Douglas County East/West regional trail runs from Highlands Ranch to Parker

The final segment of the 28-mile East/West Regional Trail in Douglas County opened to the public last month, making it possible for mountain bikers, runners and hikers to travel from the western edge of Highlands Ranch all the way to Parker.

The western end of the trail is located a quarter of a mile east of Santa Fe Drive at Redstone Community Park in Highlands Ranch. At the eastern end in Parker, it connects to the Cherry Creek trail.

The trail was conceived more than 30 years ago, and planning began in 1998. Sections were built in pieces from 2002 to 2019, and the last 4.7-mile segment from Havana Street to Chambers Road opened on July 24.

Two days later, Highlands Ranch resident Rich Sweeney rode the entirety of the trail round-trip with his wife, Maurine. The couple lives about a mile from the western terminus of the trail.

“We had ridden all the segments of the trail previously, but never put it all together, doing it all at once,” Sweeney said. “It’s a trail we ride probably twice a week, just because it’s in our back yard, but it’s so nice that they’ve opened up all the way to Parker now.”

We asked Sweeney for some things people ought to know if they’re interested in riding the entirety of the trail:

Trail surface: There is a mixture of surfaces along the trail, including sand, dirt, crushed gravel and concrete. “It’s probably best to do it on a mountain bike,” Sweeney said. “You could ride it on a gravel bike, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it on a road bike.”

Elevation: There is a lot of elevation gain on the trail. “You’re going up and down a lot, grades anywhere from 8% to 12%,” Sweeney said. “Going from the west side to the east side, we gained over 2,000 feet. That’s pretty significant.”

Scenery: “The views are spectacular,” Sweeney said. “Just to ride through the Highlands Ranch open space, and then you’re up on the bluffs, you get a great view of the Front Range. You can see DIA. Just beautiful views along the way. And the (wild) flowers are just tremendous this year.”

Duration of the ride: It took Sweeney and his wife 5 1/2 hours out and back. She is 71 years old and he is 56. “But she’s also the current national mountain biking champ,” Sweeney said. Maurine won the 70-74 age group cross country title at the USA Cycling national mountain biking championships a month ago at Winter Park.

Other suggestions: “The other thing to be prepared for: There’s very little water on this trail,” Sweeney said. “We only found one place we could fill up our water bottles. We had ridden part of the trail the week before and stashed some water bottles that we hid along the trail.”

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