Where to Find It: Black Forest
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: approximately 500 feet
Difficulty: Easy to intermediate
Know Before You Go: The Pineries 9-mile loop has no bailout points. Once you are halfway around, you are committed to hiking, biking, riding or running the full distance. Make sure to pack ample water and sun protection for the trail. Although the hiking is easy by most standards, you should be prepared for the length and sun exposure in the open meadows.
Driving into the Pineries Open Space, its hard to tell the area braved the destruction of the Black Forest Fire in 2013. Now, charred but cheerily alive pines reach to the sky and grassy meadows beckon you onto the 9-mile loop of dirt singletrack from the newly paved parking lot. The area is an extensive swath of mature, old growth ponderosa pine forest and grassland, and the trail is good for beginner mountain bikers, young family hikers, equestrians and fit retirees alike.
Pineries sits on a conservation easement held by the Palmer Land Trust, negotiated in 2010 as part of a 389-lot development . When the Black Forest Fire burned 14,280 acres, including the Pineries area, the development was scrapped, but the conservation easement remained. The 1,067 protected acres gave life to the Pineries Open Space, which opened in June 2020.
The hike begins on a wide dirt road which crosses open grassland and narrows into singletrack as you make a right turn into the forest. About .75 miles in, you find a trail junction and a decision: left or right on the loop. Luckily, the trail doesn’t gain or lose much elevation so your direction is up to personal preference—it really makes no difference for enjoyment either way. You can find a trail map here.
Given the length and terrain of the trail, the area is best suited for mountain bikers searching for a mellow ride. Trail runners, too, will find particular enjoyment in the easy accessibility to a scenic area without significant elevation gain or loss—ideal for easy intensity endurance days. Don’t be fooled though, the hike is enjoyable to walk if you’re down for the distance. Or if you happen to have a horse or two, the parking area has room for trailers, so you can bring the equines along.
There is still beauty in the burn scar. The charred bark stands in stark contrast to the vibrant greens, purples and yellows of the grassland and wildflowers that have brought new life to the area. As you walk along the trail, you’ll be met with frequent preservation signs. Staying on trail is important as the burn scar for the Black Forest fire continues to recover.
Pineries also crosses private property, but everything is well marked with signs and fences. You’ll come across some power lines in the southern section of the loop too. But despite the vestiges of former farm work and modern life, the hike is void of road noise, and the proximity to civilization comes in handy — there’s cell service for the majority of the loop if you need it.
Overall, the Pineries Open Space trail is ideal for the mellow adventurer. This hike is a pleasant and accessible walk in the woods and meadows. Don’t expect panoramic views, but savor the intimate introduction to the details of nature’s resiliency after a destructive wildfire. That is plenty engaging and rewarding in and of itself.
How to Get to Pineries Open Space
From I-25, take exit 153, Interquest Parkway east. Follow Interquest Parkway/Highwaty 83 for 2.8 miles and turn right on Shoup Road. In 6.2 miles, turn left on Vollmer Road. Pineries Open Space is on the right in 0.8 miles. You’ll find a large parking area and a modest restroom at the trailhead.