Hiking Around Denver on the 9 Creeks Loop Is Awesome

9creeks_loop_mapEarlier this year, I set out the goal to research, name, and then walk a 42-mile loop around Denver on the Sand Creek Greenway, High Line Canal, Cherry Creek Trail and Platte River Trail. Never did I think I’d learn so much, have so much fun, and clarify my purpose in Denver. But not only did all three things happen, but I also have a fabulous perspective on Denver. It’s more awesome than I ever imagined. Here are my final thoughts on hiking the 9 Creeks Loop.

7 Creeks? 8 Creeks? 9 Creeks?

9_creeks_topo

Before starting, I had talked extensively with several agencies including Denver Water, Denver Parks and Rec, and even the US Geological Society. After looking at many maps and doing overlays of several resources, I concluded that within the designated loop flows 9 creeks. The problem with the maps is that I couldn’t get all of them into one view. I had to make some assumptions about boundaries and where our Denver Trails actually laid within the street and topo maps of the area. After walking the Loop, I’ve got some corrections.

Lots of Creeks, But Let’s Count the Ones We See

9creeks eatwalklearnAfter looking at the topo map above, I thought I’d be crossing over First Creek, Second Creek, Sand Creek, Coal Creek, Cherry Creek, Dry Creek, Toll Gate Creek, High Line Canal, and Platte River. I didn’t. But miraculously, I did cross 9 Creeks, and thus I’ll keep the Loop’s name. Ultimately, the 9 Creeks Loop crosses (going clockwise from Sand Creek at Quebec) Sand Creek Greenway, Westerly Creek, High Line Canal, East Toll Gate, West Toll Gate, Toll Gate, Cherry Creek, Goldsmith Gulch, and Platte River.

Five Very Different Areas

9creeks eatwalklearnEach one of the regional trails had a very different personality, which really broke out by five areas. The orange area along the Sand Creek hosts Stapleton, a reurbanized area created from the old Stapleton airport. Here, life exists around major transit areas while relaxing along the Sand Creek. Housing, industry, commercial, and transit co-exist in a shared life of action and balance.

The yellow area along the High Line Canal brings us from rural Aurora into its fast growing suburbs which abut up against Denver’s retirement area, Windsor Gardens.

Flowing from the historic Fairmount Cemetery, the blue area pulls us onto the Cherry Creek Trail where folks hustle and bustle their way through life via fast bikes, quick walks, and rushing cars.

At about the time the busy-ness gets too much, the Cherry Creek’s artwork invites you into the purple area’s Platte River where life slows down and history returns through downtown.

And finally, after seeing some of the best of Denver, you get reminded in the green area the cost of beauty gets paid via storm water treatment, petroleum plants and environmental impact in the green section.

A walk around the Loop provides such a well-rounded view of life in Denver; there’s no better way to really understand how Denver’s heart beats.

What the Loop Needs

9creeks eatwalklearnThe four Trails along the Loop have advocacy groups with similar agendas–make their trails great–and they all have the same needs. From my point of view, they need signs, wayfaring, street hardware, facilities, and marketing.

Truly, not one Trail is better than the other. They are all unique and brilliant. Some of the best spots: Star K Ranch, along Windsor Gardens, the northern end of Cherry Creek, the bridge over the Platte and Sand Creek Confluence. Some of the worst: the west end of Sand Creek, the Alameda crossing on High Line, the bike speeds on Cherry Creek, the stink along the Platte River.

But don’t get me wrong.

In its best and its worst, not one time did I feel unsafe, threatened or scared. Most of the time, happiness and joy opened up with the pace of life at 3 miles per hour.

So Much Beauty to See

I took hundreds of photos and about 25 hours of video.
But of most of all, my favorite picture is below. 9creeks eatwalkearn

Or maybe this one.

9creeks eatwalklearn

Or this one.

9creeks eatwalklearn

I Narrated Each Mile

I blogged each night about the miles I covered that day, and each blog breaks down each mile. When video is available, I include it within the blog at the appropriate mile. There are some miles missing (human error!), which I hope to re-capture in the future. My mileage is off. Somewhere in Aurora my mileage count went screwy, so please be patient if the video and blog miles don’t sync in narration. In retrospect, I wish I had the coloring system above, as it would have made cataloging easier. But I had to learn, first, and the only way to learn was to walk the trail. So apologies….

A Giant Thank You to My Sponsors and My Readers

This journey had company. Thank you to my sponsors, Wallaroo Hats who provided gorgeous hats for me to give away, Forest City who provided the GoPro to record the journey, High Line Canal Conservancy who underwrote some expenses, and Walk2Connect my business partner co-op and team of mentors who supported me the entire way.

Finally, to those who walked with me (Steve, Tim, Dawn, Asher), to those who followed the blog posts, and to those who keep asking, thank you. Please post below any questions, comments, or suggestions. I have one question for you in my final thoughts 9 Creeks Loop, when will you walk it?