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.
As summer and fall give way to winter’s cold breath, it is time to start thinking about where you can ride when the days are short and the light comes in steeply slanted from the south. High Grade and most of the foothill rides are probably not great choices. It is cold in the depths of the canyons and the grit and sand that gives traction to cars in the winter plays havoc with our skinny tires. I got interested in the plains east of the city when I mapped the State Time Trial Championship route this year and discovered how much good riding there is east of DIA, out towards Bennett and Watkins. A chance post on 303cycling.com talked about the quiet, interesting roads north and east of Smith Road, way out past the County Jail, I-225, and even C-470. So thanks to Doug for opening up this whole new area to me. As mapped, this route starts at City Park in Denver and then makes a big loop out to and past Watkins. For those days when you don’t want to bite off quite that much, start out near the Sand Creek Greenway at Star K Ranch Morrison Nature Center. There’s convenient parking, shady trees, and toilets.
If you start in Denver, navigate out to Smith Road. Ride east on Montview to Yosemite St/Central Park Blvd. Go north, then east along Akron St and 22nd Ave to reach Beeler and 26th Ave. Further east you’ll deadend into Iola St which connects to Havana and then to Smith Rd. This map will show you the way if it’s your first time riding through Stapleton. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you pass the Denver County Jail and the state Diagnostic and Reception Center. The stretch of Smith Rd between Havana and Chambers Rd can feel busy–there are plenty of trucks and not much in the way of a shoulder. But things get better the further east you go. If you are coming from the south, Sable Blvd provides good access almost from the Cherry Creek Reservoir. The fun begins when you leave Smith Rd at Picadilly Rd. Go north then east to 26th Ave. Pretty quickly you’ll get the feel for the riding: lots of empty spaces with corn fields, sunflowers, large industrial operations, and a giant solar operation in the middle of a field.
Go as as far east you want or have time for. A few options are laid out in the map, but know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Go south at Hudson Rd and loop around through Watkins on Colfax Ave. There’s an exit from I-70 here and a truck stop if you need something, and plenty of evidence of hard times and failed dreams.
If you have a tolerance for somewtimes rough roads, keep going east to Manila Rd before turning north. Otherwise, turn north at Cavanaugh Rd and make your way towards Front Range Airport, DIA’s general aviation little brother. If you don’t make it to Manila Rd, do an out and back on 48th Ave, just for the sheer joy of riding along on a nearly deserted road on the edge of the historic short grass prairie.
To return from Front Range Airport, work your way north on Imboden Rd to 56th Ave and then turn west. It is hard not to be impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of all that stretches before you: acres of sunflowers, fallow farmland, the hustle and bustle of aircraft taking off in short steep arcs and landing in long shallow ones, and in the far distance the Rocky Mountains, beckoning you home again.
Ride west. Depending on your mood or time of day, use Hudson, Monaghan or Picadilly Rd to drop back down to 26th Ave and Smith Road. Return to your starting place.