The 9 Creeks Journey Begins

My 42-mile on 9 Creeks Loop continues, picking up with Segment 2, Mile 5-10, and narrating each mile as  I go.

9 Creeks Loop Segment 2 Mile 5-10

Trailhead: Dahlia Trailhead (4900 Sandcreek Dr S, Commerce City, CO 80022)

Trailend: Bluff Lake Nature Center 3400 Havana Way, Denver, CO 80238)

Highlights: Stapleton, Old Stapleton Runway, Central Park, Bluff Lake Nature Center

Just to the east of the Vasquez undercrossing sits the Dahlia Trailhead. A small inconspicuous parking lot plays host to walkers and bikers. This is where I had ended the night before and from whence I began my final segment. The late afternoon sun gave up 88 degrees, and to the east I pointed my feet.

To see footage of this mile, watch this video.

9 Creeks Loop Mile 38 Sandwiched in Transit Zones

9creeks eatwalkearnStarting at Dahlia Street Trailhead, you’ll find the concrete trail of the Sand Creek Greenway travels between interstate 270 and Sand Creek. The wall on the north side of the Trail consists of stacked and caged rock held upright by what feels like old creosote telephone poles. It’s an interesting combination of materials and colors. To the south of the Greenway runs the Sand Creek, which is shallow with wide banks of marsh. Along this section of the Loop, not one biker nor walker passed me until the very last 1/2 mile. The Greenway runs through transit zones and distribution centers–not a resident for at least a mile in all directions.

9 Creeks Loop Mile 5 Pick your Distribution Center

9creeks eatwalkearnJust past a giant UPS distribution center, the Greenway crosses the Creek. Being just west of Quebec Street, major distributors house their goods to disperse to the west. This area, within a mile of the intersections of interstates 76, 270, 70, 25, and 225 and next to what was the old Stapleton airport, draws major distribution centers including Purina, Safeway, Cape Cod Chips and major other national suppliers. In addition, the Greenway runs between two giant truck stops, TA and Sapp’s. Thus, getting the chance to find a quieter escape from the hustle and bustle of this giant transit area, makes the Sand Creek Greenway a nice invite.

To see footage of this mile, watch this video.

Discovering Sand Creek Marker at Mile 6

9creeks trailhead denver eatwalklearnThe Greenway goes under Quebec and then provides an opportunity to either take the Sand Creek Extension to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge or continue east along the Sand Creek.

To see footage of this mile, watch this video.

You’ll continue to move east of Quebec St, just north of I-70 on the Sand Creek Greenway. The Sand Creek Greenway is a 14-mile trail that runs from west Commerce City to the Triple Creek Trailhead just east of Star K Ranch.

Mile 7 Pebble Trail at Sand Creek

9creeks eatwalklearnMile 7 quickly crosses over Sand Creek and under interstate 70 at which point the cement trail becomes pebble trail for a couple of miles. Right before crossing Sand Creek on the foot bridge, you’ll see a goat trail going up the side of the embankment to the south. If necessary, you can climb this goat trail to access a Wal-Mart, a Marriott, a King Soopers, etc. Unfortunately, you might also pass several people experiencing homelessness. Although the Sand Creek Greenway does a great job at assisting the homeless into shelters, you may stumble upon them if you journey this way.

Watch the video of this area of Stapleton here.

Mile 8 Approaching Stapleton’s Central Park

9creeks eatwalklearnYou’ll continue along this first Stapleton mile, eventually coming to the underpass at Central Park Blvd. In September 2013, floods destroyed the trail here, and construction of the A Train tracks delayed the repair. For the short-term, you can follow the detour that bends back up onto Central Park and over the bridge. With the help of several partners, the Sand Creek Greenway was able to get the trail repaired.

9 Creeks Central Park underpass

Mile 8.5 Finding the Old Stapleton Runway Tunnels

9creeks eatwalklearnOnce you reach the concrete trail, you’ll settle into a nice straight walk for about a mile. The Sand Creek will be on our right. After about a half of a mile, you’ll notice concrete walls along the banks of the waterway. At one time, the Stapleton runway crossed here on a bridge built for the airplanes. You can find old pictures of planes taxiing on the bridge. It was here.

9creeks eatwalklearn

Listen to the video of the History of Stapleton

Mile 9 Stapleton’s Central Park

9creeks eatwalklearnAfter passing through the old runways, you’ll continue along and come to the Sand Creek Greenway Trailhead off of Smith Road. On the left you’ll see a large parking lot, a bench and a port-a-potty. There is some interpretation of the fauna for the area. After taking a break, continue east along the Greenway. To the south, you’ll start to see Stapleton housing and then you’ll come across Stapleton’s Central Park. To the north, you’ll see the Denver Urban Farm.

9creeks eatwalklearnThe Stapleton Neighborhood Backstory

The Stapleton neighborhood is the ingeniousness of an urban redesign. In 1995, the Stapleton airport closed due to noise and size and the Stapleton International Airport was built about 15 miles north. Forest City, its eventual developer, won the rights to redevelop the old airport into a community designed for walking, green spaces, and families. The south side of Stapleton has about 15,000 homes, and the Northfield area, on the north side of I-70, will have as many homes. The Sand Creek Greenway, envisioned in the Green Book as part of Stapleton’s overall plan for green space, attempts to connect the two sides of Stapleton. For more about the history of Stapleton (the mayor, the airport, and the neighborhood) and how its neighbor to the north, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge developed, join me for my Bison, Bombs and BiPlanes walk done occasionally.

Listen to the video about Denver Urban Farms and Stapleton’s Central Park.

Mile 9 Bluff Lake Nature Center

9creeks eatwalklearnYou’ll approach Havana and be a bit at a loss for how to get across the creek and continue on the Loop. You’ll need to go up to Havana and cross on the sidewalk bridge to the south. Continue along the street until you get to the intersection with the light. You’ll see apartments on your right. Cross the street, then continue on the Sand Creek Greenwayto the right. Don’t be fooled by going to the left, as the Trail does not follow the Creek here. Continue along the Trail as it runs parallel to the road with Bluff Lake on your left and the road on your right. Prairie dogs will probably bark directions to you as you walk by.

Note: Instead of following along Havana (MLK), you can cut through the north end of the Bluff Lake Nature Center and continue inside the Nature Center on its trails up the steps to the Nature Center itself. The parking lot of the Bluff Lake Nature Center is the end of this segment.

You’ll arrive at Bluff Lake Nature Center. A local get-away, this quaint Reserve not only has a nice place to take a break and use a port-a-potty, but if you have time and interest, you can definitely take the steps down into the Reserve and explore the local flora and fauna. Check the Center’s calendar for seasonal events. An interesting note about the Nature Center–when it was being built, they used the old runway concrete from the Stapleton airport. Volunteers called the rock, Staple-Rock, and the land served as the crash zone for the airport.

Watch the video about Bluff Lake here.

Click here to read about the next segment, segment 3, 9 Creeks Loop Mile 10-15.