Jerusalem Forest, sans Jerusalem
Jerusalem is usually thought of as that place you go to when you're sick of all those waterfalls and mountains that make up Israel's nature reserve scene. Though the city is known for its holiness to three religions, its kicking nightlife (if you're into drunk yeshiva kids) and the fact that it's made out of gold, it is actually also home to some decent hiking. And unlike many of the world's Walden Ponds, much of Jerusalem's varied nature zones are accessible by public transportation.
If you're looking to feel like you're in nature -but not too much - head over to the Gazelle Valley, a 260 dunam reserve within spitting distance of the Trump Towers-esque Holyland. Take buses 19, 31 or 32 to Tzomet Pat, and it will be hard to miss the large plot of (hard fought for) undeveloped land. The Jerusalem Post has a nice play by play of the hike - and we do the same - with nearby Valley of the Cross.
One of the few convenient things about Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital (really, who sticks a hospital on the edge of town?) is that it backs up to the Jerusalem Forest, meaning that any of the plethora of buses (12,27,42,19 or 153) that ferry people to the hospital and attached Hebrew University campus will also get you to a number of trailheads. From the parking lot of the hospital, hikers can take one of three trails, taking them to Hindak Spring, the quaint village of Ein Kerem (and requisite spring) or for just a quick jaunt around the mountains. Getting off before the hospital at Yad Kennedy is also the start of a 5.5 kilometer hike through a number of springs.
Though technically not a city bus, Egged's #183 from Binyanei Hauma to Kibbutz Tzuba will take you yet deeper into the heart of the Jerusalem Forest for a bevy of hikes around Sataf and Har Eitan.
Across town, the Ramot Forest also offers hiking trails up and down the pine treed mountains that surround Western Jerusalem. Buses 11, 7, 35 and 39 all end up at the Ramot Forest entrance in Ramot and from there you can traverse the large open spaces between Ramot and Mevaseret Zion, through Emek Ha'arazim and the recently saved mountaintop lookout of Mitzpe Naphtoach.
Bus 155 from the Central Bus Station will get passengers to the Harel interchange in Mevaseret, which is home to not only a mall, but the beginning of a 3 hour hike through the hills to Ein Harak, a small spring popular with groups.
Jerusalem's unique location and the extensiveness of the city's public transport system means that a few slices of nature are no more than an hour bus ride and 5.60 NIS out of your pocket, a fact that could make even the granoliest hippie (even with their crazy acid trip buses) green - with envy.
Special thanks to the SPNI for research help - a full list of nature spots around Jerusalem can be found here. Photo of Evan Sapir courtesy of alexkon from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.