Signs along the “east side” of the Black Diamond Open Space indicate its favored status among mountain bikers. On the “west side” the ladder bridge spans a peaceful stretch of Ravensdale Creek. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Signs along the “east side” of the Black Diamond Open Space indicate its favored status among mountain bikers. On the “west side” the ladder bridge spans a peaceful stretch of Ravensdale Creek. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Black Diamond Open Space: plenty of room for trail hikers, mountain bikers

This is the third in a series of articles about local hikes.

This is the third in a series of articles about local trails, campgrounds, parks, etc. – simply about places to enjoy the outdoors without traveling too far. Ideally, this will encourage folks to get outside, get some exercise and forget that we have been cooped up for months.

You can read parts one and two here.

The focus will be on destinations in our own back yard and all will be of the “day trip” variety.

The target audience is the novice or, at least, not a seasoned veteran of the woods. Nothing here will involve summiting Mount Rainier or spending days trekking the Wonderland Trail.

If you have a suggestion for a hiking/camping adventure, pass it along. Just email khanson@courierherald.com. Offer a brief description from your personal experience.

This week’s walk through the woods keeps us close to home, visiting the Black Diamond Open Space.

Like life itself, this easily-accessed, multi-use parcel of land has its pros and cons.

But first, a bit about the sprawling, 1,240 acres that is maintained under the auspices of King County Parks. First, it’s easy to and, unlike remote backcountry trails, parking is plentiful. Restrooms are an added amenity. Just travel north through Black Diamond on state Route 169 and, in a couple of miles, there’s a large parking lot on the right (east side of 169). The lot will accommodate everything from motorcycles to heavy-duty pickups pulling horse trailers.

Just a wee bit to the north, there’s another lot on the west side of the highway with room for perhaps 20 vehicles.

From a hiker’s view, there’s plenty of difference between east and west.

The west side provides an easy walk on well-worn trails that are sometimes wide and, on occasion, call for a single-file approach. There are a multitude of trail options and nearly all are flat.

A bonus is serene Ravensdale Creek that flows through the area on its way to a merger with the Green River. That eventually feeds the Duwamish River which empties into Elliott Bay.

A great stopping point is the “ladder bridge” (it’s marked on the trail) that spans a quiet pool. On a recent Friday afternoon visit, the spot was being enjoyed by three dogs and their two human companions.

The trail network on the west side of the highway can also be accessed from Lake Sawyer Regional Park.

Now, to the other side.

The open space east of 169 is a favorite of mountain bikers. There are plenty of opportunities for casual hiking, but the general vibe lends itself to two-wheeled adventure. Many trails are banked and bermed and man-made jumps dot the landscape.

Those patrolling the grounds on foot should always be on the lookout for fast-moving bikes. It’s a safety thing.

The trails – bearing colorful names like Brain Wave, Spooky, Fresh Squeezed and Sasquatch, to name just a few – stay clear courtesy of the bikers themselves. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance schedules work parties to keep routes passable and safe.

If exercise is the goal, the east side can be much more strenuous. It’s a pretty good climb for those who keep looking uphill, though nothing out of reach for the novice hiker.

According to the King County Parks website, the Black Diamond Open space includes wetlands, peat bogs, streams and portions of the protected migratory corridor known as the Wildlife Habitat Network. In all, there are 17 miles of trail for non-motorized use.

Black Diamond Open Space is protected land, a wide swath of green in a region of encroaching development. There’s plenty of housing and the booming Four Corners area just a few miles north and the growing-by-the-minute Ten Trails planned community is a bit to the southwest.

The BDOS was once home to hopeful coal miners, but was eventually used for the more dependable resource of timber. The land was harvested more than once before King County took control.

The land converted to the Black Diamond Open Space is significant because it straddles both the Cedar River Watershed and the Green River Watershed. Rock Creek, a fish-bearing stream, runs through the site and drains to the Cedar River and, eventually, to Puget Sound. Along with Ravensdale Creek, they are valuable for cutthroat trout, coho, sockeye, and chinook salmon.

The Black Diamond Open Space is just that – open. There are requirements for a special pass or permit.


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