The construction within Chatfield State Park and the High Line Canal is all finished which means more continuous miles of dirt and a nice clean loop route. (FINALLY, after years of making do and detours!)
There is tons of dirt/gravel surface variety on this route, all of which is approachable for a beginner: chunky gravel (near the dam in Chatfield), old cracked asphalt pavement, perfectly groomed crushed gravel, rutted dry mud/sand, smooth hero dirt and even a tiny bit of single track.
Waterton Canyon really never disappoints. It is a wide trail alongside the S. Platte River that is smooth and fast with no cars (and no dogs). The grade is an easy 2% the whole way except for the last 1/2 mile which is a little bit steeper. We saw a large herd of Big Horn Sheep near the very top, which just never gets old and seemed like a nice reward for racing up the steep section.
It is particularly lovely to do this ride in the Spring. The landscape was brilliantly green and lush (by Colorado standards).
There are almost zero lows to report but there are a few things we thought we'd mention:
-There was one small hill (approximately 25 ft long) that connects the Chatfield trail to the High Line Canal Trail which was not bike able since it was both steep and had very thick sand.
-The High Line Canal essentially dead ends onto Waterton Road and you have to ride the road a quarter mile before you can get onto the Waterton Canyon Trail. The road is busy and there is barely a shoulder. But, like we mentioned, it is just a small moment in a ride that is otherwise without cars.
Do this ride if you want a beautiful and easy trail ride that is close to Denver but makes you feel like you are surrounded by mountains and wildlife.
There are MANY public bathrooms/port-a-potties all throughout Chatfield State Park as well as in Waterton Canyon. You will never be more than a few miles from one on this ride.
We spotted a place to fill up water bottles at the start of the Waterton Canyon trail. There are no places along the way to pick up any fuel, however, so make sure your pockets are stocked with a few snacks. (We love Skratch Labs' Sport Energy Chews)!
There are a few places where the High Line Canal Trail crosses busier roads (like Titan Road), but at each instance, there is a well marked crosswalk with a button to push, making caution lights flash so cars stop for you. Lovely.
We parked in a lot just off of S.Platte Reservoir Access Road which leads right to the Mary Carter Greenway Trail where this route begins.