Tollgate Creek Loop
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.
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