I got a chance to go for a long ride this weekend, which included the leg of Clear Creek Trail between the South Platte River and Ralston Creek Trails.
There are three confluences along this section of trail. From northeast to southwest—
- Clear Creek and South Platte River
- Clear Creek and Little Dry Creek
- Clear Creek and Ralston Creek
I am going to address these confluences in order, not geographic order, but in order of Nicety and Usefulness.
1. Ralston Creek Trail
This is the most intuitively navigable confluence of trails I've seen in Denver. I've taken the wrong turn at, or have at least hesitated at nearly all of them except this one. The first time I tried to take the South Platte River to work, I accidentally took Cherry Creek Trail at the confluence. Which is totally my fault because I am easily disoriented. I don't get that way here though. It's idiot proof.
I'm a fan of helpful graffiti. Especially in situations like this when you're out on the trail and don't necessarily have access to landmarks and cross-streets for reference.
This three way intersection is labeled "Arvada" for Ralston Creek Trail, "Denver" for eastbound Clear Creek, and "Golden" for westbound Clear Creek. Straightforward enough.
And the Ralston bridge is just pretty.
2. South Platte River
An A-OK juncture. Platte runs north/south, and Clear Creek runs east/west.
Eastbound on Clear Creek, there's a natural flow in the trail that usually suckers me into continuing north for a beat before I realize it, and that I wanted to take that wooden bridge back there on the right in order to continue on to Denver. So I have to stop and turn around.
It's a nice enough little rest stop, complete with benches and a small bathroom. I usually stop to stretch my legs.
There is a big trails map posted, but no markers by the intersections so you'll have to keep your direction clear in your head. There is a trail that I think just loops around the little confluence park, but I haven't ventured around it.
3. Little Dry Creek
Okay. This is my Bermuda Triangle. I have ridden past this lake half a dozen times and I continue to get completely disoriented every time I do. My motivation for making this post is the hope that if I write this down I will be able to proceed with confidence next time.
It's not the trails intersection so much as it is the lake just before it. Clear Creek seems to dead end at this lake, for when you come around to the other side of it, there's a hard left at the spill-over, and a sign informs you that you are getting on Little Dry Creek Trail.
Which always throws me because I always want to continue on Clear Creek. I don't want to go on Little Dry Creek. So I backtrack thinking I must have absentmindedly missed a fork. And when I don't see one, I waste a few more minutes looking at the trails map posted near the lake's street entrance, which is too large to offer any real detail and which has no "You Are Here" and which is just not helpful. So then I might surface to the street so I can see what my nearest cross streets are, thinking that the map might then be more useful.
Eventually, in desperation I just take the damn Little Dry Creek Trail. Which, ironically has been flooded every time I've ridden it.
And then a couple beats up the trail, I come to an intersection well marked with Helpful Graffiti. "Arvada" for westbound Clear Creek, "Westminster" for northbound Little Dry Creek, and "Denver" for eastbound Clear Creek.
So the point that I need to remember is that the "Little Dry Creek" marker at the lake is premature, or at least it does not signify the termination of Clear Creek. The trail fork lies past this misleading marker.