The Lakewood Gulch Trail system received a much-needed and complete renovation on account of RTD’s development of the West Line of FasTracks. The line runs between Denver’s Union Station and Jefferson County’s Government Center in Golden. The cycling improvements include both dedicated trails and low traffic streets, primarily along 13th Ave north and south of the rail corridor. The only difficulties that you’ll encounter are when you cross the two sets of tracks (one east, one west), something you’ll do at least three times if ride the full length of the trail (which ends just past Kipling St). Sadly, there’s no access through the Federal Center and beyond. There is a crossing within the Sheridan Street Station, a crossing at Estes St, and a crossing at Garrison St. All require caution on account of the tracks themselves (cross them perpendicularly!) but are protected by barriers to prevent the unwary cyclist or car from slipping in front of an oncoming train. The Sheridan Station is different–it is an unprotected crossing with a set of switchbacks on the north side. The trail is otherwise straightforward with a slight hiccup after Sheridan that requires a two-block detour to the north.
You can easily ride out and back to Kipling St on the trail and 13th Ave, but Garrison St is a good place from which to begin a longer adventure. Garrison links to the north with both 20th and 26th avenues and to the south with the Bear Creek Trail system. More exciting is the new link out to the Red Rocks, Morrison and points beyond, shown in this map. At Garrison, ride south 12 blocks to Alameda Ave. A broad sidewalk on the south side of Alameda connects Garrison to Kipling. Cross Kipling and stay on the south side of Alameda all the way to Bear Creek Blvd. A mix of trail, frontage road and sidewalk takes you to the point where Alameda bends sharply west and drops down near Green Mountain to join the C-470 Trail and Rooney Rd with links north (Golden, US 40, and Golden), south (Morrison, Bear Creek Lake Park, C-470 Trail) and west (the Hogback and Red Rocks Park). The only caution required is along the frontage road sections as you cross the many streets large and small between Kipling and Bear Creek Blvd. You must watch for traffic turning from the north and south of these streets as well as traffic coming from the east and west on Alameda. That means looking left, right, in front of, and behind you. Beyond that, this is just great metro riding with many links to the foothills and beyond.
The Deer Creek Challenge did not run in 2012 and may be gone for good. I’ll leave the maps up for their value. The Deer Creek Challenge bills itself as the toughest century in the country. And if you are counting only elevation gain they are probably right, since the DCC weighs in at 12,725 feet which is nothing to sneeze at. But the Triple Bypass comes close in elevation gain (10,990) and most of the Triple’s climbing is at altitude. DCC tops out at 8,700 while the Triple starts at 8,000 feet and climbs three times to 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 feet. If you plug in these numbers to the oxygen calculators at Altitude.org you quickly discover that you’ve got 10% less oxygen at the top of Loveland Pass than you did at the top of the Black Mountain climb in the Deer Creek Challenge. So it is probably a push. But who really cares? They are both amazing and different rides and each appeals to different kinds of riders. More importantly, if you’re just learning about these two rides today, the Triple is filled by lottery with registration in early January each year. Today, there’s still room for you if you want to do the reverse Triple (Avon to Bergen Park) or the Double Triple. The DCC is first come-first served and there’s still space in all the rides (there are shorter variations on the long ride). Finally, where the Triple features long, uphill climbs that go on and on, the DCC is punctuated by medium and short length climbs, some of which are desperately steep. The DCC covers familiar ground to metro Denver riders (High Grade, Parmalee Gulch, Brook Forest) and throws in stretches that get less traffic (an out and back along Foxton Road to the N. Fork of the South Platte, City View counterclockwise, Black Mountain Road). The terrain is great, the riding difficult, and the organization is top notch. Add it to the list.