Highline Canal Miles 51 – 52

Once you’re across Alameda at Expo Park the trail takes a diagonal route through a residential neighborhood and after a few blocks of a mostly northerly heading, you’ll cross Peoria St. (there’s a light) and start rolling back southeast. At Peoria though, you can find Del Mar Park – a basic park in most ways except that it features the Del Mar Family Aquatic Center, which opened in summer 2015. It’s bigger than just a pool, but not quite a water park on scale with some of the bigger ones in the metro region, it’s still an attraction that’s bound to change the quantity of traffic going to and from Del Mar.

Once across Peoria and headed back southeast though, you’re going to pass by a school complex that features South Middle School and Lyn Knoll Elementary School right before the appearance of Mile Marker 52 on the south side of 2nd Ave. Naturally, during the school year at certain times of day this will mean a lot of kids as pedestrian traffic and parents picking them up or dropping them off, so plan accordingly.

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Mile Marker 51, hanging just outside somebody’s backyard.

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A good note on the pavement right around Mile Marker 51.

 

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Highline Canal Miles 50 – 51

I tagged this as “Ugly suburb” in my notes, and though I mean no disrespect, you’ll note that Mile Marker 50 below is framed by a less-than-glamorous apartment building and landscaping to match. However, the trick with this mile, as noted in the previous entry, is that you can completely avoid this view by rolling through Expo Park instead of the dirt trail with the Mile Marker, a much lovelier view of the huge grassy fields of one of Aurora’s largest public parks. Downside is that you’ll be contending with more pedestrian traffic and, especially during summers, possibly a lot of children. Caveat emptor. Decide if you want to collect the Mile Marker or see a nice park and make your call accordingly. Both trails return to the same spot where you’ll have a light to cross the very busy Alameda Ave. for the next part of your journey.

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Mile Marker 50 with apartment building behind.

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However, this is the view if you skip the marker and opt for the park instead!

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The light at Alameda. Nearby lights are timed so that with the heavy amount of traffic you’ll almost always have to use this – there’s almost never an opportunity to just roll across without it.

Highline Canal Miles 49 – 50

Mile Marker 49 is about halfway through the Windsor Gardens complex, so comments in the previous volume about being slow, cautious, and courteous remain in force here. At the eastern edge of the complex, you’ll be at Dayton St. and it’s another one you’ll have to cross without benefit of a light. However, the way the lights at Mississippi Ave. and Alameda Ave. are timed it’s pretty easy to get over without any big deal. In short order, however, you’ll be at Havana St. and that’s a very different prospect. At six lanes wide and as one of the busiest streets in the area, the likelihood that you’ll be able to just jet across is minimal. So travel a few feet to the south and use the light, as pictured below!

Once across Havana, nicer homes – even the cookie cutter development kind – give way to apartment buildings alongside the trail, and that’s going to be the norm for big portions of the rest of things. And just before we hit Mile Marker 50, you’re presented with a splitting of the trail. A sign with an arrow saying “trail” points you across a bridge and into Aurora’s Expo Park, while the trail obviously continues (with gravel instead of concrete) directly in front of you. Expo Park is certainly the prettier choice (though you’re far more likely to encounter pedestrians), but Mile Marker 50 is on the gravel path if you’re keeping track. Both ultimately lead to a crossing light at Alameda, so choose whichever you prefer. Expo Park does  have a rec center as well in case you need any facilities.

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Mile Marker 49, Windsor Gardens housing in the background.

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Havana St. with a break in the Highline. You can see the continuation on the other side, but use the light to the right, don’t jet across Havana because it will almost never look empty like this.

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Here’s the light! I don’t even know these other bikers, but you can clearly see that it’s the right thing to do.

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Just shy of Mile Marker 50, you must make a choice, follow the sign pointing you to the right in Expo Park, or continue forward on the original Highline to find the Mile Marker. Either one takes you to the same spot.

Highline Canal Miles 48 – 49

After you leave Fairmount watch out – on the north side of the cemetery there’s a road you’ll be crossing that has a blind curve and no light, and since it’s not a heavily trafficked road people tend to drive faster on it than they should. Just a word of warning. Once you get past it, you return again to the suburban homes and apartments we’ve been seeing here and there up to this point. Luckily they’re all confined to the west side of the trail. If you just keep your eyes focused to the right, it’s still a pretty gorgeous ride.

A bit further up as we approach Mile Marker 49 you’re going to roll past the Windsor Gardens retirement community. Obviously, the same attractions of the tree-lined, shaded and lovely Highline that draw me to biking it have an affect on these residents of Windsor Gardens as well. What this means is – slow down, folks! You’re going to have a heavier concentration of pedestrians here, many of them elderly, and especially here you’ve got to keep your eyes open and be respectful of the other trail users. Just sayin’ – as fun as it is to ride the Highline, it’s not a bikes-only trail.

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Mile Marker 48 at the north side of Fairmount Cemetery.

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To your left, the suburbs.

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To your right, foliage, wild thistle, etc.

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Directly across from the suburbs, this lovely tree-lined portion of trail.

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Entering the Windsor Gardens area. For real though, slow down here and be cautious and courteous.

Highline Canal Miles 47 – 48

This mile is a good one. Not the bucolic prettiness of further south or the barren majesty of the plains of further north, but it’s a busy and useful mile at a fairly active urban center. Once you’re past Flordia Ave., it’s only a few short blocks (four, to be precise) before you’ll intersect with Mississippi Ave. right where it intersects with Leetsdale Dr./Parker Rd. just east of the spot where those street names change. Luckily, since Leetsdale/Parker is so busy, you’ve got a good light here that changes regularly for both cars and bikes/pedestrians – you’ll almost never be afforded an opportunity to just roll across here. But you’ve got access to Mississippi heading east to Aurora (not a bad biking street, though you could get there with fewer cars a little further up the Highline) and access to Leetsdale to the west and Parker to the east – both terrible for riding, but if you live or work nearby or need access to some of the many commercial properties near here I’m sure you could make it work for a couple blocks if need be.

Shortly after you cross Miss. Ave. you’ll enter Fairmount Cemetery, which has access from two points into the cemetery itself from the Highline, the more southerly one of which curves around to exit at Alameda right near Quebec, which will put you right into Lowry if you follow it through. I haven’t ridden out the northern access to Fairmount but obviously these paths will all connect up in the cemetery, I just doubt that it’s as direct a route as the southern point since I see cyclists other than myself using that one all the time. Of course if you feel that it’s disrespectful to roll through the cemetery, I can understand that as well. From The Guide to the Highline Canal Trail book: “The cemetery is open to the public but does not encourage High Line users to enter.” Make your call according to your conscience.

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Mile Marker 47, just a little before Mississippi Ave.

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Fairmount Cemetery Mausoleum viewed from the Highline Trail through brush.

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Southerly access point to Fairmount. Left takes you through the cemetery toward Lowry, but you can pass the cemetery to access Valentia St. which will take you to Alameda as well.

Highline Canal Miles 46 – 47

It’s certainly not our prettiest mile with a continuing spate of suburban homes off to the east, but functionally it’s a very useful mile. As you coast alongside Quebec Way for a bit you slowly roll up to Florida Ave. Usually cars are really good at stopping for bikes here but I still wouldn’t take a chance on jetting across (just ‘cuz, you know, you could die of course). But if you’re not heading on to the north, Florida is a great access point for both east and west. To the east it takes you right past Parker and into Aurora at the heart of a bunch of shopping stuff and restaurants once you hit Havana (Florida is not your ideal eastward biking street there – I’d recommend Jewell – but it’ll do) and to the west you roll down an exhilarating hill that’s unfortunately brought to a screeching halt right at the bottom at a 4-way stop that’s usually busy so rolling through it would be very much unsafe (not to mention illegal). Continuing past the 4-way to Quebec St. you’ll see Place Bridge Academy which you can roll around to access the Cherry Creek Trail and head back downtown. Obviously this can also be done in reverse if you’re coming up Cherry Creek and want to tackle a hill that’s more gnarly than exhilarating when you’re going up it, but is also one of the most direct ways on to the Highline from Cherry Creek.

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Mile Marker 46 with dirt trail leading to Quebec Way behind it.

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Florida Ave facing west – that steep hill is exhilarating or ugly, depending on whether you’re going up it or down it.

Highline Canal Miles 45 – 46

You’ll still be continuing past Cherry Creek Country Club’s golf course when you hit Mile Marker 45. I’m no fan of golf really, except that it keeps open green spaces out there in the world, which is nice. And even beyond that this particular course has gone to the trouble of doing some very lovely xeriscaping on the course, so props to them for that. Naturally I forgot to snap a pic to prove it so you’ll have to go roll out there and see it yourself. Once you pass the course you’ll roll underneath the very nice Iliff Ave. underpass, a relatively recent – and very welcome – addition to the Highline Canal Trail. Once up and out of there you’ll roll through a nice high tree canopy, see an access point to Quebec Way, and notice that homes to the west are fairly cookie-cutter suburban types, but to the east across the Canal are much nicer homes, though often veiled behind the trees.

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Mile Marker 45 in front of a beautifully xeriscaped (not pictured) golf course.

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In your mind, picture this in the autumn even though the pic is from the height of summer. It’s lovely either way, but better still in the fall.