BLACK FOREST — In our exclusive series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
Spring weather in Southern Colorado can be extremely volatile, but on those nice days, there's no better way to spend your day than outside in nature.
Pineries Open Space
As the second largest open space in El Paso County, the Pineries is a popular hiking destination in the Pikes Peak Region that shouldn't be missed.
Straddling the Palmer Divide, this 1,070 acre site is under a conservation easement which ensures it will be preserved in its natural state.
The Pineries Open Space features gentle rolling hills, sweeping meadows and a plethora of Ponderosa pine.
Our adventure begins on a cool and blustery morning on a wide-open trail that takes us from the parking lot to the main loop, a distance of around 3/4 of a mile.
Not long after our hike begins, we enter a Ponderosa pine forest that stretches for miles.
The giant trees that surround us provide shade from the sun and protection from the wind.
They tower over us too, extending from the forest floor below up towards the blue sky above.
At nine miles, the multi-use trail is perfect for trail runners and mountain bikers.
Dogs are allowed here. Horses are too!
Shortly after entering the pine forest, the trail splits in two as the loop begins.
We take the southern route.
There's not much elevation change on this hike, but after the split, we drop into a small downhill section that's easier for us than for any bikers trying to climb it.
As we pass a biker on the way down, I can hear her say, "This is ridiculous".
From here, we travel across a few bridges and dirt roads before reaching the burn scar.
Hiking into the Black Forest Fire burn scar
The Black Forest Fire scorched more than 14,000 acres, burned almost 500 homes, and took the lives of two people back in 2013.
While this June will mark the 10-year anniversary of the fire, it's devastation can still be seen along this hike.
It was my first time experiencing it, and it felt almost surreal to see so much scorched Earth.
Before long, we re-enter the woods for a little while longer before turning back around to make this a four mile out-and-back hike.
This means a second trip through the burn scar, and another chance to appreciate its impacts on the landscape.
Pineries Open Space adventure rating
When it comes to difficulty, I'm going to give this adventure a 3 out of 5. Had we done the full nine mile loop, this would have been more difficult, and more of an endurance hike.
For scenery...those burn scars, although eerie, helped to elevated my score to a 4. Beautiful in its own strange way!
For fun level...this one gets a 3 out of 5. I think biking this trail could be even more fun than hiking it!
Now for my final score...4 stars out of 5.
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