From the plains to the peaks
Last week I had the opportunity to check out a section of the Peaks to Plains Trail, a ‘16 in 2016′ trail, with Project Manager Scot Grossman. The 4-mile section that we toured straddles the border of Jefferson and Clear Creek Counties and is set to open in mid-July. The ultimate vision for the Peaks to Plains Trail stretches from the Continental Divide at the Eisenhower Tunnel to the confluence of the South Platte River in Adams County.
We have many, many excellent multi-use trails scattered across our state, but to create a bike network in Colorado these trails must be connected. Several projects are in the works that will make it possible to travel long distances almost entirely off-street.
Peaks to Plains is one such project. Large sections of the proposed 65-mile trail exist already in the form of the Clear Creek Trail, Silver Plume to Georgetown Express Trail and Bakerville to Loveland Trail, but a large section is missing.
Biking is banned along US 6 between US 93 and the juncture with I-70 (at Kermitts Corner) because of safety concerns related to the many narrow tunnels that dot the highway. So, years ago, Clear Creek County Open Space and Jeffco Open Space began to envision a trail through the canyon. As you can imagine, it’s a huge undertaking, so the trail is being worked on in sections.
This is an overview of the whole vision for the Peaks to Plains Trail and its connection to the Continental Divide to Glenwood Springs bike route:
Zooming in a bit, the 16.5 mile segment through the Clear Creek Canyon is called out:
Trail segment opening soon!
Zooming in further, this is the stretch of trail that is being worked on now. The black/yellow and orange/yellow segments are nearly complete and will be opening in mid-July, while the pink/yellow segment is under construction and is scheduled to open next summer.
Great Outdoors Colorado funding was instrumental in making this project a reality, and Jeffco Open Space and Clear Creek County Open Space are actively applying for grant funding for additional segments of trail that will make up the 16.5 miles through Clear Creek Canyon.
When it opens in mid-July, this portion of the trail will be accessible from several parking lots, including the Mayhem Gulch trail head at the east end. It will be a unique experience to ride, walk or cross country ski through the canyon, next to the rushing Clear Creek and separated from auto traffic.
The trail crosses the creek on three bridges. Check out this video of crews installing the bridges.
Prior to opening, the concrete will be stained to blend in with the natural surroundings.
There are beautiful views from the bridges across the creek.
Railings were designed to reflect the area’s mining heritage and are being constructed from naturally-weathering steel.
Along many parts of the trail, you’d never know that auto traffic is close by.
The trail meanders up over bridges and down through this tunnel.
Here’s a really interesting section where rock overhangs the trail.
The construction crew is hard at work on the final pieces of trail. Until the trail is officially opened, it is a closed construction site.
Multi-use trails drive tourism and economic development
This section of trail is beautiful and it will be a joy to ride, but the larger vision is also cause for celebration.
Imagine being a tourist in Colorado, stepping off a plane at DIA, putting your bike together and exploring from Denver to the mountains and beyond using only your bike on safe, beautiful infrastructure. Or you could complete the trip with a combination of bike, train and/or bus. How incredibly cool would that be?
The Peaks to Plains Trail has the potential to be a major tourism driver for our state, and I’m excited to see this vision begin to come to fruition!