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Peaks to Plains Trail Clear Creek Canyon

Jefferson County, Colorado

A book cover featuring a green line, highlighting its unique projects.

Jefferson County Open Space and Clear Creek County have long envisioned a 15-mile, multiuse trail connection through the rugged terrain of Clear Creek Canyon from Golden to near Idaho Springs. The counties joined together to obtain Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant funding for this trail segment spanning the border of the two counties. The project opened four miles of previously inaccessible areas in the canyon to first-time recreational access for hiking, cycling, rock climbing, fishing, rafting, picnicking, and gold panning.

The counties used a design-build procurement process essentially identical to progressive design-build to select CEI as contractor with Muller as the lead design consultant. The goal was to develop a trail that complements the Canyon terrain so well that users would feel like “the trail has always been there.” To meet that objective, the team used innovative methods to design the trail route through a “reverse design” technique. We accessed difficult terrain by whitewater rafting to establish a targeted trail alignment that would preserve significant natural features, tread lightly on the environment, and provide a safe facility for trail users.

The project featured rockery walls and slope protection built with rock native to the canyon, preservation of large trees and rock outcrops, removal of waste from past mining operations, and safe access to and from Clear Creek. Project design challenges included trail construction on steep rocky slopes, through landslide areas, across and adjacent to heavily traveled US 6, across and within the Clear Creek floodplain, and through environmentally sensitive areas. Four bridges and two US 6 underpasses helped weave the trail through constraints, and four new trailhead parking areas (for about 140 total cars) provide safe access to the trail from US 6.


Jefferson County Open Space


Concrete Express, Inc. (CEI)


Transportation Planning & Design
Structural & Bridge Design
Stormwater & Floodplain Management
Environmental Services
Wastewater Utilities



Upcanyon Segment
  • American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award, Design – Outstanding Professional Achievement 2016
  • American Society of Landscape Architects Land Stewardship Award, Outstanding Professional Achievement 2016
  • Colorado Contractors Association Environmental Excellence Award, Efforts to Promote and Protect the Environment 2016
  • Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) Metro Vision Award – Jefferson County Open Space 2017
  • ACEC National Honor Award, Engineering Excellence Awards 2017
  • ACEC Colorado Honor Award, Engineering Excellence Awards 2017
  • ACEC Colorado Outstanding Graphics Award, Project Board Design, Engineering Excellence Awards 2017
  • Redi-Rock Rocky Awards Signature Stone Award, Innovative Project of the Year 2017
  • Colorado Lottery Starburst Award Excellence in Community and Conservation Projects 2018
  • Gateway Segment
    • ACEC National Grand Award, Engineering Excellence Awards 2023
    • ACEC Colorado Excellence Award, Engineering Excellence Awards 2023


    4 Bridge Hydraulic Design and Scour Mitigations | 4 Pedestrian Bridges | 3 Parking Lots | 132 Parking Spaces | 2 Pedestrian Underpasses | 0.2 Rural Roadway Miles | 4.2 Miles of Mountain Trails

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