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 bald eagle, a few buffalo, lots of prairie dogs and birds.
There is a very small portion of the loop that is outside the park. Back in 2021 you had 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 is currently construction for a trail that will remedy this problem. We were lucky enough to be there on a weekend morning, so we could ride the 3 miles of construction dirt. We imagine during the week this is not possible BUT, very soon, this will be quite nice!
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 60º 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.
We parked and started from the Pat Schroeder Visitor Center in the Rocky Mountain National Arsenal where there is a large parking lot for day use and vault toilets as well.
You'll find a few other bathrooms spread throughout the park but there is no place to get water or food on the trails. Pack enough hydration and nutrition to get you all the way around.
While 95% of this is non-technical, do keep your eyes peeled for tumbleweed, scampering prairie dogs, a few places where the prairie dogs chose to dig a tunnel in the middle of the trail, and a little bit of sand. Goathead thorns are also abundant here, especially in the Fall. We strongly recommend a tubeless tire set up with plenty of fresh sealant when you ride this route!
This is not far from Denver. It only took us approximately 20 min driving from Downtown Denver, and it is bikeable from Denver as well. We 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!
If you'd like to see how to bike from Denver, here is the additional info.
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!