail. The trail winds its way through the countryside, passing areas of great natural beauty and sites sacred to the great religions. The INT serves as the backbone for many of other marked trails, an integrated nation-wide network, designed to foster nature conservation and to preserve the special character of each geographical region.
The Neve Ativ to Kfar Giladi section of the IBT is 45km. The Israel Bike Trail starts on a chilly mountainside, at an elevation of 1000 meters,and it will have another 850 kilometers to run before it hits the warm blue waters of the Gulf of Eilat! The Trail is unique for a cross-country route in such a small country because of the variety of landscapes and riding conditions encountered. This section is no exception with quiet mountain roads, rocky farm-tracks, deserted tank traps, and ravines of gushing waters, all within a fifty kilometer length and in a setting of magnificent grandeur.
The trail-head is at Neve Ativ,a village on the slopes of Mount Hermon, which is developing itself as a winter sports center and the atmosphere is definitely alpine -like. The trail first ascends on a back road to the little lake of Birkat Ram for a mountain bike ride in what may have been an extinct volcano, but is now a placid pool of water surrounded by fragrant fruit trees with a backdrop of the snow clad summit of the Hermon.
The main attraction of this section is the descent from the Golan Heights,a vast basaltic plateau, to the Hula Valley 800 meters below, but before it is recommended to a take a break at a cafe in the Druze village of Masade to sample their local speciality and energy bar,canafe,a pastry of cheese and sugar ! The subsequent mountain bike ride is through Mediterranean Oak Forests, sloping cow pastures, and orchards with the magnificent green expanse of the Hula Valley spreading out before one.
It is also a journey through the relics of military conflict. Scattered on either side of the tracks are the scars of battles past, shattered bunkers, uncleared minefields, and memorials to the fallen. It s hard to imagine as one negotiates these wonderful tracks amongst grassy meadows and black stone walls, that every inch was bitterly fought over in two wars. Perhaps it is only by bike that we can appreciate the commanding vantage point enjoyed which was exploited to threaten the settlements below.
Leaving these slopes , the trail levels out in the Hulah Valley, the lush northern finger of Israel, which is actually the start of the Great Rift Valley and is a semi-Eden. Here weve got to be prepared to get our feet wet as the trail meanders in and out of the fast flowing streams and springs in the nature reserves around the ancient cities Banias and Dan. The route gives easy access to these sites and also to the great fish restaurant, Dag al HaDan, with trout from Kibbutz Dan. The days mountain bike ride finishes on the western slopes of the valley with enough time to recover before the first serious climb of the Israel Trail the next day. Till then it is time to look back up to the heavenly heights from where we came.