Ah, Golden, CO. Nestled below the Front Range of the great American Rocky Mountains, its history is as robust as the banquet beer to which it gave birth.
Libation-based satire aside, this vibrant Colorado hub is a favorite destination for Denver cyclists. To understand why, one need look no further than the 18-mile bike path that connects it to the nearby town of Thornton. Smooth, scenic, and sporting a gradual 700-ft incline that lets you know you’re getting your workout in, the Clear Creek Trail has become both a staple ride for locals and a rite of passage for athletic out-of-towners.
And it doesn’t take long to figure out why.
Even with an eastern trailhead that borders the distinctly industrialized Commerce City, the path manages to keep cyclists away from heavy traffic and in an atmosphere that feels surprisingly natural. It’s an effect that stems from the trail’s position below major thoroughfares like I-25 and I-76, allowing the sound of bubbling water to drown out the cacophony of rumbling 18-wheelers above.
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The farther west you pedal, the more serene the surroundings become. As the path emerges from the northwestern neighborhood of Berkley, a series of community parks like Creek Side, Johnson, and Anderson usher in a slightly steeper, noticeably greener climb towards the Rockies. This will be the last taste of residential living until you arrive in Golden and, considering the landscapes ahead, it likely won’t be missed.
Before grinding its way up the home stretch between North and South Table Mountains, the Clear Creek Trail carries cyclists directly past a number of tranquil Wheat Ridge oases including West, Tabor, and Prospect Lakes. Were it not for the charming mountain community at the end of the ride, we’d say you may want to consider dismounting here to replenish your fluids and soak up the scenery. As it is, however, there’s just one last 5 mile straightaway standing between you and that crisp, well-deserved Golden microbrew.
Which isn’t to say you won’t be earning it.
Like all good rides, the Clear Creek Trail saves its most challenging climb for last, topping out at over 5,800 ft before a refreshing descent into the city below. You won’t be able to miss the imposing Coors Brewing Plant to your left, however with the cornucopia of fine local restaurants and breweries at your disposal we’d suggest opting for something a little less mass-produced.
After you’ve sated both your thirst and your hunger, and had a chance to explore a city that was once the capital of the Colorado Territory, it’s time for the 18 mile return journey. Don’t fret, though, as the lion’s share of your ride back to Denver will be gloriously downhill.
That’s what we like to call the payoff.