If you’re looking for a nice easy hike for the family or visitors, consider the drive to Pine Valley Ranch Park. The Jefferson County Open Space Park only has about four miles of trail and two of them can be combined for a scenic, easy stroll along the South Platte River.
The park is about seven miles from Highway 285 at Pine Junction (directions below). When you enter the park, continue past several driveways, past two parking lots until you reach the bottom parking lot where the road ends. The trails begin behind the bathrooms.
At the map board/sign board, pick up a map, and turn left. Follow the Pine Lake Loop Trail south, then west, as it heads to the lake and along the south shore. You’ll pass the Park View Loop. (It’s the staircase on the left.) Continue around the lake until you see a few stairs heading up a small knoll. Go up and over the knoll (past the Buck Gulch Trail turnoff) and you should spot the sign for the North Fork View Trail.
The North Fork View Trail is a short trail through a wide-open field. This is a hiker-only trail so it’s quiet as you walk through the grass. The trail ends at a bridge over the North Fork of the South Platte River. Cross the bridge to the Narrow Gauge Trail and turn left.
The Narrow Gauge Trail is an old railroad bed. The Denver, South Park & Pacific ran here from 1878 to 1937 carrying passengers and freight. The 42-mile roundtrip from Denver to nearby Pine Grove took 2.5 hours and cost $1.50. Read more about the train and the park’s history.
The trail is wide, flat and it follows the river. It’s a 10-20 minute walk to a gate where you’ll turn around a head back. On the return trip, bypass the bridge you took to get on the narrow Gauge Trail and stay on the north side of the river back to the parking lot.
If you want a longer hike on the return trip, turn right on the second bridge you come to and hike up the Buck Gulch – Strawberry Jack – Park View loop. See the park map here.
Details: The hike from the parking lot, along the North Fork View to the end of the Narroq Gauge Trail and back is about 3 miles with maybe 100 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Denver, take Highway 285 south about 21 miles to Pine Junction. Turn south on County Road 126/Pine Valley Road. Take the windy road 5.8 miles and turn right on Crystal Lake Road. Follow the road about 1.3 miles to the lower parking lot where the road ends.
In the Pike National Forest, don’t miss the Shafthouse history hike and Devils Head fire lookout. Also in the area is Roosevelt Lakes and Gibson Lake. Check out more great hikes here.
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