The Colorado sky seems color-enhanced. Rich blues tint the vibrant summer sunsets and most Coloradans happily traded their skis for flip-flops. The Denver area’s 100-plus miles of groomed bike paths are a great place for the whole family to enjoy the season’s longer days. Here is a look at three of them.
Seven days a week cyclists buzz along the Mary Carter Greenway, part of the southern section of the Platte River trail. Kayakers play in the river’s man-made rapids and the Carson Nature Center attracts visitors with interactive exhibits.
Mary Carter Greenway
The bike path runs through a piece of the 672-acre South Platte Park, which includes fishing lakes and forested hiking trails. The park also offers outdoor recreation and nature programs for adults and children.
Awareness and courtesy are especially important on this busy trail. Riding single-file is recommended, and don’t forget to call out when approaching pedestrians.
Getting There: Follow Santa Fe Drive south and head west on C-470. Take the first exit, an unmarked dirt road, and make a quick right. Pass the first lot to park closer to the trail. Cycle about 1.5 miles downstream to the Carson Nature Center.
High Line Canal
Running from the Green Valley Ranch area northeast of metro Denver to Waterton Canyon in Douglas County, the 66 miles of the High Line Canal trail are best taken in pieces.
The long trail offers many different pictures of metro Denver, from remote views of Chatfield State Park to suburban landscapes with colorful gardens and massive homes. Users vary as much as the scenery and the trail is frequented by horses, babies in strollers, athletes and walkers.
Mountain bikes are helpful at the sandy southwestern end, but road bikes are suitable for most other places.
Getting There: The High Line Canal trail can be accessed from many points along its meandering route. For less-traveled views, take Santa Fe Drive south past C-470 and turn west on Titan Road. Make a right onto the south entrance road to Chatfield State Park and continue to a dirt parking lot on the right. If you reach the Chatfield entrance, you’ve gone too far.
The southern end of the High Line Canal offers views that feel far removed from Denver’s urban landscape.
The start of the Colorado Trail, Waterton Canyon is a hiking, cycling and fishing destination. A wide dirt road follows the South Platte River 6.5 miles through the canyon to the 243-foot Strontia Springs Dam and Reservoir.
Sheltered picnic tables and several maintained bathrooms dot the easy trail, which connects to the Roxborough State Park trail system. Waterton hosts over 40 species of birds, and trout fishing is abundant.
Spring seems the best time to see herds of bighorn sheep strolling along the road or climbing the canyon’s rocky ledges. To protect their habitat, dogs are not allowed in the canyon.
Getting There: Take Wadsworth Blvd. south past C-470 and Chatfield Reservoir. Follow the road as it forks left and narrows to one lane (the right fork is a Lockheed Martin entrance.) Pass the Roxborough Park entrance and turn left into the free parking lot, making sure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Most of the above trails are fairly well-known and well-traveled, but don’t be afraid to explore the smaller gulch trails that branch from the main paths. The result is often quieter views and a more intimate experience.
Still, bike paths can be crowded in summer. Remember to always wear a helmet, stay to the right and announce your presence to pedestrians.
If You Go
Mary Carter Greenway/South Platte Park For information about the park’s monthly family walk, e-mail the program coordinator at [email protected]. Call 303-730-1022 for nature center hours and exhibits.
High Line Canal Trail Denver Water publishes the “Guide to the Highline Canal,” a pocket-sized map and information booklet. For fishing information, contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife at 303-291-7227.
Though publishers struggle to keep pace with the metro area’s constantly expanding bike path network, several comprehensive maps and guidebooks are available.
Check out CAK Publishing’s “Take a Bike” series, which details urban trails, maps, photos and nearby attractions. Look for titles in local bookstores, or order online at www.bikepaths.com/books/mapsbooks.html
The Denver Bicycle Touring Club also publishes a city map highlighting trails and designated on-street bicycle routes. The map is available at many area cycling shops, or visit www.dbtc.org for a list of retailers.
Rachel Barbara has a degree in film & media arts from Temple University. A former river rafting guide, she is especially keen about covering the adventurous side of Colorado.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.