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 fourteen section of the IBT runs 47km from Keramim to Arad. With this stage, one of the best, the Israel Bicycle Trail enters the Judean Desert . From now on we realize that the southern half of Israel is desert with its awesome expanse of scorched mountains and bone-dry valleys This dramatic landscape ensures cycling experiences that are unique in a setting that is magnificent.
With the present section, though, we may be forgiven for wondering if we are entering the wilderness at all. For in the winter and spring, the best time to mountain bike ride here, the area is awash in a green sea of grass and flowers.. The first half of the route is actually taken up by a lush pine forest that belies the actual geographical location. The reason for this is that the trail first ascends steadily into the Judean Hills on the edge of the desert, the altitude altering the climatic characteristics, only to change dramatically with the precipitous drop, (which we shall mountain bike ride), into the desert.
After leaving Keramim, the track starts out with a series of climbs around the settlement of Meitar . These little tree-topped hillocks are but a preliminary for the main ascent of the day, Har Hiran, a real table-top of a mountain, overlooking the deep valley of Estamoah . To get to the top of this mountain one has to pass a small ranch, the last place of human habitation with water, for a while. There is no real drop after this flat summit just a steady climb on a track that is a joy to mountain bike ride with manageable flat rocky steps and jumps. Eventually we arrive at an Army camp. If we are nice to the soldiers at the gate they should let us in to replenish our water supplies. Then its into the Yatir Forest, a real surprise and contrast , almost European like with its rolling glades of pine trees with some good spots to stretch out in the shade with the Power bars and Pitta bread (maybe not in that combination).The trail climbs upwards through the forest till we reach the highest point on the route, Har Amassa, 859 meters above sea level. There is hardly time to absorb the superb vista of the Negev Hills and the Rift Valley before embarking on Ma'ale Dragot.
This descent into the desert, on an old Roman Road, is probably the most thrilling this side of Eden! Nothing can prepare you, even with the sweetest full suspension bike in the firmament, for the experience of this 330 meter drop of rock steps. Technically and physically challenging to the limit, the trail eventually levels out in a strange quarry, leaving you wondering about your sanity to have contemplated such a thing and checking that all parts of machine and person are still in place (in that order!). This is the jewel in the rocky crown of the Israel BikeTrail. After this excitement, riding the sandy tracks to Tel Arad (an ancient mound, 5000 years old) and onwards to Arad could be anti-climactic, only by now, in the lateness of the day, the sun is setting, bathing everything in a warm orange glow, which is compensation enough.