Tollgate Creek Loop
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.
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