Not every ride has to be long, hard, grueling or epic… sometimes a ride can be just for the fun and that’s exactly what the Glenwood Canyon Bike Path is! The bike path is part and parcel of the larger award winning I-70 highway project that runs through the canyon and has been declared the most celebrated section of the U.S. interstate highway system. The thing that makes this section of the interstate so special is the elaborate elevated sections which allow for a 4-lane highway. If you’ve ever hankered to see the canyon at a slower pace and to marvel at the Frank Lloyd Wright-worthy engineering feat, the bike path is the way to go. We rode beside, over, under, and through the belly of the beast as we pedaled along this 18 mile section of highway bordered by the Colorado River and the sheer cliff walls of Glenwood Canyon.
The bike path hugs the I-70 highway as it snakes it’s way through serpentine canyon walls. According to CDOT, the highway construction of three tunnels, 15 miles of retaining walls, and numerous other structures required 30 million pounds of structural steel, 30 million pounds of reinforcing steel, and 400,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing 1.62 billion pounds to create the engineering marvel you travel over today. Built above the 100-year flood plain, the bike path also serves as an important structural element of I-70, whose retaining walls have shallow foundations and are merely resting on rock. The bike path is the cap on the rock berm that protects the freeway retaining wall foundations from being scoured away during a flood.
This ride is one of those mystical, magical routes that feels flat or slightly downhill in BOTH directions! That doesn’t happen often in Colorado! This path is a good choice for new cyclists, casual riders, and families. (Just be sure to follow the time honored, single file, ‘ducks in a row’ when riding with kids. The path is 10 feet wide but will feel narrower in congested areas with head on bike/pedestrian traffic or in unfenced portions near the river. Also don’t let the car noise from the highway deter you from enjoying the incredible scenery you are riding through!) We rode on a busy holiday weekend in July and saw the Colorado River in full swing – rafters, kayakers, and stand up paddle boarders – were hooting and hollering their way down the river.
We rode the path as on out and back from east to west in the morning and were treated to a tailwind in the afternoon on the way back (the wind generally switches later in the day and blows from the west.) If you chose this option, take the Dotsero exit off I-70 just before you enter the canyon and follow the frontage road till it dead ends at the parking lot. The eastern terminus of the bike path starts here.
There are four rest areas along the way – Bair Ranch, Hanging Lake, Grizzly Creek, and No Name – where you can find water, restrooms, and hiking trials. The bike path is open seasonally, (it closes during the winter due to ice and chemical runoff from I-70), and reopens after spring run off when the river rises and floods the path. Our turn around point was the town of Glenwood Springs but we took the time to ride over the new bridge and take a gander at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge pools with the world’s Largest hot springs pool! The pools vary from medium hot, to pretty darn hot, to holy Toledo hot and the boiled egg smell of sulphur permeates the air but it’s a Colorado classic to go to the ‘stinky pool’ at least once!