Squaw Pass Loop
Squaw Pass and its big sister, Mt. Evans, don’t need a lot of introduction for local cyclists. The standard ride is from Bergen Park (at the RTD Park n Ride) up and over to Echo Lake Lodge and back for a convincing ride of 36 miles and around 3,900 feet. Both ends of the standard ride are anchored by two of Denver’s many mountain parks: Bergen and Echo Lake. But when you’re ready for more than an out and back, tackle the Squaw Pass Loop. At 47 miles and almost 5,000 feet, this is a good intermediate-length training ride. I like riding it clockwise. There’s slightly less traffic heading up the Squaw Pass Rd than up Chicago Creek Rd (the natural approach to Evans for most auto traffic), and I love the steep climb up Floyd Hill.
Start as if you were just doing the standard out-and-back. Climb up and over Squaw Pass. Because of the protected watershed to the north and the abundance of open space, the views in all directions are fabulous, especially in the fall.
As you begin to descend towards Echo Lake, Mt Evans and its barely visible road come into focus, a reminder of how much further and harder it is than what you’re doing today.
Take a break if you need to at the Echo Lake Lodge. They people there are friendly to cyclists. Then head down to Idaho Springs on Chicago Creek Rd. It is a breathtaking descent and will lead you across I-70 and into Idaho Springs. If you are hungry or need an espresso, check out Two Brother’s Deli, or Tommyknockers. Find Miner St. Ride east. Everything funnels into a narrow V as you go east until you are forced to cross over Clear Creek. Most traffic jumps onto I-70 here, but you’re looking for the frontage road, a/k/a County Rd 314. It takes you away from the madding crowd, to the south bank of Clear Creek. There’s some commercial traffic here from a sand and gravel operation, as well as from the rafting operation, but for the most part this is an easy and enjoyable stretch. There’s a very short stretch of dirt road that you can miss entirely by crossing to the north bank of Clear Creek on the Scott Lancaster Memorial Trail, but the dirt is pretty easily negotiated. The road dies after a while but continues as a bike trail. Eventually it spits you out near the bottom of Floyd Hill, where some bicycle legerdemain (legerdepied?) sneaks you around to US 6 and US 40.
Climb up Floyd Hill then follow US 40 around to the north of I-70 until it rejoins the interstate at exit 251. This stretch of US 40 is quiet and surprisingly enjoyable. Cross over I-70, pick up Evergreen Parkway (CO 74) and follow it until you reach Bergen Parkway. It is slightly safer to exit left here at the light and work your way back to your car than it is to continue on Evergreen Parkway. In the sweeping left hand turn ahead on Evergreen Parkway, the right shoulder completely disappears leaving you exposed and vulnerable to traffic behind you. And if you are pressed for time, you can shave a 3.5 miles and a few minutes off the return by crossing I-70 at Exit 248 and returning to Bergen Park via CR-65.
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