Denver By Bike: Pedal on Pavement or Mountain Bike in the Foothills
One of the great thing about living in Colorado’s Front Range is the glorious weather that allows for biking year round. That’s right, we said it — all year. While your friends in the Northeast or Upper Midwest are dreaming of their next too-short summer season, you’re planning your so-called “offseason adventures.”
It’s not uncommon to have T-shirt weather in fall and winter. Even at higher elevations, sunny days with temperatures in the 40s, 50s and even 60s can happen — and when such magic hits the rarefied Colorado air, where better to be than on metro Denver’s urban bike paths or on a foothills mountain-biking trail?
Urban Bike Adventures
The city of Denver is home to an incredible network of paved, off-road trails. In fact, there’s a whopping 850 miles of them, weaving their way throughout the surrounding seven counties. Some popular trails are listed below.
Note: Due to the September floods, some trails — such as Bear Creek and Clear Creek — may not yet be clear of debris. Call the county government offices where your chosen trail is located to determine current conditions and accessibility.
Explore the distinctive ecosystem of a mountain creek as it travels from the high plains to the Ancestral Rockies at Red Rocks.
Length: 12.3 miles from the South Platte River to Morrison.
Along the way: Morrison, Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park.
Travel from one of Denver’s most posh shopping districts to two of the metro area’s renowned state parks.
Length: 11.2 miles from Denver to Franktown.
Along the way: Cherry Creek Shopping District, Four Mile House and Historic Park, Cherry Creek State Park, Castlewood Canyon State Park
Golden’s motto is “Where The West Lives,” and the west comes to life as you travel from Denver’s Platte River Trail to this vibrant historic community in the foothills.
Length: 20 miles from the South Platte River to Golden.
Along the way: Golden, Colorado Railroad Museum.
This trail links some of the Denver area’s most celebrated tourist destinations.
Length: Approximately 30 miles, along the South Platte River
Along the way: Riverside Cemetery, Confluence Park, Elitch Gardens Theme Park, Downtown Aquarium, Children’s Museum, REI Flagship Store, My Brother’s Bar (Neal Cassady’s favorite hangout), Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Hudson Gardens, Chatfield State Park.
Feature: If you’ve got kiddos with you, or if you’re simply looking for a shorter excursion, don’t miss this little gem.
Length: 3 miles
Along the way: Sublime views of this pretty metro area lake, which is famously known as the home to the annual Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.
Forget Fruita, Think Foothills
Your biking adventures can go well beyond the metro area, particularly if you own a mountain bike. The city’s network of paved trails also connect to hundreds of miles of dirt trails, which crisscross the Front Range foothills.
For example, if you’re biking the Bear Creek Bike Trail, you can hop onto a network of trails along C-470 that connect to Chatfield State Park in the south and to the city of Golden in the north. This brings 40- to 60-mile loops within the realm of possibility, starting and finishing right in downtown Denver.
And parts of the Cherry Creek Bike Path follow the Colorado Front Range Trail, an off-road path that currently includes 300 miles of trails. (Plans call for the creation of 876 miles from the Wyoming border to New Mexico.)
Speaking of epic trail rides: Don’t forget the venerable Colorado Trail, which runs 485 miles from
Denver to Durango, and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which travels 800 miles through the Centennial State; only the designated wilderness areas are off-limits to riders.
Then there are the true mountain-biking hotspots. Forget those long drives to Moab or Fruita; you can find some hardcore trail riding right here in the foothills. One such destination is the Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Area.
A final note: A new hotspot within easy reach of the Denver metro area is in the offing: The Bailey Trails initiative is gathering steam, with backers hoping to transform the little mountain community of Bailey into a mountain-biking hub by creating connection points to the many trails that surround it.
Already home to the Bailey HUNDO, an annual 100-mile endurance race, the little Platte Canyon community sits right in the middle of (but is disconnected from) the most sought-after recreational destinations in the east-central Rockies: Mount Evans, the Colorado Trail, the Buffalo Creek trail system, and Staunton State Park, the newest addition to Colorado’s state park system.
In the not-too-distant future, mountain-bike enthusiasts hope to see new and existing trails trails in the Bailey area connected so that bikers can access all of these destinations easily. Which may, in fact, bring a little bit of Fruita to the Front Range.
Learn more about the Colorado mountain biking scene through the Colorado Mountain Bike Association.
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