One of my favorite summer activities is to load my bike onto a bus and head into Denver early in the morning. Then, after a leisurely coffee at a local shop, I mount my trusty two-wheeler and hit the Platte River Trail. I love the contrast in scenery as I head north. To begin, I revel in the hustle and bustle of the city. Denver is beautiful from any angle, but viewing it from a bicycle seat is probably my favorite vantage point.
As its name implies, the trail hugs the Platte River throughout its length. This provides a nice mix of nature along with the urban landscape. And soon the commercial development turns to industrial as the trail enters Commerce City. Ah the sights and smells of industry. Many people would be repulsed by this portion of the trail, but I love the constant change of scenery. It is not pretty in the classical sense of the word, but it is fascinating in its own right. This is the backbone of Denver. It is the blue collar section of town and it is every bit as vital as the urban and suburban portions of the trail. And it is alive with activity, industry, and even wildlife. In my many rides on this trail, this is the only portion on which I’ve seen deer, bounding through the fields in the shadows of the oil refineries.
Just before leaving the industrial zone two major trail intersections head east and west. The first one closest to Denver and going east over the Platte River is the Sand Creek Trail. It heads right into the heart of the industrial area and then onto land that used to be good old Stapleton Airport. You can almost hear the roar of jet engines from days gone by. It is now becoming a lively suburb of Denver.
A little further north on the Platte River Trail is the intersection for the Clear Creek Trail. This trail heads off to the west and goes all the way to Golden, Colorado. Follow this path to its western terminus and you’ll find the pot of gold at the end of the trail. Golden beer that is, at the Coors Brewery in Golden.
But save those two diversions for another day and continue north on the Platte River Trail. You are now in Adams County, and the buildings get fewer and farther between. Before you know it, the trail ends at the Elaine T. Valente Open Space in Thornton. It seems as if the trail could easily continue north, and hopefully it will someday. But for now, if you plan on continuing north or west toward Boulder, you’ll have to do some road biking the rest of the way. The best thing about riding your bike on the road is how much you appreciate and miss the trail. Riding is carefree, safe, and relaxing on the trail. The road just can’t provide that same feeling of blissful contentment. On the road, biking seems more like work and less like recreation. It’s tempting to turn around and head back into Denver and maybe even all the way south to Chatfield Reservoir. There are so many good things about trails and only one bad thing; eventually they have to end.