This ride forms a lollipop from downtown Denver that gives you winter miles and some excellent views of the mountains when you can't actually ride in the mountains. Leaving from Confluence Park behind REI it takes you on a tour of bike paths leading along the South Platte River Trail
, through the high prairie of the northern suburbs with expansive views of the Front Range from Homestead Hills Park and Fallbrook Farms Park and Signal Ditch Trail
in Thornton, as well as down scenic Big Dry Creek Trail
through Westminster, then more views of the mountains across Standley Lake from the dam and the single and doubletrack on the south shore there. Then back home along Little Dry Creek Trail
and the South Platte River Trail
Lots of places along the way to stop for anything you need. Parks with bathrooms, shopping centers, convenience stores, the works. Classic urban and suburban riding at its best.
Head north (downstream) from Confluence Park following the South Platte River Trail
almost to its northern terminus. At the Riverdale Golf Courses, don't take the right onto the bridge to the E-470 trailhead, instead keep straight onto the gravel service road that curves left around the north end of the golf course. At Riverdale Road, turn left and ride 1 mile south to catch the Horizon Tributary Trail
to your right. Follow this trail up the gulch until it dumps you onto residential streets. Turn right and follow Ivy St. north to 140th Ave, turn left and cross Holly and continue on to Homestead Hills Park, ride up the path to the top of the hill and take in the panoramic views of the Rockies. Ride down the fun switchback path, turn right on Ash St., then left on 140th Ave again. Cross Colorado Blvd, continue on 140th Ave., jog onto 140th Pl then quick right onto Garfield St. A block in on your right find the entrance to the Signal Ditch Trail
. Turn left on Signal Ditch Trail
and begin enjoying the sweeping views of the mountains again.
Signal Ditch Trail
intersects Lee Lateral Trail
and continues on to 128th Ave. At 128th Ave., follow the wide paved bike path right along the highway west for 0.6 miles instead of crossing and heading south on Farmers Highline Canal Trail
, then turn right onto Grant Drive. Follow Grant as it curves west, then turn onto the bike path on the right of the Crossroads Church entrance. This heads north for a short distance and under I-25 to connect to Big Dry Creek Trail
. Follow Big Dry Creek Trail
through Westminster all the way to Standley Lake. Maybe stop for a visit at the Butterfly Pavilion to see the insects. Enjoy the many painted underpass abutments.
At Standley Lake, the trail turns to dirt and ends at the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail
. You can turn right here to access the Standley Lake Campground if you want to make this a two day ride and practice your bikepacking. Turn left here if you want to keep riding. I like to climb up the dam on the dirt road just after intersection for the views of the lake and mountains before continuing. Riding south on the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail
, keep right to stay along the lake. At the 86th Parkway underpass, you can drop right onto the Standley Lake South Shore singletrack and get a nice few miles of dirt under your wheels with great views of the mountains over the lake, a few short, steep eroded climbs, and then a loop back to the underpass. If it's been wet or snowy, this area can get pretty muddy, so just skip it.
Going south through the 86th Parkway underpass, climb the turn and hang a right along the road, then continue on the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail
until it terminates on Little Dry Creek Trail
. Turn left onto Little Dry Creek Trail
. Little Dry Creek Trail
officially crosses 80th Ave. and follows access roads behind Target, but I prefer to head left and north on the bike lanes of Pomona curving around Lake Arbor through residential neighborhoods then crossing 80th Ave. at Harlan St. Turn left from Harlan just after 79th Ave to get back on Little Dry Creek Trail
and follow it past the Westminster light rail station all the way till it ends at Clear Creek Trail
. Turn left at Clear Creek Trail
and follow it east till it ends at South Platte River Trail
. You're almost back. Turn right across the bridge to follow the South Platte River Trail
back to downtown Denver and Confluence Park.
This route follows a number of historic irrigation canals that distributed water to the many farms that used to be in the area before it became suburbs. You can see many flood control holding ponds along the South Platte River.