This one rides better than it reads. In fact the real knock on this route is that it is hard to figure out some times if you are on the right trail segment or not. Mostly, this is a signage problem, as in the City of Aurora is doing a terrible job labeling and signing their trails. It is really that bad and really that simple. But first, a few general thoughts on access and the ride character. I usually ride this clockwise and like heading out 7th Ave east across Colorado Blvd then continuing on 6th Avenue to Uinta St. Sixth Ave is not everyone’s cup of tea so feel free to ride east on 7th Ave instead. This ride takes you way out east, past all of the suburban sprawl, to a point where you can see the plains and nothing beyond them (at least if you look in the right direction). If you look to the northeast from Plains Park, you can also see the giant white bubbles that mark Buckley Air Force Base’s electronic monitoring stations. The dirt trail along the Plains Conservation Center is tricky in a few places but worth the extra effort. There are a few spots to pay attention, especially where the signage is inadeqaute.
Working clockwise, the exit from the High Line Canal to Toll Gate Creek Trail isn’t obvious. You’ll have passed under Chambers Rd, passed by an old historic farm, crossed over the High Line Canal and poof! there it will be. Look left, cross down and under Alameda Ave, and all will be well.
After that you’ll be riding south on Toll Gate. You’ll come into Horseshoe Park and will need to ride east on Powerline Trail. Your clue for when to turn is the power lines themselves. Look for them! They’re big and tall and hard to miss. Keep riding east.
You’ll eventually come to a park with a playground. Work your way around to the west side and you’ll have a choice of a dirt trail or a paved trail. Both are fun. If you ride the dirt, it stops (and you should, too) at Hampden. Ride the sidewalk east to Skills Park, and go north through the park then angle left onto a (you guessed it) No Name Trail. Crazy, isn’t it? No wonder they cannot stick a sign in the ground. If you are riding the paved trail, look for the no name trail angling sharply off to the right. Follow it to West Toll Gate Creek Trail back to Horseshoe Park and from there ride home the way you came or head southwest to Cherry Creek Reservoir. Alternately, there’s a short stretch of West Toll Gate Creek Trail that leads south to Dartmouth Ave if you’re interested in some of Aurora’s finest on-street riding.
If you’ve made it back to Horseshoe Park and want to ride the full loop, all you have to do is figure out how to get out and south the Spillway Trail. It is not easy, but well worth it, if only to try to imagine what kind of cataclysmic event it would take for the spillway to ever come into play. And if you can imagine that, what would Horseshoe Park look like under that much water? The map below probably explains the route and route finding difficulties better than I can, so take a look and give it a try. The neighborhoods just south of Horseshoe are not super busy, so even if you are off route somehow, nothing ugly is going to happen. Once you’re on the Spillway Trail, the only remaining obstacles are the several at-grade crossings just north of the park. Use the crosswalks, be patient, and all will be well.
One final note. I’ve shown this as a kind of open-jawed route with access from the north along 11th Ave to CU Medical School and the Anschutz Medical Plaza and from the south through the reservoir and from Denver along the Cherry Creek Trail. Rding in from northwest Aurora to Southwest Aurora is a tale of two cities (almost). The contrast is stark between the older and seemingly less affluent northwest and the suburban southwest. It is one of those things that makes riding a bicycle so interesting–there’s no screen between you and the world around you.
Like the Florida West Line Loop, this route heads west on Florida and returns on the Lakewood Dry Gulch Trail. Instead of turning back at Alameda Ave, continue climbing on the southeast side of Alameda from Green Mountain and descend to the intersection with Jewell Ave and Bear Creek Blvd. From there, transition from the trail to the shoulder of Alameda Ave and head west towards the C-470 Trail, Red Rocks, and Morrison. Before you cross C-470 check for traffic and turn left immediately after Rooney Rd onto a spur of the trail. This takes you down to the C-470 trail which connects Chatfield Reservoir and the Platte River Trail to Golden and the 6th Ave Trail. Ride north on the trail and check your tolerance for dirt, local conditions and either exit the trail on a short, steep dirt trail or circumnavigate the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to reach Indiana Ave and 6th Ave. The dirt trail takes you up to Bayaud and Ellsworth Ave and then down a bomber descent to the same intersection.
This is a busy intersection, especially at rush hour, so use caution as you make your way through it. A sidewalk on the west side of Indiana under 6th Ave provides a safe haven in both directions if you don’t feel like dueling with traffic. The rest of the route is just fun and interesting with only the on/off ramp at 13th Ave and Kipling St providing any real excitement. Use a little caution as you enter and exit the ramp: there’s frequently sand at the bottom of the ramp and the design requires a 90 degree turn onto a narrow sidewalk, onto or from 14th Ave.
This loop ride has a good mix of surface roads and trails and takes in a part of the metro region most people do not get to on their bicycles. To reach it from the Denver side, start at Confluence Park or work your way south and west from Washington Park to Iowa St, which provides an east-west link to the edge of Overland Golf Course. From there, ride the crumpy sidewalk north to Florida and head west. I usually ride this clockwise, so that I am riding west on Florida to the Green Mountain area, but the loop is just as good in the reverse direction. Lakewood Gulch Trail was transformed by the West Line FasTracks project and now consists of a mix of new concrete trail and relatively quiet frontage road, sometimes both. The only caution here is to make sure you are on the trail side (north) of the West Line where it crosses over Wadsworth Blvd. An at-grade crossing is marginally possible, but not for the fainthearted. Florida, Garrison, and Union Ave all have marked bike lanes to separate you from passing cars (save for a short stretch on Garrison northbound between Alameda and Cedar, making this a good route to try out your urban biking skills. If you have the time, the slightly longer version takes you out into a quiet Lakewood neighborhood on the flank of Green Mountain itself. A decent paved trail alternates with a frontage road to swing you back to Union Blvd where a trail resumes, partially on the north side of Alameda, partially on the south.
I’ve recently found myself cursing the gods, contractors, cars, and traffic as I’ve been forced off the usual trails and into sometimes sketchy detours around construction projects that are now getting into full swing in the metro region. It is something like Shakespeare’s ditty on love: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Seemingly, there’s construction everywhere: Cherry Creek Trail, Clear Creek Trail, Sand Creek Trail, Westerly Creek, etc. Below are annotated construction and detour maps for the major, long-term construction projects I’ve encountered. Shoot me an email if I’ve missed something. Here’s one I missed: the obnoxious (and at night unmarked) steel plates between Monaco and Colorado Blvds. These are part of a Denver Water clean out and refurbishment project and they extend out into the bike lane along Montview. They are visible during the day but not lit by flashing lights at night. Use caution.
This first is the easiest, a construction project to allow for a new brewery’s sewer outfall into the South Platte. The stretch on the road easy and straightforward.Next up is the detour along the South Platte River Trail at Confluence Park. Denver Parks and Recreation suggests in this map a detour through Commons Park. That works OK, but is circuitous. On the plus side, it will allow you to stop off at the Porta-Potty in Commons Park (with a side trip to Stoner Hill if you need to toke up) and thus avoid the really smelly Porta-Potty at the Denver Skate Park. An alternate detour takes you between the old 19th St bridge and 15th St via Water St, a far more interesting route, with a side option to the Denver Beer Company on Platte St. South of 8th Ave construction continues on the 6th Ave bridge, and necessitates a longish detour out into what I think of as white bread country–not for the people but for the giant Safeway bakeries in the area. Good smells! The flyer for this one promised a two month detour, but construction drags on.
In the Stapleton area, construction of a new park and RTD East line construction have disrupted a portion of Sand Creek Greenway Trail, roughly between Central Park Blvd and Havana St. All of this should get better in the coming months as RTD is now testing the new light rail line and expects to open the line for service between Downtown and DIA in 2016. Slightly further east, Sand Creek Trail is disrupted again between Peoria St and Potomac St along Fitzsimmons Parkway. RTD was forced to realign the 225 FasTracks light rail project to protect sensitive research instruments at the CU Medical School and Anschutz Medical Plaza. The detour is pretty simple and not onerous if you are just trying to skip around the construction and get to Potomac and Colfax or the medical institutions, but more confusing if you are trying to continue east on the Sand Creek Greenway Trail. When I last road through there, late afternoon, I was able to leave Fitzsimmons, ride through the Park and north to the Greenway and Park Lane Drive. Alternately, you’ll be able to continue along the trail via Peoria St and 30th Ave. The Clear Creek Trail detour was my best adventure. I somehow missed the sign to continue east along 56th Ave and wound up on a sketchy muddy sidewalk on Federal Blvd, wandering through parts of Adams County I have not visited since I was a private eye in the 70s. I was glad to see that the strip club I had visited on official business looks likes it has survived, reincarnated as Adult World at 65th and Federal. The correct detour looks simpler, if less interesting. Incidentally, if you’ve been hoping to ride the Little Dry Creek Trail (an interesting experience almost on par with a visit to Adult World), you’ll have to ride the detour I made, along Pecos St to 70th Ave.
The Cherry Creek Trail at Arapahoe Rd is inching towards completion with work hopefully completed by July, 2015 in the trail extension under the new bridge. Go here for updates. Finally, if you like your Denver Trails detour information in a single handy place, go here. Note the suggestion that the CCT at Havana may be due for some flood mitigation work.
Get out there and ride.
There’s a new climb in town. Clear Creek County has recently finished paving the last 2 miles of Witter Gulch Road, which runs between Squaw Pass Road and Upper Bear Creek Road near Evergreen. While Witter Gulch lacked the sustained steepness of the dirt portion of Crawford Hill Gulch Road in Golden Gate State Park, its last 3 miles was still a sustained climb of almost 8% and featured multiple switchbacks to up the ante. The loop totals approximately 22 miles with a 2,700 foot elevation gain.
Shown above is one way to incorporate it into a longer loop, riding clockwise from Kittredge. Once past Evergreen Lake the traffic is light throughout the climb and the views of the impressive first and second homes along the creek will keep you entertained. If you ride the full loop the only cautionary stretch is between Bergen Park and the Kerr Gulch Road turnoff. There’s no way not to ride on the shoulder of the Evergreen Parkway. Minimize the unpleasantness (the shoulder is adequate) by cutting along Bergen Parkway. As you come flying down the Kerr Gulch Rd, remember that the surface of the last mile ranges from rough to very rough. Beyond that your only likely obstacles are random deer and elk in the road.
For those who ride from Denver and the Front Range, you can access this from Lookout Mountain and Genesee by riding a short and unsettling distance along the shoulder of I-70 between exits 252 and 254, by riding up from Morrison along the well-traveled Highway 74 (about 8 miles, winding, narrow, shoulder comes and goes), or from any number of nearby routes between Evergreen and Deer Creek Canyon. And there’s no reason not to start in Idaho Springs if you want to make a full day of it (75 miles, 8,400 feet). The profile below shows the route beginning and ending in Kittredge. You can find a Ride With GPS version with cue sheets and other goodies here.
As many know, the Cherry Creek Trail at Arapahoe Road is incomplete. Trail users must use Jordan Rd to connect what is only a very short distance (.2 miles) of unfinished trail. The work requires you to ride 1.5 on busy Jordan Rd. The shot below shows the current state of affairs: trail in red (paved) or brown (dirt) and the on-street portion in blue.
CDOT is working to connect the two ends of the trail. here’s the blurb posted on the website:
In early November 2013, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) began a bridge reconstruction project on State Highway (SH) 88 over Cherry Creek in Arapahoe County, from just east of South Jordan Road to South Chambers Way.
Originally built in 1959, the existing bridge needed to be replaced with a structure that meets current standards. In addition, there will be construction on the Cherry Creek Trail. The trail will extend under Arapahoe Road, giving pedestrians and cyclists improved connectivity.
SEMA Construction Inc. of Centennial, Colorado, is the contractor for this $18 million project.
To date, the project is 25 percent complete. Work is ongoing for Phase 1,which included demolition of the south end of the bridge and the eastbound lanes, a major milestone in the project. Caissons have been drilled and work is focused on building structures, including columns, girder placement and back-filling abutments. The first phase is still on target to conclude on time, concurrent with the beginning of Phase 2 at the end of July/early August.
More than half of the floodplain expansion has been completed, and stabilization is scheduled for this month. In the coming weeks, crews will seed and landscape 50 percent of the project.
Please note: Another project will be starting in the area of SH 88, at the Jordan Road and Arapahoe Road intersection. However, this project is separate and not connected or related to SEMA Construction Inc.’s current construction. For information on this project, please call 303-419-4903.
Work began in early November 2013 and is expected to last through May 2015. Normal daytime work hours will be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with weekend work when needed. Normal nighttime work hours will be Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
This loop is accessible from multiple major points: Stapleton, Lowry, central Denver, the Highline Canal, and the Cherry Creek Trail. It also gives riders a great opportunity to ride through parts of Aurora that see little cycle traffic and thus to get some relief from the crowding on the Cherry Creek and Platte River Trails. The maps shows the multiple entry points possible to the loop, including brand new connections from the Stapleton area between 26th and 25th avenues.Navigationally, there are a few tricky spots, especially as you make your way from Iliff south to the Cherry Creek Trail. These maps and photos will make it easier.
If you are coming or going from the Stapleton area, the route between Montview Blvd/25th Avenue and Sable Blvd at 13th Ave is pretty straightforward. The Denver portion of Montview has a dedicated bike lane that disappears at the Aurora/Denver border, at Yosemite St. I recommend using 25th Ave to ride between Clinton St and Peoria St. The traffic intensity is lower and the views are better. Once you’ve gotten to Fitzsimmons Parkway near the Anschutz Medical Center, cross over Sand Creek on a bridge just east of the golf course to reach 29th Ave and Sable Blvd. A small amount of dirt (crusher fines) is involved. And if you are coming from Stapleton and are looking for a slightly shorter approach to and from the loop, use Moline St between 25th Ave and 2nd Ave with a jog west to Lima St to reach 1st Ave and the loop itself.
If you riding from Denver, 6th Ave is a great, if surprising choice, between Colorado Blvd and Uinta St. There’s a narrow parking lane in this stretch, but I suspect it is so narrow that most people are reluctant to park in it and it becomes a good de facto bike lane instead. Once you’ve worked your way through the Lowry neighborhood leave Lowry Parkway at Yosemite Way and work you way east and south to Moline and then Lima St. From there it is a fine ride on dedicated bike lanes south to the reservoir, interrupted only by traffic lights at the major intersections. Once across Iliff Ave, work east and south on Wesley and Nome St to reach Yale Ave and then Peoria St. The stretch between Peoria and Parker Rd is fast and reasonably safe, even at rush hour. There are three lanes and drivers are mostly friendly. Watch out for the multiple deep manhole covers in the right lane. At Parker Rd, take the western turn lane to access a wide sidewalk and underpass that avoids the off ramp from I-225. Then ride east to the RTD station (Nine Mile) and south through it to join the Cherry Creek Trail.
If you are northbound on Peoria from Parker or even if you find the traffic intensity not to your liking, there’s a sweet neighborhood route that takes you across Yale from Nome or Oakland streets, through a quiet residential area, and then out to Cornell St on a narrow path through the Cherokee Apartment complex. The path runs parallel to a shallow drainage ditch and shows up as public bicycle route on Arapahoe County GIS maps. I found it odd the first few times I rode the path but nobody I’ve encountered has ever said anything at all.Ride the Cherry Creek Trail into the state park, then follow the trail easterly (towards the east park entrance) until you come across the exit to the Spillway Trail, on your left. Leave the park. Cross on-and off-ramps to Parker Rd to reach the Spillway Trail proper. Follow it northeast, crossing Chambers Rd and Iliff Ave in the process and passing through a nice succession of local parks. North of Iliff you’ve entered the Horseshoe Natural Area, a place where multiple trails converge without great signage. Although it looks as if you should maintain a northerly direction after entering the natural area, it is more convenient to turn right after approximately .3 miles and work your way around the north and west sides of the baseball fields. Hug the creek on your left to reach the Tollgate Creek Trail. Anything else will take you further east (Power Line Trail) or south again (Tollgate Creek Trail and West Tollgate Creek Trail). Ride north.After crossing or passing under the major east-west roads of the metro area, the trail sneaks off to the right just before Alameda Ave so that you do not have to cross Alameda at grade. The by-pass is narrow, looks almost like a concrete foot path and is easy to miss. As you emerge on the north side of Alameda, turn right to ride the Highline Canal Trail under Chambers Rd, pass the Aurora City Government Center, and continue on to Sable Blvd. Ride north on Sable in the right lane, jog right, then left on Sable at 6th Ave and continue north to 13th Ave or 29th Ave, depending on your route selection. 13th Ave dead ends at what will be (in 2015) a major transit center for RTD buses and a FasTrack Light Rail stop. It is a huge construction zone at the moment (mid-2014) but a path still runs to and under I-225 and across the creek on a sketchy metal bridge. It is narrow, but safe. Plans call for a continued trail through the new station area.
Ride east on 13th Ave to Del Mar Parkway. A quick left and a right on Geneva Street bring you to 11th Ave. Ride it west to Uinta St, go south and you’ve completed the loop.
If you ride this loop in the opposite direction, one of the tricky spots is the left turn from Sable Blvd southbound to the Highline Canal. There’s a median through which you pass–but the pass-through is at an angle, is narrow, and is raised. Patience works well here, first to let southbound traffic behind you pass and clear and second to let northbound traffic go by, as well. The only other tricky spot is northbound on Peoria St between Parker Road and Yale Ave. As discussed above, traffic intensity on the weekends is not terrible on Peoria northbound, but if that’s not a happy option, use the neighborhood by-pass through the Cherokee Apartment complex.
In the dark days of the year, when the days are short and there’s not enough light to ride before or after work, I frequently ride at mid-day, over lunch for an hour or so. The rides are not very complicated. They take about an hour to complete. And they are geographically diverse so that I don’t get that stuck in a rut feeling where I’m always going to Washington Park or out to the Cherry Creek Reservoir and back, like some mindless lemming with no itch for new places and sights. They are also useful as easy recovery rides. These short loops include the Stock Show Loop, which takes you mostly north and slightly east of downtown, the Eisenhower Park Loop (south and east) and the Bible Park Loop (east and south). Bryant Street takes you south and west.
Most of what you need to know is on the maps themselves. But a few words are probably helpful.
Bryant Street Loop features my favorite short hill in metro Denver, between Dartmouth and Bates, two blocks of sheer steepness that flirt with the mid-teens in grade. Were the hill longer, the neighborhood would be overrun with Lycra. There are a few other, smaller hills, too, on Zuni Street as well. If they catch your attention, check out the Hill Junky Circuit. I’ve suggested riding this loop clockwise for two reasons. It makes the Mississippi stretch more manageable (a longish downhill run instead of a slow slog uphill) and it makes the navigation to Washington St (the one-way southbound that parallels Emerson St) a lot easier. But if you’re persistent enough, you’ll figure out how to make it work. The sketchiest part of the ride is between Platte River Dr and Broadway on Mississippi. The road is rough. There’s a gloomy underpass. And sometimes the traffic is intense. Don’t let these factors throw you off. Either time your entrance into the tunnel so the bulk of the traffic has passed, or find and use a sidewalk on the north side of Mississippi for a relatively safe passage through. Don’t miss the sheer bliss of the bike lane northbound on Emerson St. It is a great alternative to Washington Park.
If you are signed up for the Triple Bypass and think you need one more hard training ride to be completely ready, here’s the ticket. The Silver Road Half Century starts in Georgetown, rides up and over Guanella Pass, and returns to Georgetown. 48 miles, more or less, and more than 6,000 vertical feet up to a high point of 11,669. Twice. The combination of serious climbing and serious altitude should be irresistible. The SRHC will be held on June 30, 2013, in conjunction with the Guanella Pass Hill Climb, an organized USAC sanctioned race. So if you are into hard rides but not racing, the SRHC is the one for you. The ride is limited to the first 250 riders who sign up and is fully supported with aid stations, first aid support, and Al’s Pit BBQ on the U.S. 285 side of the ride. (Al’s, by the way, is worth a trip in its own right, but probably not when you are halfway through this ride, with 3,000+ feet of climbing still to go.)
You’ll have to get up early–the ride starts at 7:00 a.m. in waves of 50 a few minutes apart to avoid congestion with the racers, the first group of which head out at 8:45. The ride benefits Colorado Lungs4Life, The Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease, Georgetown Trust for Conservation and Preservation, and the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado Junior Development Program. These are serious charities and the ride expects you to raise serious money: registration costs $55 and you must raise $150 or more to enter the ride. At the $150 level you get a beautiful hat and t-shirt. Above that level there are these jerseys and vests from Pactimo.
Tollgate Creek is the major tributary of Sand Creek and drains (or at least used to before Cherry Creek and Aurora Reservoirs were built) the eastern plains between the two reservoirs. As close as it is to most urban cyclists, it sees little bicycle traffic. If the lack of use reflects uncertainty about how to link it up to make a loop, this map will help. The trail proper runs from the historic Delaney Farm in Aurora south to Iliff Ave. A branch of the trail heads southeast at Horseshoe Park and winds down to Quincy Ave with an optional tour on the Highline Canal further south to the Aurora Reservoir.
The route shown here is Denver-centric and takes advantage of Montview Blvd and the little-used but very quiet 25th Ave to reach Fitzsimmons Parkway. A bridge across Sand Creek spills you out on 30th Ave and then to Sable Blvd. Sable Blvd will carry you south to the junction with the Highline Canal (apprximately 2nd Ave). Sable Blvd between 30th Ave and the Highline Canal offers very good on-street cycling. There’s a jog at 6th Ave and a left turn back onto Sable, but it’s entirely manageable if you make the turn from the right (north) turn-lane of two. The intersection with, and turn onto, the Highline Canal Trail is not so friendly. First, a very narrow bike lane carries you up a hill to where the trail crosses Sable. Second, the concrete median has a diagonal cut in it for cyclists but it’s a hump, it’s narrow, and not easily accessible if there’s traffic behind you. Third, there’s no turn lane. So if you’re feeling pinched by traffic your first time through, stop to the right, in the bike lane. Wait for traffic to clear behind you and roll into the median slowly while you gauge the flow of northbound traffic. Once across you’re on a great stretch of the Highline Trail. It winds along the canal, passes by the Aurora city center and joins the Tollgate Trail at Alameda Ave. Exit right and up then immediately down to access Tollgate Trail. I’m always a little confused here because you leave a smooth gray concrete trail and connect to Tollgate on a rough, dusty looking stretch of pavement that hardly looks like a trail at all. Go south from here to smooth sailing on Tollgate Trail. At Mississippi Ave you surface, go east, then drop down again to creek level. At Mexico and Iliff Ave negotiate at-grade crossings with traffic lights. You’ll approach a triple trail junction just before Iliff. There’s little signage but the baseball field at Horseshoe Park will be your sign to turn west to cross the creek and then head south.
Follow the trail south through the sprawling Wheel and Olympic Parks to reach the Cherry Creek Reservoir Spillway Trail. Fine riding continues. Cross Chambers Rd at the light. Ride south. Just before reaching the reservoir be wary of high speed traffic at the Parker Rd and Hampden Ave interchange. There are traffic lights at both crossings and they are essential at rush hour. Enter Cherry Creek State Park and make choices about returning to where you start. Turn right for the direct route (along the Cherry Creek Trail) or left to circle the park or explore points beyond.
If you ride this in reverse order, the only caution is the turn from Fitzsimmons Parkway onto Peoria St to reach 25th Ave. It is uphill, there are only two lanes, and there can be high traffic intensity during rush hours. It is a short tenth of a mile but if you are feeling beleaguered, there’s a narrow sidewalk you can use.