This one rides better than it reads. In fact the real knock on this route is that it is hard to figure out some times if you are on the right trail segment or not. Mostly, this is a signage problem, as in the City of Aurora is doing a terrible job labeling and signing their trails. It is really that bad and really that simple. But first, a few general thoughts on access and the ride character. I usually ride this clockwise and like heading out 7th Ave east across Colorado Blvd then continuing on 6th Avenue to Uinta St. Sixth Ave is not everyone’s cup of tea so feel free to ride east on 7th Ave instead. This ride takes you way out east, past all of the suburban sprawl, to a point where you can see the plains and nothing beyond them (at least if you look in the right direction). If you look to the northeast from Plains Park, you can also see the giant white bubbles that mark Buckley Air Force Base’s electronic monitoring stations. The dirt trail along the Plains Conservation Center is tricky in a few places but worth the extra effort. There are a few spots to pay attention, especially where the signage is inadeqaute.
Working clockwise, the exit from the High Line Canal to Toll Gate Creek Trail isn’t obvious. You’ll have passed under Chambers Rd, passed by an old historic farm, crossed over the High Line Canal and poof! there it will be. Look left, cross down and under Alameda Ave, and all will be well.
After that you’ll be riding south on Toll Gate. You’ll come into Horseshoe Park and will need to ride east on Powerline Trail. Your clue for when to turn is the power lines themselves. Look for them! They’re big and tall and hard to miss. Keep riding east.
You’ll eventually come to a park with a playground. Work your way around to the west side and you’ll have a choice of a dirt trail or a paved trail. Both are fun. If you ride the dirt, it stops (and you should, too) at Hampden. Ride the sidewalk east to Skills Park, and go north through the park then angle left onto a (you guessed it) No Name Trail. Crazy, isn’t it? No wonder they cannot stick a sign in the ground. If you are riding the paved trail, look for the no name trail angling sharply off to the right. Follow it to West Toll Gate Creek Trail back to Horseshoe Park and from there ride home the way you came or head southwest to Cherry Creek Reservoir. Alternately, there’s a short stretch of West Toll Gate Creek Trail that leads south to Dartmouth Ave if you’re interested in some of Aurora’s finest on-street riding.
If you’ve made it back to Horseshoe Park and want to ride the full loop, all you have to do is figure out how to get out and south the Spillway Trail. It is not easy, but well worth it, if only to try to imagine what kind of cataclysmic event it would take for the spillway to ever come into play. And if you can imagine that, what would Horseshoe Park look like under that much water? The map below probably explains the route and route finding difficulties better than I can, so take a look and give it a try. The neighborhoods just south of Horseshoe are not super busy, so even if you are off route somehow, nothing ugly is going to happen. Once you’re on the Spillway Trail, the only remaining obstacles are the several at-grade crossings just north of the park. Use the crosswalks, be patient, and all will be well.
One final note. I’ve shown this as a kind of open-jawed route with access from the north along 11th Ave to CU Medical School and the Anschutz Medical Plaza and from the south through the reservoir and from Denver along the Cherry Creek Trail. Rding in from northwest Aurora to Southwest Aurora is a tale of two cities (almost). The contrast is stark between the older and seemingly less affluent northwest and the suburban southwest. It is one of those things that makes riding a bicycle so interesting–there’s no screen between you and the world around you.
Like the Florida West Line Loop, this route heads west on Florida and returns on the Lakewood Dry Gulch Trail. Instead of turning back at Alameda Ave, continue climbing on the southeast side of Alameda from Green Mountain and descend to the intersection with Jewell Ave and Bear Creek Blvd. From there, transition from the trail to the shoulder of Alameda Ave and head west towards the C-470 Trail, Red Rocks, and Morrison. Before you cross C-470 check for traffic and turn left immediately after Rooney Rd onto a spur of the trail. This takes you down to the C-470 trail which connects Chatfield Reservoir and the Platte River Trail to Golden and the 6th Ave Trail. Ride north on the trail and check your tolerance for dirt, local conditions and either exit the trail on a short, steep dirt trail or circumnavigate the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to reach Indiana Ave and 6th Ave. The dirt trail takes you up to Bayaud and Ellsworth Ave and then down a bomber descent to the same intersection.
This is a busy intersection, especially at rush hour, so use caution as you make your way through it. A sidewalk on the west side of Indiana under 6th Ave provides a safe haven in both directions if you don’t feel like dueling with traffic. The rest of the route is just fun and interesting with only the on/off ramp at 13th Ave and Kipling St providing any real excitement. Use a little caution as you enter and exit the ramp: there’s frequently sand at the bottom of the ramp and the design requires a 90 degree turn onto a narrow sidewalk, onto or from 14th Ave.