Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coal Creek Canyon Road

Another great winter riding day here in the Rockies. I left the house with temperatures in the mid 40s and sunny. This would change to partly cloudy and the temperature would plunge to the high 30s in the mountains to almost 62 in the front range!

I cut across Denver using the I-225/25 slabs until I got to US6 which takes you West out of the Denver Metro area. I approached Golden using this highway and saw the light was hitting the buttes near Golden and the Colorado School of Mines favorably so I stopped:

The rock formations that overlook the Colorado School of Mines

I continued on CO 93 out of Golden itself, rode Northwards towards CO 72, aka Coal Creek Canyon Road. This used to be a toll supply route for miners and such up in the Blackhawk area. LINK click the link if you want to read some of the history.

It's a really nice two lane highway, with lots of pine trees on both sides of the road and very twisty in some spots. The shoulders on the side of the roads were not very wide to start with, and with the remaining snow/gravel accumulations there is very few spots to safely stop one's motorcycle for pictures.

I rode up to the highest point and then back on down the other side of the mountain. Pinecliffe and Wondervu were the only two concentrations of wooden buildings along this highway, not even big enough to call them hamlets really. For those of you who like hairpin turns, there's plenty of them on the western side of the mountain traversed by Coal Creek Canyon. Beware the gravel on the center lines of each lane though, it can make life interesting when your rear wheel skips out momentarily from under you. I managed to keep these type of interesting events down to just one for this ride.

I reached the junction of CO72 and CO119, the Peak to Peak Highway, and I headed North towards Nederland since the sign said it was only 3 miles away. Well, the town limits are 3 miles away but it was closer to six before I hit the town itself. I turned myself around and headed on back on CO119 past the junction with CO72.

I stopped after one set of twisting turns at the southern end of a small lake where the Gilpin County border lies. Here's a picture of the lake, frozen over, with some peaks in the background:

Part of Los Lagos Reservoir

From here I returned once again to CO72 and retraced my riding back towards Golden. I'd mentioned there were plenty of hairpin turns on this road and here's one of the more photogenic ones:

A 10 mph limit hairpin turn, they really mean it!

Shortly after the above hairpin, I found a spot on the side of the road where I could pull off and still see the distant mountain peaks covered in snow:

I twisted my way through this wonderfully clear road all the way back to Golden. There was very little gravel or wet spots on the road and I was even able to explore a couple of side roads which were paved and led to housing areas. The dirt roads were muddy or snow-covered or both, so I stayed off of those this time around.

Back on CO 93 heading back towards Golden, I stopped near where the road junctions with the road to Leyden. There's a pretty long rocky ridge formation to the East of CO 93 which I took pictures of:

West 82nd Avenue and CO 93

Looking towards Leyden

Far as I can tell, this minor rock formation is not named

I retraced my way back through the outskirts of Golden, CO. The rest of the ride home was slabs and uneventful in spite of the pretty heavy traffic on the highways.

A pretty good ride and using CO 72 is an attractive alternative to using CO 119 from I-70 which is where the Peak to Peak Road begins.


Unknown said...

I will be in Denver for American Library Association over the weekend. It's hard to imagine that the weather is allowing you to ride so much while we are in the teens will ice and snow everywhere. My uncle, who I will visit in Parker, has said your winter there has been particularly mild. Thanks for sharing all of your riding.

irondad said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful day of riding. I really enjoyed looking at the pictures. Gorgeous country. How does the bike keep getting everywhere with no rider? :)

redlegsrides said...

Jeffry, we're having a pretty mild winter so far. You'll have some snow on the ground for your visit. I will be trying to get to Steamboat Springs perhaps (by car).

Irondad, yeah, pretty weird how that bike gets around. One of the "benefits" to being a solo rider is my not usually subjecting my readers to views of my face. : )

irondad said...

I agree with you on the solo rider advantage. You'll notice that until the Christmas tree post I'm not in my photos. And those tree photos are enough for the next year!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sir:

Your photos separate the men from the boys. Once again, I'm eating cookies and drinking warm milk.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

redlegsrides said...

Jack, good pics are easy when surrounded by great landscapes.

Your writings however, gather much more praise, praise well deserved!


SheRidesABeemer said...

I would interested to learn what kind of gear, and the position you are using to get those panarama shot of the hairpin turns.

redlegsrides said...


Gail, that hairpin curve turned out nice but I believe it was just luck and a steady hand.

I use canon photostitch software, lock the exposure when aimed at the bike, try to keep a level horizon line and usually "pan" the shot before shooting to ensure everything I want in the picture is in the picture. Truth be told, I wanted more of the edge of the curve closest to me! But that edge got cut off during the photostitching.

I used to carry a tripod but didn't for this ride. I "panned" the shot while keeping my feet in one position, turning at the hip only while holding my elbows into my torso for steadiness.

Oh, and in photostitch, I told it to use the 200mm lens setting.

The light was just right and my standing at the apex of the curve did the trick in terms of balancing both sides of the hairpin.

My camera is a 11 year old Olympus 4 megapixel camera that I bought to record the birth of my first son.

As you know, it's all about the light. I've learned, the hard way, that if you don't stop and take the picture when the light is right, coming back to the same spot later it'll look different.


Biker Betty said...

Wow, what a wonderful ride. I have riden those roads a few times myself in the past couple of years. I was never able to stop and take photos, as I was always with a group of people. I love those roads in the mountains.

When I got off work today I heard on the radio that Denver was getting snow. We had it by 4:45pm, but it wasn't much.

redlegsrides said...


yeah, that's one of the reasons I like solo riding...stop when I want, go when I want, and I don't mar someone else's ride experience.

thanks for your comments