A Quick and Dirty Guide to Cycling in Denver

F Delventhal
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Denver is perfect for pedaling throughout the year. In the spring, when warm temperatures come to the Front Range yet the mountains are still recovering from the grips of winter, Denverites come out on two wheels in force. A vast network of bike paths and parks offer many great places to ride, while some classic climbs to the west can challenge your legs and lungs.

If you want to go for a quick spin but don’t have a bike, grab a B-cycle from one of 84 stations throughout the city. These short-term rentals are designed for quick trips, although you can keep a B-cycle longer for an extra fee. Bikes can be returned at any station, so they’re ideal if you want to hop a one-way ride. If you've got your own, well, all the better.

Here, a sampling of some of Denver's more popular cycling spots—from the flat and friendly to the steep and gruesome.

Cherry Creek Trail

Stretching for 40 miles from downtown’s Confluence Park to Cherry Creek Reservoir, the Cherry Creek Trail is a Denver gem. Safe, well maintained, and easy to navigate, it’s a beautiful and peaceful place to ride for as long or as short as you like. Hop on the trail anywhere along Cherry Creek and enjoy what might be one of the nicest semi-urban bike rides in the country.

A good place to start is at the Starbucks/REI at Confluence Park. You can easily ride or drive there, and it's a convenient place to meet up with friends. Then cross over the bridge and start spinning along the Cherry Creek Trail going east. This will give you a great tour of downtown and of some of Denver's nicest neighborhoods. You can ride all the way to Cherry Creek State Park, or do as many miles out and back as you desire.

Washington Park

Washington Park is one of the oldest and most classic bicycling spots in the Denver area. People have been riding and racing around this beautiful park for decades. You can lap it in either direction, but counterclockwise is the norm. Take time to explore the entire park and the surrounding historic neighborhoods.

Wash Park is easy to find, either by bike or car, and has plenty of parking. You can access it easily from the Cherry Creek Bike Path—just bop up Downing street and head south a couple of blocks. Be aware that there is a posted speed limit of 15 MPH around the park’s internal roads, and bicycle cops will enforce this.

Platte River Trail

Tim Cigelske

The Platte River Trail is a well-developed and well-maintained urban trail that stretches for 28.5 miles along the Platte River, from Henderson in the north to Chatfield Reservoir in the south.

For best results, head south on your bike from Confluence Park. If you keep spinning all the way to Chatfield, you're looking at about 50 miles round trip. About halfway, you’ll ride past Hudson Gardens where you’ll find a little snack shack if you want to rest and refuel.

If you want to get creative, string together a ride that includes parts of the South Platte and the Cherry Creek trails and/or other bike routes and lanes. This Denver bicycling map can help you plan a route.

Lookout Mountain

Bradley Gordon

Lookout Mountain is a proving ground for Front Range cyclists, a twisty grunt of a climb up 1,200 feet over 9.2 miles. Many riders challenge themselves to beat their personal record every time, or to do Lookout a certain number of times a year. Whatever your internal stoke says, this ride will leave you gasping for breath and probably begging for more—it’s the perfect combination of pleasure and pain.

The roadie-approved version of this ride is known as “pillar to post,” for timing purposes, referencing the stone pillars at the bottom of the climb, and the sign post for Buffalo Bill’s Grave at the top. Click your stopwatch at the pillars and begin the climb. Relentless steeps with seemingly endless switchbacks will put you in a world of hurt, yet also distract you with breathtaking views of North and South Table mountains and downtown Golden.

Once you reach the top and your heart has stopped pounding in your chest, go into your drops and pretend you’re a racer on the descent.

Mount Evans

F Delventhal

While it’s not right in Denver, Mount Evans —the highest paved road in North America—is worthy of your bucket list, if only for bragging rights. On this classic sky-scraping climb, you’ll pedal 28 miles and nearly 7,000 feet up Mount Evans to 14,130 feet. The key to success is to get in good shape, and carefully plan your nutrition, hydration, and gear. Think layers.

Start out in the cool hours of morning from the Mount Evans Forest Service Ranger Station just outside of Idaho Springs. Strip off layers as you heat up. Remember to eat and drink small amounts throughout the climb. When you get to Echo Lake at 10,597 feet, it gets chilly again so start putting those layers back on. By the time you reach the summit, it will be cold and possibly windy. Spend some time taking in the view, then bundle up for the descent. You’ll need all the cold weather cycling gear you can gather for the ride down.

Consider recruiting a friend to drive a support vehicle so you have backup food and clothing—plus a helping hand if things go wrong.

Resources

Map: Bike Map of Denver
Events: Mount Evans Hill Climb , Copper Triangle , Denver Century Ride , Ride the Rockies , Triple Bypass
Organizations: Bicycle Colorado , Bike Denver , Rocky Mountain Cycling Club
Retailers: BikeSource , Campus Cycles , Elevation Cycles , Salvagetti , Wheat Ridge Cyclery

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