Crown Hill Park is always a pleasure to bike around. Trails are rarely crowded and the groomed and smooth crushed gravel is non-technical and fast.
The Croke Canal Trail is fun, wide, singletrack riding. Right now, it is beautifully green and sprinkled with colorful wildflowers from recent Spring rains.
Standley Lake Regional Park has lots of great dirt and gravel trails of all sorts to check out. (It is a 3,000-acre park and Westminster's largest body of water!)
For several years, Standley Lake has been home to a pair of nesting bald eagles. We didn't see the bald eagles but we did see a pair of large Pelicans, Cormorants, and lots of prairie dogs.
Westminster Hills Open Space was another playground with multiple options for exploring. We had a blast checking out The Prickly Pear single track trail and Yucca Loop Trail. These trails are are the rockiest/most technical terrain on this route. (Both can easily be skipped if that's not your jam.)
We rode this on a day when smog from wildfires in Canada filled the sky. On clear days, you would have nice views of the Flatiron Mountains, but we only saw shadowy forms through the haze.
Because we left from downtown Denver, this route is only about 55% gravel. We're always wishing all routes were 100% gravel, so...
There are plenty of trails between Denver and Standley Lake, but getting out to Crown Hill is on roads with cars, as well as the section getting back to the start from the Clear Creek Trail to Downtown. (You always have the option to start this closer to Westminster is you want to cut road miles.)
Do this ride if you want to play on some fun gravel and dirt trails that are close to urban areas but is still abundant with views, water and wildlife.
We started this ride from the Denver REI store at Confluence Park. Public parking is available at Fishback Park which is located on nearby Water Street.
There are bathrooms/port-a-potties to be found all along this route. The ones we spotted included:
-Right before you get on Water Street in the first .10 of a mile
-On the Southside of Crown Hill Park at approximately mile 8
-In Standley Lake Regional Park & Wildlife Refuge picnic area at approximately mile 34.75
-In Lake Arbor Park at mile 40.25 (There is also a water refill fountain here.)
-Westminster Station Nature Play Park at mile 43.5
A section of the route that goes through Westminster Hills Open Space is open to off-leash dogs. If you are not comfortable biking along with unrestrained dogs, just skip this 6-mile portion of the route. (Miles 26.8-32.6)
When we did this route, there was some construction around Lake Arbor Park. When the trail is no longer closed here, there is a slightly more direct route to crossing 80th Ave.
This is not in remote areas. You are always fairly close to houses and civilization. However, it is always smartest to take adequate water and snacks for all 50 miles.
Particularly on the route close to the finish, there are plenty of places to stop for coffee, beer and ice cream. A few favorites are Huckleberry Roasters (a few blocks off course at 43rd and Pecos), The Cherry Bean, Little Man Ice Cream, Denver Beer Company, and Blue Sparrow Coffee.
I got a bike as a young child and quickly set off making trips up and down the driveway then loops around my neighborhood, but I fell away from the joy of cycling as more and more of my free time was occupied by ballet training (around age 10). It wasn’t until I gave up my professional dancing career and moved to Colorado in 2000 that I began cycling seriously.
From infancy, and well into my late 20’s, I suffered from exercise-induced asthma and was afraid of cardio activities that made me wheeze. If my asthma was triggered by an intense activity, I was advised to stop immediately and use an inhaler.
I was into yoga and Pilates back in 2000 (Still am today!), so when one of my friends suggested we go to a spin/yoga class (30 min of spin, followed by 30 min of yoga), I was game to at least try something new. Even though I had trouble breathing in the classes, the safety of an indoor spin class gave be the ability to choose how hard to push myself, and at just 30 min, I slowly learned to tolerate the stress on my lungs. The fact that the spinning was followed by yoga gave me space to work with calming my thoughts and my head which said: “I can’t do this!”. As I got stronger and more confident and my cardio endurance increased, my asthma problems became less and less, and therefore, my willingness to try more adventurous and strenuous activities increased! I went from seeing cyclists biking up Lookout Mountain in Golden, CO and thinking, “they are crazy!”, to, “that looks kind of fun and I wonder if I can do that?”. And then I bought a bike, joined a club and tried biking up that mountain! My Asthma is nearly non-existent and I have been hooked on outdoor biking ever since.
I currently live in downtown Denver and have been car-free for about 10 years, typically biking 7,000+ miles a year between commuting, road riding and gravel bike adventuring. I have been a member of Naked Women’s Racing Team, and Colorado Women’s Cycling Project.
I teach Pilates and Yoga for a living and have been doing it for over 15 years. Just this year, I went out on my own and began a private-practice Pilates Studio called Align.Move.Breathe. I am a self-proclaimed “body nerd”, constantly reading, attending continuing education workshops and learning as much as I can about movement, bio-mechanics, alignment, anatomy and Ideokenesis.
I love to teach my clients how to relax and have fun with all movement, as well as have new and positive experiences with their bodies while gaining strength and flexibility in body, mind, and spirit. I strongly believe in both Pilates and Yoga as safe, supportive, and healing practices which can profoundly transform one’s every-day life!
If you are in the Denver area and interested in the intersection of biking and Pilates or Yoga, contact me at email@example.com.
Laura’s favorite Gravel Route: There are so many great rides it is REALLY hard to decide, but if there was one ride I would do over and over, it would be Four Mile Canyon and Switzerland Trail to Sugarloaf. It’s quiet, beautiful, challenging and fun!
Laura’s Gravel Bike: Rodeo Adventure Lab's Titanium Flaanimal 5.0 custom build with SRAM Force AXS 1x12 mullet (10-50 cassette) and Panaracer GravelKing SK+ 700×38C tires.