With hundreds of miles of trails in Colorado, biking has become one of the most popular family activities in the Centennial State. Here is a list of the best metro area trails for families. Grab your helmets and enjoy what this state has to offer via two wheels.
Boulder Creek Path
Trailheads: East end of Stazio Ball Fields, 2445 Stazio Dr., Boulder, or Eben G. Fine Park, 101 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Running through the University of Colorado campus and downtown Boulder, the seven-mile Boulder Creek Path is a mix of pavement and turns to dirt at the western end if you choose to head into Boulder Canyon. Although wide, the path gets very crowded, especially near the CU campus. Parking will be more abundant at the Stazio Ball Fields, but Eben G. Fine Park is a great spot for a picnic with trees, playground equipment, and access to wade in Boulder Creek. Both trailheads have bathrooms. The best time to enjoy the trail is morning or evening, especially in the summer when CU has less students around.
Cherry Creek Trail
Trailhead: Confluence Park, 2250 15th St., Denver
Extending from downtown Denver to Franktown and made up of more than 42 miles of mostly pavement, the Cherry Creek Trail is a popular bike route for families looking to get some exercise. The segment running through downtown is the easiest for little ones, but also the most congested. Start the ride at Confluence Park where there is access to water and restrooms. Learn about the early pioneers at Four Mile Historic Park, or stop at the many parks along the way. This trail gets heavy use at all times of day.
Clear Creek Trail
Trailheads: Golden Visitors Center, 1010 Washington Ave., or Golden Library, 1019 10th St., Golden
This 20-mile paved trail offers the chance to see a wide range of animals along with views of North and South Table Mountain. Although the trail runs from metro Denver to Golden, the section in Golden is recommended for a family ride because it is relatively flat. Start at the Golden Visitors Center or library for access to restrooms and water. This trail gets moderate use throughout the day.
Coal Creek Trail
Trailheads: Reliance Park, 900 Weld County Rd. 1½, Erie, or S. 3rd Ave. and W. Thomas St., Superior
For a two-wheel ride off the pavement, try a spin on the 14-mile Coal Creek Trail. Running from Erie to Superior, the trail is mostly gravel with some paved sections. Views of the Indian Peaks and wildlife including owls make the miles go by quickly. The trail is wide open, and runs past multiple parks at which you can take a break. Water and restrooms are available at Reliance Park trailhead and at several parks on the trail, but not at the Superior trailhead. With little shade, this trail is best enjoyed in the mornings or evenings during the summer months.
High Line Canal
Trailheads: Springhill Park, 810 N. Telluride St., Aurora, or Redstone Park, 3280 Redstone Park Cir., Highlands Ranch
A National Landmark Trail, the High Line Canal features 71 miles of Cottonwood-tree-lined trail. As one of the longest urban trails in the country, you can access the trail from many different locations. For a pavement ride, begin at Springhill Park; for a gravel ride, start at Redstone Park, at which there are restrooms and water fountains. There are some street crossings depending on what sections you ride, so choose times when traffic will be lighter.
Lake Estes Bike Trail
Trailhead: Estes Park Visitors Center, 500 Big Thompson Ave., Estes Park
Take your time pedaling the Lake Estes Bike Trail for 3.75 miles of car-free views throughout Estes Park. You can connect with the River Walk downtown area where you can refuel, shop, or people watch. Park and take the looped trail from the Estes Park Visitors Center where there are bathrooms and drinking fountains. There are also bathrooms and access to water at the Cherokee Draw Day-Use Area. Elk can often be seen from the trail, especially in the fall. This trail is heavily used, especially in the summer months. Mornings and evenings are less congested times to ride.
Ralston Creek Trail
Trailheads: APEX Recreation Center, 13150 W. 72nd Ave., Arvada; Gold Strike Park, 5500 W. 56th Ave., Arvada; or Arvada Blunn Reservoir, between Hwy. 93 and Indiana St. on W. 64th Pkwy., Arvada (charge for cars/no charge for bikes)
The 12.5-mile concrete Ralston Creek Trail passes by several parks, has views of the Denver skyline, and offers the chance to see abundant wildlife. One of the most exciting features for kids will be riding their bikes over the 400-foot suspended cable bridge known as Spar Bridge, located at Gold Strike Park. Starting at APEX Recreation Center offers a chance to use restrooms and fill up water bottles. Smaller parks along the way are ideal for stopping for breaks. Traffic is steady throughout the day on this trail, but it’s ideal to ride at anytime.
Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail
Trailheads: Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, 9210 W. 80th Ave., Arvada, or Westminster Hills Open Space (dog park), 105th Ave. and Simms St., Westminster
A mix of concrete and crushed stone, the first section of the proposed 80-mile Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail opened in 2016, connecting three wildlife refuges. Currently at seven miles long, the trail offers the chance to view wildlife and enjoy the abundant Colorado sunshine. Hit this trail at anytime of day to see what animals you can find at play.
Sand Creek Greenway Trail
Trailheads: Morrison Nature Center (open Wed-Sun), 16002 E. Smith Rd., Aurora or Commerce City Wetland Park, Ivy St. and 52nd Ave., Commerce City
The Sand Creek Greenway Trail travels 14 miles between the South Platte River Greenway in Commerce City to the Highline Canal in Aurora. Nicknamed “wilderness in the city,” this crushed gravel and pavement trail is shared with walkers, runners, horses, and leashed dogs, so it can get crowded. Expect to see wildlife and seasonal wildflowers. The Morrison Nature Center and the Wetlands Park trailheads offer access to amenities and opportunities for additional time outdoors. With abundant mature trees, this trail can be enjoyed any time of day.
St. Vrain Greenway
Trailheads: Golden Ponds Park, 2499 3rd Ave.,Longmont, or Sandstone Ranch Park, 3001 Colorado Hwy. 119, Longmont
Enjoy views of Longs Peak on clear days on the St. Vrain Greenway. Golden Ponds Park or Sandstone Ranch are perfect places to start your ride with access to restrooms and water. The 17.7-mile trail runs alongside the St. Vrain river with numerous stopping points along the way, including Rogers Grove and Izaak Walton Pond. It’s a mix of concrete and smooth gravel. This trail sees moderate use, and can be enjoyed from sunrise to sunset.
South Platte River Trail (a.k.a. South Platte Greenway Trail)
Trailheads: Platte River Trailhead Park, E. 88th Avenue and Colorado Blvd., Thornton, or near River Point at Sheridan shopping center, South Platte River Dr. and River Point Pkwy., Sheridan
The 18 miles of paved path on the South Platte River Trail takes you alongside the South Platte River passing numerous parks and Denver landmarks, including the Pepsi Center and Confluence Park. The best place to start this ride is at the Platte River Trailhead for easier parking. Because this trail intersects many other trails, expect heavier traffic at trail crossings and moderate use throughout the day.
Mary Carter Greenway (a.k.a. Arapahoe Greenway)
Trailheads: W. Dartmouth Ave., Englewood, or Chatfield State Park, Viable Rd., Columbine
This concrete eight-mile trail follows the South Platte River downhill from Englewood to Chatfield State Park. The greenway passes by a wide range of scenery, including golf courses and parks, with the most scenic portion stretching from Belleview Road south to Chatfield. The northern stretch can be industrial in spots. Wildlife, fauna, and whitewater kayakers can be seen via the trail near Hudson Gardens and South Platte Park. The trail is especially busy on weekends and trail speed is enforced. There is little shade, so don’t forget the sunscreen. Find drinks and snacks at Aspen Grove shopping area or a trailside café near Hudson Gardens.
Bear Creek Trail
Trailheads: Off Morrison Rd./downtown Morrison parking lots, or near River Point Pkwy., Denver
Running from Morrison to Denver, this nine-mile trail varies in surface from natural/gravel to asphalt. The scenery varies from urban skyline if you start on the east side to mountain views with wildlife and plenty of trees if you begin in Morrison. If you’re up for more adventure (and equipped, bike-wise), you can deviate from the path in Bear Creek Park and hit some of the mountain bike trails that vary in difficulty. This trail is a favorite for bikes, walkers, and pups, so expect it to be heavily used.
Courtney Johnson is a Colorado-based freelance writer, sports photographer, and mom to a young daughter.
Make biking with your family safer by following a few simple rules.
- Check over your bike, especially the tires, before beginning each ride.
- Ride single file.
- Ride on the right, pass on the left. Give an audible warning when passing by saying, “on your left” or “passing on your left.” A bike bell also alerts trail users that you are approaching and passing.
- If you must stop, move off the trail when possible.
- Obey all traffic lights and signals.
- Consider bringing a mini pump, tube, and patch kit if you plan to bike far
- from home.
- Carry plenty of water, sunscreen, quick snacks for the kids, and a first aid kit
- for emergencies.