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.
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.
Fires in Fort Collins have played havoc with Bicycling Racing Association of Colorado’s ability to stage a championship race for masters and juniors this year. The Fort Collins Cycling Festival was slotted to host the races this year but the High Park Fire, which destroyed 90,000 acres west of Fort Collins, made that impossible. With little time to organize, BRAC, Lima Beans Cycling, and Team Rocky Mountain Health Plans pulled together both a masters and a juniors state championship. The new location is in Keenesburg, Colorado, just 50 minutes from Denver on I-76. I haven’t ridden the course yet but hope to this weekend. The race will also be a fundraiser to help those affected by the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires, a chance as BRAC puts it, “for the cycling community to come together and show Colorado that we care.” Rocky Mountain Health Plans has kicked off the fundraising with a $500 donation. The racing begins at 8:30 a.m., August 19 with the juniors headed out on a 19K course, followed in short order by everyone else. You can find the race flyer here and sign up here.
Metro Denver has a goodly number of fine roads that run east and west (think Dartmouth Ave, Montview Blvd, 26th Ave, and 46th Ave just to name a few) but not nearly enough that run north and south. I’m not sure why this is so and I speculate about it endlessly as I flog my way north and south, interrupted by stoplights, stop signs, hospitals, and golf courses. I’m being slightly hyperbolic. Tennyson St, Zuni St, and Lowell Blvd are good in stretches. Holly St is OK. Sable Blvd in Aurora works OK if traffic intensity is light. Further west Rooney Rd and Johnson Rd connect to create a really good stretch of climbing heaven. That dearth of good north south routes was the genesis of the Metro Loop de Loops ride. Garrison St on the west runs mostly uninterrupted from US 285 (Hampden Ave) to 26th Ave, much of it with a dedicated bike lane. It totals about 7 miles if you include the stretch of Estes St between Morrison Rd and US 285. The east side of this loop is a little more cobbled together: the “standard” route through Washington Park to Dartmouth Ave and then to Clarkson St. The beauties of this loop are many. You’ll use portions of five of the metro area trail systems (Cherry Creek, Clear Creek, South Platte River, Big Dry Creek, and Bear Creek). You’ll pass through or near multiple parks and golf courses. You’ll ride by at least five big lakes and reservoirs. Add in two KOM segments at Berry Ave and Tennyson St and you’ve got all the makings of a classic metro loop.
The route finding is pretty straightforward with maybe three tricky spots at Bowles Ave, in Wheatridge, and then in sneaking across 38th Ave to return to Confluence Park. These are all places you are likely to return to at some point in your cycling life so you may as well figure them out now. I’m including a couple of detailed maps to help you if this is your first time. If you’ve ridden some of CBM’s other routes, you’ll recognize this as a conglomerate of several other routes. The description below is for a clockwise ride, which I like for the short climbing segments on Berry Ave and Tennyson St. Switch them around in your head if you want to go the other way.
Start in Confluence Park. Head upstream along the Cherry Creek Trail to exit at Downing and make your way through Washington Park. Exit the park at Franklin St and work your way south and slightly west to Clarkson St. Ride Clarkson all the way south to Sunset Lane (3 miles) and watch for the Big Dry Creek signs. Jog over to Washington St and Powers Ave and you’ll soon be flying down the Big Dry Creek Trail to join the S Platte Trail, about 2.5 miles. Go south about 1.5 miles and exit at a roundabout immediately before Bowles Ave. Look for the big white tennis bubble as your landmark. Skirt the bubble to the south to gain the sidewalk of Bowles. Cross Federal Blvd (carefully!) on the sidewalk and ride west (still on the Bowles Ave sidewalk) to a narrow fence opening onto Julian St. Home free. Ride north on Julian St to Berry Ave. Go west. The first KOM segment begins at Lowell Blvd. and climbs 5-6 blocks steeply.
Ride through the Bow Mar area skirting Bowles and Marston Reservoirs on roads of your choice (there are several options, all good) or just stay on Bow Mar Drive to connect to Sheridan Blvd. Take note of but ignore the signs at the entrance to Bow Mar that say there’s no exit. They are liars. Ride out of Bow Mar on Sheridan to Quincy and turn east. Both Sheridan and Quincy are fine for riding a bike. At the Lowell Blvd traffic light go south (left) through a narrow opening in the chain link fence. If it is your first time, use caution: cars are not really expecting you to make a left turn here. Ride south on Lowell Blvd past Fort Logan, CMHI, and Mullen School. Just past Mullen, look for the Bear Creek Trail at grade on your left. Get on it and go. This used to be a nasty section of trail but has been considerably improved in the last year (2011) and now makes for some OK riding. (If you want more climbing, stay on Lowell north to Dartmouth Ave and ride it west until it joins the Bear Creek Trail at Webster St.) Ride the trail west to Estes Park, about 3.8 miles. Exit the trail to the north, across Bear Creek on a bridge. There’s no signage, so if it is your first time, watch your odometer: about one mile from Webster St where the trail crosses Bear Creek. Estes Park makes a fine snack/refuel/pit stop. There are restrooms located in the middle of the parking lot.
Ride north on Estes St and Garrison St. As you cross Morrison Rd look for the sidewalk+path on your right. Take it and ride up the hill to Baltic Ave. I don’t usually strongly recommend a sidewalk, but I make an exception here. The short stretch between Morrison Rd and Baltic is scary-narrow with little room for recovery from another’s inattention. Southbound riders have a good bike lane. Ride north until you reach 26th Ave. The bike lane disappears in a couple of places but heads up riding is all it takes to stay safe along this fine stretch of urban riding. Between Colfax Ave and 20th Ave follow the path of least resistance through a series of Scottish themed streets. At 26th Ave ride west. Cross Kipling St. Go north on Paramount, Twilight and Hillside to reach 32nd Ave. Alternatively, you can easily ride one of the many trails through Crown Hill Park to reach 32nd Ave. At 32nd Ave access Holland St, 37th Ave, and Independence St to make your way north to the Clear Creek Trail.
Ride northeast on Clear Creek Trail. This is probably the nicest stretch of Trail, good shade cover from the many large cottonwood trees, proximity to the creek itself, and little of the urban industrial blight that plagues the stretch between Tennyson St and and the confluence with the S. Platte River. It is about 4.3 miles to the at grade intersection with Tennyson St. with all of it on the trail except for a two block stretch between 51st and 52nd Aves at Gray St. Follow the signs northerly (or southerly if you’re coming the other direction) and you’ll be fine.
Ride south on Tennyson St, jogging west and south at 52nd Ave to gain the high ground next to Willis Case Golf Course. This is the other short KOM segment. Ride south to 46th Ave. Turn east and ride to Lipan St. Go south to 37th Ave, east to Inca St and south to a short spur of trail that disappears under the bulk of the I-25 overpass looming in front of you. Follow the spur to Rockmont Dr and Platte St (the one turns into the other at Cuernavaca Park). Platte Street returns you to 15th St and Confluence Park. If you’re smart, though, you’ll stop at the Denver Beer Company for a pint to celebrate.
Guanella Pass runs from I-70 at Georgetown to US 285 just west of Bailey. For the full version of the pass, check out this post. The pass was paved in 2012 (but not quite all the way to US 285), thus adding yet another classic climb to a state that already has an embarrassment of riches in long, steep climbs. Start in Georgetown or better yet start in Idaho Springs. If you start in Idaho Springs , it is 24 miles one way with 4,300 feet of climbing. All but 1,000 feet happen in the 10.5 miles from Georgetown. There are steep sections at the beginning and end that flirt with double digits and a few small breaks as you work your way past a series of artificial reservoirs used to generate electricity through a pump-back process. By the time you reach the top (11,670 feet), you’re above treeline and the views of Mt Evans and Bierstadt are extraordinary. The climb will certainly become one of the classic Colorado climbs, as hard or harder than Squaw Pass from Idaho Springs, Vail Pass (from the west), Lefthand Canyon, and Golden Gate Canyon. As I understand the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club’s formula for difficulty, Guanella Pass rates as the fifth or sixth hardest climb in the state, right up there with Trail Ridge from the east and Molas Pass from the south.
There’s good parking in Idaho Springs at the lot behind Beau Jo’s and also next to the EMS station on Chicago Creek Rd, with free Forest Service bathrooms at the NFS Ranger Station. Don’t actually park in the Forest Service lot–it is for short term information and bathrooms only. The ride up to Georgetown along the frontage road you probably know from shortcuts in the winter when I-70 is backed up. When there’s no traffic, the ride is a sweet one, next to Clear Creek and with little traffic. Leave Idaho Springs on Colorado Blvd. Cross immediately to the south side as you reach the western outskirts of Idaho Springs. Ride upstream. Near Dumont cross back to the north side. This will be obvious because you just need to follow the paved road. Ride through Downieville (there’s a Starbucks there and a convenience store) and cross under I-70. Ride 1/2 mile to a fork. Go left to cross Clear Creek one more time and follow what’s known as Alvaredo Rd and CR 306 all the way into Georgetown. The road is in good shape.
Ride into Georgetown on what is now Argentine St. At the Y with Loop Rd, bear left on Brownell St. Turn left on 6th St, right on Rose St and you’ll be climbing for real in a few short blocks. The climb begins steeply with switchbacks, levels out for a few short moments near the hydropower reservoirs, and gets steep again at the top. You can read a detailed description in Russell Harding’s Blog, The Road to Cat 1, if you like to know in advance how much you are going to suffer. I know I adapt badly to altitude so reading a detailed description does not help me much. Anytime above 9,000 feet hurts. But here’s the profile if you’re a visual learner.
At the top, there’s a large lot to the west with a Forest Service outhouse if you need it. The views are great and the descent is fast and smooth, a treat if you’ve ever suffered coming down from Mount Evans, which you can see from the top to the east.