Author Topic: Rt. 36 out of Denver  (Read 2401 times)

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Offline dhurwitz

Rt. 36 out of Denver
« on: November 11, 2018, 08:11:17 am »
I am riding coast to coast this spring.  I might be coming through Boulder to Denver, and then east. (I have not yet decided.) In any event, I was planning on picking up up the Transamerica route in Pueblo, CO, and heading east.  However, looking at the maps, I see that Rt. 36 out of Denver goes directly east somewhat north of the TA route.  Has anyone ridden Rt. 36 out of Denver all the way across the Midwest?  What is it like.



Offline jamawani

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2018, 10:16:04 am »
In general, US numbered routes tend not to be the best choices as one rides east.
Their volume of traffic increases significantly halfway across the Great Plains.
Sometimes they have shoulders, sometimes not. It's the "not" sections that are dicey.

The TransAm has the advantage of well-established services - cheap/free camping, bike shops, etc.
Plus, you will likely encounter other cyclists if you want company.
Nothing wrong with finding your own route - but US 36 may not be the best.

Here's a Traffic Volume Map of Kansas: (AADT- Average Annual Daily Traffic)

US 36 - AADT starts out as 500 at the Colo border, 1000 in west Kans, 4000 in east Kans, 8000 near St. Joe.
US 36 is fine in eastern Colorado and far western Kansas, but gets squirrelly further east.
State highways often have much less traffic - note that Hwy 18 has less than 1000 AADT all the way to Junction City.

Nearly all state have AADT info - use it if you are planning to go off ACA routes.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 12:44:44 pm »
I agree that AADT maps are very worthwhile when creating your own route.  You don't say if you have done longer tours before.  If you have experience, you should be fine so long as you try to stick to low AADT roads when possible.  Don't be afraid to go off pavement a few miles if needed in order to avoid bad stretches and/or save some serious miles.
If you have NOT done major tours before, I would recommend you stick to the ACA maps for your first month or two to get the experience under your belt so then when you do go off route, you are only having to learn what is best.  The ACA maps take a lot of research away since they already show you where you can camp, groceries, etc.  When you create your own route, you have to do that yourself and sometimes it can take an hour or two a day.
As far as getting to the TA goes, to save a lot of congested riding getting down to Puebo (assuming you go via the front range), you could consider riding CO-86 over to Limon (includes about 7 yucky but legal miles on I-70)  then SW down to Eads via US-287 where you connect with the TA.  While US-287 is not ideal, it does have a shoulder and services periodically.  You can camp in Kit Carson.

Whatever you choose, have a great trip!

Offline dhurwitz

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2018, 02:54:27 pm »
Thanks to both of you!  That is so helpful.  I had not heard of AADT, so that is really good to know about. 

I have done one long tour in the last decade (600 miles over 9 days), but I followed the ACA maps most of the way. They are amazing.  The main motivation for thinking about Rt. 36 is to save the time of going south then having to go back north at the end, since I am going to Massachusetts.  However, it may not be worth it.

Offline jamawani

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2018, 04:04:29 pm »
Spring is when??
??? to Mass.

Offline dhurwitz

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2018, 05:15:34 pm »
The plan is to start pedaling May 8 from San Jose, and arrive in Sturbridge, MA, no later than Aug. 2.  I am going south on the Pacific route, then through Death Valley and stopping for 2 days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I expect to be at the North Rim on May 26+/-.  After that, I will probably take the Transamerica route east, but I may first divert up to Boulder, CO, if I think there is time.  Sadly, unlikely.

Offline jamawani

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2018, 06:47:53 pm »
I've biked from the Bay Area to the North Rim a few times -
then on to New Mexico and points north.
For me is was usually about 20 days to the North Rim.
(I had a friend who worked at Phantom Ranch and I would hike down.)

Here a journal from 2005:

Most of the time I started between May 15 and May 23.
Tioga Pass was only open once - Sonora Pass is a bitch.
Further south that puts you at Walker Pass east of Bakersfield.
Further north you can take Carson Pass on the ACA Western Express route.

There are some very nice routes in the Coast Range if you are heading south.
Word of warning - Death Valley can be super hot by May - average high 100F.
That's the challenge of E-to-W in May in Calif/Nevada -
Still piles of snow in the Sierras and blistering in Death Valley.

There are not many good options across southern Nevada if you do Death Valley.
Because of the giant Nellis Air Force Range, you either have to go north to Tonopah or south to Vegas.
The problem with Vegas is massive traffic and long stretches of riding on I-15.
The problem east of Tonopah is extreme remoteness and lack of services.

In Utah you can either go via Cedar City and over to Kanab - big climb, less traffic.
Or via St. George to Zion NP to Kanab - Zion is spectacular in May, but more traffic.


You seem to have more than enough time set aside for the whole trip - maybe a little more getting to G.C.?
Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass opening dates will depend on how snowy this coming winter is - looks meager now.
There are multiple ways to cross the Sierras then head east from Mono Lake to Tonopah.
The more northerly option is a chunk shorter - but you have plenty of time to do a longer southern option.

Have fun!

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2018, 07:09:55 pm »
I did the 36 out of Denver last year (2017) I actually left on May 7 so exactly same time frame as you are planning. 

I had ridden the TA from Oregon Coast to middle of Kansas in the summer of 2016. Getting back to the middle of Kansas to pick up where I left off the following summer (2017) was a problem though.

My solution was to  take the train from Sacramento to Denver and start riding from there. Because public transport to mid-Kansas wasn’t really do-able I just restarted my trip from Denver.  But - from that point in my planning  I was asking the same questions as you.  How do I get back to the TA in the quickest way?  While looking I stumbled upon the Easter Express Route that was being developed and ended up taking that route all the way from Denver to Washington DC.  and didn’t get back to the TA at all. 

I lost out on a bit of TA experience but in exchange I got to do the Katy trail and the GAP in Penn and the C&O in Maryland, and I got to go through  Cincinnati to see distant relatives I'd never seen.
So I decided the Eastern Express Route would let me do those things.  I'm not recommending you take the Eastern Express but I do recommend you take a look at it as an option.  I think there may even be a mapped route included on his site to get you between the two routes.

I went straight E out of Denver on hwy 36, I found the road fine all of the way.  At Phillipsburg, KS you will connect with the official easterexpress route.  I changed my mind on a whim and decided to add Nebraska to my trip and turned north on 385 heading to Wrey. ( a very nice little town.). At Wrey I turned East on 34 and I also picked up the Eastern Express route just a couple days earlier in the town of McCook. (very nice city campground there as well)  I got back to hwy 36 again at Phillipsburg and finished crossing the state mainly on that route. 

That route is well researched on the eastern express site with detailed maps and services  and campgrounds and so on.  I actually stopped mostly in city parks while crossing the state.  I found eastern Colorado and Kansas the friendliest place on my whole trip.  When you hit the Missouri border at Atchison, you will meet up with the  ACA's Lewis and Clark route and take it across the state which includes the KATY trail across most the state.  The EE also doubles the new Chicago to New York route  for the last couple of days or so before I hit the Pittsburg area.
If you have any specific questions about highway 36, let me know and I can go back to my notes and remind myself on some of the details.  I didn't have any dicey sections traffic wise at all (not even a little bit) but... I did have some weather dicey-ness.  I dodged a major hail storm in eastern co, and had help from a local who stopped and said you have to get off the road now and piled me and my bike in the back of his truck and rushed me to the closest motel in Anton, CO to get indoors.  I really appreciated the kindness.  A few days lated I got another hail and wind storm in the town of Oxford NB.  That night I was in my tent and spent my most frightening night of the trip. (that's a story for another post)

edit, I see you are leaving San Jose in May and not Boulder so you won't have the weather I did
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 07:15:33 pm by Nyimbo »

Offline Mag in NH

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2018, 08:59:21 am »
I think there is a bike path that runs along Rt 36 out of Boulder. Not sure where it picks up or leaves off. I do know that they have a cool bike repair station at the scenic overlook with a beautiful view of Boulder.

Offline JHamelman

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2018, 09:08:52 am »
This interactive map from the Colorado DOT looks like it could be a great planning tool:


Jennifer Hamelman
Assistant Director, Routes & Mapping

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline John Nelson

Re: Rt. 36 out of Denver
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2018, 10:05:42 am »
I think there is a bike path that runs along Rt 36 out of Boulder. Not sure where it picks up or leaves off. I do know that they have a cool bike repair station at the scenic overlook with a beautiful view of Boulder.
That will get you the first 16 miles. Then you'll need to put together a patchwork of roads and paths to get you through the metro area. There are a lot of bike paths in the Denver metro area, but there is no one clear choice for getting across town and out to the eastern plains. If you're unfamiliar with the area, you might as well let Google suggest a route. Over a long distance, Google bicycling routes are not usually very good, but they won't be very bad either (as long as you check to see that it doesn't route you on hiking trails, closed roads or private roads).