SOUTH PLATTE | CHERRY CREEK | HIGH LINE CANAL | BEAR CREEK | CLEAR CREEK | CYCLING EVENTS
The city has multiple bike parks, 196 miles of on-street bike lanes, according to the city’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, connecting commuters and cyclists with all parts of Denver, from downtown to the Cherry Creek Reservoir.
Trails also stretch west from the city, connecting riders to Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. The Denver Moves plan, which aims to increase access to “high comfort bikeways” throughout the city is actively adding 270 more miles of bikeways, bike boulevards and separated bike lanes on streets to make it even safer and easier to scoot around town or cycle into the foothills and enjoy biking and mountain biking in Denver Mountain Parks.
For commuters, shoppers and day riders, the most important network of trails are the Cherry Creek and the South Platte River trails. These two bike arteries follow Denver’s major waterways and converge at Confluence Park. Both are protected from cars and connect downtown Denver with many neighborhoods, including shopping in Cherry Creek. The bike trails merge with a larger network of trails that lead to the foothills to the west, plains to the east and north and south of Denver.
Experience Denver’s History on the South Platte River Trail
Though paved today, the 36-plus-mile South Platte River Trail has been used for eons—first by Native Americans and then by settlers, well before Denver even had a name. Not surprisingly, the trail follows along the South Platte River, extending north to Brighton and south to Chatfield State Park.
As the trail winds through Denver it becomes known as the Mary Carter Greenway Trail and the Colorado Historical Society commemorates some of this history with signage along the trail, explaining the human and natural history of the land, its geology and wildlife inhabitants.
Confluence Park area: The trail is close to parks and lakes and has easy access from roads and ramps throughout Denver, so you can easily plan where you’ll get on or off the path for a picnic to enjoy the sites or take on other adventures. At Confluence Park, where Denver was founded, the trail joins with the Cherry Creek Trail. You can check out all sorts of things, like kayakers frolicking in the whitewater park.
Other activities near here include the Downtown Aquarium, Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus and Empower Field at Mile High. If you need to get some new parts for your bike, you can stop at the Denver REI Flagship.
If you’re a Beat buff, hop off the trail near REI to visit My Brother's Bar where Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and other Beat Generation luminaries hung out. The bar, in some iteration, has operated since 1873, according to the owners.
Riverside Cemetery: To the north, the path passes the historic Riverside Cemetery where many of the city’s famous pioneers are buried.
The South Platte Trail offers access to more adventurous biking at two parks.
The Trestle Bike Skills Park: This road-side park offers a dirt jump track line near U.S. 6 as it heads out of the city. Aimed mostly at BMX riders, it has adrenaline-pumping jumps, some slopestyle wooden features and a pump track. It’s maintained by passionate volunteers.
Ruby Hill Park: One of Denver’s hidden wonders, Ruby Hill Park is home to Levitt Pavilion, which hosts around 50 free outdoor concerts annually as well as ticketed events. It’s featured local, national and international acts and boasts a capacity of 7,500.
The park also has the Ruby Hill Bike Park, which is even more ambitious and larger than the Trestle Skills Bike Park. Ruby Hill features multiple slopestyle courses, pump tracks, rock drops, whales’ tail ramps, dirt jumps and skills courses. In the winter, you can check out free skiing and snowboarding at the Ruby Hill Rail Yard, an urban terrain park that’s offered through a partnership with Denver Parks and Recreation and Winter Park Resort.
Littleton: Just east of the trail, Historic Downtown Littleton is a great place to stop for refreshments and relaxation. It offers fun cafes and eateries, indie boutiques, antique shops and galleries. You can also learn more about the region’s history at the Littleton Museum and explore two farms from the late 1800s.
Hudson Gardens: As the trail goes further south and into Littleton, it passes Hudson Gardens & Event Center. The nonprofit organization along the bike path host concerts in the summer, offers beekeeping, photography and other classes, beer festivals, and more. It also has a miniature outdoor garden railway and offers gorgeous garden walks, plus a riverside cafe for bikers and hikers.
Chatfield State Park and Denver Botanic Gardens: At its southern end, the South Platte Trail ends at Chatfield State Park. The park has biking and hiking trails, horseback riding, sailing, swimming and even hosts a gigantic balloon festival in August.
Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms, next door to Chatfield State Park, has nature walks, a working farm and in the fall hosts events including a corn maze.
Connect Shopping With Adventure on the Cherry Creek Trail
The other major bike thoroughfare in the heart of Denver is the 40-mile Cherry Creek Trail. This paved trail starts at Confluence Park and follows the course of Cherry Creek as it wends southeast to Cherry Creek State Park and at the Cherry Creek Reservoir and ultimately to Franktown.
In Denver much of the Cherry Creek Trail is sunken below Speer Boulevard, one of the main diagonal routes through the city, offering a nice separation from the busy street above. Like the South Platte Trail, there’s also easy access to the path from various roads and ramps and to city parks like Sunken Gardens, Alamo Placita Park, and Four Mile Historic Park. As such it’s a popular trail for joggers and bikers as well as scooter riders and other users.
Cherry Creek Area: South of Denver’s busy center the trail connects with the Cherry Creek neighborhood. It’s a popular shopping destination with more than 500 high-end galleries, shops and department stores, as well as restaurants, outdoor cafes, fitness studios and more. Notably, there’s the upscale Cherry Creek Shopping Center with Louis Vitton, Burberry, Tiffany & Co. and more, nestled in the tree-lined streets of Cherry Creek North.
Four Mile Historic Park: This unique park along the trail is four miles from downtown Denver. It features the Four Mile House built in 1859, which is likely the oldest remaining structure in the metro area. The house is on a 12-acre park that features a museum, programming and farm animals that tell the early history of Denver in an interactive environment.
Cherry Creek State Park: For a long day on the trail, continue on to Cherry Creek State Park and reservoir. The park has 12 miles of paved trails and 35 miles of multi-use trails for biking and hiking and offers amazing birding opportunities. It also offers boating, camping, fishing, swimming, horseback riding and more.
Castlewood Canyon State Park: To make for an epic day, continue to Cherry Creek Trail’s end just north of Castlewood Canyon State Park in Franktown. From there you can connect with local roads and trails to the state park, which features amazing geologic features, hiking, rock climbing and historic sites, like the remains of the Castlewood Dam on Cherry Creek, which failed in 1933, flooding Denver.
Take a Long Ride on the High Line Canal
The 71-mile sinuous High Line Canal Trail is one of the longest urban trails in America. The canal, built in 1883 to provide irrigation for the growing Denver region, used gravity to move water from the higher elevation foothills at the end of Waterton Canyon to the lower plains northeast of Denver and just south of Denver International Airport. It never truly reached its fruition as an irrigation canal but is now owned and operated by Denver Water, which used it to supply some customers like the Fairmount Cemetery and still sends some water down it. Today it's shaded by the mature cottonwoods along its banks that took root in earlier times.
The High Line Canal offers a mix of surfaces from hard-packed dirt to paved surfaces, making it ideal for gravel grinders and fat-tire bikes like mountain bikes and cruisers. As it winds through the canyons and valleys, always descending slowly, the trail comes close to or intersects with many other Denver bike trails including the Cherry Creek Trail and the South Platte Trail. The pathway has plenty of other opportunities for stopping, resting and recreating at parks or in neighborhoods, and it’s easy to access throughout the region as it crisscrosses a myriad of roads and parks, so it's easy to hop on and off for shorter jaunts as well.
Chatfield State Park: The High Line Canal starts near Chatfield State Park. As mentioned above, the park offers all sorts of adventures including boating, hiking, birding, fishing, camping, horseback riding and more.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum: How often do you get to see a giant X-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars? This fun museum celebrates the history of aviation and space travel and features interactive displays and even flight simulators. It’s well worth a short trip off the canal to check out.
Aurora History Museum: This Aurora city-run museum celebrates the history of this Denver suburb. Featuring the permanent “Growing Home” exhibition with the fully restored 1913 Trolley Trailer No. 610, as well as other rotating exhibitions. The museum explores regional and natural history, as well as decorative and fine arts.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: The High Line Canal used to supply water to the military facilities at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. But more recently it was opened up as a wildlife refuge and now features more than 330 species of animals that roam and fly across its prairie grasslands, woodlands, lakes and wetlands. You likely won’t have a better opportunity to see bison, prairie dogs, bald eagles and rare black-footed ferrets in a setting where nature is reclaiming the land this close to a major U.S. city.
Rock on on the Bear Creek Bike Trail
From downtown Denver, it’s easy to bike to the world-famous and awe-inspiring Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre via the Bear Creek Trail. From the South Platte Trail at the Riverpoint at Sheridan Shopping Area, the Bear Creek Trail follows Bear Creek and heads 12.5 miles west to Morrison, just outside Red Rocks. You can also join the Bear Creek Trail via other bike lanes and routes in Denver. It’s a slightly uphill ride the whole way and Red Rocks has plenty of leg-busting climbing for road bikers and gravel grinders. Nearby Mount Falcon Park and Denver’s Matthews/Winters Park offer fun mountain biking trails as well.
Morrison: Not named for Jim Morrison, even though it’s just outside one of the best natural amphitheaters in the world. Morrison’s cafes and ice cream shops are great stops for day trips and its bars with rooftop patios are an excellent way to prepare for an amazing show at Red Rocks.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre: Red Rocks, owned and operated by Denver, has hosted concerts and events for more than a century. It’s continually hailed as one of the best natural amphitheaters in the world. The exceptional acoustics are thanks to Creation Rock, Ship Rock (formerly called Titanic) and Stage Rock, but the venue itself was largely created with funding and labor by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration. These towering rocks, up to 300 feet tall, perfectly amplify sound. Getting up to Red Rocks on a bike is tough but worth it—even if you’re not going there for a concert. It offers stunning views of up to 200 miles of the plains from north to south, and if you’re not tuckered out from all the climbing, you can always run up the 138 steps from the stage to the top as hundreds of people do every day.
The amphitheater has a free museum showcasing the geologic and human history of the area and a timeline of the thousands of events that it's hosted from Ray Charles to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and Daft Punk. The amphitheater also has the Ship Rock Grille to slake your appetite. To learn more about the history of performers who recorded in Colorado or made Colorado home, check out the Trading Post’s free exhibit, which also offers Red Rocks souvenirs.
Get to Golden on the Clear Creek Bike Path
The Clear Creek Trail is an 18-mile trail that connects with the South Platte River Trail. You can ride all the way from Denver to Golden, a fun, western town that was Colorado’s first capital city. Starting just north of where I-76 passes over the South Platte River, this long, paved trail parallels Clear Creek. It passes through neighborhoods, industrial areas, parks and greenways along the way. Among them are Lowell Ponds State Wildlife Area, Anderson Park, the giant Coors Brewery and North Table Mountain Park. As a foothills ride, the elevation rises towards Golden and the mountains and foothill buttes come into view.
Golden: A quaint western town and home to the Colorado School of Mines as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden was Colorado's first capital city. There are plenty of bike shops, outdoor stores and more in the city. Along its main street, Washington Avenue, you’ll still walk under covered walkways and on plank board sidewalks as you find plenty of restaurants and cafes with outdoor patios, ice cream shops and local breweries. Traveling a little farther up Clear Creek, you’ll find the Golden History Park and interpretive site, a park showing Golden’s pioneering and mining history. It’s paralleled by an award-winning whitewater park in Clear Creek.
Coors Brewery: The largest single-site brewery in the world and the only place that’s made Coors’ beers is just east of Golden’s downtown. Visitors can stop in for a tour and tastes.
Colorado Railroad Museum: The largest railroad museum in the state, it has more than 50 locomotives and train cars celebrating the vehicles and narrow-gauge railroads that helped make and transform Colorado and Golden. The museum hosts family-friendly events and train rides throughout the year.
American Mountaineering Center: The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Center houses the American Mountaineering Museum—the only U.S. museum dedicated to mountaineering. It celebrates the history of mountaineering and the science and arts inspired by mountaineering. It also explores climate science and mountain cultures around the world.
North Table Mountain, South Table Mountain, Green Mountain: The buttes and mountains surrounding Golden make it a gateway to more wild adventures. Each features hiking and some challenging mountain biking trails, offering a chance to immerse yourself in the landscape, plus sweeping views of the Rockies and the Denver metro area.
Lookout Mountain and the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave: West of Golden is one of Colorado’s most iconic road biking climbs, the Lariat Loop on Lookout Mountain. This calf-killing climb winds up the face of Lookout Mountain, passes the giant, illuminated “M” on the mountain—placed by Colorado School of Mines students—and eventually ends up at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, the final resting place of the legendary showman.
August: The Colorado Classic is a four-stage race, bringing together roughly 100 of the best pro cyclists from around the world. In 2019, it became a prestigious all women’s standalone race.
Coldwell Banker Denver Century Ride
June: This supported ride offers cyclists a chance to explore the city by bike. With the substantial network of trails and bike lanes throughout the city, it’s easy to reach the century milestone within Denver. You can also sign up for 85-, 50- and 25-mile courses.
Denver Cruiser Ride
May–September: These themed evening fun rides occur throughout the summer months—usually on the third Wednesday. The rides are free and often include stops at breweries, so they’re generally 21 and up. The organization does offer an inexpensive membership option that nets you swag and other perks.
Bike to Work Day
June: Part of Colorado Bike Month in June, the annual Bike to Work Day seeks to increase the number of people who use bike lanes and paths to commute to work rather than motorized vehicles.