This is part three of a three-part series, exploring bicycling and its role in the Golden area.
From here to there, from there to here, great places to ride are everywhere.
Apologies to Dr. Seuss, but Golden really does offer an amazing array of cycling opportunities, courtesy of canyon and hill access, along with hundreds of acres of surrounding Jeffco Open Space. There is also a lot of riding opportunity within the city limits.
“You can go east to west or north to south on nothing but multi-use trails,” Ward 3 Councilor Bob Vermeulen said. He added that the city’s Complete Streets policy, which has added pedestrian and bike amenities along Ford Street and Jackson Street in recent years, has made it very easy to be a cyclist in the city.
“We live in such an incredible place, especially in Golden, and you really don’t get to enjoy it if you’re in a car,” the “Cycling Lawyer” and Golden resident Megan Hottman said.
For younger cyclists, or for adults new to two-wheeled fun, just enjoying a ride around town can be a great way to start. Try joining the next Golden Cruise for a family-friendly dinner and spin around the city; cruises take place the last Tuesday of each month through October.
The climb up Lookout Mountain, winding its way above the city, is “The Ride” for local cyclists, with several skinny-tire devotees making the climb a regular part of their pre- or post-work routines.
Lookout is such a good climb that in 2011 the USA Pro Cycling Challenge made it the defining feature of the final day of racing.
Take 19th Avenue west, and just past the pillars, the climb truly begins. It is just over 4 miles, at a 5 to 6 percent grade, of amazing views. Things flatten out at the top, and trees offer some shade for the weary. To put in more miles, continue on the historic Lariat Loop route, which eventually winds back out of the mountains through Red Rocks. The more casual road warrior can pull into the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave atop Lookout Mountain, and reward themselves with a root beer float from the museum diner.
Another popular road ride is Golden Gate Canyon.
Ride the canyon out and back to Golden Gate State Park for a solid 30 miles.
Hottman, herself a professional rider, says one of her favorite routes actually passes the state park, continuing through Rollinsville on Highway 119, north to Coal Creek Canyon Road, all the way back to Highway 93, and home, making a ride of more than 50 miles.
“There’s 4,500 feet of elevation gain. That’s a pretty incredible ride. That’s the quintessential Colorado ride for me,” Hottman said.
She said the curvy mountain roads don’t have much in the way of a shoulder, and should only be tackled during non-peak traffic times.
Apex, is indeed considered the apex of quality mountain biking along the front range. The trails in Apex Park are perhaps too renowned. The technically challenging trails, and great views attract a large number of hikers and equestrians, along with single-track seekers. Check out the county’s park page (jeffco.us/parks/parks-and-trails/apex-park/) for a detailed trail map, and be aware that mountain biking is restricted to one-way movement on odd-numbered days.
The trail head for Apex is in the lower parking lot of Heritage Square.
For added difficulty, the route of choice for the local fat-tire folks is nicknamed Chimpex. Start at the Chimney Rock trail head — across U.S. 6 from the School of Mines athletic field — and climb the punishing switchbacks up to Lookout Mountain Road, connecting to the top of Apex Trail.
Vermeulen tries to get a morning ride in most days. His spot of choice is North Table Mountain.
“For kids and beginners, if you leave from the new Jeffco parking lot off Hwy. 93 and go north on the North Table Mountain Trail (NTMT), the terrain is a great introduction to mountain biking that is a mix of rolling singletrack and doubletrack,” Vermeulen said.
For the more ambitious, Vermeulen recommends heading straight up the service road at the south end of the main parking lot. The 18-percent climb is a steep entry price, but once on top of the plateau, miles of varies trails become available. Several loops are available, with varying difficulties.
“You will get to see the Coors factory and amazing views of downtown Denver as you circle the Mesa, ending up back at the parking lot,” Vermeulen said.