El Paso County's newest park, the Pineries Open Space, is likely to become a prime attraction for hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians when it opens on June 27. Located in Black Forest on Vollmer Road just north of Shoup Road, the tract of land started out in 2010 as a proposed 389-lot residential development. At the time the project was approved, the developer entered into an agreement with the county to dedicate 1070 acres of the development as park land.
Three years later, the Black Forest Fire roared through the area, including where the proposed development was slated to be built. Although plans for building a development on the land died with the fire, the park land dedication remained, and after several years of planning, funding and building, the land is about to open to the public. Work to build the open space was performed by El Paso County Parks Department staff, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute and the Mile High Youth Corps. Additionally, local fire departments used the opportunity to fell dead, dangerous trees as training for future wildland fires.
The Open Space now consists of a parking area with room for cars and trailers, a bathroom facility and a single, 9-mile loop trail. According to El Paso County Parks Planner Ross Williams, plans for the open space include:
- Expand the trailhead parking to include a larger equestrian parking area near the restroom.
- Construct a trail from the trailhead down to the corner of Vollmer and Shoup to form a connection to Black Forest Section 16.
- Complete more forestry work, most likely along Shoup Road and north of Blue Spruce Lane. Perhaps clear the area east of Cantrell Lake.
- Construct a singletrack trail from the corner of Vollmer and Shoup to connect to the existing singletrack loop near Frog Pond, thus creating a shorter loop for folks that don't want to crank out the main loop.
On a recent preview hike of the Open Space, I found it to be an enjoyable, easy hike, although it may be a bit much for hikers not used to 9-mile treks. It also may not be the best for families bringing young children, since there are no bailout points or shortcuts. Once you're halfway around, you are committed to a 9 mile hike, whether you turn around, or keep going. Cyclists and equestrians should find it to be an easy ride, and for runners practicing for marathons, three laps around the loop is 27 miles, just a bit longer than a full marathon.
To Get There: The park's address is 13201 Vollmer Road in Black Forest, which is north of Shoup Road If you use that address in Google maps to get there, it will bring you to a point about a quarter mile north of the actual entry. Watch for the entry sign.
Things you need to Know: The only trail is a single 9-mile loop. While you can turn around at any time, if you follow the suggested clockwise route, (see slideshow), once you get to the Grandview Overlook, you are halfway around and might as well continue the rest of the way. There are no "bail-out" points, and you are exposed to the elements, especially the sun, during most of this hike. Bathroom facilities are available, but there is no water available. Bring plenty. The trail is easy to moderate in difficulty, mostly on soft surfaces and nothing rocky or technical. There is parking for autos and horse trailers. Dogs are permitted, but must be leashed. Watch for wildlife, especially herds of elk. The space is open to hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians. Motorized vehicles are not permitted. The hours for the site are April to October: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
and November to March: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Explore.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc. to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.