This circular walk by the Elah Valley climbs to the top of Tel Socho (alternative spellings Sokho, Sochoh, Socoh) and then partially encircles the tel, providing spectacular views over the Elah Valley, Judean Hills and Shefelah. This tel is also known as Givat HaTourmusim (Lupin Hill), since in late February/March the hill is ablaze in deep purple from lupins. Two hikes are presented - a short 1-hour family family hike and a 3-hour hike.
The city of Socho was strategically located overlooking the Elah Valley. It is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as a Canaanite city that was conquered by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 15;35), together with the nearby cities of Adulum and Azeikah. This entire area, the Shefelah, was allocated to the tribe of Judah.
Socho turns up again in the David and Goliath story: “And the Philistines assembled their camps to war; and they assembled at Socho which belonged to Judah, and they encamped between Socho and Azeikah, in Ephes-dammim” (Samuel 1 17:1). The Philistine forces were on the Socho-side of the Elah Valley and Saul’s forces were on the other. David and Goliath battled it out in the Elah Valley below.
In a later period, Rehoboam of the southern Kingdom of Judah fortified the city (2 Chronicles11:7). The Philistines temporarily occupied it during the time of King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18).
Time: Hike 1: 2.6 Km; Hike 2: 6.4 Km.
Distance: Hike 1: About 1-hour; Hike 2: About 2.5-3 hours.
Type of walk: Circular.
Difficulty: Most of the hiking is easy along dirt paths. However, the beginning of these hikes up to the tel is slightly difficult with climbing over rocks. The end of Hike 2 is also slightly difficult walking down a footpath with small rocks. Hiking sticks can be helpful but are not essential.
Directions and parking: Enter into Waze "Givat HaTourmusim" or גבעת התורמוסים. The exit road from Route 38 leads directly to the parking lot and this is the starting point for these hikes. The exit to Givat HaTourmusim is not well marked (other than a yield sign), but it is the first exit from Tzomet Ha’Elah and is about 2.3 Km from this intersection. There are no picnic tables or WCs by the parking lot, but you are only a short distance from the Paz gas station at Tzomet HaElah, and this has an area with tables and chairs, and also WCs. Hot and cold drinks and pastries can be bought at the store. The entrance to the gas station from route 375 is signposted to Bet Ha’ela.
Public transport: Buses 475 or 417 go from from Binyanei Ha’umah to Bet Shemesh. From Bet Shemesh, take bus 26 to Tzomet Ha’Elah and it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Tel Socho/Givat HaTourmusim parking lot along route 375. However, there is no footpath along this road, so that a safer alternative is to go into the Paz Gas Station at Tzomet Ha’Elah and close to its main entrance on route 38 is the beginning of the green-marked bicycle trail Schvill Adulum. Continue on this trail until you see an unmarked trail on your left with an exit sign pointing to where you have just come from and this will lead you to the parking lot of Givat HaTourmusim. However, its descent is slightly difficult with small rocks.
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Hike 1 (short family hike):
Take the trail in front of you towards the hill, and you will soon come to a fork. Take the blue-marked trail to your right up to the tel. This is also part of the Schvil Yisrael trail.
Continue on this trail and after a while you will pass a green gate. About 80 meters from the gate turn right onto the first unmarked trail.
Keep straight ahead through the valley, ignoring the two paths on your left, and this will bring you back to the parking area.
Hike 2: (a longer hike):
The start of this hike is as above.
Continue on the blue trail past the green gate. Ignore the two unmarked paths on your right and continue until you come to a fork. Take the blue-marked trail to the right. (Be careful: the left fork has a faded Schvil Yisra’el marker which also has blue in its blue, white and orange sign).
After this fork, the blue trail goes down into a valley, ascends the first hill, descends again and then ascends to the highest mountain range, crossing two dirt paths on the way.
You will eventually reach the top of this peak. At the very top (literally) of the path where there is a plateau and before it descends, you will see that the blue trail turns right. This is just before an iron support for a wire fence.
The footpath continues to be clearly blue-marked and is surrounded by bushes on either side. It eventually intersects with a green-marked footpath. Turn right on this path which soon leads to a broader green-marked bicycle trail. Turn right onto this bicycle path.
On this mountain ridge of Mount Socho there are beautiful views of the Elah Valley and the Judean Mountains on one side and on the other side the rolling hills of the Shefelah. Between these hills, you will have glimpses of the coastal plain.
Follow the green-marked bicycle path and you will eventually come to a wooden sign indicating the exit to route 38. Turn right here on an unmarked trail and descend towards the foot of Givat Hatourmusim. This part of the trail is a bit difficult because of the small rocks in the path. Hiking sticks can be helpful.
At the end of this trail at the T junction turn left and the parking lot is shortly ahead of you.
Map of the Tel Socho hike.
Panoramic view of the Elah Valley.