Sunday, December 11, 2011

Poudre & Great Western

I'm always a little surprised when I find someone seriously into biking who isn't familiar with the Bicycling view on Google Maps. Simply put, it's awesome! If you are not familiar, go to Google maps and review the options in the upper right corner. One of them says bicycling. Select it. Many, but not all, bike routes appear in green. Have fun planning new routes.

In Google maps bike view of the Front Range, there's a long green squiggly line from Greeley all the way to I-25. That line happens to be the Poudre River Trail (PRT) and it's about 21 miles long. There's another much less squiggly line that tends North South from the town of Severance and nearly connects with the PRT. I now know this has the somewhat inflated name, The Great Western Bike and Pedestrian Trail. These are both in Weld County where there are many miles of dirt and gravel farm roads. After a little time searching I linked up a nice ~60 miles route.

I parked in a commercial area just off the highway and less than a mile from a bike path that leads to the head of the PRT. There are trailhead parking lots for the PRT, but I opted for the parking lot in front of Cappuccino Corner.

Virgil could loose some weight, but I promise the building was like that .

The PRT was a fabulous trail. It's a wide concrete sidewalk for the entire length, and there are 4-6 different spots where you can stop for a nature break if needed. Something I appreciated after recent rides without this option. The route is signed as being "Unmaintained in Winter - Ride at your own risk!" Fortunately, this was still the last two weeks of Autumn and the trail was almost entirely snow/ice free. The PRT is well signed and easy to follow. The western end is scenic while the eastern end near Greeley does become a bit industrial. All in all, I'd highly recommend the PRT.

After rolling through Greeley I continued West to my chosen turn off past the regional airport. It just so happens that my chosen turn was at an enormous cattle staging area. I have no idea if this was a pickup and delivery location, CAFO or what the true nature was, but I can say it was a striking site.
I don't think it was me these cows were scared of.
The next 20 miles were mostly rolling gravel farm roads. There are several route options in this area, most with straight, flat-ish roads. Most of those roads were very scenic and made for a pleasant ride. The surface was also well maintained; it wasn't overly graveled nor muddy from the recent snow. In fact there was almost no snow at all after I left Greeley until I joined back up with the PRT.

The Great Western is an unassuming trail. There's a small sign, but no parking or trail head to speak of. The trailhead is easy to miss because it looks like you're simply passing the service road for some power lines. Given the fact that power lines do in fact follow the entire length of the trail, well, it seems fair to say this is a trail of convenience.

The final leg was back on the PRT, and a bit of a rush as I was running out of daylight and neglected to bring a light. In truth I planned on 60 miles, but the gravel roads I selected made it a bit longer. Overall, I enjoyed the ride and would certainly recommend it. There isn't much to the Great Western however, so if you can find a gravel option instead, you won't be losing out on much.

View on Strava


  1. Hey Shane! Thanks for mentioning this route and your new blog! This looks like a great ride, perfect for this time of year too with a minimal amount of climbing. I'll add it to my ride list and keep you posted when actually I ride it, and thanks for the tip. Your blog looks great, keep up the good work and dirt road exploration! Please let me know as you put together and dial in epic rides, I would love to link them through my blog as well. Talk soon, Eric

  2. Thanks Eric! I'll be headed down to do part of the Creekside Dirty Century today, so nothing new there for ya. However, I do my long rides on the weekends and try to get away from Boulder to do them, so I'll have lots of routes to explore. Sometime soon I might head up the the grasslands N of Greeley. I don't tend to post previews but if you ever want to come along for one of these your more than welcome.

  3. "Given the fact that power lines do in fact follow the entire length of the trail, well, it seems fair to say this is a trail of convenience."

    It's actually an old railroad grade. They plan to convert more of it so you can go all the way to Eaton.