For 33 years, the Denver Post has hosted Ride the Rockies, a multi-day bicycling slog through the mountains. For 33 years, I’ve never participated.
Instead of enduring six days on a 418-mile grind through the Rockies, this year I opted to spend six hours pedaling the Cherry Creek Trail from end to end.
Ultimately stretching 42 miles in length, this multi-use trail follows its namesake stream from Denver’s Confluence Park to Castlewood Canyon near Franktown — or at least it will when land ownership issues are settled and the final 2 miles are completed. It’s relatively flat, paved nearly all the way and because it avoids most crossroads by passing beneath bridges, it’s virtually free of cross traffic and stop lights.
My ride began with my wife dropping me off at the REI Starbucks. Two doughnuts and a cup of French roast later, I began my ride at milepost zero. I shared the route with walkers, runners and fellow bikers. Most blitzed past on skinny-tire racers while I plodded along on my fat-tire mountain bike.
“On your left,” became the most common greeting of the day.
Initially, the creek and trail traverse a ravine below the adjoining ground with painted murals adorning retaining walls. After 3 miles, the trail goes topside and follows Speer toward Cherry Creek Mall.
A testament to mixed mileages, Four Mile Historic Park lies near the trail’s 6 mile milepost. Beyond, the area opens with warehouses on one side and single-family homes across the creek on the other. Past the Kennedy Golf Course, around milepost 11, the route diagonals up 14-story-high Cherry Creek Dam, the trail’s toughest climb. Another rider rested at the halfway point.
“I should have eaten Wheaties for breakfast instead of doughnuts,” I admit as I grunt past.
Crossing Dam Road, I entered Cherry Creek State Park, which was brimming with burger-grilling picnickers, water-plying boaters and trail-strolling hikers. To avoid multiple-use conflicts, the custom here is for bicyclists to remain on the lakeside roadway.
Near milepost 17, I returned to the trail and followed the creek south toward Arapahoe Road. Until a few years ago, continuing down the Cherry Creek Trail required crossing Arapahoe and following traffic-laden Jordan Road for 1½ miles before reconnecting with the trail. We now painlessly cross beneath a new bridge. Beyond lies a picnic ramada, restrooms and a 15-mph speed limit sign with a radar-equipped display showing “Your Speed.” Fortunately, no ticket-wielding cops were hiding in the bushes.
The land out here proffers a more suburban feel. Playgrounds, picnic tables and athletic fields lay interspersed with path-bordering backyards. The land becomes more pastoral farther south with prairie grasses, chirping birds and shady cottonwoods bordering the trail.
Of course, summer in Colorado means construction. On the Cherry Creek Trail, it begins at milepost 33 where 2 miles of trail remain closed for paving. I detoured to Parker Road and followed it 1¼ miles to Old School and Bayou Gulch Roads where I re-entered the trail. There, a young couple walking hand-in-hand would be the last trail users I’d see.
At milepost 38, the route detours down a gravely Walker Road, the trail’s southernmost vehicle access point. Highway 86 lies a mile ahead. Crossing beneath the roadway, I soon reached milepost 39½. A nearby sign warned that the trail abruptly ends in 350 yards. They weren’t lying.
With my wife and truck parked in Castlewood Canyon State Park, I resorted to the “Really? They haven’t finished this yet?” bypass.
I pedaled back to the bridge, pushed my bike up a steep embankment to the highway, crossed the creek and began pedaling up Castlewood Canyon Road.
My bride, ride and hopefully a victory doughnut awaited 2 miles ahead.