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.
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.
Metro Denver has a goodly number of fine roads that run east and west (think Dartmouth Ave, Montview Blvd, 26th Ave, and 46th Ave just to name a few) but not nearly enough that run north and south. I’m not sure why this is so and I speculate about it endlessly as I flog my way north and south, interrupted by stoplights, stop signs, hospitals, and golf courses. I’m being slightly hyperbolic. Tennyson St, Zuni St, and Lowell Blvd are good in stretches. Holly St is OK. Sable Blvd in Aurora works OK if traffic intensity is light. Further west Rooney Rd and Johnson Rd connect to create a really good stretch of climbing heaven. That dearth of good north south routes was the genesis of the Metro Loop de Loops ride. Garrison St on the west runs mostly uninterrupted from US 285 (Hampden Ave) to 26th Ave, much of it with a dedicated bike lane. It totals about 7 miles if you include the stretch of Estes St between Morrison Rd and US 285. The east side of this loop is a little more cobbled together: the “standard” route through Washington Park to Dartmouth Ave and then to Clarkson St. The beauties of this loop are many. You’ll use portions of five of the metro area trail systems (Cherry Creek, Clear Creek, South Platte River, Big Dry Creek, and Bear Creek). You’ll pass through or near multiple parks and golf courses. You’ll ride by at least five big lakes and reservoirs. Add in two KOM segments at Berry Ave and Tennyson St and you’ve got all the makings of a classic metro loop.
The route finding is pretty straightforward with maybe three tricky spots at Bowles Ave, in Wheatridge, and then in sneaking across 38th Ave to return to Confluence Park. These are all places you are likely to return to at some point in your cycling life so you may as well figure them out now. I’m including a couple of detailed maps to help you if this is your first time. If you’ve ridden some of CBM’s other routes, you’ll recognize this as a conglomerate of several other routes. The description below is for a clockwise ride, which I like for the short climbing segments on Berry Ave and Tennyson St. Switch them around in your head if you want to go the other way.
Start in Confluence Park. Head upstream along the Cherry Creek Trail to exit at Downing and make your way through Washington Park. Exit the park at Franklin St and work your way south and slightly west to Clarkson St. Ride Clarkson all the way south to Sunset Lane (3 miles) and watch for the Big Dry Creek signs. Jog over to Washington St and Powers Ave and you’ll soon be flying down the Big Dry Creek Trail to join the S Platte Trail, about 2.5 miles. Go south about 1.5 miles and exit at a roundabout immediately before Bowles Ave. Look for the big white tennis bubble as your landmark. Skirt the bubble to the south to gain the sidewalk of Bowles. Cross Federal Blvd (carefully!) on the sidewalk and ride west (still on the Bowles Ave sidewalk) to a narrow fence opening onto Julian St. Home free. Ride north on Julian St to Berry Ave. Go west. The first KOM segment begins at Lowell Blvd. and climbs 5-6 blocks steeply.
Ride through the Bow Mar area skirting Bowles and Marston Reservoirs on roads of your choice (there are several options, all good) or just stay on Bow Mar Drive to connect to Sheridan Blvd. Take note of but ignore the signs at the entrance to Bow Mar that say there’s no exit. They are liars. Ride out of Bow Mar on Sheridan to Quincy and turn east. Both Sheridan and Quincy are fine for riding a bike. At the Lowell Blvd traffic light go south (left) through a narrow opening in the chain link fence. If it is your first time, use caution: cars are not really expecting you to make a left turn here. Ride south on Lowell Blvd past Fort Logan, CMHI, and Mullen School. Just past Mullen, look for the Bear Creek Trail at grade on your left. Get on it and go. This used to be a nasty section of trail but has been considerably improved in the last year (2011) and now makes for some OK riding. (If you want more climbing, stay on Lowell north to Dartmouth Ave and ride it west until it joins the Bear Creek Trail at Webster St.) Ride the trail west to Estes Park, about 3.8 miles. Exit the trail to the north, across Bear Creek on a bridge. There’s no signage, so if it is your first time, watch your odometer: about one mile from Webster St where the trail crosses Bear Creek. Estes Park makes a fine snack/refuel/pit stop. There are restrooms located in the middle of the parking lot.
Ride north on Estes St and Garrison St. As you cross Morrison Rd look for the sidewalk+path on your right. Take it and ride up the hill to Baltic Ave. I don’t usually strongly recommend a sidewalk, but I make an exception here. The short stretch between Morrison Rd and Baltic is scary-narrow with little room for recovery from another’s inattention. Southbound riders have a good bike lane. Ride north until you reach 26th Ave. The bike lane disappears in a couple of places but heads up riding is all it takes to stay safe along this fine stretch of urban riding. Between Colfax Ave and 20th Ave follow the path of least resistance through a series of Scottish themed streets. At 26th Ave ride west. Cross Kipling St. Go north on Paramount, Twilight and Hillside to reach 32nd Ave. Alternatively, you can easily ride one of the many trails through Crown Hill Park to reach 32nd Ave. At 32nd Ave access Holland St, 37th Ave, and Independence St to make your way north to the Clear Creek Trail.
Ride northeast on Clear Creek Trail. This is probably the nicest stretch of Trail, good shade cover from the many large cottonwood trees, proximity to the creek itself, and little of the urban industrial blight that plagues the stretch between Tennyson St and and the confluence with the S. Platte River. It is about 4.3 miles to the at grade intersection with Tennyson St. with all of it on the trail except for a two block stretch between 51st and 52nd Aves at Gray St. Follow the signs northerly (or southerly if you’re coming the other direction) and you’ll be fine.
Ride south on Tennyson St, jogging west and south at 52nd Ave to gain the high ground next to Willis Case Golf Course. This is the other short KOM segment. Ride south to 46th Ave. Turn east and ride to Lipan St. Go south to 37th Ave, east to Inca St and south to a short spur of trail that disappears under the bulk of the I-25 overpass looming in front of you. Follow the spur to Rockmont Dr and Platte St (the one turns into the other at Cuernavaca Park). Platte Street returns you to 15th St and Confluence Park. If you’re smart, though, you’ll stop at the Denver Beer Company for a pint to celebrate.
The Sunnyside neighborhood is one of the four neighborhoods that collectively make up the area that most refer to generically as “The Highlands.” The others are Highland, West Highland, and Berkeley. Bounded by Federal Blvd, 38th Ave, I-25 and I-70, Sunnyside has yet to be overrun by hipsters, espresso shops, and micro-breweries. It took me a while to figure out how to get easily to 46th Ave, which ranks in my personal top ten as one of the best east-west streets in Denver, right up there with Dartmouth Ave, Montview Blvd, and 26th Ave. (Aside: have you ever noticed that there are far more great east-west streets in metro Denver than north-south?) Then I discovered a short piece of trail near an abandoned factory out past Cuernavaca Park that provided the missing link and avoided a scary underpass on 38th Ave and multiple twists and turns along Central Ave. The Sunnyside Loop takes in a good chunk of 46th Ave, the Cottonwoods section of Clear Creek Trail, a short stretch of residential climbing hear the Rolling Rock Golf Course, and returns along 20th Ave. You can ride it in either direction. I like going west on 26th Ave and east on 20th Ave, but everyone has a different idea on which is better.The description below starts at Confluence Park and goes counter-clockwise.
Start at Confluence Park. Get out to Platte St by leaving the Platte Trail at 15th, 16th, or 19th Streets. Ride north on Platte St to where it dead ends in a circle at Cuernavaca Park. This last stretch of road is called Rockmont Drive and honors the now defunct Rockmont Envelope Company that still graces the site, awaiting the right developer and a recovering economy for further direction. Ride north on the trail spur to connect to 37th Ave and Inca St. Some good graffiti and an interesting view of Denver will greet you.
Snake your way along Inca St and 37th ave to reach Lipan St and cross 38th Ave to reach 46th Ave. Ride west on 46th Ave to Tennyson St then go north (right) past Willis Case Golf Course to 52nd Ave, the northern boundary of Denver proper. Jog right and left to stay on Tennyson and descend a fast hill to intersect the Clear Creek Trail. It is not well marked but look for the pedestrian crossing sign and stop if you see the water in the creek.
East of here Clear Creek Trail is pretty industrial, but the stretch between Tennyson and McIntyre streets is more natural with good shade on hot days and interesting parks and bridges to hold your interest. Route finding is generally easy–look for the Clear Creek Trail signs and follow them. Sometimes around the many parks along the way there are two possible routes–just follow the trail of least resistance and you’ll be fine. if there’s been a lot of rain, avoid the underpasses along the major roads. Don’t be stupid or careless. If you are caught in a downpour and Clear Creek floods, move to higher ground–don’t seek shelter in one of the underpasses. The trail is interrupted twice, once at 52nd Ave and once again near Kipling St and the Wheatridge Recreation Center. The first interruption takes you briefly along quiet city streets.
The second detours under Kipling and through the Rec Center parking lot. If the Kipling underpass is flooded (it collects water easily) cross (without a light) at 41st Ave or at Kline St (with a light–just south of the Rec Center).
Watch for two sharp sequential humps along the trail, ridges really, that could throw the unwary cyclist. You can also shorten this loop by exiting the trail just before Kipling St at Independence St and riding south to connect to 32nd Ave. Surprisingly, all you need to do is follow the signs.
Exit the trail at McIntyre St by leaving the trail before Mcintyre and ride west on the Frontage Rd to make the turn on McIntyre. How will you know? Look for this building on your left. And if you pass under McIntyre by mistake, don’t worry. Just reverse course on the ramp and enter McIntyre from the west side–it is just an awkward maneuver and the exit from the Frontage Rd makes it simple and seamless.
Ride south on McIntyre to 32nd Ave. Go east (left) a short distance to Kendrick St (look for the sign for the Rolling Hills Golf Course) and escape 32nd Ave by riding south (right) on Kendrick to Fooothills Rd. Turn east (left) on Foothills. Climb through a small residential area and work your way east to Eldridge St. Go south (right) to join 20th Ave.
2oth Avenue is a great route east back into Denver. Watch out for a narrow area through Lena Gulch (where the Maple Grove Reservoir starts). Otherwise, there is a striped bike lane for most of the return. Just before Sheridan Blvd, detour around Sloan’s Lake at Depew St. Ride south t0 17th Ave, then east again to Sports Authority Mile High Stadium. You’re almost home. Circle the sports complex to the north or south and rejoin the Platte Trail just east of the Stadium. Ride the trail north (left) back to Confluence Park.
This loop started out as a tour of independent espresso joints across the metro area. I mapped and then plotted how best to reach as many as I could in a single ride from central Denver. I started working on it in late 2011 and early 2012, when the days are short and frequently cold and when a nice cortado is exactly what you need to warm the inner cyclist. As the route developed and the days grew longer and warmer, I realized that Yelp! is probably a better resource for indie coffee than a static map and abandoned all the little blue coffee cups that dotted the first draft of this route. But the route is a good one, even without the coffee stops. Named for the twin mesas that rise above Golden to the east, this great loop complements similar routes in the other sectors of the city: Red Rocks Loop, Meridian-Inverness Loop, and Going to the Dogs Loop.
The route finding on this one is not particularly difficult in any one area, but there are enough turns and possibilities that you should take a copy of this map and the detailed zoom maps with you, unless you are already familiar with the territory. The basic route is 34 miles, but add in the Cherry Creek Trail, a loop through Golden or a loop on the trails up and around the Arvada Reservoir, and pretty soon you’ll be at a half-century.
The tricky parts happen in the Confluence Park area (getting from there to Lipan St), through Arvada (finding your way to Simms St from Grandview Ave), and around Golden (finding Clear Creek Trail and navigating a loop around the city). None of these should put you off your game. The text below assumes you’re starting this ride in Denver, but there’s no good reason you shouldn’t do the ride from Golden, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, or Lakewood.
From Confluence Park you have three options to ride to Lipan St, which in turn connects you to 46th Ave. You can ride north on the Platte River Trail to Cuernavaca Park, then find the trail spur that parallels the interstate and links up with 36th Ave and Inca St. Just remember to stay on the northwest bank of the Platte and you’ll come directly to Cuernavaca Park. Second, you can jump onto Platte St and ride it northeast to the same trail spur. These two options take you along the historic train tracks and gives some interesting views of graffiti as you pass under the interstate and a spectacular view of downtown. Once you’ve crossed under the interstate, work your way west to Lipan St.
The third option is slightly more direct and gives you a narrow slice of the Lo-Hi neighborhood. Leave the Platte River Trail at 16th St. Cross Platte Ste and work your way up and over the interstate via the Highland Bridge, admiring the John McEnroe sculpture as you pass by. Turn right on Central St and ride it and its variants (Osage, 32nd, and Kalamath) to Lipan St. All three options are designed to get you to Lipan St and thence to 46th Ave and the Sunnyside neighborhood. Go west on 46th to Tennyson St, then follow Tennyson to the Clear Creek Trail. Look for the white suspension bridge ahead. You want to be on it. Follow the sign to Ralston Creek Trail and cross Clear Creek. Wind your way up Ralston Creek and exit at Lamar St, the sign for which periodically disappears. Left and up from the trail after 1/2 mile is about right. Ride south briefly from the intersection of 58th Ave on Lamar then go west on Grandview Ave, one of the great cycling streets in the area. It takes you through the sights and sounds of Olde Town Arvadaand works its way west roughly parallel to 58th Ave. Go west then north on Grandview as it bends around past the cemetery. At 57th Place and old Kipling there’s a very tricky chicane you should probably put foot down for or walk. Cross 58th on old Kipling at an unprotected intersection then ride north past Starbucks to 58th Place. Go west and cross Kipling Parkway, again at an unprotected and sometimes tricky intersection. That’s the hard work. Ride west (on 58th Pl) and north (on Miller St) to reach Allendale Dr which connects going west to Simms St. Ride Simms north to 72nd Ave and 72nd Ave west to the Arvada Reservoir where an optional loop awaits you. The loop begins just past Virgil St at an obvious trail spur to the right. Loop or no, you’ll end up back at Virgil and 64th Ave. Go east to Easley Rd, then south towards Golden. Along the way the mesas for which the route is named come into sharp focus. They’re big.
As you approach Golden, decide on a plan. You can ride an extra loop through the city or work your way back to Denver on 32nd, 26th or 20th Ave. All are well worn by cyclists, but traditionally cyclists have crowded onto 32nd Ave, my least favorite route. If you like it and it works for you, don’t sweat any of the details that follow. Just hop on the Clear Creek Trail (confusingly you ride west on 44th Ave to find a small spur to reach the CCT), go east to McIntyre St, south to 32nd Ave and back to Denver.
For a more interesting route, ride south on Mcintyre then east briefly on 32nd Ave to Kendrick St, where you’ll see the sign for the Rolling Hills Golf Course. Go south on Kendrick to where it bends west. Go east on Foothill Rd which climbs and winds its way back to Eldridge St. Go south to 20th Ave. Ride 20th Ave all the way back to Denver, jogging north or south at Sheridan to get around Sloan’s Lake. There’s one narrow spot on 20th Ave at Urban St where traffic calming medians have narrowed the street to barely a car’s width. Be sure to use the whole lane here.
This is one of the many supplemental maps found in Great Road Rides Denver. All are designed to help you navigate safely and precisely through some of the thornier parts of the metro region, such as the Dartmouth Dodge. Shown here are the major links to get you in and around Golden, including links to the Clear Creek Trail, the C-470 Trail, and Beverly Heights Park in Golden (from which you access Lookout Mountain and the Genesee Mountain Loop). Most of this is self-explanatory but a two areas warrant some detail: the start of the Clear Creek Trail, and skirting South Table Mountain to reach Illinois St, the Golden Trail, or Rooney Rd and the C-470 Trail. For Clear Creek Trail, ride east 1/2 block from the intersection of 10th and Ford. Just after you pass over a nasty looking, concrete drainage ditch, the trail breaks off sharply to the left (north). Another equally sharp, diagonal turn (to the right and east after two blocks) will put you safely on the trail. If you are coming from Red Rocks and Rooney Rd, make a right on Colfax Ave at the traffic light, then look immediately to the left for a concrete trail that sits in the western shadow of the C-470 overpass. Grab the trail to the intersection with 6th Ave. Go north on Johnson Rd, right on 10th Ave and follow 10th Ave all the way to McIntyre St. After Ulysses, you’ll be riding (legally) against traffic in a designated bike lane.
Go left on McIntyre, right on S. Golden Rd and ride easterly past Camp George West
and the DOC facility until you see the lighthouse that marks Candlelight Storage and Isabell St. If you’re not comfortable on skinny tires and narrow dirt trails, keep going and work your way through the shopping center and across Denver West Blvd to Denver West Parkway. Otherwise, go left at Isabell to the end of the street, follow the dirt path
and pop up going east on Denver West Pkwy just outside NREL.