Friday, August 12, 2011

Road-biking Denver's Northern Suburbs, Part 4: Rocky Mountain Arsenal

For much of the latter half of the 20th century, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal was a site for the manufacture and storage of chemical weapons. In more recent years, it has been converted to a wildlife refuge. It features a nice visitor's center with activities for children and some walking trails.

The fourth cycling route in this series is a loop around the Rocky Mountain Arsenal lands and its surrounding rural and suburban areas.

View Rocky Mountain Arsenal Loop in a larger map

This is a ride I like to do early on a Sunday morning. A major reason for that is SH2 (the diagonal road on the map) is not a good cycling road. It has no shoulder and can have quite a lot of industrial Commerce City traffic. But on a Sunday morning, while everyone else are still in their slippers and drinking coffee, the roads are almost empty and even highway 2 isn't so unpleasant.

The route begins at the park next to Themmig Elementary School, just off of Peoria Street. From there, head south on Peoria, take a quick left on 104th Ave, and then right on SH2. South of 96th Ave, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal flanks the road to the East.

Turn left on Quebec Pkwy (called Rosemary Street when turning right). My experience has been that Sunday morning traffic on Quebec is actually heavier than on SH2. But the road is much wider, so it still feels safer. There is a convenience store at the corner of Quebec and 72nd Ave, should you need any refreshments.

56th Ave starts out as a sub-par biking road as well. Dick's Sporting Goods Park can tend to bring in a lot of traffic, but that doesn't last very long. Soon traffic dies down and the road widens, and you're rolling along with the open lands of RMA on your left. A left-hand turn onto Havana would take you to the RMA visitor's center.

Heading north on Tower Road, you will soon come to a cluster of hotels and restaurants which serve some demographic related to Denver International Airport. Presumably there is a demand for these places, but it seems like an odd location to me. Farther up the road, around 104th Ave., is the community of Reunion. There are some businesses around that intersection, probably including a convenience store, but I've never looked closely enough to be able to say exactly what you'd find if you were to turn in there.

At 120th Ave, the RMA route overlaps with the Adams County Loop, so you could keep going on Tower Road and head up toward Brighton. Turning left on 120th takes you westward, back to Peoria and the beginning of the loop.

The beginning and ending point on Peoria is presented here because it's the closest public parking I've found for those who might be driving to get there. But when I'm approaching this loop by bike (heading east on 120th), I actually prefer to take Chambers to 96th Ave, and then head west to get back to SH2. That reduces the amount of time spend on the highway and increases time spent along side the Arsenal. This alternate route is marked in purple in the map above.

Road-biking Denver's Northern Suburbs:

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