• john

Riding Denver's Trail Network

I am riding daily - alternating between grocery/errand rides and hitting the trail for 20-30 miles. My goal is to be doing the 30-mile loop I like (or longer) every day by end of summer. I have to say, Denver's trails are a mixed bag. Usually safe and well-maintained, but sometimes rolling through the worst parts of the city, making the optic (and olfactory) experience less than pleasant.

Take this shot of what looks like a nice gravel trail through thistles. This is on the Sand Creek Trail:

The trail is fine, and you even get a glimpse of mountains on the western horizon, but look to the right, and you are right next to the noise and dust of I-70.

A couple miles later, there is a nice trail-side stop where I usually stop and hydrate a bit. It's next to the creek.

Looks idyllic, doesn't it? But glance to the left, and you get a pile of dirt and lots of industrial business as scenery. There's some graffiti on the spillway that the photo doesn't show well. Also a pile of beer cans out of frame just a few feet in front of me.

I do like the wildlife I see sometimes. There is the occasional fox or coyote but always lots of birds on these trails. Almost always a good selection of ducks, geese and snowy egrets (and occasionally eagles). Today was a good day for birds. I caught a great blue heron scouting for some fish in the rapids along the Platte River Trail:

Zoom back out though, and you get this. Not quite as pretty. The short stacks just over the trail on the right are at Denver's sewer treatment facility. I know it has to live somewhere, but it always guarantees that a couple of miles of riding are gagging and trying to block out the stench.

Here's another shot of the heron from further down the trail:

But pull back out and you get the stacks of the Suncor Oil Refinery in the background. That's another "fragrant" part of the Sand Creek Trail that I'm not wild about.

As I said, it was a good day for birds. I found some wild turkeys on the other side of a ditch. Never seen them on this trail before! It's not a great shot, but I didn't have my zoomier camera - just the cell phone.

The Sand Creek portion of the trail is very industrial, and there are homeless tents scattered throughout the area. Occasionally the police come clear them out but they find their way back after a few days. I don't begrudge them the space as long as they don't bother people. I've never felt unsafe through here, but there were bicycles stolen at knifepoint a couple years ago near a large encampment in Commerce City. It was broken up shortly after that.

The Platte River section moves from industrial to more gentrified areas as it gets closer to downtown. There are still a fair number of homeless people along the way, but also joggers, other cyclists, and dog-walkers.

Near downtown is "The Confluence" where Cherry Creek empties into the Platte. On a day like this, there are people in the water (not me!) and it's a peaceful scene. Less busy than normal - as the REI and Starbucks there are less trafficked than before.

The tower in the middle is part of Six-Flags Elitch Gardens, and if you continue past that on the trail you will get to Mile High Stadium where the Bronco's play.

I turn left here and head down Denver's crown jewel of trails: The Cherry Creek Trail. It is extremely popular in nice weather, and often very busy. Extreme caution is needed as there are joggers, dog-walkers and many less-experienced cyclists, including entire families out for some fresh air and exercise.

Today was not that busy, however, and I snapped this shot of a blooming catalpa tree in the creek. You wouldn't know it but the Cherry Creek Mall is right across the street. Once you are down in the creek bed the city sort of disappears.

A few miles past this I usually break off and head through residential neighborhoods back to my house. If you keep going it ends up at Cherry Creek Reservoir, where there is a nice beach.

All that to say I wish I was on my summer tour right now. Today I would be right in the middle of the Tour de Nebraska. Denver's trails are ok, but I'd rather be riding with 400+ people out in the cornfields!

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