This very pleasant hike in the Ayalon Canada Park provides many spectacular views, including the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Emmaus and the water system for a later Roman city.
Time: 3¼-3½ hours.
Distance: Just over 8¼ Km.
Type of walk: Circular.
Difficulty: This is an easy hike. Some of the path is bare rock but there is no climbing.
Directions and parking: Enter “Park Ayalon” into Waze and click on “Park Ayalon Canada.” To park your car, turn right at the first intersection within the park and park on the side of the road.
Admission: There is no admission charge.
Public transport: There are bus stops at Latrun Junction at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 3. There are also numerous bus stops along Route 3 close to the park entrance.
View over the Ayalon Valley.
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Continue on the blue-marked paved road in the direction towards Route 1. After about 160 meters turn onto a path on your right with a grey signpost entitled “בית מרחץ רומי.” It is easily recognized since there are some initial steps and the borders of the path are clearly delineated with stones. This path will bring you to an enclosed archeological area in which there is a domed structure. Enter through the gate to view the ruins of a Roman bathhouse.
This looks like a sheik’s tomb. This is also what the local Arabs thought it was since only the domes were above ground. However, archeology revealed that this is the ruins of a Roman bathhouse. But what is a Roman bathhouse doing in the middle of nowhere? The answer is that in the Roman period this was not in the middle of nowhere but close to the Roman city of Emmaus. It is not apparent from the outside but air was heated up in a furnace to provide a hot sauna in one of the rooms. The next room adjoining would have been a warm room and next to this cold pools. This is typical of Roman bathhouses throughout the Roman empire.
Exit the gate and return back along the trail you came. When you come to the blue-marked path again turn right and continue along this road until you see a red-marked jeep trail on your right with a sign with a red arrow pointing to דרך נוף דרומית. At the next intersection turn to the left on the continuation of the red trail.
After a short distance you will see paths on your left. Take the path with a grey sign “שיחי אבן גיבל.” This will bring you to the memorial to the legendary Ibn Jabel. You will also have your first view of the Ayalon Valley from here – with even better views to come.
This building is a memorial to the commander of the conquering Muslim forces who died in a plague in the 700s CE together with 25,000 of his men. As a consequence of this, their camp was moved. The building was erected by the food taster of the Mameluke sultan in 1288 and his symbols are above the lintel. There are great views of the Ayalon Valley from this vantage point. Turn back to the red-marked trail and continue along it.
You will soon come to a T-junction with the intersection with a black-marked footpath. Turn left along this footpath. It is signposted “לסינגל הגורל השביעי” and it has a map of the park trails. From now for quite a distance you will hiking along the black-marked trail (except for a short distance which saves you going around a loop of this trail).
Cross a partially paved road. On the other side of the road is a pole with a black-marking. Continue on this path.
Shortly after a green bridge with a cattle grid is a 3-way junction. Continue straight ahead on the unmarked footpath and not on the black trail that goes to the right. (The trail to the right makes a significant loop, whereas the non-marked trail avoids this loop).
At the end of the short cut there is a T-junction. Turn left along the black-marked trail. This trail will take you past the ruins of Tel Eked on the left. On your right you see scenic forests leading up to the Judean Mountains.
Tel Eked contains the ruins of the probable Greek city of Emmaus, which is Greek for hot springs. It is not clear if this was the case, but there may have been hot springs here. The city is mentioned in the New Testament as where Jesus appeared to two of his disciples on the day of his crucifixion. Initially, they did not recognize him.
Judah Maccabee fought successfully the Seleucid Greek army at their base near the town of Emmaus in 165 BCE in what became known as the Battle of Emmaus. As told in the books of the Maccabees, the Greeks were led to believe that Judah was still at his base camp in Mitzpe and they went to attack it, whereas in fact Judah made a surprise guerilla attack on their home camp and destroyed it. After this the Greeks retreated to the coastal plain. This is considered to be an influential battle for the Hasmoneans in that it showed their ability to run a sophisticated battle ploy. It also boosted Jewish moral and encouraged them to continue their revolt against the Seleucid empire.
In the Roman period it became a regional capital. Vespasian’s 5th legion was stationed here during the Great Revolt. Emmaus was later appointed as a polis (city) by the Romans and was renamed Emmaus Nicopolis. Hence, the bath house and elaborate water system. The Roman city would not have been on the tel at the top of the hill but extending to its west and northern aspects.
After some distance you will pass through a gate with a cattle grid and onto a green-marked paved road. Turn left and then right and then right again around the loop to the Ayalon Lookout. It is indicated by a grey sign with details in Hebrew about its geology.
Now return the short distance to the bottom of the loop. Cross to the other side of the road to the green-marked forest pathway. You will need to cross a small green bridge with a cattle grid. This path parallels the main road. At the fork turn left onto the continuation of the green-marked trail. This will bring you to a paved road. At this point you have a choice. You can cross over the road to the continuation of the green trail. This leads down the Valley of the Springs. There is no defined path, but you cannot go wrong. Alternatively, and this is my recommendation, turn right along the blue-marked paved road, and continue along this road until you come to a parking lot. At this point turn left onto the green-marked trail.
Here you will see the elaborate water aqueduct system built by the Romans, some of which is a few meters underground and other sections above ground. Surrounding this are pretty orchards. One can appreciate why this was considered an extremely beautiful Roman city. There are also some burial caves along the way. Eventually you will come to a large recently-made pool and the spring of Mayan Temarim. Unfortunately, there is no bathing or swimming here.
At the far end of the lake, turn left onto the blue-marked paved road. This will take you past the green-marked main road to your car.
The Schvil Hama'yanot
Ruins of Roman bath house.
Passing by the ruins of Emmaus.
Pool on the Schvil Hama'ayanot
Map of hike in Park Ayalon Canada
To follow your location on your smart phone, click on https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/HAY9lL1gZw Click on the black, box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. It is not necessary to download the free app unless you wish to.