This route is on 95% dirt trails- all of which are non-technical, fun and fast. In addition to the perimeter trail, there are a few interior trails we played on, and there are even a few we did not. (When you are exploring, just be sure to look at the maps and signs as some trails are for hikers only.)
The trails were blissfully quiet even on a weekend. We did not see many other people- just a handful of hikers and bikers on a Saturday morning.
We saw plenty of wildlife including a herd of deer, a few buffalo, lots of prairie dogs and birds.
It was the maiden voyage for my friend Lewis trying out his new Specialized gravel bike, and somehow that was fun even for me to witness (and now I think I need a new bike too)!
There is a very small portion of the loop that is outside the park. You have to cross the street and use the sidewalk along 56th (at about mile 4.3). Recrossing the street to get back into the park includes hopping a curb and crossing busy traffic. (This is the only paved section.)
There are a few double gates you have to go in and out of, and they are a bit awkward to maneuver with your bike.
There is almost no shade on this route. We did it early in the morning in 70º temps with sunshine and it was quite pleasant, but I wouldn't want to do this route in mid-day summer heat.
Do this ride if you want a quick, quiet, simple and easy beginner ride that is close to Denver with nice views of the front range mountains.
I only gave this route 3-stars because it is not as spectacular as so many of Colorado's routes can be, BUT for a beginner ride that is close to the city, you really can't beat it!
We parked and started from the Uvalda Trail in Rocky Mountain National Arsenal where there is a small parking lot for day use. There were not bathrooms there, but we found restrooms towards the end around mile 20 at the Prairie Gateway Open Space Area and again at the welcome center.
This is not far from Denver. It only took me approximately 20 min driving from Downtown Denver.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: Spot Rallye Geared (It originally came with an 11-32 rear cassette, but she upgraded to 11-42, and it now comes standard that way.) Spot is a small bike company out of Golden, CO, and the people there have been terrific with customer service!
She is currently using Panaracer GravelKing SK+ 700×35C tires (but the Schwalbe G-One 700×35 that it came with were pretty sweet too).