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.
Looking for a challenging century ride (or shorter)? Want to keep it close to home? Fabulous views and lots of climbing important to you? Then it is time to check out the Red Rocks Century, a looping swooping, climbing sun-of-a-gun century that will have your thighs burning long before you get to Squaw Pass. Starting in Morrison, the century begins with a jaunt through Red Rocks Park, spins up Highway 74 to Kerr Gulch then loops along US 40 to Idaho Springs where the big climb begins: Squaw Pass from the west side is rated a 4.9 in the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club’s database of climbs and ranks 8th in the state. But who’s bragging? But wait, there’s more. After the 15 miles of pain that Squaw Pass represents you’ll be bombing down to Evergreen from where you’ll start the unheralded but difficult climb up Shadow Mountain Drive (8.5 miles, 5% avg, 15% max). Were that not enough, the climbing finishes out with one of my favorite stretches of steep climbing in the state, up through High Drive, Stanley Park Road and Little Cub (5 miles, 5% avg, 15% max). Now that’s a century. And it is sponsored by Primal Wear so you know the swag is going to be good. Better yet, it is not to late to sign up. The ride happens this year on Sunday, July 8, 2012. Shorter routes are also available. Sign up here. And when you finish and your legs are screaming at you send me a note and let me know how it went. The claimed elevation gain is over 10,000 feet.
The Deer Creek Challenge did not run in 2012 and may be gone for good. I’ll leave the maps up for their value. The Deer Creek Challenge bills itself as the toughest century in the country. And if you are counting only elevation gain they are probably right, since the DCC weighs in at 12,725 feet which is nothing to sneeze at. But the Triple Bypass comes close in elevation gain (10,990) and most of the Triple’s climbing is at altitude. DCC tops out at 8,700 while the Triple starts at 8,000 feet and climbs three times to 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 feet. If you plug in these numbers to the oxygen calculators at Altitude.org you quickly discover that you’ve got 10% less oxygen at the top of Loveland Pass than you did at the top of the Black Mountain climb in the Deer Creek Challenge. So it is probably a push. But who really cares? They are both amazing and different rides and each appeals to different kinds of riders. More importantly, if you’re just learning about these two rides today, the Triple is filled by lottery with registration in early January each year. Today, there’s still room for you if you want to do the reverse Triple (Avon to Bergen Park) or the Double Triple. The DCC is first come-first served and there’s still space in all the rides (there are shorter variations on the long ride). Finally, where the Triple features long, uphill climbs that go on and on, the DCC is punctuated by medium and short length climbs, some of which are desperately steep. The DCC covers familiar ground to metro Denver riders (High Grade, Parmalee Gulch, Brook Forest) and throws in stretches that get less traffic (an out and back along Foxton Road to the N. Fork of the South Platte, City View counterclockwise, Black Mountain Road). The terrain is great, the riding difficult, and the organization is top notch. Add it to the list.
Its no secret that I am a huge fan of loop rides. Every loop ride is like the old Certs commercial from the 60s and 70s: “Two, two, two rides in one!” There’s just that much more scenery to see and geography to cover that, given a choice, I always prefer a loop to an out and back. I regularly make an exception for the Foxton Ride. Part of it is nostalgia. In another life I kayaked with at least as much intensity as I cycle and have vivid memories of the N. Fork of the S. Platte at high water levels. Even without the nostalgia, though, this is a fabulous ride that combines two long steep rides into a compact package: 45 miles and 5,000 feet. Foxton Road plays a prominent role in the Deer Creek Challenge, billed as the toughest century ride in the United States at 106 miles and 13,000 vertical feet.If you are training for Ride the Rockies or any of the major one day rides like The Copper Triangle, Triple Bypass, or Mount Evans Hill Climb, this is a good place to check out your fitness.
Start near Chatfield Reservoir and State Park, either in it (if you have a Parks Pass) or at the junction of Platte Canyon Rd and Deer Creek Canyon Rd. Head up canyon. Turn left at the deserted and dusty Phillipsburg (the junction of S. Deer Creek and S. Deer Creek Canyon Rd) and climb on up to the Pleasant Park Grange, a long beautiful (and sometimes steep) climb of almost 14 miles. Gather your wits and grab a Gatorade at the Grange (in season, honor system) before heading a little further along Pleasant Park Rd to turn left at Broken Arrow Dr. Broken Arrow drops steeply and winds it’s way to Foxton Road. Go left. Enjoy the ride down to the river, about 8.5 miles of unencumbered cycling with little evidence of houses, cars, and other people. Since Foxton Rd is a spur between US 285 and the river, your fellow travelers tend to be fisher-folk, kayakers and rafters, mountain bikers, and the like. Pause at river’s edge and enjoy a bar and some water before retracing your steps. From Foxton Rd, turn right on Running Deer Rd to climb steeply back to Pleasant Park Rd again. Return down Pleasant Park Rd, High Grade and Deer Creek Canyon to your starting place.
A friend told me about a route in Deer Creek that Jonathan Vaughters had named. I knew the route, but didn’t know Vaughters had beaten me to the punch. Vaughters is a Colorado wunderkind who raced with US Postal and Credit Agricole. He now manages Garmin-Cervelo. Among his many local credits are as the three-time champion of the Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb. The dude was seriously fast back in the day. So I tracked the route down in an old 5280 post online from 2002, when Vaughters was back in Colorado pretending to be a regular human being. He calls it an “all-time leg breaker,” but I don’t know. Maybe if you start in Denver as he suggests, adding 40 miles along the Platte River and C-470 Trail. Either way, the loop is a good one, longer and more intense than the City View Loop, shorter and less painful than the Black Mountain Loop. With the Tour De France about to start, I thought a french titled route would be good. If you want to impress your friends on the next group ride, just say something in Gallic tones about La Grande Boucle and shrug expressively. If you stub out your Gitane and then dust them going up the first col, even better.
If you are merely mortal, start at the usual place, Platte Canyon Rd and Deer Creek Canyon Rd. Head uphill, ignoring the Siren Song of High Grade Road at Phillipsburg. Climb the first col (9 miles) then ride down to the junction of North and South Turkey Creek roads, passing turn-off to City View, but maybe stopping at the Inter-Canyon Fire Department station for a re-group (at the junction of South Deer Creek Canyon Road and South Turkey Creek Road). I know the names are confusing, but on the ground it becomes much clearer. There’s a burger and pizza place at the Turkey Creek roads junction near US 285, so look for it. Go left under US 285 and begin an easy climb up N. Turkey Creek Rd. Go right on High Drive, a little more than a mile past US 285. The steep climbing starts here and continues for 3+ miles to the second col. Drop down into Evergreen where you’ll find plenty of convenience stores at which to refuel and empty your tank. Cruise down Highway 74 to to the sleepier and funkier burg of Kittredge, famous (in my mind at least) as the long-time home of the Senator who would have been king but for some monkey business in 1988. Sic transit gloria.
Just east of town proper, turn south on Meyers Gulch Road. Start climbing the third col, definitely the shortest of the three. Cruise down Parmalee Gulch Road to US 285. Follow the signs (left) to Bailey, not Denver. Here you have a small dilemma: ride 1/3 mile on the shoulder of 285 then exit to S Turkey Creek Rd by crossing the highway, or stay on the shoulder for two miles back to the N Turkey Creek exit. If you cross 285 to regain S Turkey Creek Rd, you have the pleasure of riding through Tiny Town, which in my mind is always more interesting than flinching at traffic on 285. Both options lead you back to the fire station at the base of col one. Go left up S Deer Creek Canyon Rd. Climb the half mile back to the top, preferably in your big chain ring if you want to be taken seriously. Enjoy the long descent back down to your starting place.
The only wrong with this ride is that it is not closer to my house. I don’t know if I have enough superlatives in my vocabulary for this loop. The climbing is exceptionally varied. There are long, sustained climbs from Chatfield Reservoir, up Deer Creek Canyon or High Grade Road. There are ridiculously steep stretches (most mercifully short) along High Drive and Little Cub Drive that will make you check to see if you’re in your largest cog. And there is the climb for which the route is named, an 8.5 mile heart-breaker that gets steeper the higher you go. That’s only the climbing. You’ll pass through or nearby more than eight local and regional parks and one small section of the Arapahoe National Forest. Even outside these protected areas, you will mostly be traveling through forested areas. The views from High Drive, Black Mountain Drive, and High Grade Road are spectacular. The traffic is generally light. And there are places to refuel along the way, everything from the prosaic convenience store at US 285 and Highway 73 to the Evergreen Mountain Market and the Pleasant Park Grange. If you don’t pay too much attention to the names of the roads, the route-finding is straightforward. Confusingly, the same stretch of road bears three different names: Little Cub Drive, Stanley Park Road, and High Drive, for example. Or Brook Forest Rd, Black Mountain Drive, and Shadow Mountain Drive. Just stay on and follow the main roads, however, and you’ll do fine. Or ask one of the many cyclists you’ll encounter for help.
The logical place to start this ride from is the intersection of Platte Canyon Rd and Deer Creek Canyon Rd. There’s lots of room on both sides of the road, but no amenities. Or slightly further west, there’s a small lot at South Valley Park. Or you could shorten the loop slightly by driving up US 285 aways and starting near the North Turkey Creek/South Turkey Creek junction. To really enjoy the Black Mountain climb, ride counterclockwise. On the way up from Chatfield, you’ll pass the hamlet of Phillipsburg. Named for a late 19th century developer who hoped to profit from gold and mineral prospectors in the region, the town prospered briefly then completely faded away by 1930. Colorado’s most famous cannibal, Alferd Packer, lived and died here after his release from prison in 1905. A nine mile climb and a short descent brings you to South Turkey Creek Road. A fire station there makes a convenient regrouping place. Continue north to North Turkey Creek Rd. Reach it by passing under US 285 and then climb a short distance to High Drive. The steep climbing starts here and continues for four miles. Descend to Evergreen. The intersection with Highway 74 is sketchy. If you are going slow enough on the descent, you can avoid it with a sharp left near the bottom onto Camel Heights Road. Look for the Evergreen Mountain Market here to refuel and use a bathroom. Head up Highway 73 briefly, then go right on Brook Forest Road. If you can ignore the pain, this is a beautiful stretch of road that gets better the farther you ride. You’ll pass the historic Brook Forest Inn five miles after turning off Highway 73.
The climb finally tops out at 8,900 feet and there’s a fine descent back down to Highway 73. Go south on 73 and then east on Pleasant Park Road to complete your loop, climbing steeply one last time from 285. Stop at the Pleasant Park Grange for a Gatorade and a snack. There’s also a porta-potty. Proceeds benefit the historic grange.
When you’re ready for the 14 mile descent, head on down, back to Phillipsburg. From time to time, a Jefferson County Deputy parks at the intersection there, so look twice before you blow through the Stop Sign.
I’m not sure that there’s a better short climbing loop in metro region than the City View Loop, especially if you ride it counterclockwise. The standard High Grade route is to start at Platte Canyon and Deer Creek Canyon Rd, then climb up to the Pleasant Park Grange and return. There’s nothing wrong with that route: slightly more than 13 miles each way, 2,900 vertical feet, with a sustained climb (no rollers) of more than 11 miles. Plus, the Grange stocks an honor bar of Gatorade and similar drinks. You leave a buck or two in the box; clean up after yourself, and the funds go to the preservation of the historic (1907) grange. There’s also a handy porta-potty: and there’s not many of those around these parts.
When you’re ready for something more, make the full loop. Clockwise is harder on the initial climb (to the Grange), but easier through the City View section. Counterclockwise is easier on the initial climb (shorter, less steep) but extravagantly steep through the City View section. None of the steep sections last all that long (easy to say from here) and the views are fabulous and the residents friendly. Route finding is easier than it looks from the map through City View. Stay on the main road and you’ll be fine. Most of the other possibilities are obvious spurs, and you’ll be able to tell from the color, condition, or surface composition. If you need it, I’ve shown the road sequence (counterclockwise) on the map.
There can be heavy traffic on some stretches and in the past there’s been tensions between cyclists and motorists. Nonetheless, with the blessing of the Jefferson County Commissioners, the area hosted the first Deer Creek Challenge in 2010, a century with more than 12,000 vertical feet of climbing, the last of which was through City View. It’ll be back again, this year on August 21, 2011. Do your part to keep things calm. Ride single file when cars are approaching from behind. Stop at the Stop signs. Carry out any trash that does not make it into a trash can. Oh, and a word to the wise: there’s often a Deputy Sheriff parked near the side of the road near the abandoned hamlet of Phillipsburg, waiting for errant cyclists to ignore the stop sign at the junction.
Other useful details. Exit southbound from C-470 at Wadsworth Blvd to reach the starting point. Park at Chatfield Reservoir (if you have a pass) or on either side of Deer Creek Canyon Rd near the intersection with Platte Canyon. There’s lots of room here and a carnival-like scene prevails on nice days. Use caution as you exit your car (so you don’t door an on-coming cyclist) and watch out on your descent for cars making ill-timed U-turns without necessarily thinking through all of the consequences. Aside from the Grange, there are few opportunities for food and water along the way. In a pinch, you can continue past Oehlmann Rd (on Pleasant Park Rd) or past S Turkey Creek Rd (on S Deer Creek Canyon Rd) and you’ll reach US 285, a convenience store, or The Ranch Grill.