Elevation: ~2,100 ft
Difficulty: Moderate to hard, depending on your fitness level and route-finding skills
Highlights: Forest, meadow, wildflowers, rock gardens, peaks with panoramic views
Terrain: At times sandy, rocky, sooty, and scrambly
I found the Gardner Peak Trail in Pine Valley quite grand. Indeed, it may be my new favorite Pine Valley hike. The Gardner Peak Trail delivers on several levels—it’s varied and interesting all the way to the top. It’s a steady, but fairly gentle climb (2k) through forest, through nature’s rock gardens, through a meadow, (and a recent burn area), and on up to a couple of peaks—2 rocky and the one, eponymous, taller tree-lined Gardner. Pick a peak, any peak, and play. Plenty of grippy, rock scrambling opportunities. The panoramic views are a delightful reward as well. The trail is easy to follow until you get to mile 3, then it becomes a route-finding exercise, or a create your own route. The trail is runnable if you’re up for it.
At about .75 the trail connects with the Canal Trail, which is both runnable and mountain bike-able. (Stay tuned: I will be coming back on 2 wheels for the Canal Trail and will report then.)
Notes: If you’re going to the top, I suggest using a GPS or the AllTrails app. Also, your feet and ankles might be happier in hiking boots. If you have tender knees, a pole or 2 might come in handy on the descent. Dogs & horses are allowed.
Check out these other Pine Valley hikes: