Jump on your bike for an easy pedal down Colorado Riverfront Trail
More than an hour into the features department’s most recent Adventuring Out experience cycling the Colorado Riverfront Trail, features editor Ann Wright and I had the following exchange.
Ann: “How much of the Riverfront Trail have you ridden before today?”
Me: “I’ve never ridden this trail before today.”
I know the entire point of this series is to get out and explore the area, but I figured our stories would guide and inspire others. I didn’t realize how many places and experiences were here that I’d never seen or done.
After July’s looong road trip that resulted in a failed camping attempt, features writer Rachel Sauer, Ann and I decided to stay closer to home when, during a brief conversation, we realized none of us actually knew where all of the Riverfront Trail went despite its proximity to nearly everywhere we go.
As the name suggests, the Riverfront Trail essentially follows the Colorado River, so I expected a relaxing bike ride when we set out on an overcast Wednesday morning to cover the stretch between Clifton and the Walter Walker Wildlife Area.
(The Riverfront Trail has names for its various sections, such as, Blue Heron Loop, Audubon Section, Monument View Section, etc. And there are smaller sections in Palisade and Fruita, but those didn’t connect with the larger, mostly paved section we rode.)
I brought a water bottle on my bike, a back-up water bottle, and a spare tube in case I got a flat.
Ann and I met Rachel about 7:30 a.m., and we rode nearly 20 miles from where the trail begins off 33 1/2 Road to Walter Walker Wildlife Area east of 24 Road, then back to The Daily Sentinel, 734 S. Seventh St., which is not far off the Riverfront Trail, actually.
The whole ride took us less than four hours, including a 25-minute break for restrooms, the aforementioned dialogue and muffins at Albertsons, 2512 Broadway. The grocery store is close to where the trail goes through Riverside neighborhood and connects to the Connected Lakes/Blue Heron Loop.
It was a great ride. We talked and laughed. The trail is mostly paved and relatively flat except for a heart-pumping climb from the Audubon Section, which is part of the Blue Heron Loop, toward South Rim Drive that connects with Redlands Parkway.
The Audubon Section was my favorite stretch of the trail. It was beautiful and shaded by mature trees.
Rachel, who is “philosophically opposed to up” made it up the only steep part just fine. I prefer to climb anyway because I’m “philosophically opposed to falling off my bike or slamming into things at high rates of speed.”
Ann, for the record, is pretty athletic and mostly just laughed at us.
The ride is really not difficult.
The toughest part of the ride, honestly, is figuring out where to go because there are loops, dead-ends or sections that leave the riverfront. However, there are maps placed along the trail and at riverfrontproject.org.
I suggest using them.
The trail has a limited number of restrooms so keep that in mind as well.
Along the trail we saw plenty of mothers pushing strollers, dog walkers and other cyclists. Everyone we saw had a smile on his or her face and their dogs on-leash.
If I can do this trail, so can you, and I rarely ride a bike. The hand signals confuse me. I don’t have one of those cool cycling jerseys or a pair of padded shorts. I don’t know how to change a flat tire and don’t want to anyway.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, I don’t entirely trust myself on a bike, and I certainly don’t trust motorists.
The Riverfront Trail alleviates those pressures. The only stretch I deemed potentially dangerous is where the trail reaches a busy 29 Road, which you must cross at C 1/2 Road.
If you’re at all nervous about crossing 29 Road, here’s my suggestion. Stay in the 29 Road bike lanes until you are directly across from C 1/2 Road (if you’re riding the trail east to west) or the trail access point (if you’re riding the trail from west to east). When there is a break in traffic, get off your bike and run that sucker across the road, which is what I did.
Other tips? Do this ride with friends. What a blast. And keep your mouth shut unless you like the taste and texture of gnats or whatever those small bugs were.
Get going: The Colorado Riverfront Trail reaches much of the way between Fruita and Palisade, but it’s not entirely complete. There are stretches finished for riders of all ability levels. Because it is a non-motorized trail, it is kid-friendly and approachable for the most novice of cyclist.
Go to riverfrontproject.org for maps and guidelines on trail use.