Mile High Loop

City Park’s Mile High Loop – Update and Input

Trail closedFor over two years now, running the Mile High Loop 5K pedestrian trail in City Park has been a sort of test of frustration tolerance. Think positive: It’s a cross-training challenge: Run, stop, navigate around construction and trail damage, hurdle water-logged permanent potholes, do a mud run, stop and navigate again, keep running.

Construction at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which began in September 2011–and did not include a defined trail detour–has been the main obstacle. Like or dislike the way it’s been handled, that obstacle is about to loosen up and lower the frustration level for users of the Mile High Loop.

City Park Alliance board members Greg Davis and Mike Fernandez met with Denver Parks East District Field Superintendent Adam Smith on Friday, September 27, 2013, to review upcoming plans for the Mile High Loop pedestrian trail.

The park’s message to runners: Thanks for your marathon patience over these two-plus years; the good news: the finish line is in sight.

Temporary Measures

Current projections, according to Smith, are for the exterior work on the museum to be complete by the end of November. At that point, the original Mile High Loop pedestrian trail, with a minor variation, will reopen.

In the meantime, with completion of the new road and “lollipop” drive in the southeast corner of the park, trail users will be able to run a modified version of the loop again, thanks to a reopened portion of the trail and a temporary detour.

Temporary Route (subject to intermittent closures): Running the loop counter-clockwise and picking up the loop along 17th Ave. towards Colorado Bl.

  1. loop pathHead north on Colorado Bl. to a new cut-in just south of Montview Bl. and then over to the newly paved road. For the time being, this new road is open to pedestrians and bikes only–no cars.
  2. Take the sidewalk on the new road south towards 17th Ave. to the mouth of the new lollipop road. Please use caution crossing the confluence of the new and old roads here, as construction vehicles will continue to use the old road for museum access.
  3. Pick up the reopened trail with a right turn northwest back towards the west side of the museum, through the meadow.

The new museum addition is scheduled to open on February 14, 2014.  Once museum construction is complete, it will be possible to decommission and re-vegetate the former through-road at the southeast corner of the park.  At that point, the Mile High Loop will be fully restored to its original condition.

Trail Maintenance Versus Park Irrigation – City Park is Different

What makes the Mile High Loop a special pedestrian trail is the way it winds through, not around, most of the different spaces inside City Park. It does not follow a park periphery path. And that’s what makes it a special maintenance challenge for the park’s staff.

Anyone who uses similarly surfaced mixed-use trails in the Denver metro area, such as the High Line Canal trail and the Sand Creek Greenway, knows this irrigation-caused difference all too well.

muddy trailSmith acknowledges that the only solution is more trail maintenance.

Unlike most other crusher fines surfaced pedestrian trails in the city’s parks, it’s impossible to avoid hitting the city park trail with those jets of reclaimed water. Not only does that mean the surface gets knocked off the trail, but soaked trails suffer a lot more damage than dry trails from routine and non-routine use.

Four months into his current position, supervising a parks district that includes City Park, Smith was eager to learn what sections of the trail are hardest hit. He also recognized that the trail is an important feature of the park. When you include race events, the park’s highest use is most likely by runners–day in and day out, all year long. It’s no coincidence that building the Mile High Loop has been good for the park–when those who live or work nearby see runners on the trail, it promotes recreation and announces that the park is a safe place.

What’s Next – Closing the Loop Again?

The city will remodel the pavilion parking lot to provide better parking service for events at the pavilion. The good news: it looks like this project will mean very little impact for everyday trail users. But, does it reflect an ongoing prioritization of funding and parks work assignments in favor of revenue generation events over recreation? Count on the folks at City Park Alliance to keep an eye out for the everyday taxpaying users of City Park and the Mile High Loop.

Your Turn

City Park Alliance wants your input. Please use the link below to complete a very brief poll related to the Mile High Loop.

  • Rate the current condition of the Mile High Loop Trail.
  • Rate how you think the park is handling construction-caused trail interruptions and other trail conditions.
  • How important is the Mile High Loop trail to you?
  • Questions or Comments for City Park or City Park Alliance?

City Park Alliance Quick Poll: Mile High Loop Trail

Mile High Loop Inaugural WalkThe Mile High Loop was the brain-child of former City Park Alliance Board Member Paul Davis, and with the full support of the Alliance and the Department of Parks and Recreation his dream turned into reality in 2008.  The trail, fully completed during the summer of 2009, follows a full 5k (3.1 mile) route, and tracks along the city’s 5280 contour line- so you’re exercising at exactly a mile high!

You can join the trail in many locations, including just behind the Graham Bible House near the 21st & York gate, cutting between Ferril Lake and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (where you can catch the best view in the city), and running parallel to the roadway along the southside of the Park.  The trail is made of crusher-fine material, making it both pleasant and comfortable for both walkers and runners.

View the Mile High Loop Map

In 2009-2010 City Park Alliance and the Department of Parks & Recreation raised funds and installed signage marking each kilometer, directions to stay on the path and a point where the path is 5280 feet high.  In addition to viewing the link to the map above, you can stop by the sign post northwest of the Pavilion in the park to see the route.  This is also kilometer 0/5, the start and end of the loop.

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