The trail you spend the most miles on, the Douglas County East/West trail, is a total blast! It is a non-technical beginner mountain bike trail that is all smooth dirt. (not rocky at all!!) As it winds through grasslands and oak bluffs (including a thousand of acres of the Highlands Ranch Back Country), it has flowy twist and turns, ups and downs and sweeping corners. It meanders past residential developments but it feels largely removed and you get a good dose of nature. We enjoyed the summer wild flowers in full bloom, a bounding deer, little lizards and a snake (eeek. It was just a common harmless one but there ARE rattlesnakes in the area, so beware of those!)
This route is almost entirely on trails, so most of the time you don't have to deal with cars or ATVs.
Climbing up to The Bluffs is a nice challenging ascent to a destination with views of the Colorado Front Range mountains and the Denver metro area.
Starting and finishing in Chatfield State Park is particularly nice. We packed a lunch and beers that we left in a cooler in the car and sat in the park to relax afterwards. The swim beach or paddle boarding is aways an option too...
The route crosses Santa Fe Dr (a very busy 4-lane road) a total of 3 times. The first and third times are at lights with crosswalks and signals, but the second crossing on the High Line Canal Trail, you are on your own. There is a big middle section of the road, so we were able to wait for one side to clear, frogger to the middle, then cross the rest of the way when the other side was clear to go. Take your time and be careful here.*
*We re-road this recently and there is a viaduct that you can use to go under Sante Fe where we previously froggered. It is a steep drop down to get under and if you keep your momentum up you can pedal you way back up or walk to return to the High Line Canal on the other side of Santa Fe.
We had one little dismount on the East/West trail close to the Bluffs where the trail had a big rock shelf on a steep uphill.
Besides that, there was absolutely nothing to complain about!
Do this ride if you are wanting some super fun non-technical beginner mountain bike trails to play on for miles between Chatfiled State Park and The Bluffs.
We parked in the parking lot/picnic area where Perimeter Road dead ends within Chatfield State Park. This requires a state park pass or paying the park entrance fees. If you don't have a state park pass and you want to park for free, we suggest parking in the Blackrock Lake Parking Lot that is just outside the park and in under a quarter of a mile connects to the 470 trail this route begins on. There are public restrooms or porta potties at both parking lots mentioned above.
The wild flowers were out of control in mid-June, so it is a lovely time to do this trail. It was quite hot though. We suggest getting a very early start so you are done before the heat rises in the summer months.
There are bathrooms to be found along the way, but water is harder to come by. We noticed bathrooms right where you turn onto the High Line Canal Trail from the 470 Trail, and there are restrooms at the top of the Bluffs Trial. Bring enough snacks and hydration for all 40 miles and take more water than you usually do on hot days.
There are many trails off of the East/West trail that sure are temping to explore, but they all have no trespassing signs that say they are part of the Highlands Ranch private backcountry trail system. Apparently you can be fined for using them. Boo. Good thing the East/West trail is more than enough fun!
If you want an end-of-ride brewery stop we suggest the Living the Dream Brewery which you will pass by on Dumont Way. They are open from noon to 8pm 7 days a week, and while they don't have their own kitchen, they do have food trucks scheduled daily.
Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.