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.
A lot of people have asked me (two at least) how to download and use the Major Metro Trails Map that was published last month. It is not super-complicated, but requires you to download the appropriate app, then load the pdf map from the map store or elsewhere.
From your phone, navigate to your app store and download Avenza’s PDF Map App.
Click it to go to the map store and see the broad categories of maps available around the world. Many are free. Click search in the upper right to narrow your geographic area, then search “Coloradobikemaps.com” to pull up all the maps I’ve loaded there. You can also find the main, metro trail map just by searching “Denver Metro Trail System.”
Download the maps you want, they’ll load up in your phone, and you’re all set to navigate and find your way across Denver’s amazing trail system.
Navigation using the App is easy. Touch the map you want to open and you’ll see the familiar blue dot showing your current location. Zoom in, start riding, have fun. Use the arrow in the lower left corner to pinpoint your position, and the blue pin just to the right to mark a spot of interest or one you want to return to.
***This is a very large map and may not load well or be useful on a smartphone. I expect to have this and many others available in the near future as PDFs that can be read through a mapping program such as PDF Maps from Avenza. ***
Metro Denver is blessed with hundreds of miles of multi-use trails, most of which are paved or concrete. But sometimes it seems as if there are only two: the Cherry Creek Trail and the South Platte River Trail. Ride along either one on a warm summer day and you may begin to wonder if there aren’t other trails you could be riding on instead. There are. This map highlights those major trail systems in the area and also shows how trail systems can be linked together with a variety of surface streets. Surface streets shown are primarily streets with light traffic, a dedicated bike lane, a sidewalk, or all three. Most are well-traveled by cyclists. Not every trail in the metro region is shown here. Some were omitted for being too short, some for being strictly local, neighborhood trails, and others for being chopped up and requiring too many street crossings. Many miles of unpaved trails, including the High Line Canal Trail and several in Highlands Ranch, also are included. Those shown are navigable on most road and hybrid bikes, especially if you are comfortable riding on loose surfaces. The unpaved surfaces are usually well-packed dirt or crusher fines and are navigable unless you are riding during or immediately after a rainstorm. The inclusion of these unpaved sections expands the scope of the map and the range of the typical urban cyclist.
These trails are maintained and governed by a patchwork of towns, counties, and special districts. Each has its own set of rules for the trails. The following rules, however, have broad application. All trail users yield to horses. Cyclists yield to pedestrians. When overtaking another cyclist, signal your intention to pass by voice or bell. Give dogs and small children a large safety bubble. Ride at a safe speed for the particular trail and time of day. These trails are not the place for serious high-speed training or for learning to ride in a pack or paceline. Some municipalities have a stated speed limit, although these are rarely enforced.
A brief description of the major trail systems appears to the left of the map proper. Distances are approximate and include any surface street sections that are a logical or necessary part of the particular trail. The major hazard to watch for on all the trail systems, aside from other trail users, is flash floods, which have killed a number of unsuspecting people. This is especially true whenever the trail is at creek or river level, when the trail passes under a road or highway, or when the trail is encased in concrete, as happens on the southern stretch of Little Dry Creek in Adams County or on Cherry Creek Trail between Confluence Park and Holly St.
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.