Distance: 6.3 km (4 mi) Loop - or 14 km (8.7 mi) for the extended route from Vilaflor
Elevation: 1710 - 2150 m (5605-7060 feet) or starting at 1602 m (5254 ft) from Vilaflor
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Time of Year: Anytime
|Some of the ash and pumice layers along the side of the trail|
The Canary Islands are a geologic and ecological masterpiece. This volcanic island chain off the coast of North Africa is the result of a hot spot under the Atlantic Ocean that works almost exactly the same as the Hawaiian Island chain. Teide Volcano on Tenerife is in fact the largest volcano on earth outside of Hawaii, standing 12,198 feet above sea level, but over 24,600 feet above the ocean floor.
|Hiking in the pine forest near the trailhead|
Tenerife is a heavily visited island by Europeans because of its mild temperate climate and spectacular features, plus it is Spanish territory so it meets European standards for cleanliness, food, and currency (Euro). However, not many Americans make it there. Most people visit Teide caldera to see the high volcanic slopes. What is less visited are the interesting features on the outside of the caldera, such as the beautiful Paisaje Lunar. This area is called "lunar" because of the moon-like volcanic landscape.
|A view of the snow-capped summit of Teide Volcano along the trail|
The Paisaje Lunar is located just above the village of Vilaflor on the southern slopes of the island. It is located about 23 kilometers above the resort community of Los Christianos on the dry side of the island. But, at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, it is located in the Canary Island Pine band that encircles the island, and can often be shrouded in fog, especially in the morning. You can access it by driving to Vilaflor. For the extended route you can leave right from town on the PR-TF 72 trail. To do the shorter loop, drive about 9 km above the town and look for white signs for Paisaje Lunar. Then drive down this rough dirt road to the trailhead.
|A view of the cloud shrouded island of La Canaria from the slopes|
The trail starts off in a Canary Island Pine forest, amongst well drained cinders and lava rocks. This certainly isn't the densest forest on the island, but there are some enormous old trees scattered about. The trail will climb gently up to treeline where expansive views of Teide Volcano and the south coast will open up.
The Canary Island Pine is an interesting relict species. There are only scattered pine populations in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains 150 miles to the east and the nearest extensive pine forests are 850 miles away on mainland Spain. But, as it turns out, these pines are not related to the Mediterranean pine species. In fact, its closest relative is in the Himalayas! This certainly is an interesting biogeographical story waiting to be determined.
|A view of the south coast of Tenerife|
After crossing above treeline, you will come across the first "lunar" outcroppings. These are layers of ash and pumice laid down by eruptions of Teide Volcano. The trail will then reach a nice overlook before descending down the slope toward the "lunar" proper. In a gulch, erosion has revealed a number of columns, hoodoos, and rock formations in the ash and pumice.
|The hoodoos of the Lunar|
There are benches here and this is the halfway point, so it is a good place to rest and eat lunch. From here the trail just cruises across the pine forest lazily back toward the car. The best views were in the first half, but there are a number of good overlooks down to the south coast and across to the cloud-shrouded island of La Canaria across the wind swept Atlantic ocean.
|An endemic lily along the trail|
Just before getting back to the trailhead, there is a cabin and a particularly large Canary Island Pine. What a spectacular place to hike away from the crowds to get a nice overview of the geology and ecology of Tenerife.
|Canary Island Pines have extra long needles to capture the morning mists and drip it onto their roots|