This loop started out as a tour of independent espresso joints across the metro area. I mapped and then plotted how best to reach as many as I could in a single ride from central Denver. I started working on it in late 2011 and early 2012, when the days are short and frequently cold and when a nice cortado is exactly what you need to warm the inner cyclist. As the route developed and the days grew longer and warmer, I realized that Yelp! is probably a better resource for indie coffee than a static map and abandoned all the little blue coffee cups that dotted the first draft of this route. But the route is a good one, even without the coffee stops. Named for the twin mesas that rise above Golden to the east, this great loop complements similar routes in the other sectors of the city: Red Rocks Loop, Meridian-Inverness Loop, and Going to the Dogs Loop.
The route finding on this one is not particularly difficult in any one area, but there are enough turns and possibilities that you should take a copy of this map and the detailed zoom maps with you, unless you are already familiar with the territory. The basic route is 34 miles, but add in the Cherry Creek Trail, a loop through Golden or a loop on the trails up and around the Arvada Reservoir, and pretty soon you’ll be at a half-century.
The tricky parts happen in the Confluence Park area (getting from there to Lipan St), through Arvada (finding your way to Simms St from Grandview Ave), and around Golden (finding Clear Creek Trail and navigating a loop around the city). None of these should put you off your game. The text below assumes you’re starting this ride in Denver, but there’s no good reason you shouldn’t do the ride from Golden, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, or Lakewood.
From Confluence Park you have three options to ride to Lipan St, which in turn connects you to 46th Ave. You can ride north on the Platte River Trail to Cuernavaca Park, then find the trail spur that parallels the interstate and links up with 36th Ave and Inca St. Just remember to stay on the northwest bank of the Platte and you’ll come directly to Cuernavaca Park. Second, you can jump onto Platte St and ride it northeast to the same trail spur. These two options take you along the historic train tracks and gives some interesting views of graffiti as you pass under the interstate and a spectacular view of downtown. Once you’ve crossed under the interstate, work your way west to Lipan St.
The third option is slightly more direct and gives you a narrow slice of the Lo-Hi neighborhood. Leave the Platte River Trail at 16th St. Cross Platte Ste and work your way up and over the interstate via the Highland Bridge, admiring the John McEnroe sculpture as you pass by. Turn right on Central St and ride it and its variants (Osage, 32nd, and Kalamath) to Lipan St. All three options are designed to get you to Lipan St and thence to 46th Ave and the Sunnyside neighborhood. Go west on 46th to Tennyson St, then follow Tennyson to the Clear Creek Trail. Look for the white suspension bridge ahead. You want to be on it. Follow the sign to Ralston Creek Trail and cross Clear Creek. Wind your way up Ralston Creek and exit at Lamar St, the sign for which periodically disappears. Left and up from the trail after 1/2 mile is about right. Ride south briefly from the intersection of 58th Ave on Lamar then go west on Grandview Ave, one of the great cycling streets in the area. It takes you through the sights and sounds of Olde Town Arvadaand works its way west roughly parallel to 58th Ave. Go west then north on Grandview as it bends around past the cemetery. At 57th Place and old Kipling there’s a very tricky chicane you should probably put foot down for or walk. Cross 58th on old Kipling at an unprotected intersection then ride north past Starbucks to 58th Place. Go west and cross Kipling Parkway, again at an unprotected and sometimes tricky intersection. That’s the hard work. Ride west (on 58th Pl) and north (on Miller St) to reach Allendale Dr which connects going west to Simms St. Ride Simms north to 72nd Ave and 72nd Ave west to the Arvada Reservoir where an optional loop awaits you. The loop begins just past Virgil St at an obvious trail spur to the right. Loop or no, you’ll end up back at Virgil and 64th Ave. Go east to Easley Rd, then south towards Golden. Along the way the mesas for which the route is named come into sharp focus. They’re big.
As you approach Golden, decide on a plan. You can ride an extra loop through the city or work your way back to Denver on 32nd, 26th or 20th Ave. All are well worn by cyclists, but traditionally cyclists have crowded onto 32nd Ave, my least favorite route. If you like it and it works for you, don’t sweat any of the details that follow. Just hop on the Clear Creek Trail (confusingly you ride west on 44th Ave to find a small spur to reach the CCT), go east to McIntyre St, south to 32nd Ave and back to Denver.
For a more interesting route, ride south on Mcintyre then east briefly on 32nd Ave to Kendrick St, where you’ll see the sign for the Rolling Hills Golf Course. Go south on Kendrick to where it bends west. Go east on Foothill Rd which climbs and winds its way back to Eldridge St. Go south to 20th Ave. Ride 20th Ave all the way back to Denver, jogging north or south at Sheridan to get around Sloan’s Lake. There’s one narrow spot on 20th Ave at Urban St where traffic calming medians have narrowed the street to barely a car’s width. Be sure to use the whole lane here.
[The original of this post somehow got deleted, so this replaces that posting from early March.]
Singletrack Maps makes beautiful maps for mountain bikers in the Crested Butte, Durango, Ft Collins, Lyons, Golden, and Buffalo Creek areas. They also make race maps for DBC Events, which organizes and promotes, among others, Boulder Roubaix, Mead Roubaix, and the new Candela’s Circuit Race. If you’ve never ridden a Roubaix style race, or are interested in a classic gravel grinder or even something more extreme, like the rides in the Colorado Endurance Series, this is a great place to start. The 18 mile loop takes in the best parts of northeast Boulder back roads, with a particularly stunning stretch along Crane Holllow Rd. If you don’t live in the Boulder area, this is a good introduction to the mix of gravel and paved roads that make up the the cycling grid in Boulder County and that make the County such a great place to be a cyclist.You’re not likely to be alone up here–all these roads are well-traveled by many cyclists, joggers and walkers.
If you are not racing, start this one anywhere. You can ride out from Boulder, park along most of the roads, or find a convenient parking area such as that just west of 39th Street and Neva Rd. There are not a lot of C-stores out here, so it can be handy to pass near your car every loop you make. The loop shown is a an almost even mix of dirt and pavement, with most of the dirt well compacted by the use of magnesium chloride. Ruts, loose gravel, and narrow roads make this an interesting ride. There’s a very detailed description, from a racer’s point of view, of the dirt sections in Russell Harding’s blog, the Road to Cat 1.