Jerusalem Forest’s Cedar Trail (Shvil HaErez)

A section of the Cedar Trail. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive.

The Cedar Trail (Shvil HaErez) walking trail is located in Jerusalem Forest which is situated southwest of Jerusalem and is the green lung of the residents of the capital city and central Israel.

  • How to get there

    Drive along Jerusalem’s Herzl Avenue (Sderot Herzl), and take the exit for Yad Vashem. Continue for about 100 meters, then turn left right before Yad VaShem, following the signs to the Jerusalem Forest. Follow the forest road until you reach the Ontario Recreation Area (adjacent to the Tzipori Center).
  • Geographic location-

    Jerusalem - Judean highlands and surroundings,Jerusalem Forest
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

  • Track length-

    2 - 3 hours
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

  • Season-

  • Special Sites in the Area-

    The Jerusalem Forest, Yad VaShem and Herzl’s Tomb, The Ontario Recreation Area, Australia Park, KKL-JNF Pensioners’ Recreation Area.
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

Projects and Partners Worldwide

The site was developed with contributions from friends of KKL JNF worldwide, including Argentina, Israel, Italy and Australia.

The Cedar Trail

The Cedar Trail (Shvil HaErez) is around four kilometers long and the walk takes between two and three hours. The route is signposted and indicated by blue trail markings all the way.

Hikers should equip themselves with water, walking shoes, a hat and provisions for a light meal if they intend to stop for a break along the way. This route, which is circular and brings visitors back to their staring point, should not be attempted during the hottest part of a summer day. It is suitable for keen walkers.

The Jerusalem Forest

In the early years after the State of Israel was founded, Jerusalem was a small city surrounded by bare rocky hills. Yosef Weitz, one of the heads of KKL-JNF at the time, initiated the planting of a large area of forest to the west of the city, and in 1956 the second President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben Zvi, planted the first tree in what was to become the Jerusalem Forest. Immediately afterwards KKL-JNF got to work and afforestation continued apace until, within just a few years, the Jerusalem Forest covered an area of some 3,500 dunam (approx 875 acres).

Many years have passed since then, and Jerusalem has expanded enormously. Large neighborhoods and suburbs – Ein Kerem, Beit Zayit, Givat Shaul, Kiryat Yovel, Beit HaKerem, Har Nof, Motza – have thrust their tentacles deep into the forest, as have two important national monuments – Yad VaShem and Herzl’s Tomb. The intention of the original planters may have been to add some beauty to the hills around the capital; today, however, the Jerusalem Forest fulfils additional vital functions: it has become the green oasis of this big city, and as such it provides an urban getaway within easy reach where local residents can enjoy a little time in natural surroundings.

KKL-JNF has developed the Jerusalem Forest and rendered it easily accessible to the general public. Fifteen kilometers of roads have been provided within the woodland, and these enable visitors to reach its most intimate corners. Footpaths have been marked out, signposts have been provided, recreation areas and children’s playgrounds have been built – all in order to make a day out in the forest a memorable family excursion.

The Ontario Recreation Area

This is the Jerusalem Forest’s main recreation area, offering a large number of picnic tables, together with play and sports facilities. From here we walk for about 100 meters, following the signs to Shvil HaErez along a broad dirt road, then turn right following the blue trail markings. The path leads us through an area of mixed forest comprising both planted conifers and woodland trees. The deep valley to the left is the gully of Nahal Revida.

The KKL-JNF Pensioners’ Recreation Area in Jerusalem Forest. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The path continues to climb up the slope though a forest of pine and cypress trees. Eurasian sparrowhawks nest around here, in the tallest treetops, taking care to keep close to inhabited areas – possibly in order to prey upon the songbirds that live within settled communities.

The path leaves the valley and climbs a steep slope through a forest of pine and cypress until it reaches the road that ascends to Jerusalem’s Yefeh Nof neighborhood. On the other side of the road is Australia Park, with a recreation area above it. At the point where you see Australia Park, continue for about another 30 meters and then cross the road. The path ascends adjacent to a site dedicated to the memory of Ilan Halimi, who was brutally murdered by Muslims in France in 2006. In March, wild tulips bloom near the junction.

The path ascends a flight of steps, continues along a wooded slope and crosses beneath another recreation area through undergrowth composed of soft-hairy rockroses (Cistus creticus) and conehead thyme (Coridothymus capitatus, also known in English as Persian hyssop or Spanish oregano). In spring orchids peep out from among the bushes; the Anatolian orchid, with its red-spotted leaves, is a prime example. The small caverns at the side of the path are the work of porcupines, who dig them out with their claws.

Further on, below the towering structures of Yad VaShem, we come to the KKL-JNF Pensioners’ Recreation Area, a small pleasant space situated among agricultural terraces planted with fruit trees and an olive grove. KKL-JNF has also planted cedars here, and the site offers a view of the Jerusalem Hills in all their glory: the Pi Glilot petroleum terminal; the Har Nof neighborhood with Mitzpeh Nof at its summit, afforested by KKL-JNF; Moshav Beit Zayit with the adjacent reservoir dam; Motza; the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway; Mevasseret Yerushalayim; the villages of Beit Surik and Bidu; Mount Adar; the Harel shopping mall; Maaleh HaHamisha; and the Castel. The Pensioner's Recreation Area is a truly beautiful spot.

Ben Gurion’s Cedar. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The path leads us down to a eucalyptus grove where there is recreation area and playground equipment. Some of the tables have chessboards painted on their tops.

Now is the time for the more adventurous among us to turn aside slightly from the path and climb up the slope, at whose top they will find the collection pool for a spring and the remains of a watchman’s tower that was used in the past by farmers at harvest time. These towers, which could be either round or square, were constructed from the stones removed from the fields. Now we can return to the path and walk on past a cave close by on the left, from whose depths – it extends for some five meters – an impressive fig tree emerges.

Near here we can also see Ben Gurion’s Cedar, though in order to reach it we have to deviate slightly from the blue-marked path and, following the signs, turn left into the small plaza where the tree grows. David Ben Gurion planted it with his own hands on February 2nd, 1958. From here we can make another brief detour from the path and climb up to Mitzpeh Kerem (its Arabic name is Khirbet Hamame, which means “Dove Ruins”). Here we can wander at will and explore the secrets of the ruins. The trail passes between communication trenches dug by the Ottoman Turks in the First World War as they took up positions ready to confront the British troops. During Israel’s War of Independence an Arab force barricaded itself up here, but was unable to withstand the attack by the Gadna’s Yehonatan division on July 10th, 1948, when this vantage point was successfully captured.

Military dugouts at Mitzpe Kerem. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive.

Mitzpeh Kerem offers a magnificent view that includes, among other sites, Yad VaShem’s Valley of the Communities, Mount Harat, Tzova (Tzuba), Pilots’ Hill (Har HaTayyasim), Eitanim, Kiryat Yovel, Mount Gilo, Moshav Ora, Ein Kerem’s Hadassah Hospital and Moshav Even Sapir. While exploring Mitzpeh Kerem, please take care to avoid the open holes and pits at the site.

We now return to Ben Gurion’s Cedar and from there make our way back to the blue-marked trail, which descends to the main road through the forest. The path crosses the road and continues down a flight of steps to an attractive recreation area close to the Tzipori Center Guest House. In January narcissi bloom at the lower end of the recreation area. From this point we walk along the road and easily make our way back to the Ontario Recreation Area.