I am happy to announce the publication of my new bicycle map for the Denver Metro Region. With more than 600 miles of trails, 40 distinct trail systems, it’s color-coded so you can see if you’ll be on a paved surface (red), a dirt trail (brown) or a bike-friendly surface street (blue) to link different trail systems up. The front side is the metro region (Superior to Parker, Commerce City to Chatfield Reservoir) and the reverse side has 6 detailed maps of places you’ll want to ride, including the four main reservoirs (Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Aurora, and Bear Creek), the south end of the Cherry Creek Trail, and Horseshoe Park in Aurora. Waterproof and tear proof. Get ’em while they’re (and it’s still) hot, $12.95. Find it at Tattered Cover (all three stores), Evo-Edgeworks, Turin Bikes, Big Ring Cycles, and the Golden Bike Shop. The QR code on the map links you to a digital version you can use with your smartphone and the map app from Anveza Maps, $5.99. Happy Trails to all.
Several people have asked me about riding to Boulder via the newly-opened US 36 Bikeway and over the past weekend I finally had time to check out the construction on the new commuter rail line that’s been creating havoc along Little Dry Creek and Clear Creek Trails for the past 2 years. What I discovered was both promising and disappointing. The good news first. The Northwest Rail B-Line is nearly complete and is scheduled to open on July 26, 2016. When all the work is complete, there will be a newly reconstructed trail along Little Dry Creek between 64th Ave and Lowell Blvd and near the intersection of 72nd Ave and Braeburn Blvd which is the north-south access between Little Dry Creek and the beginning of the US 36 bikeway. There is also going to be a new spur south of Clear Creek Trail which will take cyclists to the Federal Blvd station of the Gold Line.
The bad news: (1) the work to date on Little Dry Creek has created several hazardous underpasses that will regularly flood and for which there is no easy by-pass above the grade of the creek. When these are not flooded, they will require constant maintenance to sweep out the mud and sand that accumulates after every rain storm, and judging by current conditions, Adams County is not up to the task. (2) Even with the scheduled opening of of the B-Line, it sure does not look as if the trail between 64th and Lowell Blvd is going to open very soon. There is a lot of landscaping work still to be done between Federal and Lowell and there is also a large CDOT project reconstructing the bridge over Little Dry Creek at Federal Blvd. (3) The detour signing along the closed portions of Little Dry Creek is non-existent or inadequate. From the southeast, there are no signs indicating the trail is closed until you run smack into a concrete barrier north of 64th Ave. From the northwest there are the beginnings of a posted detour, but they led me astray, routing me south along Lowell Blvd without ever turning me east back towards Little Dry Creek. I cannot do much about (1) or (2), but I did work out a passable detour, along 64th, Irving, and 68th Ave between Lowell Blvd and the start of Little Dry Creek. It works pretty well, save the time you have to ride along 64th Ave which carries significant truck traffic. There’s also a sketcher version I checked out from Little Dry Creek Trail after the second underpass. It routes you along a dirt and gravel road to 68th Ave, then north and west across Federal to Lowell Blvd. It’s doable, but not for most cyclists.
The photo below is from the Federal Bridge looking northwest, with the new Little Dry Creek Trail beckoning.
This is the unexpected barrier you’ll encounter if you ride along Little Dry Creek expecting to be able to reach the US 36 Bikeway.
And finally, This shot shows some of the work being completed on thrnew bridge project along Federal Boulvard. That work has just begun and is not expected to be completed until July 2017. Feel free to drop the CDOT communications manager a note asking CDOT to provide and post an adequate detour around the work that CDOT is doing.
This is a map to supplement the Major Metro Trails Map. It shows the area in and around Cherry Creek Reservoir and State Park, one of the busiest cycling destinations in the region. Go there just to ride around, or ride through it on your way to points south (Cherry Creek Trail), east (Piney Creek), or northeast (Spillway Trail).
This is the second of several maps to supplement the Metro Major Trails Map of 2016. The Golden and Lakewood area has connections to the Clear Creek Trail (northeast), the C-470 Trail (south) and on street access to many of the signature foothill rides, including Golden Gate Canyon, Lookout Mountain, Red Rocks, and the town of Morrison. With the recent opening of the West Rail Line, there is also an excellent, safe alternative to 32nd Ave along the West Rail Line, some on-street, some on dedicated trails.
Yet another supplemental map. Chatfield Reservoir is a federal flood control project managed as a state park by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. It features all of the typical amenities you would expect at a large, urban state park and provides excellent cycling in and around the park. There is no way to loop around the park on trails alone, but it is possible to circle the reservoir and most of the park if you don’t mind some dirt and don’t mind walking down a steep section near the southeast corner of the reservoir. The best access is from one of several trails: C-470 (northwest), Cherry Creek Trail (north) and the Centennial Trail (northeast). There is also on street access from Wadsworth Blvd and from the Highlands Ranch Trails to the east. This access requires you to cross Santa Fe Blvd (US 83) and it is an entirely unprotected crossing without lights or pedestrian striping and is not recommended.
This is another of the maps that usefully supplement the recently published Major Metro Trails Map of 2016. The Horseshoe Park area is one of Aurora’s better kept secrets. It provides links to Toll Gate Creek, the Cherry Creek Spillway Trail, and the Powerline Trail, with access in all directions. Signage can be challenging, but this is a great starting place from which to explore trails in all directions.
Presumably, there are plans to acquire an easement through the private property to extend the trail onward to Castlewood Canyon State Park.
Fortunately, if you exit the trail before the dead end, at Walker Rd, you can easily ride south on a surface street to the park. There are few navigational difficulties and a couple of interesting detours that are destinations in their own right, the Sulpher Gulch Loop in Parker, and the Pinery Loop. There is one section of dirt that I found to be in tough shape–deep mud, many ruts–there’s a viable work around on the streets between Scott Ave and Bayou Gulch Rd.
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.
I’ve recently found myself cursing the gods, contractors, cars, and traffic as I’ve been forced off the usual trails and into sometimes sketchy detours around construction projects that are now getting into full swing in the metro region. It is something like Shakespeare’s ditty on love: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Seemingly, there’s construction everywhere: Cherry Creek Trail, Clear Creek Trail, Sand Creek Trail, Westerly Creek, etc. Below are annotated construction and detour maps for the major, long-term construction projects I’ve encountered. Shoot me an email if I’ve missed something. Here’s one I missed: the obnoxious (and at night unmarked) steel plates between Monaco and Colorado Blvds. These are part of a Denver Water clean out and refurbishment project and they extend out into the bike lane along Montview. They are visible during the day but not lit by flashing lights at night. Use caution.
This first is the easiest, a construction project to allow for a new brewery’s sewer outfall into the South Platte. The stretch on the road easy and straightforward.Next up is the detour along the South Platte River Trail at Confluence Park. Denver Parks and Recreation suggests in this map a detour through Commons Park. That works OK, but is circuitous. On the plus side, it will allow you to stop off at the Porta-Potty in Commons Park (with a side trip to Stoner Hill if you need to toke up) and thus avoid the really smelly Porta-Potty at the Denver Skate Park. An alternate detour takes you between the old 19th St bridge and 15th St via Water St, a far more interesting route, with a side option to the Denver Beer Company on Platte St. South of 8th Ave construction continues on the 6th Ave bridge, and necessitates a longish detour out into what I think of as white bread country–not for the people but for the giant Safeway bakeries in the area. Good smells! The flyer for this one promised a two month detour, but construction drags on.
In the Stapleton area, construction of a new park and RTD East line construction have disrupted a portion of Sand Creek Greenway Trail, roughly between Central Park Blvd and Havana St. All of this should get better in the coming months as RTD is now testing the new light rail line and expects to open the line for service between Downtown and DIA in 2016. Slightly further east, Sand Creek Trail is disrupted again between Peoria St and Potomac St along Fitzsimmons Parkway. RTD was forced to realign the 225 FasTracks light rail project to protect sensitive research instruments at the CU Medical School and Anschutz Medical Plaza. The detour is pretty simple and not onerous if you are just trying to skip around the construction and get to Potomac and Colfax or the medical institutions, but more confusing if you are trying to continue east on the Sand Creek Greenway Trail. When I last road through there, late afternoon, I was able to leave Fitzsimmons, ride through the Park and north to the Greenway and Park Lane Drive. Alternately, you’ll be able to continue along the trail via Peoria St and 30th Ave. The Clear Creek Trail detour was my best adventure. I somehow missed the sign to continue east along 56th Ave and wound up on a sketchy muddy sidewalk on Federal Blvd, wandering through parts of Adams County I have not visited since I was a private eye in the 70s. I was glad to see that the strip club I had visited on official business looks likes it has survived, reincarnated as Adult World at 65th and Federal. The correct detour looks simpler, if less interesting. Incidentally, if you’ve been hoping to ride the Little Dry Creek Trail (an interesting experience almost on par with a visit to Adult World), you’ll have to ride the detour I made, along Pecos St to 70th Ave.
The Cherry Creek Trail at Arapahoe Rd is inching towards completion with work hopefully completed by July, 2015 in the trail extension under the new bridge. Go here for updates. Finally, if you like your Denver Trails detour information in a single handy place, go here. Note the suggestion that the CCT at Havana may be due for some flood mitigation work.
Get out there and ride.