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Over the past several months, we’ve been grieving the things we haven’t been able to do around town: no concerts at Red Rocks, no baseball games at Coors, no beers in the park. But there’s at least one thing quarantine allowed us to do better: Ride bikes. In fact, amidst stay-at-home and safer-at-home restrictions, the city transformed several roads into shared corridors, reclaiming street space otherwise dominated by cars and making them safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Denver was already a decent place to ride recreationally. Now, it’s even better. And while we still don’t know how the Summer Of Reopening will impact our lives, we can count on at least a few months that will offer cycling opportunities for all levels of riders. With that in mind, we’ve created this introductory guide for riders pedaling Denver’s cycling network for the first time.
The Beginner Ride
Start/Finish: Sloan Lake
Type of Ride: Loop
Total Miles: 3 to 6
The path around Sloan Lake has long attracted cyclists—and for good reason. Not only do you pedal alongside the water with a mountain view, you can largely avoid vehicle traffic while you do it. Even better, Stuart Street and West Byron Place form one of the corridors the city recently closed to cars, meaning cyclists have more room to ride without impacting runners and pedestrians. You can start this trek from any of the parking lots around the lake (one full loop is just shy of three miles.) But if you’re looking for a little more burn, climb a mile up Lowell Boulevard until you hit the 35th Avenue Neighborhood Bikeway, turn left (west), and ride that peaceful route another three quarters of a mile before turning left back down Yates Street and finishing your ride on a long downhill.
The Intermediate Ride
Start: Bear Creek Greenbelt, Lakewood
Finish: Confluence Park, Denver
Type of Ride: Point-to-Point (downhill)
Total Miles: 20
Don’t let the mileage on this one deter you; it’s almost all downhill. Start your ride at Bear Creek Lake Park (drop a car there) near the junction of U.S. 285 and 470 and find the beginning of the Bear Creek Trail. Follow it for about 10 miles, where you’ll weave through groves of trees and amble along the trail’s namesake waterway. Then, continue on and merge with the South Platte River Trail for another 8.4 miles of relatively flat riding that grows more urban with each pedal. The rub of this adventure is that it requires two cars, but as you glide from the foothills into the city, you probably won’t be complaining.
The Advanced Ride
Start: Confluence Park, downtown Denver
Type of Ride: Out and Back
Destination: Chatfield State Park
Total Miles: 40
This one is not for the faint of heart, but for experienced riders, it shouldn’t be too bad. From Confluence Park, head south on the South Platte River Trail and pedal past Elitch Gardens and Empower Field at Mile High on your way out of town. After about 10 miles (near the junction with U.S. 285), heed the signage and cross a cyclist bridge on your left where you’ll meet the Mary Carter Greenway Trail. Continue south for approximately eight more miles—you’ll ride through changing landscape as you cross into Littleton and pass a series of small lakes. When you hit the junction with C-470, continue a short way on the same trail and you’ll soon see Chatfield Reservoir, a perfect spot for fueling up. If you’re spent and you have kind friends, you could arrange a ride back to town from here. Otherwise, hydrate and prepare to do it all again in reverse.