Peaks to Plains Trail—Clear Creek County and Jefferson County

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 4 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 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.

This project won multiple awards including:

  • ACEC National Honor Award for Engineering Excellence – Muller
  • CCA Environmental Excellence Award – CEI
  • 2017 DRCOG Metro Vision Award – Jefferson County Open Space

“Awesome, couldn’t be better.”– Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper after his first ride on the trail

Peaks to Plains Trail Underpass
Peaks to Plains Trail Pedestrians
Peaks to Plains Trail Pedestrians