The very best hiking, camping, paddling, fishing, climbing, mountain biking, and road cycling within two hours of Denver.
Still Learning Golden/Red Rocks/Morrison loop Start: Golden At roughly 18 miles, this meandering route is long enough to make for a workout if you’re just getting your bike legs, and leisurely enough to enjoy if you’re looking for some scenery and a place to stop and snack. From Golden, head west on 19th Street to the bike path that parallels Sixth Avenue. Follow it south—expect some climbing—until it intersects with Heritage Road/Jefferson County Parkway, and continue south on Heritage (you’ll cross under I-70) until you reach West Alameda Parkway; take a hard right and pedal through Red Rocks Park down to CO 74. Follow this east into Morrison, and exit town going east on Morrison Road. Before you hit C-470, turn left at South Rooney Road, branch off onto the bike path—get your climbing legs ready again—that parallels C-470, and take it all the way back to your starting point (you’ll cross Sixth Avenue and stick with it as you bear northwest onto 19th Street).
Pit Stop: Bring a few greenbacks for your spin through Morrison and snag an ice cream cone at Ozzi’s (303-697-8775) or hit the outdoor soft-serve window at the Blue Cow (303-697-5721, bluecoweatery.com). If you’re a burgeoning bike geek—or if you’ve managed a flat or broken a chain—pop into Morrison’s Red Rocks Cyclery for a fix and get your caffeine jolt at the in-house espresso bar. 303-697-8833, redrockscyclery.com
Seeking a Challenge Golden Gate Canyon loop Start: Golden With about 4,000 feet of climbing, this loop is no joke, but the payoff is one of the most scenic and classic rides along the Front Range. We’re talking a 19 percent gradient at some points, so don’t skimp on water, snacks, and energy supplements. Leave from downtown Golden and head north on the wide shoulder of CO 93, doing your best to find a comfortable rhythm alongside the voluminous traffic. Turn left onto Golden Gate Canyon Road; after about 14 miles, take a right onto Mountain Base Road and follow it into Golden Gate Canyon State Park (the $7 fee is waived for cyclists). When you reach the Gap Road T-intersection, a right turn will point you toward CO 72, where you can turn right again and descend through Coal Creek Canyon back to CO 93 and Golden (about 42 total miles). For a longer, more rigorous option (around 54 miles), turn left at the Gap Road T-intersection instead and continue to the Peak to Peak Highway (CO 119), where a right turn will send you through Rollinsville before you hit CO 72 to shoot back to Golden—beware of an intense climb between Pinecliffe and Wondervu.
Incentive: The homestretch down CO 93 is brutal; power through it with the thought of a cold, malty, hoppy Legendary Red Ale from Golden City Brewery—“Golden’s second largest brewery”—on 12th Street. Stash the wheels and claim a table in the beer garden to wind down. 303-279-8092, gcbrewery.com
Best-Kept Secret Higby/Roller Coaster/ Air Force Academy loop Start: Monument With no shortage of excellent foothills rides west of Denver, you may not think to look south toward the Springs, but this 30-plus-mile route is worth the drive—and the 3,000 feet of climbing make the relatively manageable length a brag-able accomplishment. Park at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument and pedal east for about four miles on Higby Road—and we do mean pedal, through three sections with gradients above 10 percent—toward the Black Forest. Turn right on Roller Coaster Road and follow a long, undulating stretch for another four miles until you hit North Gate Boulevard. Take a right and cruise downhill, under I-25, into the Air Force Academy grounds—don’t forget a photo ID for entry at the gate. North Gate becomes Academy Drive, which circles the campus in gentle hills, offering views of the chapel, athletic fields, and Colorado Springs’ skyline. Turn left at Stadium Boulevard, and when you reach the B-52 monument, turn back onto North Gate and retrace your path back to the high school. Note: This route has little to no services, so stock up beforehand.
Make Friends: For intermediate to advanced cyclists who’d rather ride with a group, the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club (rmccrides.com), which hosts several rides per week, leads this tour in spring and early fall; check the site for a full schedule of additional routes or information on the club’s timed challenge and brevet series events (for serious training purposes only). Riders of any level: Try Denver Bicycle Touring Club (dbtc.org) for group ride schedules and social events.
ASK THE EXPERT
Charlie Henderson President, Rocky Mountain Cycling Club
Q: What’s your take on how the USA Pro Cycling Challenge coming to Colorado has affected Colorado cycling as a sport?
A: It is tremendous, unbelievable, and long overdue to have this kind of a top pro race in Colorado. It’s definitely raised interest. Last year, certain days approached Tour de France crowds.